Polecats and Ferrets

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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.

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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:

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A Buzzard came in for a drink:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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It felt like a fantastic reward when she came up onto the strip at dusk with her mate and their two cubs:

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The one-eyed vixen at the front and her mate sitting right at the back

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Unlike her, her mate looks in fantastic fettle

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As well as this lovely look at her family,  she has also found her own special way to thank me:

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However, I am now watching what’s going on with this whip-thin Fox below – that tail looks a bit suspect to me:

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This next photo reminds me of a Brownie pow wow:

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Only six Badgers there but no need to worry because all seven are still being seen:

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The littlest Badger, distinctive with its very narrow head, still spends a lot of time going around with its mother:

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The Fox below is trying to get at the food in the cages:

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So, too, is this Rat. Indisputably a male, I have also seen a female and so there are at least two:

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Another at one of the shallow ponds:

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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.

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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:

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Black-Headed Gulls eating Flying Ants last year

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.

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Also in the meadows this week:

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Kestrel coming in for a bath

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This is a very odd effect with the wings on this male Sparrowhawk. I have not seen one holding its wings like that before.
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This is probably the same bird

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A male Blackbird taking back Worms for young. The Worms have wrapped round and round its beak
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There must be a nest with young to be fed close by. There were so many photos of Blackbirds carrying food on this gate. Here is the female.
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A fledged young Blackbird still going round with its Dad.

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If you thought the young Blackbird on the right was so speckled that it might be mistaken for a Song Thrush, here it is an opportunity to see both at once.
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Fledged Wren
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Really interesting view of the ‘fingers’ at the end of a Crow wing
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This is a really unfortunate way to see our first ever Hawkmoth caterpillar
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A Crow carrying a flint stone – is it using it to smash something open?
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Could it be anything to do with their taste for snails?
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Herring Gull not happy with Crows coming in
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Beautifully marked Viviperous Lizard
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Mating Gatekeeper Butterflies
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Mating Six-Spot Burnet Moths
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A Festoon. I had never had one of these in the Moth Trap before
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A Rosy Footman Moth
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Swollen-thighed Flower Beetle

I found this beautiful Rosemary Beetle on some Lavender:

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Chrysolina americana

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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.

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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:

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Here are the meadows now, in late July:

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We had a wander amongst the long grasses:

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7-spot Ladybird eating Aphids
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There were so many 7-Spots on this one plant
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But one of the Ladybirds had fallen victim to a Spider
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Still on this same plant was this caterpillar of the Dark Arches Moth

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A Marbled White Butterfly being eaten by an Enoplognatha sp Spider
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Common Blue roosting on a Plantain
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Gatekeeper on Ladies Bedstraw
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At least five Small Blues down by the wild pond. This is a male with a few blue scales on the wing

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:

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We are very excited for the egg to hatch.

 

 

 

 

 

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