Surveying Woodland Reptiles

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We have an ecologist visiting the meadows every day at the moment to release Slow Worms that have been trapped on a nearby site that is to be developed. He is also the Kent County recorder of amphibians and reptiles and he was very interested to hear of the wood because he has no records whatsoever from that area. The nearest record he has is of Adders in a wood that is four miles away from our wood.

Adder populations have declined so terribly that they are said to be soon facing extinction in the UK unless action is taken. However, if there are Adders in the wood, then that is something that I really want to be aware of so that appropriate care can be taken such as not thrashing around in the undergrowth in flip-flops in the summer.

Whereas roofing felt is the best material to make sampling squares out of if you are interested in Slow Worms, corrugated tin is best for snakes and lizards. But in the past we have tried and failed to get hold of corrugated tin. However, now we have struck a deal with the ecologist – he has given us five tin squares to place in appropriate areas of the wood and in return we will submit the records to him of what we find.

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The five tin squares went down today, along with an additional five roofing felt ones. We have been briefed to only lift the squares with a stick – Adders often also bask in the areas around the square. But I have to tell you that this might be the only time that I am actually hoping not to find the thing we are looking for.

Whilst we were in the wood, we found a Great Spotted Woodpecker nest in a Cherry Tree.

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We first heard this nest rather than saw it because baby Woodpeckers always seem to make a continuous racket even when an adult is not around – how can that possibly be a good idea for them? In fact we think these babies must be quite young because we have found nests in the past that are much noisier than this.

A trail camera on a pole was wedged against an adjoining tree to see what was going on:

Trail camera

Trail camera

It will be interesting to see how this nest develops.

A couple of days ago, we found that one of the small but very heavy bird boxes had fallen off the tree it was nailed to and was lying on the ground on its back. We knew that this box had a nest with young birds in it and feared the worst. However, when we looked inside, everything was absolutely fine. The babies were still alive and the adult had extended the nest up the back of the box that had now become the new floor.

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Even though a new floor had been built, the baby birds were still sitting within the original cup of the nest and so were on their sides and so we decided to put the box back up the correct way but to leave it on the ground.

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We put a camera on the box and recorded many visits of the parents to what was now the third position of this box and so all continues to be well:

Trail camera

The male Bull Finch has paid another visit to the pond in the wood and so I am hoping that they are nesting somewhere in the area:

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and there are some very sweet baby Rabbits hopping around these days:

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The regeneration area of the wood, with its young trees, is much sunnier and warmer than the main section of the wood and it is here that the insect action is kicking off.

The tally of Butterflies seen in the wood stands at five species so far: Brimstone, Peacock, Large White, Comma and, seen today, Green Hairstreak:

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A small but beautiful Butterfly. It closes its wings at rest and so the irridescent green undersides are what is usually seen. However, the uppersides are brown and so it always looks brown rather than green in flight.

Also now flying around this area in some numbers are these Cinnabar moths. Their underwings are a most glorious scarlet and this is all you see when they are in flight:

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Cinnabar Moth. Larval food plant: Ragwort.

There were also these Soldier Beetles who expose their orange abdomens in flight:

Cantharis rustica.
Cantharis rustica.

And these Turnip Sawflys who also looked orange in flight. These flies were very sensitive to figures brandishing cameras looming over them but eventually I managed to get a shot:

Athalia rosae.
Athalia rosae. The Turnip Sawfly.

The Tawny Owl is still regularly appearing on the cameras under the feeders hunting for worms. Not every night anymore but then I suppose this gets a less productive way of feeding as the ground gets drier and harder:

Trail camera

In the Silver Birch central core of the wood there is now an area of dense nettle that we want to tackle. However, there are also patches of wonderful ferns unfurling that make it all most beautiful:

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Moving to the meadows, the Buttercups continue to delight us:

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Two new Butterflies made an appearance here today, the Common Blue:

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and the Brown Argus:

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Sunglasses are required for the next photo of a male Orange Tip:

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There are many Green Longhorn Moths flittering around the hedgerows with their ridiculously long ‘horns’ that make flying difficult:

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Another Broad Bodied Chaser was basking around the ant paddock, its shiny wings telling the story that it has only just emerged:

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In fact there have been three Emperor emergences already in the hide pond:

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The empty exuvia of an Emperor Dragonfly larva, the adult having emerged overnight.

Last year this hide pond was at least a week ahead of the much larger wild pond and, indeed, there is no sign yet of anything happening there although there were several of these delicate Azure Damselflies around the wild pond area:

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The Yellowhammer female is now a regular visitor at the strip. She appears early in the morning and just before dusk and I am hoping that this might suggest that she is sitting on eggs:

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The photos below shows three other farmland species that we are hoping that feeding along this strip will support:

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Linnets, Grey Partridge and Stock Doves

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No Turtle Doves yet, though. Our fingers remain crossed.

One of the cameras on the strip faces East and it has been taking photo of sunrises over the sea for us to admire:

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The small flock of Starling appear on many of the cameras throughout the meadows:

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Trail camera

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This hide pond camera has continued to capture the Green Woodpecker who loves to roll in the sand after bathing. I posted a series of photos about this previously thinking that it was extraordinary, but it continues to happen:

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From this….
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To this….
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To this….
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And finally this.

This year, I am planting some Nicotiana. This flowering plant of the tobacco family releases its scent in the evening in the hope of attracting moths to pollinate it and I am interested to see what comes along. In particular, I am wishing for the magnificent Convolvulus Hawkmoth, who is known to be partial to Nicotiana. I have never seen one of these but really want to!

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Nicotiana plug plants have arrived.

The last photo today is of a pair of Mallards who paid a fleeting visit yesterday. I presume that this is not the original pair who visited every day for a while recently while their eggs were being laid and the male accompanies the female everywhere to protect her in her weakened state. They must surely have chicks by now whom they can’t leave.  I hope this must is a different pair who are still laying eggs because the other conclusion that I don’t want to arrive at is that they have lost all their chicks and are starting again.

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