Review of the Year 2018

It has been a year of triumphs and dramas here in the meadows but they are all part of the road we are travelling to understand what’s going on and how best to manage the land for the benefit of Nature . Here is my summary of 2018:

1. Turtle Dove Strip

This was the major project of the year – a bare earth strip was dug to simulate a weedy agricultural field edge and supplementary feed supplied by the RSPB was put down for eight weeks in May and June in an attempt to get Turtle Doves to nest here. Sadly, this was unsuccessful and we didn’t see a Turtle Dove. However, it then developed into a project to support other struggling farmland birds such as Grey Partridge, Linnets and Stock Dove and this is still ongoing:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The strip is dug. February 2018.
IMAG0118
Linnets.

 

IMAG0029
Grey Partridge.
IMAG0026
Grey Partridge.
IMAG0038
Stock Dove.

We have decided to give the whole experiment another go next year with the hope of this time getting Turtle Dove and also Yellowhammer, which is another farmland bird that we really should have seen along the strip but didn’t.

2. Summer Drought

IMG_2418
There was no rain here whatsoever for many weeks over the spring and summer. The water levels in the ponds dropped to critically low levels.
IMG_1641
We worried for the trees that have been planted in the last couple of years. These Treegators were used to drip water onto the roots of the newly-planted Oaks and hopefully all six of them survived the drought.
IMG_2394
At last it rained at the end of July. A new project for this winter has been to install many more water butts to catch as much of these summer rains as we can.

3. Mammals

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 19.35.54
Twin baby badgers came above ground in April.
IMAG0521
For a while we had five badgers. However, not long after this photo, one of the baby badgers disappeared – I understand that mortality rates are very high in young badgers for all sorts of reasons. But, as the year draws to a close, we do still have four badgers.
Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 08.04.37
There were at least two vixen with young.
IMAG1161
Fox cub suckling.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Beautiful.
Trail camera
Foxes forming an orderly queue behind the badger at the peanuts.
Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 08.08.33
Weasel carrying a young rat.
Screenshot 2018-11-19 at 10.14.36 2
One of the dog Foxes has a taste for fish. Whiting here.
Screenshot 2018-11-09 at 18.07.44 2
And Dogfish here.

4. Bees

beehatch (2)
We were sent 25 Red Mason Bee cocoons in March as part of the Red Mason Bee Guardian Scheme. Here is one that has just hatched.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A Red Mason Bee with a tummy loaded with pollen, building its nest in the cardboard tubes we put out for them.
IMG_4182
At the end of the summer we sent back 45 completed tubes containing a total of 342 cocoons, although several of these were underweight due to fruit fly attack.
IMG_0166
We also have two Mason Bee observation boxes. By the end of the summer, we took these boxes apart, cleaned up the cocoons and they are now in our fridge awaiting the arrival of spring.
IMG_6479
In November we bought this non-interventionist Honey Bee nesting box that hopes to mimic how Honey Bees nest in the wild. We hope that it will be colonised next spring.

5. Butterflies

IMG_0399
We saw 22 species of butterfly here, all of the same species as last year. However, this is one of the few sightings of a Small Blue that we had, although apparently these rare and tiny butterflies did quite well nationally. We think that our low number was because of a shortage of the larval food plant, Kidney Vetch, the year before. I am now going to to collect Kidney Vetch seed every year and grow some plants myself so that there is always a good supply.
IMG_1892
Mating Marbled Whites.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
We had a good year for the threatened Wall butterfly. We always see one or two but this year we saw around twenty.

 

6. Dragonflies.

IMG_0359
We managed to photograph the entire sequence of emergence of Emperor dragonflies – this starts just before dusk and goes on into the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
An estimated 150 Emperor dragonflies emerged from both ponds in May. We didn’t catch the emergence of any other species of dragonfly although we have seen five species egg laying. This is something to look forward to next year.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A magnificent beast – male Broad Bodied Chaser.

7. Dramas.

IMG_6686
We have seen several Woodcock here this year. However, unfortunately this one fatally flew into glass in November.
Trail camera
The crisis in Nestbox 13. Both parents of a brood of very vocal baby Great Tits disappeared. These babies were nearly ready to fledge and called loudly all day. They eventually exited the nest in desperation but I am sure it did not end well.
IMG_4280
A badger dug out a wasp nest that was built into a pile of hay and ate all the wasp larvae. However, the broken-open nest gave us a chance to see its inner workings. Here is a hoverfly, Volucella zonaria, a parasite of wasps’ nests, awaiting her chance to enter and lay her eggs within.
08019794a1
We also watched the larvae of the Great Pied Hoverfly, Volucella pellucens, attacking the adult wasps.

8. Ringing.

IMG_4637 (1)
A lot of birds were ringed, measured and released here during the year, especially over the spring and autumn migrations. This bird was a bit of a highlight – a Pied Flycatcher – ringed in September.
P1110824 (2)
Many House Martins were also ringed – especially interesting because little is still known where these birds go to for the winter. They have feathered legs to keep them warm when flying high over mountain ranges.
IMG_4400
Well over 100 Linnets were caught and ringed. This is another bird that more is needed to be known about their movements.
P1110915
A fair few Firecrests were also ringed. There was also news of a Chiffchaff that was caught here on 5th October. It had previously been ringed on 25th September, ten days earlier, on the Lizard in Cornwall which is 484kms away. This is evidence of how birds gather here on the Kent coast from all over the country in order to cross the Channel at the narrowest point.

9. New Bird Species for the List.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Thirteen new bird species were seen in or from the meadows over the year. This Brambling was here in the awful weather in March.
P1120239
Buzzard was another new species, seen regularly in October and November, frequently being mobbed by corvids. Here, though, it is being attacked by a Kestrel. The other new species were Meadow Pipit, Woodcock, Moorhen, Coal tit, Black Headed Gull, Redwing, Jackdaw, Mistle Thrush, Grey Wagtail, Pied Flycatcher and Fieldfare, bringing the total of the list to 70.

10. Photos I haven’t managed to fit in anywhere else!

IMAG0126
In May, a pair of Mallards came to bathe every morning in the pond whilst their eggs were being laid. Over this time, the female is weakened and needs the protection of the male. Once the last egg is out, the male leaves the female to incubate the eggs on her own. What lovely red legs he has, I had never noticed that before in a male Mallard.
IMAG0010
A Tawny at the pond. Catching frogs or just drinking?
Trail camera
I’m slightly obsessed with Owls. Tawny again.
Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 09.55.55
Male Pheasant in a wonderful pose.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Frog madness in March.

IMAG0002

IMAG0121
This is actually quite a wildlife spectacle.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
It seems to have been a really good year for Slow Worms here. Early May.
Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 10.28.33
An awkward moment when the male badger trundles upon a Fox cub and waits for it to realise that it needs to get out of his way.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The meadows covered in Buttercups in May. A glorious month.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Privet Hawkmoth.
Trail camera
Up and over the gate.
Trail camera
I decided that this looked like a couple of elderly magistrates with a ne’er-do-well in the dock and now I can’t get this scenario out of my head.
Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 09.39.19
Wash and brush up before bed.

And that is the final photo in my summary of 2018. It’s been quite a year and thank you for joining us on the journey by reading this blog. A Happy Christmas to you and let us see what other delights 2019 brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Review of the Year 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s