The Velvet Mite

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Happily pottering around the allotment part of the meadows this afternoon planting Mangetout seeds, I noticed a bright red something in the soil. Positively scarlet in fact:

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I hoiked it out so that I could get a jolly good look at it and get my macro lens on it. It turns out that it is a Velvet Mite (Trombidium holosericeum) because of fine hairs on its body giving it a velvet appearance. This is an 8-legged adult who spends its time wandering round the soil looking for smaller insects to prey upon.

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However, in its larval stage, it has an entirely different modus operandi and attaches itself to larger insects such as grasshoppers and drinks their body fluids although doesn’t seriously harm them. Here is an internet photo as an example of this:

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This Velvet Mite is a close relative of the Harvest Mite (Trombidium autumnalis) which attaches itself to mammals and can be a problem for dog owners in the late summer in the UK – but mammals have nothing to fear from this chap, the Velvet Mite, and I returned him to the allotment to continue about his business.

Moving on from mites, this is a photo from today that caught my eye:

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Although I knew that magpies had long tails, I never before realised that they are quite this long.

A whole blog post and I haven’t once mentioned badgers….

 

 

 

Baby Badgers Night 2

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I’m still tremendously excited about the new twins and have managed to get some better photos of them overnight:

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And also of the havoc they are causing to their mother’s undercarriage:

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Although that’s the main excitement of the day, I also have some other photos to share with you. Here is a lovely foxy moment:

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I like the length of this Brimstone Butterfly’s tongue and the bend in it as it reaches into the Dandelion flower:

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We had a little peek into a nest box that is low enough to get at and saw that a nest is being started within it – mostly using our dogs fur and a bit of moss so far:

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Finally for today, we dug a butterfly bank into a chalky part of the meadows a couple of months ago and now that the Blackthorn is in flower behind it, it looks really quite striking:

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It’s Twins!

We have been away for a lot of April and not been here for over two weeks. The trail cameras that are taking video soon ran out of batteries in our absence and so it is only on our return when we changed the batteries and put them back out on the cliff  last night did we discover that this year there are two baby badgers. They are now being brought up to the surface for a while each night to start exploring and learning about their new world:

Twins

 

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They are being watched over by their mother very attentively and she spends much of the night sorting them out. So she is having to extend the time she is out finding food for herself into the daylight hours:

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I hope to get better footage of these babies over the next few days, now that we are back up and running.

Meanwhile, other cameras managed to keep going without running out of batteries or falling over! Here is a male Black Redstart on the perch. This is an exciting bird: NB I am subsequently editing this becauseI think this is a male Redstart rather than a Black Redstart

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The camera trained on one of the pond beaches captured 14 different species of bird coming down for a drink or a wash and here is a selection of its photos:

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Female Sparrowhawk
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Female Sparrowhawk
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Jay
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Jay
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Female Blackcap

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The camera on the other side of the pond also had this:

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We looked to see how many of the Red Mason Bee cocoons had hatched out while we were away. One was in the process of hatching as we looked:

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A just-hatched Red Mason bee

One other cocoon had also already hatched and the bee flown, but 23 still remain unhatched.

And given that it was such a nice day today, we had a look to see what was warming up under the reptile squares:

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So many Slow Worms!

So that is what we have managed to capture of things that been going on here over the last couple of weeks. Spring has progressed a lot since we left and there is now a lot of catching up to do…