The Health of the Wood

The wood had an unusual visitor on Monday:

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It is a juvenile or female Pied Flycatcher. There was a big influx of these birds at the East coast over the Bank Holiday weekend, many of them juveniles suggesting that they have had a good year in the woodlands of the Baltic where they spend their summers.

A Pied Flycatcher was ringed in the meadows last September and here is a photo from back then:

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Other interesting birds at the wood:

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Willow Warbler on the left (Pied Flycatcher and Blue Tit on the log)
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Beautiful little Wren caught in a beam of light
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Male Sparrowhawk
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Male Sparrowhawk – so brown.

In the regeneration section of the wood, the Sycamore trees are under attack:

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The leaves are shrivelling and dropping early because they are affected by Tar Spot:

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It is not a good look. Caused by a fungus (Rhytisma acerinum) apparently there is no long term effect on the vigour of the trees – although it is a bit hard to believe that when you see the state of them now, in late summer. Sadly, there is no cure. If this was a garden setting, it would really help to brush up and  burn the fallen leaves that harbour the pathogen over the winter but this is not practical here in the wood.

Luckily, any Sycamores in the main part of the wood, including this magnificent Sycamore coppice, do not seem to be affected and its leaves are still gorgeously green:

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It is not just Sycamores that are struggling. Bordering our wood are a few Horse Chestnuts:

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This is caused by the Horse Chestnut leaf mining moth, Cameraria ohridella, which was first spotted in the UK in Wimbledon in 2002.  Here is a photo of the adult moth from the internet:

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The larvae of this little moth live in the leaves of the tree and cause the damage. Like the Sycamore above, it is difficult to see how this cannot be disadvantaging the tree over the course of several years.

There are also Ash trees bordering the wood that are showing signs of Ash Dieback:

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This is caused by a fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) which blocks the water transport system in the trees. It is a very depressing, serious disease that is killing Ash trees across Europe.

We plan to engage a forester later this year to have a look at the wood and advise us on our best way forward with it. We will also ask about these woodland health issues to see if there is anything that we should be doing.

There has been a bit of Dragonfly excitement going on around the ponds of the meadows. There are large numbers of Common Darter and here is a pair mating:

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Then, still joined together, they take to the wing, the red male leading:

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The female is repeatedly lowered so that the end of her abdomen touches the water and she lays an egg:

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By staying attached to her in this way, the male can ensure that no other male gets a look in.

Emperor Dragonflies lay eggs in a very different way. The female lands and sticks her abdomen into the water in a slow and methodical manner:

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But the Dragonfly highlight has been a new species laying eggs into the pond. The photos are not great because she was extremely wary of me sneaking up on her but they are good enough to be able to positively ID her as a Southern Hawker. This is a common Dragonfly in the south of England, but not one that we have seen here before:

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There is a large flock of about two hundred Linnets swirling around the hedgerows and it is heartening to see such a lovely lot of birds:

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Some of them are also coming down to the mini ponds:

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Other birds around the meadows at the moment:

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Ringed Whitethroat (ringed here last week. This bird was actually caught again this morning)
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The ringed Whitethroat
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Blackcap and Linnets
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Yellowhammer
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Green Woodpecker – ant specialist – visiting the sand pit
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and again yesterday.
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Not my favourite bird, but they really do have rather wonderful tail feathers.

There was ringing in the meadows again today and here are the tail feathers from a juvenile Blackcap that was processed:

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It is really interesting to see the fault bars in the feathers. When the baby bird is growing its tail feathers in the nest, if there is a period when food is short, then that section of feather will not be so strong and robust and a bar will develop.

The bird ringer sent me a photo of a juvenile Cetti’s Warbler that he ringed earlier this week at Sandwich Bay, just up the coast:

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I have never knowingly seen one of these birds but they have lovely rufous tails with broad feathers but only ten feathers rather than the more usual twelve:

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This wonderful Garden Warbler was also ringed here in the meadows this morning:

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The final animal for today is this Hornet Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) that loudly buzzed down and landed near my knees this afternoon. It is truly gigantic with a wing length of nearly 2cm:

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They lay their eggs in wasp nests and then their larvae live off the wasp larvae as they develop. Last August, a Badger knocked open a wasp nest and I photographed a Hornet Hoverfly awaiting its chance to get inside. This was one of the meadow photos of 2018 of which I was most proud:

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