Dog End Days of November

Its been the sort of weekend that I would describe as Double Coat Weather. One coat simply isn’t enough out there. However, that hasn’t stopped the Kingsdown sea bathers from going into the water from the beach below the meadows:

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I suspect that’s a great way to kick start any day.

In the last post, I mentioned a Fox that was carrying a Dogfish:

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Well, here he is again but this time with a Whiting or Pollock:

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At the point the video was taken, he was in the process of realising that he had a problem and that this fish was not going to go through the hole in the fence and out into the meadows.

Also in the last post, there was the sad news of a Woodcock that had flown into glass and died. Here is a close up of his feathers. How beautiful he was:

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The tail feathers from above – the tips are grey.
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These same feathers are bright white when viewed from below – used for displaying.

The bird ringer came again with one of his trainees and they caught this Collared Dove. This is the biggest bird that has been ringed here. Interestingly, doves have an anti-predator adaptation in that they shed feathers to try to leave their attacker with a mouthful of feathers while they get away, a bit balder but alive. Certainly there were many feathers around the ringing station after this bird had been processed.

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Another wasp nest has been dug out and combs scattered on the ground:

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This nest had been made inside a mouse nest and was very active indeed in the late summer. Now, however, it looks abandoned and I doubt that the badger got anything out of it.

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The hole was quite large and deep – I presume that the wasps had enlarged it because it seems much more capacious than you would think a mouse nest would need to be.

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There are now four Grey Partridge feeding on the strip rather than the three that we have had all summer and autumn:

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Lovely to see them there.

Its cold, damp and a little bit dreary out there. Here we are, only at the end of November, but already nostalgic for the green shoots and emerging butterflies of spring.

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Saving The Rain

We knew there were Woodcock here at the moment and I wanted to get a photograph of them – but absolutely not like this:

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Really tragically, it had flown into glass and broken its neck. Now it is in our fridge awaiting the bird ringer to come up and check it out tomorrow morning.

But moving on from that unfortunate incident, here is the wild pond, refilling nicely with the autumn rains and with enormous quantities of reeds pulled out. It seems quite large again now but the last two summers have been so dry and hot here that we were worried about it drying out completely and had to resort to topping it up with tap water. The trouble with that is that tap water is water that has landed on the ground and picked up nutrients which will then be added to the pond, causing all sorts of unwanted algal growth.


What is also going on in the photograph above is the building of a roofed log pile – the roof will be sloping with guttering attached that feeds directly into the pond. As well as that big benefit, the logs themselves should be great habitat for reptiles, amphibians and insects.

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Well, its all a bit of experiment, but it will definitely increase the catchment area of the pond and so should help a bit with keeping it filled. When it next rains, we will see how much water is coming out of that pipe and then judge if we should build a second one as well. The logs to go under the roof  are yet to be sourced but I think it will look really good once it is completed and weathered in a bit.

Another way to reduce the impact of a drought for our newly planted trees is to generously mulch round their bases. To help with that, we want to collect leaves this autumn and make some leaf mould. We have some crates that we retrieved from the bonfire pile of our local, friendly garden centre.

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They are extremely sturdy and heavy and were used to deliver stone to their landscaping business. We have lined them with anti-weed membrane:

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And have filled them with autumn leaves:

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However, we now need to wait for two years!

Yesterday was misty and chilly all day but the bird ringer came early with two trainees and they stayed all morning. They caught 30 birds of 12 different species. This is only the second Coal Tit that we have seen here:

A beautiful Firecrest:

A Wren and the much smaller Goldcrest:

A Goldcrest (a male because of the orange colour that can just be seen at the back of the yellow crest):

A Goldcrest in the hedgerow:

An extremely feisty and vocal female Blackbird. This bird was previously ringed with a British ring and the number on the ring will be fed back to the BTO to see where she comes from:

However, they only caught three Linnets which is disappointing when you see how many Linnets have been visiting to feed on the seed that we are putting on the strip at the moment:

I count about 60 birds here.

The Grey Partridge are also still visiting to eat this food. Here are the three that have been around all summer and autumn:

However, this morning it was a group of four Partridge that we flushed as we walked round collecting cameras. Partridge do collect together in larger groups over winter and so this maybe the start of that. Last winter we had a group of nine birds as frequent visitors.

Of course the Sparrowhawk is always interested in all this bird activity:

Now that we have had some rain and the ground has softened, today we officially launched the Winter 2018/9  metal detecting season!

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After about an hour, we had dug up all sorts of sundry metal odds and sods. Nothing exciting this time but the season has only just begun!

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As well as allowing metal detecting, the softened earth means that worms are able to move more freely and there are impressively towering worm casts everywhere as they come to the surface to drag leaves down.

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These worm casts are such a sign that autumn has now properly arrived in the meadows.

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Catching Up With The Foxes

Perhaps Foxes sometimes get a bit overlooked on these pages, but they are such a big part of what goes on here that I start today with a collection of recent photos of them:

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Up and over the gate.

Every day I go through a day’s worth of videos of the foxes and badgers going about their predictable daily routines and then something like this happens:

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Fox with a fish supper. 

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The fox presumably found the Dogfish on the beach below the cliffs here.

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A big yawn whilst waiting for the peanuts to be delivered.
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Still yawning.
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They are scolded by Magpies where ever they go in the daytime.
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A dominant Fox approaches.
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Such expressive ears.

But now to move onto birds. It has been quite windy recently and the bird ringer has managed to get his nets up just once in the last couple of weeks:

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He didn’t catch many birds but he did get a Firecrest:

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A wonderful bird. Another wonderful bird is this male Pheasant who was poking around in the left hand copse. We don’t often see Pheasants here:

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I am not sure about wonderful, but this female Sparrowhawk is certainly impressive:

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I’m always surprised at how oversized Crows’ beaks seem to be. Also, the one at the back here appears to have a classic pirates peg leg:

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Always delighted to see the three Grey Partridge:

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And also  the Green Woodpecker who frequently turns up on various cameras:

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I have got to include this photo of a Jay with a ridiculous hairstyle:

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We have twice flushed a Woodcock from the hedgerow in recent days and so set up a couple of cameras to see if we could get a picture of it. It is a crepuscular bird, being most active at dawn and dusk and as such is a challenge to photograph. This is the best we have managed so far – here it is flying in the distance in the pitch dark but just caught in the infra red flash.

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An even less clear image is this one below, although it is also exciting:

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This is a screen shot from a video. On the video itself,  it was obvious from the way it was moving that this is a mustelid – probable Stoat we think and the first Stoat that we have seen here.

I haven’t mentioned Badgers yet and I must put that right. Bedding gathering going on here and they have found some more reeds from somewhere:

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And major sniffing of the air to see what’s about. What prominent noses they have.

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I have left this diminutive, beautiful Field Pansy that is flowering in the weedy strip until last

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Field Pansy and Common Speedwell.

It is so tiny and delicate and a surprise for us to find Pansies flowering in Early November.

 

A Brand New Project

We have a new project starting:

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This is a Gardener’s Beehive – a home for Honey Bees that is designed to mimic a hollow tree stump which is where these bees would naturally make their home in the wild. A hive for the good of the bees rather than the production of honey. Once a swarm arrives at the nest, it will look after itself there with no further input from us and will stay for 5-7 years. We get the benefit of their pollination and the warm feeling that we are providing a home for them where they can thrive without interference. There is, however, the possibility of getting a small amount of honey from the hive once the colony has been established for a couple of years should we decide we want to do that.

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The instructions suggest that the hive is sited under a deciduous tree so that it gets a lot of sun in the winter but only about an hour of full sunshine once the tree has its leaves in the summer:

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The hive now has a few months to weather in before the bee swarming season starts in February. Also provided is a citrus oil lure which is sprayed onto the hive to catch the bees attention.

In these very skies above us here, the Battle of Britain was fought 80 years ago. Conflicts of a different sort are now going on above us as a Buzzard, like a large, heavy bomber, has started regularly flying over. A squadron of corvids quickly scrambles into the air and tries to see it off. Twice, it has been a Kestrel, a smaller and more agile Spitfire of a bird, that has mobilised and repeatedly dive bombed the Buzzard, calling loudly.

It is quite a spectacle for those of us watching from the ground.

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Kestrel attacking a Buzzard from above

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The weather recently has been mixed and we have finally, finally had a decent amount of rain and the ponds are starting to refill. Here is a rainbow, suggesting that a pot of gold may be buried in our hay pile.

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Actually, we have realised that the badgers are rummaging in that hay pile – perhaps more to collect bedding than look for that buried treasure though.

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A trail of hay leading from the hay pile. Hay is being dragged back to the sett for bedding.

Now that the stacks of reeds, that were much closer to the entrance to the sett, have been exhausted, they are having to look elsewhere. Recently we did pull some long grass and put it on the now-emptied reed pile and wondered how long it would be before this grass was dragged underground. The answer turned out to be less than an hour, as Scarface collected it as soon as it got dark:

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It seems a long time since we have had the lovely sight of a wet and muddy badger after a hard nights digging around:

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Bonfire Night is coming up and I think this looks like a badger catherine wheel but maybe I am letting my imagination run away with me:

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Last night, the new Bushnell camera went into the Mustelid box for the first time with its close focus lens attached (46cm). We put a few peanuts and a bit of chicken in to see what that would bring in to put the new camera through its paces. The answer was that it was just the mouse that arrived as usual, but the Bushnell did quite a good job with it:

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We have another camera focussed on a mouse hole dug into the ground in a copse of trees that must be 20 metres or more from this box. We now realise that this is the same mouse since last night we saw many peanuts being taken down the hole:

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There has been a visitor to the box that is not a mouse:

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This was before the Bushnell went into the box and so the quality is not great, but this surely is a vole. Surprisingly to me, it is much smaller than a mouse which I show below for comparison:

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I am going through a little phase at the moment of including interesting shipping that we see from these meadows. Here is the banana boat:

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Dover is a bit of a banana specialist and 70% of the country’s banana imports come in through here. We often see this ship – its the Elvira Seatrade, a reefer (refrigerated cargo) and it flies a Liberian flag. I took this photo on 29th October as it was moored up alongside the meadows waiting to go into Dover port, having left Paita in Peru on 14th October.

The last photo for today is of this interesting vessel:

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Its a French Navy Mistral Class amphibious assault warship. Military vessels are not mentioned on my Marine Shipping App and so we have no more detail on it than that, although we read that there was a large scale Nato exercise off the coast of Norway shortly after this photo was taken and so presume it was on its way North for that.