We saw this animal in the wood last week. It is difficult to get much detail from our photo but our woodland neighbours have seen much more of a pair of them and have identified them as Polecat-Ferret hybrids.
Polecats were persecuted to near extinction in the UK at the end of the 19th and early 20th century, although they retained a stronghold in Wales. Since then, they have started recolonising – both outwards from Wales and also by reintroduction in some places, such as in Cumbria.
Ferrets are a domesticated form of Polecat, historically used to flush Rabbits. Over the years, a feral population of Ferrets has also become established in Britain, although they don’t survive as well in the wild as Polecats do. However, Polecats and Ferrets can breed together producing fertile Polecat-Ferret hybrids and this is what we think we have in the wood. Actually, in East Kent there has never been a validated Polecat sighting but there have been a few of these Polecat-Ferret Hybrids.
Polecats and these Hybrids eat Rabbits as the main constituent of their diet. I wonder what impact the extension of their range is having on Stoats, who seem to live in the same kind of places and also eat Rabbits?
The Red Deer is still making occasional visits to our wood. It is so enormous but it took me a while to spot it in this photo:
A Buzzard came in for a drink:
I was very pleased with this next photo – a speckled juvenile Green Woodpecker and a red-capped juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker in the same shot:
In an open area, full of luxuriant Marjoram growth, there were a lot of these funnel webs. I could see the Spider at the bottom of the funnel but I’m afraid that I failed to achieve an adequate photo for you:
Back in the meadows, I have now reported back to the Fox Project that the seven-day treatment of Psorinum that I gave the Foxes in mid June does appear to have worked. Below is the one-eyed vixen and the bare patches on her tail, back legs, shoulders and neck all now seen to be growing fur back. She still looks a bit of a mess but I am so pleased that I was able to help her.
It felt like a fantastic reward when she came up onto the strip at dusk with her mate and their two cubs:
As well as this lovely look at her family, she has also found her own special way to thank me:
However, I am now watching what’s going on with this whip-thin Fox below – that tail looks a bit suspect to me:
This next photo reminds me of a Brownie pow wow:
Only six Badgers there but no need to worry because all seven are still being seen:
The littlest Badger, distinctive with its very narrow head, still spends a lot of time going around with its mother:
The Fox below is trying to get at the food in the cages:
So, too, is this Rat. Indisputably a male, I have also seen a female and so there are at least two:
Another at one of the shallow ponds:
A lot of Ant nests have formed under the protection of the Reptile sampling squares and these nests have been producing Flying Ants recently. This is a way of dispersal – there are both male and female Flying Ants and all the Ant nests in an area synchronise so that the flights happen at the same time. In this way, a flying female might well meet and mate with a flying male from another nest, thus avoiding inbreeding. She will then finish her flight and start a new colony.
Last year on 25th August we had flocks of circling Black-Headed Gulls over the meadows eating these Ants on the wing. We are watching for this again this year but haven’t seen it yet:
Because the nests all produce Flying Ants at the same time, it can lead to situations such as last weekend when the Met Office radar mistook an 80km wide Ant swarm in southern Kent as a rain cloud. What a food resource for Gulls that must have been.
Also in the meadows this week:
I found this beautiful Rosemary Beetle on some Lavender:
This Beetle is native to Southern Europe but was found living in London in the 1990s and has since spread outwards, even though it can’t fly. It lives and breeds on aromatic plants such as Rosemary, Lavender and Thyme but rarely does much damage.
The Creeping Thistle is now going to seed. We couldn’t delay any longer – we got the tractor out to cut down the area where it grows densely:
Here are the meadows now, in late July:
We had a wander amongst the long grasses:
Finally for today, the Stock Doves are still incubating in the Kestrel nest box in the Pine Tree and occasionally we get little glimpses of an egg:
We are very excited for the egg to hatch.