Another Set of Twins

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This ridiculously adorable little animal is one of a pair of twin baby Badgers that has now come above ground at the wood. This photo of adult Badgers is also taken in the wood:

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In my last post, I excitedly mentioned the twig that has appeared in the entrance to the Tawny Owl box and speculated that, even if it was not a Tawny that was using the box, then it might be a Stock Dove or Jackdaw:

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We came up with a cunning plan to find out which of these possibilities it was. A trail camera was attached to a long coppice pole and we then wedged the pole against the branches of the tree so that it pointed at the box:

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The camera on a pole.

So, what were the results?

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I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to us that this was surely the most likely contender to be nesting in the box.

There have been a lot of photos recently of Wood Pigeon drinking from this wood pond. I flicked through them quickly and nearly missed the second bird in this one:

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The wood is greening up and coming to life really quickly now:

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The wood viewed from afar.

Things are getting going in the meadows as well:

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Wood Pigeon building a nest nearby
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The first Small Copper of the year seen on the 28th

Last weekend, strong south-westerly winds were forecast as Storm Hannah passed across the country. We had three ships moored up offshore to sit the weather out and, when ships arrive like this, they bring with them a sense of anticipation and foreboding.

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Cowslips and three sheltering ships.

These ships incidentally crop up in other photos as well:

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The trail camera photo above is very atmospheric, I think. It also bears some similarities to the photo below:

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The next few photos show a sequence taken from a video. This is our oldest and most rickety Fox who is stiff legged and blind in his left eye. He often stands here and watches out over the meadows. However, he is unaware that a Badger approaches from behind:

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Just as he notices her approaching….

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…she hurtles full speed at him:

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He escapes with only his dignity in tatters.

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Another sequence of photos taken at the hide pond show a Green Woodpecker taking a bath:

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Isn’t that the most extraordinary thing? It looks like a shipwrecked mariner coming ashore on a desert island having nearly been lost at sea.

This is another striking trail camera image:

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And this next one – beautiful birds although sadly not quite in focus:

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The final photos for now are ones of the Badger twins at the meadows. Perhaps not quite as long-haired and fluffy as the one at the wood but still really terribly sweet:

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Happily Eating Worms

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It was all a bit of a mystery. Why was a Tawny Owl standing on the ground under the feeders in the wood practically every night? My best guess was that the feeders were attracting rodents and the Owl was hunting them. However, trail camera photos from the last few nights have shown that it is hunting, but that it is not rodents that it is after:

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It’s worms.

This is why many of the photos show it looking so intently at the ground:

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I read that one of the reasons why Tawny Owls are so successful is how varied their diet can be – small mammals, birds, amphibians, bats and they will also hunt on foot for worms.

The Tawny Owl box in the wood now has a bit of stick protruding out of the hole:

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Possible sign of occupation – but is it an Owl? Other potential tenants are Stock Dove or Jackdaw. The bird ringer (properly licensed to ring Owls) will be coming to look in all the boxes in a few weeks to see what is going on.

As well as the big Owl and Kestrel boxes that we have put up, we also placed six little bird boxes around the wood. We looked in four of these today and they all had nests in. One even had chicks:

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Very young little chicks. Eyes still closed.

In the last week the wood has come on incredibly. We found an area where there were lots of these Twayblades growing. These are a type of Orchid:

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And an large area of Yellow Archangel – an indicator of ancient woodland:

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The Primroses are still going strong:

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And there is a lot of Bugle growing:

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As always when talking about the wood, let me show you some birds using the makeshift ponds!:

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Back in the meadows, the Badger Twins are gaining in confidence with every passing night:

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Butterflies are starting to be seen when the sun comes out:

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Speckled Wood
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Green Hairstreak on Alexander
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Green Hairstreak on Wayfarer.

Last year we had a very poor year for the population of Small Blue Butterflies that we have here. We now understand that this was because of the shortage of Kidney Vetch, the larval food plant for this butterfly, the year before that. In order to augment the Kidney Vetch so that there is always enough, I gathered seed from the plants last August and kept them in an envelope over winter. This spring, I scratched the seeds between sand paper sheets, planted them and put them in a heated propagator for a week. Delighted to see that this approach seems to have been successful so far and I should be getting these new little plants out into the meadow later on this year once they have grown on a bit:

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St Marks Flies (Bibio marci) are so called because they usually appear on St Mark’s Day, 25th April and fly for just a week. Indeed, that is exactly the day that they appeared this year and they are now here in great numbers. They are unmistakable because they fly with their legs dangling and are extremely black. Apparently they are important pollinators:

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A few other photos from the meadows to finish for today:

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Sparrowhawk
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Cowslips coming up
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Robin again entering the Mustelid box along the tunnel.
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A lovely load of healthy Foxes. A game of Foxy in the middle?

 

 

 

 

And, Finally, Here They Are!

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Over the last few weeks, we have been given sneak previews of these two cubs as they were moved between setts, getting larger with each transfer. Here we are in early March:

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But, on Monday night, the wait was over and they finally came above ground. At the moment they are only allowed up for a very short time and they are under the strictest of supervision, but it is lovely to finally get a proper look at them:

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Looking forward to getting to know them better as they get taken out and about more and taught how to be Badgers.

The wind has finally dropped, the temperature has risen and the Red Mason Bee cocoons have started to hatch. I have photographed the hatching – it starts with little munching sounds as the bee starts to chew its way out:

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They don’t hang around. They are off and flying away within a couple of minutes after emerging from the cocoon.

It has not been long since my last post but I do have a few more things to share with you. Here is a Zebra Spider. It is only small – maybe 5mm in length – and jumps on its prey rather than building a web. It is also very well camouflaged on this stone.

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Salticus scenicus

The bird ringer came today now that the wind has dropped and caught 22 Linnets. Three were retraps but the others were ringed. He has now ringed approximately 150 Linnets along the strip.

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A male Linnet. He was born last year but will be hoping to breed this year.
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A beautiful male Robin.

Here is a photo showing utter blackness of the Crow:

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In contrast to this photo below which couldn’t be more colourful:

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Peacock Butterflies hibernate over the winter and this one is certainly showing some wear and tear.

And – hurrah! –  in the orchard, the apple blossom is starting to come out.

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In the wood, things are gradually unfolding and coming back to life. The Silver Birch trees are greening up:

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The Buzzard nest perched in the centre of the stand of Silver Birch. Buzzards have several nests to choose between each year and it doesn’t look like they will be nesting in our wood this year. 

and the ferns below them are unfurling:

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We still have a camera trained on the shallow painters tray and it is amazing how many birds are using it. Here are a couple of the more unusual visitors:

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Redwing.
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Black Cap

My last photo is another attempt to film the Tawny in the wood. A slight improvement, but still a way to go. But what does it have in its mouth – maybe a Slow Worm?

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Pheasant Courtship

35 million Pheasants are reared and released into the British countryside to be shot every year. That is a mind-blowing and horrifying number. However, here in the wood, where there is no shooting, it seems that the Pheasants are settling down to produce the next generation the natural way.

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What the trail camera has caught here is the courtship dance of the male. He lowers his head, fans out his tail and drops a wing on the side of the female to best display his most impressive plumage. He establishes a territory and attracts a harem of females which can be anything from 2 to 18 birds. Here is our male with his rather meagre harem so far of a pair of ladies:

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Since the females are ground nesting, I suppose that they are vulnerable to predation which is why there may have to be many females to one male.

Anyway, he is the most magnificent animal and I am looking forward to seeing if we get young Pheasants in due course.

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One of the Badgers in the wood is clearly a lactating female and so we also may be expecting baby Badgers here as well before too long

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There has been a second Badger hole excavated in the last few days:

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This is another single hole sett and is about 50m from the existing hole.

Coming into peak Bluebell season now but this is the best that our wood can do for Bluebells:

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But it is rather excelling itself with Primroses in the regeneration area:

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I spent some time this afternoon photographing Dotted Bee Flies sipping nectar from these flowers:

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Dotted Bee Flies are much rarer than Dark-edged Beeflies but I realise now that I should have increased the shutter speed to stop the wings moving and then the spotted wings would have been properly shown. I will try again next time I visit. I love the row of white dots down their backs as well.

I have been going through our reference books to identify this fungus below and I believe it to be the Semi-free Morel (Morchella semilibera) which is found in damp, calcareous woodland in spring:

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I have an on-going project to try to get a half decent trail camera photograph of the Tawny Owl that comes down onto the ground under the feeders at the wood most nights. This is the best I’ve got for you so far but there is so much room for improvement:

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Moving back now to the meadows. There has been a bitter easterly wind blowing across these coastal cliffs here for many days now and it seems that the onward progress of spring has slowed down.

However, this hasn’t stopped the wild Cherry tree coming out into full flower:

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Its blossom is very popular with bees of all shapes and sizes and the tree hums with them in the sunshine:

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This bee below is the most beautiful of bees, I think. She is the female Tawny Mining Bee.

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The Slow Worms are spending a lot of time warming up under the sampling squares in this chilly weather:

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Juveniles.

There are a lot of Stock Doves on the strip at the moment. They are shy and beautiful birds and I think this photo goes some way to capture their charm:

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The UK has 60% of the global population of these birds and so it is especially important that we take good care of them. Well, there are eight of them being looked after here:

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We have been releasing trail cameras from duties elsewhere and moving them up onto the strip ready for the start of the Turtle Dove season at the beginning of May. I subscribe to Birdguides alerts and I had an email only yesterday telling me that two Turtle Doves were spotted in Stodmarsh, a nearby reserve, and so they have started arriving.

We also have our Grey Partridge pair still visiting the strip and I think that this early morning photo is nicely atmospheric:

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The Mallard pair are also coming every day at dawn for a swim. They don’t stay very long and then they are off back to their nest:

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This was quite a good photo of a Field Vole in the mustelid box:

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Finally for today, we have the Foxes:

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This Fox has swivelled its ears right round to the back.

 

 

 

Early April in the Meadows and the Woods

I have been delaying writing a post thinking that the baby Badgers would come above ground and grab the headlines, but they haven’t yet. However, they have been moved again:

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And here is one of the Badgers out before it got fully dark:

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We have started our Operation Yellowhammer by putting finch food along the rotivated strip. No Yellowhammer seen so far but it is proving very popular with the Linnets:

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Also a pair of Grey Partridge are visiting:

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Since the finch food has a proportion of sunflower hearts in it, the Foxes work the strip through the night because they love sunflower hearts:

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The RSPB’s Turtle Dove conservation advisor has dropped off this year’s supplementary bird feed that we are again going to put down in attempt to encourage Turtle Doves to stop with us and breed as they arrive back into the country:

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This will go down from the beginning of May and so at that point we switch from Operation Yellowhammer to Operation Turtle Dove although, in actual fact, the feed is very similar.

I have some other photos of Foxes down at the peanut feeding area that I wanted to also include..

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All very healthy looking, I am delighted to see.

Lovely to see this group of Badgers as well:

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I put a bit of food into the Mustelid box to see what this would bring in and this was a surprise:

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Although the lid is off the box, there is a grill over it to protect any visitors from aerial attack and so this Robin definitely came in through the tunnel.

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This sweet little Vole is making a nest under one of the reptile sampling squares. I believe this to be a Short-tailed Vole (Field Vole) although I say this with a certain degree of uncertainty because I still haven’t quite pinned down the difference between this and a Bank Vole.

The Mallard pair are still popping by at dawn daily while their eggs are being laid:

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I cannot leave the meadows without posting a photo of the two regulars, the Sparrowhawks and the Heron. Here is the male Sparrowhawk:

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I have so many photos of the Heron to select from. I chose this one because I love the intensity of its downward gaze. Look at that eye:

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Those poor Frogs.

At the wood, the Primroses and Violets are fantastic:

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The camera looking at the shallow painter’s tray bird bath has been photographing the Tawny Owl on the ground nearby every night. Here is the back of the Owl from last night:

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We have now changed all the cameras around to try to get a better photo of this bird over the next few nights.

This next photo is of the Badgers at the wood. There are FIVE Badgers in this shot:

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Not all these Badgers are living in our wood – there is a large sett in another part of the larger wooded area and these extra Badgers surely must be visiting from there.

Finally for today, I have some photos of bathing birds from the two baths that we have put in the wood:

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Jay
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Great Tit and Song Thrush
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Wren
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Blackcap bathing and Chaffinch in foreground.
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Goldcrest
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Goldcrest
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Pheasant pair. I wonder if we will get chicks?

But what were the birds doing for freshwater before?