This week I went to visit my father in Berkshire and took the opportunity to go birding at Little Marlow Gravel Pit with a friend and fellow nature enthusiast. Before this pandemic, we used to get ourselves along there reasonably often but this was only the second time we had managed it since Covid forcefully rampaged its way into all of our lives over a year ago. To our absolute delight, the lake was covered with several hundred swooping Sand Martins, Swallows and a few House Martins. They had arrived!
If House Martins were already inland at a gravel pit in the Home Counties, then perhaps they had also arrived at our chalk cliffs here on the coast in East Kent. Once I had returned home, we sallied forth from the meadows to take a look.
But I can report that the House Martins have not arrived here yet. However, we spent a contented hour watching the Fulmars and Jackdaws that are already nesting in the holes in the rock. We set the birding scope up under this particular fissure which had two Fulmar nests and four Jackdaw nests along its length and watched the birds come and go.
The Jackdaws were busy going in and out of their nest holes with mud.
There has been nesting activity going on in the meadows as well:
I am seeing Yellowhammers now on various cameras around the meadow but have yet to see concrete evidence of nesting. Actually, we have gone a bit over-the-top in this regard and have three cameras positioned along a particular hedge that we thought a pair of Yellowhammer nested in last year, hoping to see some signs.
Meanwhile, up on the strip:
Tensions have been running high amongst male birds. We saw two Robins locked in mortal combat and these two male Blackbirds were captured on a video having a pitch battle:
Chaffinch were also fighting in the wood:
The Blackthorn is out in its full glory in the meadows:
I found one of my favourite bees, a female Tawny Mining Bee. She’s a beauty with her fox-red thorax and marmalade abdomen.
She digs a vertical shaft nest down into the earth, 20-30cm deep with several brood chambers branching off it. She then fills these chambers with a mixture of nectar and pollen and lays a single egg into each. The egg hatches and the larva eats the food that she has provided for it until it pupates for the winter. The new adult bees will emerge next spring.
I think this small volcano in the ground could well be the nest of a Tawny Mining Bee.
However, it has been cold and overcast ever since we found it and so the bee has been inactive.
The late arriving news this morning is that, hurray, the sun has come out and, up at the bee tunnel, the bee could just be seen at the entrance:
It was then a question of sitting quietly until she emerged:
We can glimpse Walmer Castle from the meadows and this weekend they are flying their flag at half mast. We too have ours at half mast as a mark of respect for the husband of our Queen who so very nearly reached his hundredth birthday.