A Winter Chill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It has been properly cold out there recently and here are some wintery photos taken by the trail camera at the hide pond:

imag0051

imag0039

imag0016

The male Sparrowhawk was at the side of the pond for more than ten minutes trying in vain to take a bath:

imag0011

imag0005

imag0007

This morning there was a widespread frost:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Everything was briefly turned into a wonderland until the sun rose up and properly got going:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a Badger at the end of a long night doing what Badgers do best – messing around in soil chasing worms:

screen shot 2019-01-17 at 10.27.36

But this next photo, taken at 1pm in the middle of the day, is very unusual behaviour indeed for the Badgers here and leads me to suspect that cubs may have just been born underground.

Trail camera

I include this photo taken at the Badger sett because this Fox looks so magnificent and healthy:

Trail camera

This one, too, looks wet but in great fettle:

imag0043

But that is more than can be said for the poor mangey fox who is still visiting the peanuts most nights but at such varying times that it has proved impossible so far to put the medicine out at the right time so that the correct Fox gets it:

Trail camera

I need to seek further advice from the National Fox Welfare Society to see what they suggest.

Meanwhile bird species number 72 has made a grand entrance into our lives here. A bright green ring-necked Parakeet has been around for a few days  although to date we have failed to get a photo. It is not a bird to keep a low profile – so noisy and flamboyant. We knew that there was a population of them up in Thanet but it is the first time that we have seen one here.

One last photo from the meadows for today is a Kestrel – first time we have seen her on the gate:

Trail camera

In the woods, we were so excited to discover a Badger sett in a part of the wood we hadn’t really explored. It is a single tunnel dug under a mass of bramble:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We put all three trail cams that we are using in the wood around the hole and got some lovely woodland shots:

Trail camera

Trail camera

Trail camera

Trail camera

Trail camera

Trail camera

Then, at last, the photo we had been hoping for:

Trail camera

An idea that we had read in one of our woodland books was to plant some bare-rooted Christmas trees, grow them on and in a few years we will be able to cut down our own trees to bring into the house. That seemed like such a good idea that we thought we would get going straight away and so have bought fourteen very small Nordmann Fir to plant up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We haven’t given them any protection against Rabbits on the assumption that Rabbits won’t like them but we will have to see how that goes.  We are such beginners in woodland management – although we have now both signed up to a coppicing course in the autumn which should help. Until then we will continue to watch and learn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The January Lull

Things are very quiet out there. Badgers go into torpor in the deep winter, still appearing every night but they are active for much shorter times. Any young badgers this year will be born in a couple of weeks in late January and will then stay warm underground until mid April.

Trail camera

The mangey Fox is still with us but we are yet to put the honey sandwiches laced with medicine out at such a time that he gets some.

Here he is arriving at the peanuts earlier than expected and before we had put the sandwiches out:

Trail camera

Then, when we did put them out that evening, here is a perfectly healthy Fox with a mouth stuffed full of medicated honey sandwiches. They won’t do it any harm, but they were intended elsewhere:

Trail camera

It’s frustrating. The medicine is very mild and needs to be taken every day for a minimum of three weeks to have an effect. Currently the chances of us managing that seem very slim, although we will keep trying.

Our Fox woes continue with one of our regular Foxes turning up with this injury last night. They live such precarious lives.

screenshot 2019-01-14 at 09.58.04 2

Yesterday we did the winter pruning of the apple and pear trees in the orchard. The idea is to prune so that you could fly a pigeon through the heart of the tree if you wanted to. A goblet shape will allow good air circulation that will keep them healthier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lots of lovely fruit wood has now been made available for dead hedging.

We noticed seed heads on the ground from Old Man’s Beard (wild clematis, Clematis vitalba).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Old Man’s Beard is a chalk specialist and it scrambles all over the hedgerows here. As well as Ivy berries, it is another important mid to late winter food source for Goldfinch and Greenfinch and it is lovely to see evidence of it being used.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The seed heads in the hedgerow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We are trying to rapidly educate ourselves in the management of woods. But all the advice we have read for new owners is to do nothing other than observe and enjoy for the the first complete year. Well, we can do that!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However, there were some things that we wanted to get up and running as soon as possible. One of these to get some nest boxes up. We now have put into place two Barn Owl boxes, a Tawny Owl box and six smaller bird boxes around the wood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The second Barn Owl box goes up in the Sycamore coppice.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Tawny box goes up in an Oak
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
One of the smaller boxes.

We also wanted to introduce some freshwater quickly and easily so that we can then take our time to decide where to build a proper pond. This sturdy plastic bath looks a bit odd but it is a work-in-progress so suspend judgement until we have finished!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We have also dug in this shallower painters tray with a sloping base and deeper section which we hope will be used by birds to drink and bathe:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There was previously no water available in the wood or the surrounding area and so we are trying these cheap, cheerful and simple solutions as a starting point. In fact, the only other water we have found here is this pool in the centre of a coppice:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yesterday we cut our first coppice to provide some posts for dry hedging and were really surprised how much wood just a single coppice provided:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That should certainly be enough for now.

I have moved some trail cameras across to the wood from the meadows. I trained one on this area of holey ground:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And this is what we got (which probably surprises no one)

Trail camera

It has been quite calm and reasonably mild recently but much colder weather is forecast shortly. It will be interesting to see what changes that brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year, New Habitat

A Fox with mange has come to eat some peanuts for three nights on the trot:

Trail camera

Trail camera

This is not one of our resident foxes but, if it continues to regularly come here, then perhaps we can help it. There is a homeopathic liquid called Arsen Sulphur that I bought three years ago from Helios Homeopathy when the resident foxes here got mange, having been recommended to do so by the National Fox Welfare Society. Each night for six weeks we made three rounds of jam sandwiches, put a few drops of this liquid on each one and then cut them up into little squares. I phoned Helios again now who confirmed that my left-over liquid would still be alright.

img_7058

img_7059

As it got to dusk last night, I made the sandwiches up (using honey instead of jam – maybe it does have some in-built antiseptic properties as is often claimed? It feels more natural, anyway) and put them out with the peanuts.

This morning, I see that the Fox did visit again last night, but only after the other Foxes had got there first and eaten all the sandwiches. It won’t do these healthy Foxes harm but I do need to change my tactics in order to reach my intended target. Since this Fox is not part of the normal group here, maybe it will only visit once they have been and gone and so perhaps the sandwiches should go out an hour or two after the peanuts.

Trail camera
Last night – peanuts still there but honey sandwiches all gone when this Fox visits

This is what I will try tonight, then.

Going through the videos yesterday, I have the following two screenshots:

screenshot 2019-01-05 at 22.56.05

screenshot 2019-01-05 at 23.06.06

The Fox was yawning but the Badger was just exercising his jaws – I have never seen a Badger yawn and presume that they don’t do so. They do love to have a jolly good scratch though:

Trail camera

As the winter progresses and the hedgerows are increasingly getting stripped of berries, it is interesting to see what the birds are finding to eat. This Blackbird has an Ivy berry here. These berries don’t ripen until mid to late winter and so form a vital food source to bridge the hunger gap in late winter when everything else has gone.

Trail camera

We don’t have a Walnut tree here but there are some in the vicinity. I just don’t know how this Magpie is going to open this nut though – walnuts are so tough and surely its beak is not that powerful?

Trail camera

When we bought these meadows, we had a long and steep learning curve to climb. Now, four years on, we feel that we are ready for a new challenge. To this end, on 3rd January, we completed on the purchase of a six acre wood near Canterbury. It is quite a diverse wood with about two acres of it having been cut and replanted with native trees within the last ten years. The more mature four acre section has a central heart of Silver Birch and other areas of Hazel and Willow coppice along with sporadic mature Beech, Oak, Sycamore and Sweet Chestnut trees. It’s a lovely wood.

img_6993
The Silver Birch centre
img_6999
Presumed Buzzard nest in one of the Silver Birch.
img_6988
Male Ferns in amongst the Silver Birch.
img_7024
Old Man’s Beard tangle.
img_6983
Massive Sycamore coppice.

We have got up and running straight away by ordering two Barn Owl boxes, a Tawny Owl box, a Kestrel box and six smaller bird boxes and we will be getting these up over the next week or so:

img_7017

img_7050
Getting one of the Barn Owl boxes up into position.

It is a really exciting to have a new and very different habitat to learn about and we will be working to try to encourage as much biodiversity here as we can. This blog will now cover the wildlife happenings of Walmer Meadows and Walmer Wood and I am really looking forward to seeing what 2019 is going to bring.