Our eldest daughter is getting married in September. No decisions have yet been made about what is going to happen with the celebration but most of this year’s wedding season is surely now to be postponed in this new, surreal world. A little section of the first meadow is run as an allotment and my plans had been to mostly grow flowers in there this year – late bloomers that could be cut in September and used at the wedding.
However, priorities have radically altered during the passage of just one short month and it now feels like we should be hunkering down and growing vegetables to eat rather than flowers which are more about looking beautiful.
We have been working hard in the allotment these past few days and it is all now weeded, dug over and composted and is ready to go. First early potatoes will be going in shortly. I planted out garlic and broad beans last autumn – I find that a very successful slug-deterring strategy since there are no slugs around when they are at their tender and vulnerable stage.
A delivery is expected this week of a selection of vegetable seeds, some of which we have previously had good results with and some of which will be experimental. But this isn’t going to become a blog of the trials and tribulations of Growing Your Own, although I cannot guarantee that I won’t be including some of my inevitable failures and maybe even the odd success from the allotment as the year rolls on.
The photo above also shows another new development in the meadows – a flagpole has gone up next to the field shed, a Christmas present that has now finally been put in place. At the moment we are proudly flying a Union Jack but we have a number of other flags that will be hauled up on relevant occasions.
This fenced off area of the meadows is what we call the Ant paddock. The grass has not been cut in here – certainly not for the five years we have been here but probably for very much longer than that. This has meant that substantial and well established ant hills have had a chance to develop and the grass has become tussocky:
We have been seeing the Tawny Owl a few times in this Ant paddock area recently on calm, still nights:
The stone pinnacle is positioned in the middle of the paddock and this next photo is the Owl perching on the camera that points at the pinnacle:
So we have put another perch up behind, although the Owl is yet to use it:
Another nocturnal animal is the Badger and we now have a camera on the new tunnel entrance that has been dug actually into the meadow as opposed to into the cliff:
It is not just us who is interested in this new tunnel:
I have got so many photographs of the dog peering down this hole. So, what is she smelling?
It is close to the animal track, used by all the cliff dwellers to get into the second meadow:
This next photo shows the male, Scarface, taking some bedding to the part of the sett that the baby Badgers have been taken out of, prompting speculation on my part that it might now be being prepared for their return and we might get another glimpse of them as they are carried across:
A look back at my records shows me that, in 2019, the young Badgers officially came above ground on 16th April. In 2018 it was 17th April and so it looks like we have another two weeks to wait before they properly appear. But this year we don’t have a camera on the burrow that they are currently in and so we may well not know immediately.
All through the winter, the Badgers make fleeting and solitary visits to the nightly peanuts. Now that spring is here, they seem to be more interested and I wonder if it is because the ground is getting harder and worms more difficult to dig for:
Yet another nocturnal group of animals are the Moths. It has been cold and windy for so long here that the official launch of the 2020 Mothing Season has been delayed.
However, a couple of nights ago, it got underway and the moth trap went out. I got twelve moths of four species, one of which I couldn’t identify. I keep forgetting how frustrating mothing can be.
We don’t have any Linnets here in the winter, but they have returned to us now to breed:
The bird ringer has caught and ringed 21 of them on two recent solitary visits to the meadows. He also caught a Linnet that he had first caught when it was a young bird in August 2018. He caught it again in March 2019 and for a third time this week.
He also caught some other familiar birds:
The House Sparrows have turned their thoughts to nesting. We were watching a pair trying so hard to make a bat box their home but they couldn’t fit in however much they tried. I was anxiously watching – if they managed to squeeze in then they surely wouldn’t be able to get out again and we would need to mount a rescue. But these bat boxes are really high up.
At the same time, there were more trying the same thing on another bat box:
Yet another pair are clearly thinking about putting a deposit down on the House Martin box:
These Sparrows only seemed to be interested in boxes that that weren’t meant for them. We have many boxes perfectly suitable for them, including a Sparrow Terrace which is specifically for them but needless to say they were completely ignoring all of these.
There are also a pair of Starlings around which must be nesting locally again this year, although of course they haven’t chosen one of our two Starling boxes:
A little Dunnock below has a beak full of moss and is building a nest somewhere as well:
This Magpie’s beak is muddy because it has been collecting mud to add to its nest:
And I was most displeased to see this on the cameras:
There is a Magpie in the middle cage. I went straight up there to do a site inspection but I have absolutely no idea how it got in there or how it then got out.
It seems a long time since we have witnessed the enjoyable spectacle of a Green woodpecker taking a bath. On this occasion we don’t quite get such a good view as we have in the past but this is something to look forward to as the summer advances:
It always looks as though the bird has had a near death experience.
The Red Mason Bees have started hatching out in the release boxes. These Bees spent the winter in our fridge:
On Wednesday, we saw a big raptor circling high above. I had a camera but unfortunately it was not my Canon with its Big Bertha lens attached and this is the best shot that I got:
We couldn’t work out what this was. But then we heard that a juvenile White-tailed Sea Eagle had flown over the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory on that very same day. Could this be our mystery bird? However much I might wish the answer to be ‘Yes’, I really don’t think it is. But, yesterday, apparently two White-tailed Sea Eagles were circling over Deal and so we are now on high alert, looking to the skies.
What becomes very obvious when you look up is how lovely it is not to see aircraft vapour trails heading out across the North Sea. We did see this one, which is the first we had seen for some days:
Looking out to sea, there are still ships to be seen in the north to south shipping lane which is the only one we can see from the meadows:
And I’m finishing today with uplifting blossom that is appearing in the meadows. I may be changing my plans from growing flowers to vegetables in the allotment this year, but the meadows are gearing up to a lovely spring in bloom. And as for our daughter whose wedding plans for September are now looking questionable, well, both she and her fiancé are hospital doctors and currently have other things on their minds.