My day was made this morning as we were doing our normal circuit round the meadows and we heard a Yellowhammer calling. This will be a male establishing a territory to breed. This year, the farmer has deep ploughed around the edges of the field behind the meadows which seems a much more environmentally sensitive way to deal with weeds than spraying with chemicals which is what he has done before. It was in this hedgerow, close to but at right angles to ours, that the bird was singing:
During April we have been carrying out our Operation Yellowhammer where we have been putting down finch food on the strip to support Yellowhammer. In fact, we haven’t seen a single Yellowhammer eating the seed but it doesn’t matter because one has arrived in the hedgerows anyway and that is fantastic.
Now that it is May, Operation Yellowhammer has seamlessly morphed into The Turtle Dove Project.
The RSPB has supplied us with seed that has been mixed especially for Turtle Doves and they have asked us to put down 6kg of this seed once a week along the whole of the rotivated strip. However, we have decided to put down 3kg twice a week, dividing the strip into quadrants and rotating around them. This is so that we can better cover this smaller area with our trail cameras but we had better check that they don’t mind.
Here is the strip after the food went down: Collared Doves, Stock Doves and Wood Pigeon all there and the Turtle Dove Officer tells us that it is these birds feeding that will catch the eye of passing Turtle Doves and cause them to investigate further.
The pair of Grey Partridge are often there enjoying the seed too:
I think that below is our first baby bird of the year – a juvenile Stock Dove. (The bird ringer is not around at the moment but when he is, I would just like his confirmation that this is a bird that was born this year. )
We are about to become a receptor site for an unknown number of Slow Worms which are being relocated from a site nearby due for development. All British reptiles are protected by law and a condition of the planning permission was that very thorough provisions were first made for the well being of the reptiles.
In the next few days a number of log piles are going to be dug into an area of the second meadow and the Slow Worms will be trapped on the site and brought daily across to us and released into the log piles.
The ecologist overseeing this work came to see us to discuss the final details:
He is also the County Recorder for Reptiles and Amphibians and, while we had him here, we asked him about a couple of problems that we have! Firstly, there is the issue of the Heron eating all our Frogs. Since the Herons don’t land directly on the water but touch down in the grass nearby and walk to the water, his advice was to ring the pond edge with a wire about 9 inches off the ground which will help to deter them. A good idea.
Our second problem is the blanket weed in the hide pond:
In the photo above we are planting a few native British plants into the hide pond which will hopefully act as supports for Dragonfly emergences later this month. The blanket weed problem is very apparent to all. Since the first filling of this pond, only rain water has gone into it. However, we did use tap water to initially fill it two or three years ago and the nutrients from this tap water are still trapped in the body of water and have nowhere to go and are causing this weed growth. Only by removing the blanket weed do you remove the nutrients locked up in it. The pond, though, is teeming with life which will become hopelessly entangled within the blanket weed when it is pulled out. The advice is to pull half the blanket weed out at the end of the summer, rescue as many animals as we can and leave the pulled weed on the side of the pond in the hope that others can rescue themselves. This may involve loss of life but that can be minimised and is the best way to solve the problem and create a healthy pond environment.
The moth trap went out last night for the first time this year:
Here are a couple of beauties that I caught:
Here are some other photos taken around the meadows over the past few days:
We are beginning to identify our first problem with the wood. There is a central core of mature Silver Birch and a fine crop of very lush, dense and vigorous nettles have sprung up underneath:
Nettles do have wildlife value – they are the larval food plant for Red Admiral, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies for example – but they are growing here in such tremendous proliferation and it is far too much of a good thing. I have been researching what we can do to control them without weedkiller and it seems that we need to keep knocking them back with a strimmer and try not to let them flower and seed. I think it is something that we will need to keep working away at over several years and things will gradually improve. I feel optimistic.
This photo is very exciting. A male and female Bullfinch came down for a drink yesterday and what absolutely lovely birds they are:
We have recently put down some reptile sampling squares down in the wood. No reptiles so far but today there was this rather lovely Leopard Slug:
A camera looking at one of the Barn Owl boxes caught this Squirrel going past. No Barn Owls unfortunately yet and I am pleased to say that the Squirrel doesn’t seem to be nesting there either:
Two wood Badgers:
The last photo for today is of this Great Spotted Woodpecker drinking at the painter’s tray yesterday:
As you can see, the bird is ringed and this was done here on February 21st:
It is nice to see that it is still around.