Broken Tiles and Blossoming Spring

Our house has Kent peg tiles hanging on parts of its outside walls. These are getting old and every so often, rather depressingly, one crumbles and drops off. It is happening on the roof too – at some point in the future we shall have to take action.

A couple of missing tiles on the walls

However, the loss of a tile might be a heart sink for us but good news for a bat or a bird looking for somewhere to roost.

The loss of this tile has created a sheltered dark nook within the wall

We spotted one place in particular that looks like it’s been used as a roost over the winter:

All that guano is reminiscent of the teapot nest box in the garden in which a Wren has been roosting on cold nights throughout this past winter. When letting the dog out last thing at night, we could flick the torch over the box and see the bird snuggled cosily within.

The box is wrapped in a bubble of chicken wire as protection against Magpies should a Wren or Robin ever decide to nest properly in there. Such an open nest is asking for trouble in these parts.
The Wren leaving the teapot at dawn back in February

Other news from the roof is that a male House Sparrow is starting to perch on it and cheep very loudly and insistently. He has chosen to do this in exactly the same spot as last year, close to the House Martin nest, and he is now hoping to attract a female’s attention and interest her in nesting in it with him. Sparrows have nested in there for the last couple of years and it looks like they might be doing so again this year.

While we were in the garden, our noses led us to a dead Fox lying at the back of a border. Although Foxes in captivity can live for fourteen years, the life expectancy in the wild is a meagre one to three years. So there will have been many deaths in the six years we have been here, nearly all of which we are blissfully unaware of.

Moving the dead Fox somewhere more out of the way to lie in peace
The pretty Fox that I have just finished treating for the mange on her tail. Hopefully fur will be growing back before too long and she’ll have several more years ahead of her
I can’t make out what prey item this Fox is carrying but I do hope that it isn’t one of the Grey Partridge
Digging is thirsty work
Still no baby Badgers above ground but a lot of adult Badger activity

We are so enjoying getting to know the pair of Herring Gulls that have adopted the meadows as their own. They have earned themselves the nickname of The Chuckle Brothers because of the noise that they make as they wait up near the feeding cages each morning.

The Chuckle Brothers in a dramatic pose

This week their courtship and mating was caught on camera:

This photo confirms that the colour-ringed gull GR94467 is indeed a female

I read that Herring Gull nest building begins in early May – I wonder where that will be? I do so hope that it is not on the roof of our house.

The meadows are a site of a Crow civil war at the moment. Vigorous cawing and vicious aerial skirmishes are occuring from early dawn to deep dusk. At one point there was a murderous lynching down on the grass and I ran at the birds full pelt to break it up, not being able to just stand and observe such a thing. We do not completely understand what is going on but there still is at least one pair building a nest and they continue to visit the wool dispenser that we set up for them:

Crow taking wool
Blue Tits are also regularly visiting to collect wool for their nests

This photo of a Starling with a feather in its beak is evidence that they too are nesting:

There is a little band of six of them in the meadows at the moment

We found this beautiful Blackbird egg lying in the grass up on the strip. It was undamaged but cold and we presume we must have interrupted a nest predation. We suspect Magpies, especially since we subsequently found the broken shell under their nest.

But, down by the Badger sett, a female Blackbird is busy building another nest which hopefully the Magpies will not find:

Still no evidence of Yellowhammer breeding yet, despite positioning cameras in key locations.

Yellowhammer telling off a House Sparrow

It’s lovely to think of Tawny Owls flying around the meadows at night. We often hear but rarely see them, although this one landed briefly on the ant paddock perch. I would love to know where they are breeding.

We went down to the local cliffs to see if the House Martins had arrived yet – this is one of the rare places in Britain that House Martins use natural nest sites.

The local white cliffs with a disused Marines firing range built onto reclaimed land below

The House Martins had still not arrived there. But I am sure that this cold north-easterly wind that has been blowing for so many days now must not be helping – any birds coming up from Africa would have to fly against it

A frost one morning this week

Last summer I was following the fortunes of two magnificent Wasp Spiders who had built their webs close to each other out in the meadows.

At the end of the summer, the ladies disappeared off their webs to build egg cocoons nearby and during the winter we found several of these cocoons in the uncut areas of the meadows. They were surprisingly large with a diameter of 3-4cm:

We rediscovered one again this week. It was looking decidedly worse for wear by this point and actually at first we thought it was empty:

But, on closer inspection, there were hundreds of little spiderlings gathered within a web towards the apex. I didn’t want to prise the web apart to get a better picture because this would then leave them vulnerable but hopefully you can make them out. They were all slowly moving around.

I will check again on them in a week to see how they are getting on and I might be able to get a better photo as they get bigger.

This is the first time that we have ever seen a Treecreeper at the wood:

Treecreepers are common but elusive woodland birds who work their way up the trunks of trees, looking for spiders and insects tucked away in the bark.

Internet photo of a Treecreeper. It has stiffened tail feathers, a curved beak and adapted toes and claws to facilitate climbing up tree trunks and prising invertebrates from bark crevices. The bird can’t go downwards again very well so, once it gets to the top of a tree, it flies down to the bottom to start again.

It seems odd that we have never seen Treecreepers at the ponds in the woods before, even at the height of the summer droughts. It is really only when is it so dry that we have seen Tawny Owls coming in for a drink and a bath, but surprisingly here was one this week:

Also in the wood this week:

This Squirrel is all shoulder blades and hips
I love the way that Jays put their crests up when they bathe
Sparrowhawks always look so fierce
Green Woodpeckers are still occasionally visiting the hole in the Cherry tree but not often enough to be nesting

April is an all-round lovely month and the Blackthorn is flowering in the meadows.

We went for the full blossom experience this week when we had a picnic under the cherry trees at Brogdale, the home of the National Collection of temperate fruit trees, nearby at Faversham.

Socially distanced picnic squares under the mature cherry trees. We had the place to ourselves, however.

Gorgeous snowy-white blossom, but shame about the bitter north-easterly wind.

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