As The Clocks Go Back


And so we begin the final day before the clocks go back and we fully lose our evenings to the dark.

The autumn migration is still going on all around. Today it seems that it is Black Redstarts that are on the move and are being reported on my Birdguides alert emails all over this part of the coast.

Below is a Robin, one of four ringed here a couple of days ago. Last weekend’s easterly winds brought in thousands of birds of all sorts of species from Europe and there is a good chance that this Robin is a continental bird. At Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, seventeen Robins had been ringed the day before and in the past some of these have been previously ringed in Russia and Denmark – you don’t necessarily expect your garden Robin to have travelled so far.


The patches of brown amongst the black of this male Blackcap tell the tale that this is a very young bird:


We now know that the Chiffchaff that was caught here earlier in the month and found to be already ringed, was ringed at Farnborough Airport in Hampshire almost exactly 24 hours previously. This is a distance of 150kms (or 93 miles) as the Crow or Chiffchaff flies.

As I closed my last post, I was off up to the mobile hide to see if the migrating Ring Ouzel was going to visit the meadows for the third day running. Needless to say, it was a no-show but I enjoyed myself anyway photographing the other birds that had bothered to turn up:




Yesterday morning, the sun was shining and the meadows were a hive of bird activity. There were a pair of these Wagtails:


I believe that these are White Wagtails because of the slate-grey on their backs. White Wagtails are the European subspecies ‘alba’ of the Pied Wagtail which are only seen in Britain on passage. The subspecies that breeds in Britain is ‘yarrellii’ which is a very black-and-white bird.

Great Tits and Blue Tits were checking out nest boxes, including two Blue Tits who appeared out of the Swift box – we don’t want them in there, we are really hoping for Swifts next year. I remember now that we are meant to have the holes of this box blocked up while the Swifts are out of the country. House Sparrows were back at the House Martin nest box:



There has been so much rain that all the trail cameras have become soggy and their lenses covered with condensation. But we can still just about see this female Kestrel, although she again doesn’t show her right leg to tell us if she is the bird that was ringed here a few weeks ago:

Trail camera

I recently went on a guided nature walk  in the grounds of Waltham Place near Maidenhead in Berkshire. This a biodynamic and organic estate where there is a completely inspiring passion for wildlife and I have come away with several ideas for things that I would like to do here. They have a large area of Comfrey and one of the gardeners rummaged around the base of these plants and brought out a caterpillar of the Scarlet Tiger Moth. Comfrey is the larval food plant for this moth and apparently they are always to be found there at this time of year, along with several other moth species too.

We have our own patch of Comfrey in the allotment area of the meadows:


I had never thought to investigate the soil underneath these plants before and I found it to be absolutely alive with Woodlice and other invertebrates. A Frog and Smooth Newt as well had been attracted in by the dense, damp cover and all those insects to eat.



We have put another small load of hay near the Badger sett for the Badgers to use as bedding:

Chiffchaff and the new load of hay

For several nights now, there have been many photos of this:


We changed this camera to video as it got dark and found that the Fox was just using its lofty perch on top of the hay pile as a viewing gallery to watch the Badgers as they went backwards and forwards from the cliff path to the peanuts.

Meanwhile, the Badgers are working away at getting this hay pile underground:

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Going into the difficult days of winter, our resident foxes are looking good and long may that last:

Trail camera

In my previous post I was talking about the coppicing course that we went on and I now realise that I was misspelling the subdivisions of a coppiced wood as ‘coup’ instead of ‘coupe’. Yesterday we made a start coppicing our own wood:


If we do have Dormice living on the wood, then they like to hibernate in the centres of these hazel coppice stools and so we tried to be careful of this.

We had chosen to start on a particularly large and overgrown stool and it took us ages. However, once it was done, a patch of sky could be seen above us and now light will be hitting the wood floor:



There is a lot more to be done to complete the section of the wood that we have in mind to be coppiced this winter but we have until the end of February until the birds start to nest.

In the regeneration area of the wood there are several Spindle trees that are loaded with berries this year. These berries are eaten by birds and other wildlife but are poisonous to humans:



The Mustelid box in the wood has been visited by all sorts of things – this time it was bird – maybe a Dunnock?-  that hopped in. No Mustelids yet though.


The Bushnell trail camera trained on the deeper pond in the wood is giving us clear photos with lovely intense colours. It was three or four times the cost of our other cameras but I think it was probably worth the outlay:





Male Sparrowhawk
Male Sparrowhawk flying away


We had the opportunity last weekend to visit the enormous new scrape that is being dug by the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory.  A new hide is also to built shortly. This year Slow Worms were transferred to the meadows here from nearby land that is to be developed and the developer made a sizeable donation to this project as part of our agreement to rehome these reptiles.



The RSPB is also creating a new reserve close to this scrape and so this whole area will become a large and fantastic sanctuary for birds. It will be so interesting to see how this all develops over the next few years.











2 thoughts on “As The Clocks Go Back

  1. Your bird photos just get better and better and loving the updates about the wood. We have a massive Hazel that needs coppicing at the Boathouse but every time we think about doing it courage fails us. It is not the actual work but all the clearing up afterwards that is daunting. I planted a Spindle – Euonymous Europeus “Red Cascade” at no 4 a few weeks ago for the Autumn colour but it has a way to go. Just had a ton of mulch delivered and will embark on the big border tomorrow now it has been replanted with some shrubs and Spring bulbs 👍

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