We have put two raptor perches up with cameras trained onto them. I thought we would get Magpies but, in actual fact, the results have been more wonderful than that.
This Tawny Owl visited the perch three times last night and once the night before:
A Sparrowhawk has used the perches several times to spot its hapless victims:
But, yes, we have had Magpies as well!
Oh, and this sweet little Blue Tit:
The cameras have to point up into the sky when they are like this and they are vulnerable to getting filled with rain and leaking leading to condensation problems and so we can’t leave them in this position for long. However, for now, they are really being successful. Maybe Barn Owl next?
Cold frost on the ground yesterday morning and a bitter wind blowing. Not the sort of day you might expect to see a reptile out from hibernation.
This Viviparous Lizard should have been hibernating from October along with all the rest of his friends but we have been seeing him under the same reptile sampling square for at least a week. Why is he up? Obviously he is hugely distinctive since he has lost his tail. This is a defence mechanism to avoid the grasp of a predator and the tail continues to wriggle after it is shed as a further distraction. The tail will grow back but its a one time only thing since the regrown tail cannot again be shed because will be made of cartilage rather than bone.
We have twice seen a Short Eared Owl hunting over the long grass of the second meadow – once at dusk and once at 10am in full daylight which was wonderful. Because of this, we have put up a perch in the middle of the long grass in the hope that it will come again and use it. We have a camera trained on the perch and so, should this be successful, we will get wonderful views of it:
The extra bird boxes that we have ordered have arrived.
They are all Schwegler ones made out of ‘woodcrete’. Heavy, well insulated, easy to clean out and should last for many years – although more expensive than most. We will get these up shortly so that they are also available for sheltering in over the winter.
Last night we got this wonderful photo of the male badger drinking – can see his tongue:
Still so many Blackbirds around the hedgerows. In this photo taken by the same camera as the one above, we have 5 Blackbirds using the pond at the same time
The UK has probably had an influx of Blackbirds migrating in to avoid the harsh Scandinavian winter which has supplemented resident bird numbers.
Finally, its always a treat when all three of the badgers come to the peanuts at the same time.
We have moved the camera to a new position down by the wild pond:
This is this years cub having a drink. And it left this footprint in the sand:
Here is the camera in its new position:
Foxes have also been coming to drink:
And birds have been bathing during the day. There are an awful lot of Blackbirds here at the moment:
And a Great Tit:
We dug this pond in less than three years ago. Prior to that there was no fresh water here or in the immediate surrounding areas, the ground being either porous chalk or shingle. Goodness knows where the badgers used to go to drink but, wherever it was, life is surely a little easier for them now.
This is not a great photo but it is good enough to record the fact that this is a Snow Bunting and it has spent the day with us in the second meadow. It wasn’t overly worried by us, actually. Snow Buntings spend the Summer in Arctic regions, breeding and raising their young and then a few come to the UK in the Autumn and spend the Winter down the east coast. What a treat to see it here – our 57th species of bird.
Today we did the annual round of the nest boxes, clearing out the old nests and giving the boxes a vigorous brushing out. This minimises the parasite load in the boxes for next year’s nests.
One of the defining characteristics of our dog is her obsession with balls. In particular, the football-sized tennis balls that are available in either bright yellow or luminous pink. She has many of these balls on the go at any one time and they shed fluff as they are kicked around.
Several of the nests had fluff from these balls woven into them. How lovely.
Some of the boxes we were expecting to find old nests in because we had spotted the boxes being used back in the Spring by Great Tits and Blue Tits. However, there were a couple of surprises. A Wren had used one of the Wren boxes hung deep inside a hedgerow:
No signs of use in either of the Kestrel boxes:
However, when we opened the Little Owl box, it was unexpectedly filled with leaves:
To solve the mystery of what this might be, a Grey Squirrel very helpfully exited the box at high speed. In three years, this was the first Squirrel that we had seen here (although one had been spotted down by the pond by a visitor a couple of years ago) and so this was actually quite remarkable for that.
As we went round checking the boxes, we noted many potential sites for additional boxes and so we will be ordering some more in ready for the next breeding season in the Spring.