Climate Canaries

On the beach below the meadows, the action of the sea moves the pebbles inexorably northwards with the on-going process of long-shore drift. Every year, large trucks arrive and drive along the beach moving it all south again. The dog really objects to these trucks and sees it as a personal responsibility to race pointlessly up and down the meadows to chase them off. There is so little water in the ponds at the moment that a cooling dip afterwards turns her into this objectionable mud monster.

This annual beach-moving seems a very costly exercise, both in money and in terms of the environment. Surely there is a better solution.

On these warm August nights, I have been getting some good catches of Moths. I only run the Moth trap if I know I’ve got a few spare hours the next day to work through and identify them all.

Jersey Tigers were rare immigrants until recently. But I know from FaceBook Moth groups that I follow that people have been getting large numbers of these Moths in their traps this year and I had eleven one night this week.

A few years ago, one of our sons visited Butterfly Valley on the Greek island of Rhodes where countless thousands of these Jersey Tiger Moths are to be found. I don’t think he took a photo while he was there and so here is one from the internet:

Moth and Butterfly numbers respond rapidly to changes in climate and other effects on their habitats and so it feels really important to observe and record them – they are like the Canaries that the coal miners took down the mines to quickly detect poisonous gases.

A really quite large area of this yellow umbellifer appeared in the first meadow this year:

We realised that we hadn’t seen this plant before and didn’t know what it was and so took some back to identify:

It’s good that we did because it turns out to be Wild Parsnip. This is an unwelcome development because the sap of this plant causes rashes to the skin if it is exposed to sunlight after contact.

Wild Parsnip is a biennial which means that, having now set seed, all these plants will die at the end of the summer. If we were going to control this plant, it was urgent to act quickly and ensure that none of these seeds reached the soil and be given a chance to germinate. In the sweltering temperatures of this week, we ventured out in long trousers, long sleeves and gloves to cut out and bag up all of the plants and get them off site while their seeds were still attached. A job well done and Wild Parsnip has now joined Ragwort and Creeping Thistle on the ‘Not Welcome Here’ list.

This plant, however, is very welcome here. It is Autumn Lady’s Tresses – an Orchid that seems to like it round these parts. Every year from August we have many hundreds of the little beauties growing in a close cropped turf area. The delicate individual flowers grow in a spiral up the stalk.

It seemed that everywhere else in the entire country had been having rain this week except for us on the east coast of Kent. However, on Wednesday evening, some finally fell.

The fall of rain, hopefully bringing worms up from the deep, hasn’t stopped the Badgers still being very interested in any bird seed that may be lurking in the cages up on the strip. In the photo below, there is a Badger actually in one of the cages:

One night, a Badger dislodged a cage such that it was sticking up a bit into the air:

Then, the next morning, a Feral Pigeon managed to squeeze under and become trapped. Funnily enough, we have never seen a Feral Pigeon here before – only ringed Racing Pigeons:

It was trapped in there for a couple of hours before we turned up and released it:

We hadn’t foreseen a set of circumstances that could result in a bird getting trapped in these cages and yet it happened. A salutary lesson learned that we should not leave them out if we are away.

At the end of a long night, some lounging around before bed:

The young Stock Dove, that hatched in the Kestrel box on 30th July, has now become a beautiful Dove

It will fledge before too long – I expect one day we will connect to the camera and the box will be empty. I hope to then see it on the cameras around the meadows, identifiable because it is almost certainly the only one that will be ringed.

It has been quiet here for the last few days but here are some of the more interesting photos from the week:

Finally today, I just wanted to have a small celebration of Yellowhammers. Two years ago we had no Yellowhammers in the meadows but now they are around so often on the cameras that our feathers have ceased to be ruffled by them. Around ten of them have been ringed here this year and I am still seeing unringed birds on the cameras. Furthermore, in the past few weeks some juveniles have been caught and ringed suggesting that there has been successful breeding here too and hopefully a little population of them has now been established – one of our big successes of the year. Here are some photos from this morning’s trail cameras – such a fantastic bird:

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