Since the weather broke a week ago, we have had 69mm – nearly 7 centimetres – of rain and there is still more being forecast. We really needed this rain and the ponds are filling up nicely but it has meant that we haven’t got on with things as much as we might have liked.
The new Tawny Owl box has arrived:
We have bought this box from the RSPB and it particularly appealed because it has the hatch for the birdringer to get in and ring any babies that might hopefully one day be nestled within, but who knows. However, we did decide to add some roofing felt to the top for added protection against the elements:
The bird ringer has advised us where best to site the boxes and this one is going in the lovely copse of mature beech
Here it is in position.
It is facing into the wood which is contrary to all advice that I have otherwise read but it can always be moved again in a few years should this position not be successful. If the photo is taken from a bit further away, we can see three skinny Silver Birch in the centre here that we are now going to take out so that there is a clearer fly zone in the front of the box:
We haven’t done much cutting down of trees yet and even these small Birch are going to represent a bit of a challenge for us. Our previous lumberjacking to date has only amounted to one Hazel coppice stool soon after buying the wood. But that stool has now started to grow back beautifully:
We intend to cut sections of the existing coppice on a rotational basis each year. In this way, there will be a mosaic of coppice at various stages of development always available for wildlife to utilise whatever stage it requires.
One species that would benefit from this type of woodland management is the Dormouse. In my quest to discover if there are Dormice in the wood, I have been looking at teeth marks on chewed nuts found on the woodland floor:
Hummm. Well, Dormice leave smooth edges with no obvious tooth marks and I think that I can see some tooth marks on these nuts, but it is difficult for me as a novice to be sure.
Another thing that Dormice require of a habitat is wild Honeysuckle. I thought that our wood didn’t have much of that, but yesterday I discovered that in one particular area it is growing quite well:
I think these tangles of plant climbing up though the trees is wild Honeysuckle, although it has lost its leaves by this stage of the year. Honeysuckle is also the larval food plant of the exciting White Admiral Butterfly and we did see one of these near here back in the summer.
We also put a second Tawny Owl box up yesterday. We have moved this box across from the meadows where it had remained uninhabited for a few years:
This is a very heavy woodcrete box with no ringing hatch – any temporary removal of young birds for ringing would have to happen through the roof. This box is sited overlooking a small clearing in the wood:
Now that some rain has fallen, I am hoping that the wood will start sprouting fungus.
I got the books out and tried but failed to identify this large toadstool above. I even have doubts about the one below, which looks like it should have been so easy to pin down. I think it is Meadow Coral (Clavulinopsis corniculata):
It is not just birds using the ponds in the woods. Rodents also use them a lot such as this Wood Mouse:
and here is one of the beautiful young Badgers in the wood:
At the meadows, following the sad loss of one of the young Badgers who was killed by a car last week, I have been trying to take stock of the remaining Badgers to ensure that there are indeed now still four of them. I can easily recognise the male, Scarface, but the females and young are more difficult to tell apart and ideally I would like to see them all together so that I know for sure. I think that none of these Badgers below is Scarface which would mean that we do still have four in total but it would have been better if they were all showing their faces nicely to the camera:
Scarface’s neck continues to be covered in burrs:
I suppose he lives a more solitary life than the others and doesn’t indulge in so much communal grooming and that might be the only thing to get these things out of his fur. It would be difficult for him to do this on his own.
The patch of brighter green grass to the right of the path below is Tor Grass (Brachypodium pinnatum)
We have always had Tor Grass growing along the northern boundary of the meadows but now we have noticed with unease that it appears to be spreading. There are several large isolated patches like the one above and, moreover, it is spreading into the meadows from the boundary. The path in the photo below runs up the northern boundary and the greener, courser grass to the left of it is Tor Grass where there didn’t used to be any. The path itself and the small bank to the right of the path is also mostly Tor Grass.
Tor Grass has wildlife credentials in its own right – it is the larval food plant of the Large and Essex Skipper Butterflies, for instance – but it does love calcareous grassland and tends to start to take over, resulting in an overall decrease in biodiversity.
The Yellow Rattle plant is parasitic on meadow grasses and we have had great success with it this year in the area of the meadows where we had sowed it. We do not know if it would also be parasitic on Tor Grass but we are going to experiment to find out! We shall sow Yellow Rattle onto one of the isolated patches of Tor Grass, having first cut back the grass hard, to see if the Rattle weakens it next year.
I found a scientific paper on Tor Grass where they were trying out different cutting regimes to try to control it and it concluded that twice yearly cutting and taking away the cuttings did definitely disadvantage it.
However, although it is reassuring to know that it is controllable, we do not want to cut absolutely all of the Tor Grass here because we would knock out our population of Large and Essex Skippers. Also, at the moment, when the sun comes out, there are hundreds of thousands of Ivy Bees working hard along the hedgerows:
These Bees build their tunnels in this bank along the northern boundary below, down into the soft soil amongst the Tor Grass. The bank faces south and is warm and dry.
So, it has been raining a lot. The appallin’ tarpaulin (as it has become affectionately known) has been down for several days now to increase the catchment area of the wild pond:
But in-between the wet bits, there has been some sunshine. There have even been some Butterflies out basking..
And signs of autumn all around:
The birds have been keeping a bit of a low profile in the bad weather, but there are always Magpies about:
And the male Sparrowhawk has been around as well:
It has been far too windy to put ringing nets up but we are aware that there has been a big movement of Chiffchaffs and Crests going through.
Having longed for rain for so long, I am of course now already fed up with it and hoping for dry, calm October days. Then we can get on with the annual cutting of the meadows and other autumn jobs.