The Digiscopers

Various family members going for a swim

The year now seems to be galloping past and it has got to the point when the sea becomes so inviting that even I may consider going in for a swim. I haven’t got there yet personally, but everyone else has.

Down at the white cliffs, the chicks in the second Kestrel nest are growing up fast. We thought that there were two of them:

One eye open, one eye closed. Good results with the digiscope that we took down with us.


But then we saw that actually there were three:

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The chick at the back looks so much older

When we passed the nest again on our way back, that oldest chick was out of the nest:

Really short tail feathers still

It hopped back in while we were watching.

The House Martin nest, that I thought had been abandoned, has been repaired and is still going strong, with young being fed. So that is good news:



There are now a lot of House Martin nests – my guess would be around 30 – and it is lovely to see the birds all flying around and about. Here is another of the nests:



The digiscope – a normal birding scope with a connector so that a mobile phone can take photos through it – took a photo of the same nest, showing the pile of muck that has collected below as well:


This stretch of cliff also has Fulmars nesting in the little caves and crevices that are cut into the chalk. In the photo below, the nest is tucked in the back and one of the adults can just be seen sitting on it:


Fulmars are in the same family as Albatrosses and have a similar tube on their beaks to excrete excess salt.


The digiscope also did a good job with the Fulmars, capturing an adult and its chick making a right old racket:

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Herring Gulls seem to be able to manage without the shelter of a cave. Here is one of their nests built on an exposed ledge and with a spotty-headed chick:


This cruise ship, the Carnival Magic, came to Dover this week, apparently to pick up staff. Are cruises starting up again then? Surely not.


I know I was meant to be taking photos of the wildlife but the image of this man below, admiring the cliffs as they stretch off towards Dover, was so striking that I couldn’t resist. It looks like he was standing on the top of the world rather than at sea level.


Once he had got down, he came over and had a look at the digiscoping of the Kestrels with us.

Back in the meadows, we have a Kestrel box up in a Pine tree that has been standing empty and rejected for five years now. But this week we noticed a Stock Dove coming out of it and so climbed up to see what was going on:


A single Stock Dove egg. We put that wood chip in there, so the bird has done little, if any, nest building.

Stock Doves normally lay two eggs and so another one might be expected shortly. Then incubation is 16-18 days and apparently they can have up to five broods a year, which sounds like hard work.

We have now managed to get a camera in the box:

VideoGlide Snapshot 1

It is a different sort of camera to the trail cameras that we usually use – it has cables running off it that we then plug into the computer to see live footage from the box. The camera doesn’t record movements when we are not around but this does mean that we do not need to go near the nest again. We can just connect our computer up at a distance from time to time to see how things are progressing.

It seems that Wood Pigeons are still actively building nests. We have had several carrying sticks on this perch in the week:


And there was also this emergency landing which made me smile:


Somewhere about the meadows a family of Robins has successfully fledged:

Just-fledged Robin

Goldfinches as well. We rescued this young bird from a shed:


A Crow found a bit of jam sandwich that the Foxes must have missed and took it to water to soften it before eating:



We continually move the cages around so that there is no food build up, but when the cages are close to the hedgerow, they have been getting occasional daytime visits from this Rat:

Trail camera

Trail camera

I have an instinctual negative reaction to seeing a Rat but I think this is misplaced and try to overcome it – after all, these cages are a long way away from any human habitation. We see Rats rarely here – there are far too many Foxes and Badgers, both of whom love to eat Rats.

Some other photos from the meadows this week:

A single stem of Ragwort supporting so much life – Cinnabar Moth caterpillars and Common Red Soldier Beetles
A second flush of the tiny Small Blue Butterflies is now to be seen
Trail camera
My friend the one-eyed vixen. Well, she is my friend but I’m not sure I’m her friend
Trail camera
One of her three cubs
Trail camera
Mother and cub
Trail camera
Phew – all seven Badgers still with us. The male is at the front. The small cub is on the far left
Trail camera
The dog is a disgrace
Sparrowhawks being seen daily on this gate
Emperor Dragonfly laying eggs in the hide pond
The wild pond has only been there five years and it is wonderful to find that it has attracted specialist species. This is a Stretch Spider, Tetragnatha striata, and is a water reed specialist. There are reeds in the wild pond but this is the only habitat like this for a large distance – so how on earth did these Spiders get here after we dug the pond?
On a trip back to Maidenhead this week, I found this Wood Louse Spider under a flower pot. (Dysdera crocata). Although I have never seen one of these in the meadows in Kent, I  have often seen these Spiders under flower pots in Maidenhead. Never before actually with prey, though and so I was excited to include it

Time now to move to the wood. What on earth is this? Possibly a Mink – although it has quite a bushy tail and we are a long way from a water course. I’m not very good with Mustelids.

Trail camera

I believe this animal was also seen on our woodland neighbours’ camera a while ago and we tried to work out what it was then but I don’t think a firm conclusion was reached.

Young Green Woodpeckers have now fledged somewhere in the wood:

Trail camera

Trail camera
So very speckled

The Great Spotted young are around as well and so we have had a successful Woodpecker year:

Trail camera
Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker with its red cap
Scorpion Fly (Panorpa sp) which feeds on small invertebrates in woodland margins. Look at its wacky elephant trunk and scorpion tail. A most peculiar thing.

We were a bit alarmed by this ship this week. The south to north shipping lane is too far east for us to see from the meadows, but this container ship, the Estelle Maersk, was travelling north quite close to us – we have never seen a container ship so close.  She was way out of the shipping lane and on a direct line to bump into Thanet. Then she seemed to abruptly change course and veer off sharply north-eastwards, away from us. All very peculiar. It is actually a wonder that they can see where they are going over all those containers – perhaps they can’t! Here she is as she passed the Goodwin Sands Lightship after she had veered north-east.


Below is a strange vessel. This is Hawk, a semi-submersible, heavy load carrier, nearing the end of a fifty day journey from the United Arab Emirates, via the Cape of Good Hope, to Nigg in Scotland. She is carrying footings for the Moray East Offshore Windfarm and I suppose these go onto the seabed and the wind turbines will slot into the rings at the top.

She is just over the horizon so we can’t see the bottom of the vessel

Below is Hawk again but also in the photo is Le Jacques Cartier, a brand new, super sleek cruise ship. The company that owns her, Ponant, only took delivery of her a couple of days ago. This ship has an underwater multi-sensory lounge with two round observation windows to watch the sea life as you cruise along drinking champagne which sounds really lovely.

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So, that was a lot of shipping to include in a wildlife blog but the variety of the stuff that sails past us here is completely fascinating and, now that we have the fantastic digiscope set up, we can get a proper look at it all.


4 thoughts on “The Digiscopers

  1. Hi Judy, last week we had our mustelids back on camera.
    A pair, this time.
    I’m quite certain they are Polecat-ferrets.
    Was hoping they were polecats but they several of their behaviours they displayed, the sightings during the day, plus the markings make polecat – ferrets more likely.
    A lovely addition to the woods anyhow!
    Still editing the videos but shall send them to you.
    Hope you are all well

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