Out With The Old

The cutting of the meadows is thankfully nearly complete and we have moved on to the next autumnal job – the grand annual clearing out of the nest boxes.

Actually, a lot of the boxes were found to be empty this year but there were some Great Tit and Blue Tit nests:

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And also some rodent nests , stuffed with leaves as well as moss:

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As usual, fluff from the dog’s fluorescent giant tennis balls was liberally incorporated into many of the nests:

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One dead Blue tit, many chewed nuts from rodent usage and a lot of dog ball fluff
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Another dead Blue Tit and some more ball fluff

One of the boxes was empty except for this recently-dead Great Tit:

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Although it is sad to find these dead birds, these nests will have successfully launched a large number of fledglings this year. It’s just the few that didn’t make it that are left for us to see.

We have removed some of the boxes that have stood empty for a couple of years and will now have a rethink about where they should go – some of them may well be transferred across to the wood where all six of the small bird boxes we put up were used this year.

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A lot of Blackbirds have arrived into the country recently. This male is very probably a continental bird – our resident male Blackbirds will have started to get yellow beaks and eye rings by now and their feathers would be more shiny:

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The brown primary feathers on the leading edge of the wings indicate that this is a young bird, born this year.

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Below is one of our resident males with the yellow beak:

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I can’t tell you much about this next Blackbird, other than it is enjoying itself:

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Some other photos from a ringing session this week:

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Firecrest
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Blue Tit. Looks like she has her ballgown on.
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Chiffchaff

Below is an Ichneumid Wasp, Ophion obscuratus, which still flies throughout winter. There are several similar species but I think that the pale stripes on the thorax are diagnostic.

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Ophion obscuratus

These wasps lay their eggs into caterpillars and the developing larvae live off the caterpillar, only killing it right at the end to ensure the food remains fresh. Charles Darwin saw the lifecycle of these parasitic wasps as being incompatible with a benign creator. He wrote: ‘I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars’.  Back in the 19th Century, they didn’t have climate change and many of the other problems that we are grappling with today, but there were certainly some other fundamental issues for them to be wrestling with.

This parasitic Wasp is a large thing – four centimetres from the antennae to the end of the abdomen. Here it is in side view:

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Why on earth has it got such a precariously slender waist?

Here is another large insect that is still around at this time of the year:

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This is the Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis). This bug is a native of the USA but arrived in Britain in 2007 and is now spreading rapidly. It feeds on the sap of developing pine cones, causing the seeds within the cones to become malformed.  I cannot find reports of it becoming a pest in the UK, although it has become one in conifer plantations of its native Western USA.

Stock Doves are so often overlooked but see how absolutely beautiful they are: soft grey with blush-pink overtones, the friendly black eye and the surprising iridescence on their neck.

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Those black eyes of the Stock Dove are really lovely – compare it to the eye of a Wood Pigeon:

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Bathing in the same tray the other day is this young female Kestrel:

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She looks like a Nightjar in this photo

 

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She does show us her right leg this time and we can see that she is indeed the bird that managed to take a chunk out of the bird ringer’s hand whilst he was ringing her here a few weeks ago.

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Here is another bird displaying a ring:

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I sent this photo to the bird ringer because I was not aware of him ever having ringed a Jay in the meadows. It turns out that he hasn’t – although he ringed an adult female in his garden nearby in April 2018 and so maybe this is she.

This photo below was a bit of a surprise:

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We haven’t seen a Pheasant in the meadows for ages – certainly none this year. I have never noticed the white patch below their eye before. She is still here, actually. She was feeding on the strip at 7am this morning:

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The appearance of a Heron, however,  is not a surprise these days:

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The cameras on the meadow ponds have captured some other interesting sights:

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An unusual view of a Woodpigeon
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Starling
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A Green Woodpecker hunting for Ants
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Close up of a Crow
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Song Thrush

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Here are two Badgers scent marking by anal rubbing – Badgers do this a lot:

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A fine looking Fox:

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I always love photos showing interactions between Foxes and Badgers:

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I am going to finish today with Woodcock. Yesterday, while walking round the meadows, we put up three separate Woodcock that were resting up in the hedgerows. They migrate at night and the meadows will be the first land they come to after a long flight over water. They stop, probably exhausted, and spend the day quietly in the hedges while they recover, moving further inland once it gets dark again. However, they will need to feed up first before they go. We have two Bushnell trail cameras that we use in the meadows. These have a ‘Field Scan’ setting where they will take a photo at a fixed interval regardless of whether anything has triggered it. They can cover a much greater distance doing this because the trigger distance is quite limited.

We have never used the cameras on this setting before but we decided to give it a go to see if we could catch them feeding on the strip where there are many bare soil areas that they could easily probe for insects with their long beaks. It was getting dark by the time we got the cameras into position:

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It was a wet and wild night:

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I have gone through the results this morning and, sadly, no Woodcock to be seen. Along with Foxes and Badgers there was this but my best guess is that it is a Bat:

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However we will be still running this experiment over the next few nights as the Woodcock continue to arrive into the country, so you never know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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