The Bright Wave

Bright Wave is an unassuming little moth that is extremely rare in this country. It has a few, very localised breeding populations in South-East coastal locations, one of which is on the vegetated shingle below the meadows.

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Internet photo of a Bright Wave

We received notification that the Lepidopteran (Butterflies and Moths) ecologist, working for Butterfly Conservation, wanted to visit the meadows to survey them for Bright Wave breeding activity. Unfortunately we missed his visit but we have subsequently talked to him to discover that he didn’t find anything but that the meadows were a potentially good site for their breeding, particularly the more nutrient-deprived upper slopes of the second meadow. His advice was to carry on doing what we are doing – cutting the grass annually and taking off the cuttings – and he will visit again next year to try again.

In the meantime, I will see if I can capture one in my moth trap during the flight season which is from now until early August.

Here is another small and unassuming animal:

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Just a blurry image from a trail camera taken in the dead of night on the summer solstice. But it is one that got us excited because in the five years we have been here, this is only the second ever glimpse of a Hedgehog. I think there are reasons why we don’t get Hedgehogs and two of these reasons are pictured below:

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One Fox climbing over another one – reason unknown!
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The young twin Badgers (and an added Bat)

Now that I have started on photos of Foxes and Badgers in the meadows, let me continue with some more:

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A Fox cub acquainting itself with a fellow animal-of-the-night
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Fox checking out the Badger sett

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Moving on to birds now, the pair of Grey Partridge continue to visit the seed on the strip:

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A good enough photo to notice the red spot behind the eye.
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Walking around the meadows, the view we most often get is of them flying away. The noticeable things then are the rufous sides of their tails, not otherwise visible.
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The Tawny has not been visiting the meadows very much recently. But here it is on midsummers day.
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Male Sparrowhawk on the gate.
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Juvenile Jay
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Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (red cap)
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Mistle Thrush

Two newly-appeared Butterflies are now flying around the meadows. The Large Skipper, with the slight checkerboarding on its wings:

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and the Small Skipper, with plain orange wings and orange antennae:

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We also get Essex Skippers here which are very similar to Small Skippers but have black undersides to their antennae, but we haven’t seen one of these yet this year.

Like the Hedgehog earlier in this post, below is only the second ever Toad that has been seen here. This one was sheltering under one of the sampling squares at the top of the second meadow.  There is a breeding population of Toads in the grounds of Walmer Castle nearby and so our best guess that this is a posh royal Toad come visiting.

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The meadows are starting to clothe themselves in their full summer glory:

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But I leave them for now with a photo of one of the only two Pyramidal Orchids that we have growing this year:

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The bird ringer visited the wood today to check the Owl and Kestrel boxes. It is a two-person job with one person deploying a hole blocker – a stuffed bag at the end of a long pole – while the other ascends the ladder:

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The results were that there was a definite leafy Squirrel drey in one of the Barn Owl boxes, but the other Barn Owl box and the Tawny box had sticks in them suggesting Jackdaws or Stock Doves. The Kestrel box had some bedding in it but we are uncertain who was using it.

So, no Owls or Kestrels then but we are not downhearted. Positions for two additional Tawny boxes and several more little boxes were identified and these will go up in the autumn.

The Fox cub is still around in the wood

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and there are occasional glimpses of adult Foxes:

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The Buzzard was again at the pond and it is such an enormous bird when viewed up close. For scale, here is a Jay which in itself is a fair sized bird:

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and, cropped to the same amount, here is the Buzzard:

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It is now the end of June. We have been so busy recently juggling lots of things but are looking forward now to spending quiet time catching up and getting on with stuff in the meadows and the wood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

House Martins or House Sparrows?

To try to persuade House Martins to nest here, we put up this House Martin box a few years ago which comprises two fake mud nests.

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The box has remained unloved and empty until this year when House Sparrows rather than the intended House Martins have decided to nest. We are pleased that the nests are being used by whatever species, but we would like to point out to these Sparrows that, close by, there is a terrace that had been built especially for them and that it is sitting completely unoccupied:

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Fox cubs are appearing a lot on the cameras at the moment. They need to learn how to form relationships with the other animals that inhabit the meadows alongside them, such as Badgers…

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…and Magpies:

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because when Foxes are about in the daylight, they often have Magpie attendants:

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A trail camera captured an interesting interaction below between a Magpie and the bathing Green Woodpecker:

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I am not sure quite what was going on there but it looked slightly menacing and I feel like the Woodpecker got the upper hand.

We have been a bit busy with other things recently but the trail cameras have been working behind the scenes on our behalf. Starting with Foxes:

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Screenshot from a video of a cub suckling.
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Mid yawn.
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Three cubs
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Cubs fascinated by frogs at the hide pond.

We have not had a Mistle Thrush on the cameras before:

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Quite a few racing pigeons have been dropping by recently, presumably on their way home having just crossed the Channel. Note the rings on the legs:

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Other birds that have been caught on camera over the last few days:

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Male Sparrowhawk
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Sparrowhawks scare me.
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Male Grey Partridge on the strip which is now getting really quite overgrown.
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Are the Woodpigeons still building nests this late?
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It is oddly unusual to see Gulls landing in the meadows given how close we are to the sea. However, this one has taken to coming for a daily drink.

There are still a few Small Blue Butterflies around:

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The first Marbled White was seen in the meadow on 16th June:

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and the first Burnet moth today, the 17th:

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Narrow-Bordered Five Spot Burnet Moth

This next photo is a contender for my all-time favourite insect, the male Swollen-thighed Beetle (Oedemera nobilis)

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In the wood, there are Fox cubs here as well:

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And a baby Squirrel:

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Our family came and visited us in the wood and for first time we had a cook out and some of us then slept over in these completely enclosed hammocks shown below. There is also a rain-proof, sail-like tarpaulin that goes over it.

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Although I was not one of the people that stayed over, I can report that they are very comfortable, although I can also report that the dawn chorus started at 3.40am! For toilet arrangements, we bought a simple portable one which is basically a loo seat over a bucket, into which we put some wood chips. After each use, the bucket was emptied into a nearby pit and earth thrown over.

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Although we have plans to build a toilet that is much more in keeping with its woodland setting, this arrangement seemed to work very well for now.

I cannot finish this evening without including this serving platter that has been painted for us by one of our family. All the images on the plate are from photos from this blog and I am completely delighted and impressed with it.

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Fox Cubs Etc.

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All of a sudden, Fox cubs are appearing on the trail cameras. By the hide pond..

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Over by the Badger sett:

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At the peanuts:

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And also in the wood:

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Here are baby Badgers at the peanuts with a Fox. The mother Badger would never have allowed this a month or so ago:

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One of the Red Mason Bee nest boxes is now completely full:

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So we have taken it inside and wrapped it in a pair of tights, to protect it from predator attack, and it will now spend the summer under the stairs. During this time, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will feed on that lovely yellow pollen and, by September, will have developed into tough cocoons. At that point we will retrieve the box from under the stairs, extricate the cocoons, clean any predators away and put them in the fridge for the winter.

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We also have a summer bee box, with tunnels of varying diameter to suit Bees that fly later than the spring-flying Red Mason Bees.

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This summer bee box has now gone out in the place of the Red Mason Box:

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Red Mason box on the left and the new summer bee box on the right.

We have had a Lepidoptera ecologist (Butterflies and Moths) visit us at the meadows. Below the meadows is a patch of vegetated shingle that is an extremely precious habitat for two very rare moths, the Sussex Emerald Moth and the Bright Wave. Working for the Butterfly Conservation charity, he came to assess the meadows to see if there is anything that we can be doing to help support these species.

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In terms of the Sussex Emerald, the answer is that we can’t help – the moth needs vegetated shingle and simply having the right larval food plant and being close by is just not good enough. However, we may be able to help the Bright Wave and he will return in a month to see if he can find any signs of Bright Wave activity in our meadows.

I went down to the shingle with him to survey the Sussex Emerald larvae before they pupate on a week or so. The larvae mainly eat Wild Carrot but here is one on Ragwort:

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Azure Damselflies are mating down at the pond:

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But the mass emergence of Emperor Dragonflies, which has been such a feature of late May in previous years, has yet to occur.

May has been dry and the ponds are getting low and busy.

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There are a lot of Starlings here at moment, a mixed flock of juveniles and adults. The juveniles look quite different to the adults at this point of the year:

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Juvenile on the left, adult Starling on the right.

The Green Woodpecker continues to entertain us with its bathing technique which always appears more like a suicide attempt:

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Surely this is not normal?

In the wood, the Woodpecker babies were making an increasingly loud noise.

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It is thought that baby Woodpeckers are really quite vigorous and would be a threat to anything investigating the hole and so this noise they make is a warning for predators to keep away.

However, is this strategy working, or are they unnecessarily calling attention to themselves? After all, we first heard the nest rather than saw it. Also, there was this on the trail camera:

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When I went there today with my mobile hide, I found that the babies had fledged and the nest was silent. I was cross with myself for having missed them. The best that I can do, for this year at least, is a grainy image of a red-capped juvenile from the trail camera:

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Another couple of photos from the wood:

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And, thrillingly, a Buzzard at the wood pond:

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The finale for today are a couple of photos of the Small Blue colony that is doing so well in the meadows this year. These are females on the larval food plant, Kidney Vetch:

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