As we observe and record events as the years cycle by, there have come to be several annual happenings that we eagerly await. Probably the most keenly anticipated of all is the night that the Badger cubs are first allowed above ground and this hasn’t happened yet although I am expecting it any day.
But one of the cubs this year is a rule-breaker and has now escaped three times from the burrow before the official launch date. Each time we have seen it, there is then an interval of a few nights before it again forgets that it is meant to stay locked down at home and reappears above ground once more. Here it is on its second unauthorised trip out, still very wobbly on its legs:
Each time it is discovered out, it gets frogmarched back to the burrow:
Its third and most recent escape was on Saturday night:
The arrival of the Green Hairstreak Butterflies is another day that we look forward to and we first saw them here on 16th April this year:
These are very small Butterflies that look dark when they fly because they have brown upper wings. They spend a lot of time engaged in pitch battles with their rivals but their true glory is revealed when they rest down and show the fluorescent green of their underwings. Their larval food plant on chalk downland is Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Common Rock-Rose.
We first saw Holly Blues on the very same day as the Hairstreaks this year:
The first Dragonfly sighting is another red-letter day and that was yesterday, when we saw a beautifully shiny Broad-Bodied Chaser:
In dry spells, Green Woodpeckers start to come and bathe in the ponds and we will never tire of their extraordinary washing technique.
The cameras trained at the ponds take footage of a lot of different birds washing. They fluff their feathers up, sprinkle some water around and emerge looking pretty much the same as when they went in. No other bird species does such a spectacularly thorough job as the Green Woodpecker. Or is it that their feathers aren’t as waterproof as other birds?
We are locked down for another three weeks at least and I am trying to turn this into a positive opportunity to get to know the insects that live here a bit better. However, sometimes identification is a struggle. Take, for instance, this small little thing below:
Given its shiny black-and-yellow abdomen, I was looking in the Wasp section of my insect books. However, it turns out that this is a Gooden’s Nomad Bee (Nomada Goodeniana). There are 34 species of Nomad Bee in the UK and they are cleptoparasites on Andrena Mining Bees. A cleptoparasitic species is one that lives off the food supplies that another species has collected to feed its own young. The two yellow spots on the thorax tell me that the Bee above is a female. She will enter the host’s nesting burrow, lay an egg in the wall of an unsealed nest cell and the resulting grub will then destroy the host egg or grub and proceed to live off the food store. The three host species that this particular Nomad Bee uses are the Buffish Mining Bee, the Grey-patched Mining Bee and the Cliff Mining Bee.
I find this all completely fascinating, particularly the interaction between different species, and I was delighted to discover that one of the other Bee species that I have managed to positively identify this week turns out to be the Cliff Mining Bee (Andrena thoracica), one of the hosts of the Gooden’s Nomad Bee:
This Bee is strongly associated with coastal habitats and the flowery habitats nearby and Blackthorn is one of their favourite nectar sources and so it makes perfect sense that we should find it here.
A third Bee that I have successfully identified is this Trimmer’s Mining Bee:
The bird ringer has been doing some more solitary ringing in the meadows. As well as catching and ringing another 23 Linnets, he caught this young male Yellowhammer:
He also caught a Lesser Whitethroat. This bird has just arrived back from East Africa via the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece and Italy.
This bird apparently had a very tatty tail. It was born last year somewhere in the UK and has then flown down to East Africa and back with the same feathers that it grew when it was a youngster in the nest. It will now rear a family of its own this summer before it finally moults and gets some fresh feathers to take it back to Africa again at the end of the summer.
But this was the last ringing session for the foreseeable future because the BTO has today disallowed any further ringing outside the confines of one’s own garden, even if the ringing site is within an easy stroll and is done in complete solitude as was the case here.
At least two of our resident Foxes are showing signs of mange and we have embarked on a six week programme of putting out medicated jam sandwiches for them each evening.
One of the Foxes affected is this one-eyed vixen:
I am putting the sandwiches out in two different places to try to spread them amongst more Foxes – some sandwiches go down by the wild pond and some go onto the stone pinnacle up in the ant paddock. The one-eyed vixen waits for me by the wild pond at dusk. She hoovers up all the sandwiches there and high-tails it up to the ant paddock to get those too:
By the time the other Fox with mange arrives at the pinnacle, the sandwiches have often gone. Although he did manage to beat her to them last night:
We have decided to tweak things so that we put sandwiches at the wild pond at dusk but the ones onto the pinnacle go out two hours later at our bedtime. Hopefully this may thwart the one-eyed vixen and her love of sandwiches.
Before I leave Foxes, here are another couple of lovely Fox photos:
Blackbirds must be feeding young because they are turning up on various cameras with beaks full of worms:
Last year we had two Starling breeding in the meadows. This year we seem to have a little band of them which is really pleasing.
What a fantastic palette of colours on this Greenfinch:
Following the recent clarification that it is not illegal to drive a short distance for your daily exercise, this weekend we visited the wood for the first time in 4 weeks. It was such a relief to refill the empty feeders and ponds. Most of the trail cameras had stopped working and so I actually have very few photos to show for our month’s absence from the wood. We have a camera on a newly-dug but unused sett. However, occasionally Badgers apparently do visit it:
There were many photos of a Buzzard poking around in more or less this exact spot on several different days. I wonder what is so special about it?
Redwing were using the ponds a lot before they dried up. These birds should now have returned to their breeding grounds:
An unusual view of a Jay:
The vegetation has taken a big step into spring since we were last there:
We had so missed the wood and it was fantastic to be back. But it was also great to discover that it had actually been getting along perfectly all right without us because we are uncertain when we might be able to next return.