WilWas and WooWas

Warblers have started their migrations from their breeding grounds, down through the country and on, all the way to Africa. The Bird Ringers came early one morning to target WilWas and WooWas – this is ringer-speak for Willow Warblers and Wood Warblers. Because these birds are no longer breeding, they are now allowed to play their song to bring in any of these species that are in the area.

Although they did not catch a WooWa, they did get some WilWas:

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Willow Warbler

They also caught four other types of Warbler:

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Sedge Warbler. From the finger, you can tell it’s been eating blackberries
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Reed Warbler
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Reed Warblers have such arrow-shaped heads
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Garden Warbler. Small white eye ring is its most distinctive feature
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Whitethroat

All these birds have been born this year and are now making their way south for the first time. The adult birds are also migrating now but probably go straight through, without stopping at the coast.

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They also ringed this young Yellowhammer who will have been born here this year. A very different beak shape to the warblers.

One of our sons, visiting this week, spotted a Wasp Spider in amongst these flowers below. The Spider was doing brisk business catching unfortunate insects.

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A magnificent female Wasp Spider
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With wrapped prey
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You can just make out a Bee in the parcel. This size comparison gives an idea of how large she is.

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From below and you can see silk coming out from that circular spinneret

We also found a second Wasp Spider, a couple of feet further back, and I started going down to visit both webs several times a day because I really wanted to also see a male, who is tiny in comparison. However, I have now read that I was too late – these spiders mate in July and unfortunately the male often doesn’t live to tell the tale, being eaten by her. During August, the female gets larger and larger as the eggs grow inside her and, a month after mating, she finally builds a cocoon for her eggs. Every time I go down to look  at them, they are both busy with new prey items – enthralling and horrifying in equal parts.

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Their webs have a distinctive zig zag ribbon down them – possibly to strengthen them or to make them more visible to larger animals so that they don’t walk through it

We used the welcome injection of enthusiasm in the form of our visiting son to progress a couple of projects. In the wood, several hours were spent working hard on the round house, which we are making out of the by-products from our coppicing efforts over the winter:

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The circle is now complete. Next step is to bang in some larger posts to get the walls a bit higher.

In the meadows, we scythed the green hay off the flowery rectangle that was sown five years ago and laid it onto a neighbouring less-flowery area. We hope that flower seeds will now drop and germinate in this new area.

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Scything the spent flower stalks
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Cutting the grass on an adjoining area really short and scratching up the soil
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The cut flower stalks now spread on the new area

In the wood, we have now got much better photos of the Polecat/Ferret Hybrid:

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There are also other interesting photos from the wood this week:

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Red Deer. This is a second Red Deer  – the other one we have seen had small antlers
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The long-legged giant on a different night
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Tawny Owl
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This Sparrowhawk arrival must have given the young Jay a horrible shock
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Sparrowhawk on another occasion
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Buzzard
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I love the way they walk

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The same Buzzard in a different part of the wood
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Peaceful woodland scene with a male Badger relaxing

In the meadows, a pair of Grey Partridge have begun visiting the strip:

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This Kestrel below is ringed and so I suspect that she is the one that was ringed here in the meadows last year as a young bird.

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Here she is again:

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Young Crow with parent
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Young Yellowhammer with parent
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Yellowhammer bathing
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Green Woodpecker preparing to bathe..
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..and afterwards
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What a sight – a moulting Magpie
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This is intriguing. 1.30am at the dead of night and something goes over the gate. But surely that is fur rather than feathers? I have no idea what this is.
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Two of the triplets
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One of this year’s cubs
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Two roosting Common Blues

We have been following the fortunes of this Stock Dove squab who hatched out of an egg on 30th July. Its a funny looking little thing, and its ears aren’t where you might expect.

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When the Bird Ringers were here this week, they ringed this squab:

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Getting the squab out of the box, having first checked the camera to see that it was on its own
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Fitting the ring
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All ready to go back. Its feathers are in quills still, giving it a very odd appearance
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After the squab had been ringed, a parent is back at the nest, feeding it crop milk

It’s been a hot and busy week. Last night, one of our old favourites, the Patricia, was at anchor alongside. This ship is operated by Trinity House and she tends to the needs of the lightships and buoys marking the treacherous Goodwin Sands that lie just offshore.

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The sea was so unusually still and calm that the reflections, the throb of her engines across the water and the warm, summer evening created a magical atmosphere, one to remember with nostalgia when we are once again in the grip of winter

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The Moon rising with the Patricia on a serene summer night

 

Fledgling Joy

On Friday this week, when the temperature rose above 30 degrees, the Flying Ants took off and we were treated to a fantastic wildlife spectacle in the column of air above the meadows:

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Hundreds of Black-headed Gulls quietly circling round and round feasting on the Ants. We try hard to get the Insects right here in the meadows trusting that everything else will follow and at times of like this we are filled with hope that we are doing things right.

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Now seems a good time to celebrate all this year’s fledglings that are arriving, proof that the natural cycle of renewal is carrying on, unhindered by what is going on in the human world.

Although we have no idea where the nest is, we take great delight in seeing juvenile Green Woodpeckers in the meadows each year – another animal that is drawn here by the Ants:

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Looking rather pleased with itself, I thought.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have announced that over a million rings were put on birds by its accredited ringers in 2019. That is an enormous volunteer effort, especially given how highly trained they all have to be. The Bird Ringer, one of these very volunteers, caught and ringed this young Yellowhammer this week. It will have fledged from a nest somewhere in the meadows this year:

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He also caught five recently-fledged Dunnock chicks and this sweet, juvenile House Sparrow. You can still just see the remains of its yellow gape at the back of the beak:

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Here is young Crow being fed by its parent:

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And Robins have also recently fledged nearby:

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These two Willow Warblers below were born this year but they are already on the move. They stopped off in the meadows this week on their way to Africa for the winter:

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The Bird Ringer tells us that Willow Warbler and Wood Warbler migration has just started and will now continue throughout August. The Chiffchaff migration won’t start until the beginning of September since they don’t travel as far into Africa as the Willow Warblers.

We have also been seeing fledglings in the wood and here are two young fluffy Jays:

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In the meadows, the Stock Doves’ egg has hatched. There is now a long and dangerous road to travel before this little one fledges in 27-28 days time. In that open Kestrel box, the nest will be very obvious and exposed to Magpies and Crows and I already feel nervous for it.

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The adult is pecking the baby’s beak to stimulate feeding
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Feeding the baby crop milk

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Once breeding is over for another year, the adults go into a moult and this Magpie is doing just that and not looking great on it:

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All seven Badgers are still to be seen in the meadows:

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One of the triplets annoying its mother while she tries to drink

One morning we found that a bird feeding cage had been flattened:

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We suspected some teenage hooligans and discovered that we were indeed right when the trail cameras caught two of the triplets red handed:

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One of the perpetrators was even seen sloping away from the scene of the crime at first light:

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I know the Badgers in the wood much less well. This one just looks like it has got a button as a nose:

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Gorgeous colours on this wood Fox
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Haven’t seen a Tawny Owl for ages

On a sunny day, the meadows are absolutely billowing with Butterflies:

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Mating Common Blues
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A Wall Butterfly liking the heat of a sampling square
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Mating Gatekeepers

We have now rescued five Hummingbird Hawk-Moths from inappropriate places so far this year. We have only ever seen one here before, so they are clearly having a good year:

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Hummingbird Hawk-Moth in the process of being rescued

I have been getting some lovely Moths in the trap this week:

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Jersey Tiger
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Magpie Moth

We found this Broad-barred White on a door. Since they have never seen themselves, I am intrigued how they know where to roost so that they are disguised:

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I suppose the ones that get it right are the ones that survive to pass that information on to the next generation – Darwinism in action – but it’s all fascinating stuff.

This photo of a Magpie is also amazing. Its lower beak is so much longer than its upper beak, which is what enables it to open its mouth so wide.

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As the temperature hit 30 degrees this week and the Ants took to the air, we took ourselves down to the beach and swam. It has to be really hot and still to get me into the water and conditions were perfect:

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My only regret was that we forgot to take some wine and glasses.