Foxes and Badgers

The cliff-dwelling Foxes and Badgers have to rub shoulders with each other here. They all share the same hole under the fence to get from the cliffs into the meadows and they all gather at the same place at dusk when the peanuts go down.

An unwritten agreement has been reached to make it work and it is the Foxes who are careful to give way to the Badgers at any hint of confrontation and actually it seems to be choreographed perfectly – we rarely observe any interaction between them. Although occasionally a Badger will chase a Fox off and this is reminiscent of a charging Rhino. During the winter, the Badgers aren’t especially interested in the peanuts when their metabolism is slowed and it is easy to dig for worms in the soft ground. At this time of year, however, they are very keen:

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The Fox cub on the right has to wait on the margins while the herd of seven Badger take priority in hoovering up the peanuts
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The same thing happening on another evening. The Fox looks dejected and this tugs at my heart strings.

However, I also put peanuts (and currently sandwiches as well) on the pinnacle up in the Ant paddock. The Badgers don’t go in here until later in the night by which time the Foxes have eaten everything and so the Badgers have never discovered that this is happening. Never, that is, until now:

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It will be interesting to see how this now develops.

The Fox cubs are growing up in the meadows:

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Cub with its mother, the One-eyed vixen
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The one-eyed vixen has now finished her second course of mange treatment. There now follows a heart-in-mouth wait to see if it has worked and her fur starts growing back.
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One of the triplets

In the wood, there are both Foxes and Badgers as well but the Foxes seem to be in much lower density and there is no cliff effect to concentrate the animals into bottlenecks.

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There are at least three Badger cubs in the wood and they are small – much the size of the small Badger cub in the meadows that we are worried about. Rather than that cub being small, perhaps it’s just that the triplets are super-sized and we don’t need to be concerned at all.

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A small Badger cub in the wood
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Three cubs playing in the wood

Last year, as the hot summer got into its stride, Buzzards started coming down to the shallow ponds in the wood and this seems to be starting again now. It is such a treat to see them up close:

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Large family groups of Great Tits and Blue Tits are appearing at the wood ponds as the young fledge. There was also this gathering of three just-fledged Song Thrush:

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The second meadow is starting to put its summer clothes on as the yellow Ladies Bedstraw comes out into flower. We always think it looks like an impressionist painting  with these patches of colour.

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This Fly caught my eye. I could tell there was something odd about it but it was only when I looked at the photos afterwards did I realise that its abdomen is being carried tucked under in a way that I have never before seen in a Fly:

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This is Sicus ferrugineus – and it is perhaps no surprise to learn that something with an abdomen like this is a parasitoid – the unfortunate hosts that will be killed by this Fly are Bumblebees.

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A mating pair of Buff-tailed Bumblebees

There are just so many Marbled White and Large, Small and Essex Skipper Butterflies around this year. It’s wonderful to see them all.

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Large Skipper with its checkerboarding

Six Spot and Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet Moths are also doing very well.

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A Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet Moth just emerged from its pupa below
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A close up of the pupal case
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Six Spot on the left and Narrow-bordered Five Spot on the right.
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The first Common Darter Dragonfly seen on 25th June
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Mating Common Red Soldier Beetles. I’m afraid that another name is the Hogweed Bonking Beetle. Rhagonycha fulva.

I have been putting the Moth trap out often. One of the many delights of Moths are their English names, given to them by our Victorian forebears and often very memorable – I often get a Moth called ‘Uncertain’ in the trap and this week I got a Moth called ‘Confused’

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Confused

Last night I caught four Bright Wave in the trap.

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Bright Wave

This unassuming little thing doesn’t have a silly name but it is a rare Moth that only breeds in a few areas dotted along along an 18km stretch of this part of the East Kent coastline. The area of vegetated shingle below the meadows is known to be good for them and, in May last year, I went down there with a Butterfly Conservation ecologist to help him do the annual count of their caterpillars. I was delighted to find this one myself on Ragwort because they were difficult to spot until you got your eye in:

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A Bright Wave caterpillar (in the middle of the photo), very well disguised on Ragwort

On several occasions recently we have seen Kestrels carrying prey, heading back to their nest in the white cliffs. We went along to see how the nest was getting on but, in fact, there was little to be seen although the nest does look active. However, while we were there, there were other interesting things going on:

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Pyramidal Orchids

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It feels so special to have a cliff-dwelling House Martin colony there, one of only a handful in the UK where they are not nesting on buildings:

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This week we also went to Park Gate Down, a Kent Wildlife Trust reserve in East Kent that is renowned for its many different types of Orchid. In particular, it is one of only three sites in Britain where Monkey Orchids still grow.

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This is ancient chalk grassland that has never been fertilised or ploughed. Look at those anthills! Tucked away in the beautiful Elham Valley, it is so quiet there that we can even take the dog without worry that she will cause chaos.
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Just to be clear, this is the at-times poorly behaved but immensely loveable dog that we are talking about

The end of June is too late for Monkey Orchids or indeed many of the other Orchids that grow there but Fragrant Orchids were flowering in their thousands.

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Nice to get out and make the most of these beautiful long summer evenings.

It’s been quiet on the shipping front this week although this was a striking image with two ships anchored up alongside the meadows one night. The Whitdawn in the foreground is a regular but the large ship in the background is new – GH Storm Cat. She is a bulk carrier and I see that, after spending a couple of days with us here in Kent, she is now on her way to Brazil, expected to arrive on 7th July.

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The last photo today is of the Cherry tree. This year, along with every other year we have been here, we are not expecting to harvest a single cherry from this tree. Currently it is being stripped by those Starlings we were so delighting in.

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2 thoughts on “Foxes and Badgers

  1. I never realised that house martins can nest in cliffs but I guess they are very house like so pretty ideal. Those pyramidal orchids are so pretty. I didn’t know there were five spotted burnet moths and I’m not surprised there are moths called uncertain and confused. 🙂

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  2. There is so much to learn about the natural world – I just wish we had started sooner in life,
    then we might be further along by this point. However, we are really enjoying the journey!

    Like

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