The Summer To Come

For the first time in a long while, both of us were away from the meadows one night this week meaning that no peanuts and sandwiches were put out at dusk. It twangs my heart strings to see on the cameras that, as we were happily drinking wine in our son’s Berkshire garden at dusk, there was a little gathering of Foxes back in Kent waiting for their sandwiches which never arrived. I wonder how long they were lingering and hoping before they gave up?

But, by the next night, I was back on duty and normal service had resumed.

Five minutes after I had scattered the peanuts and retreated. Surely that Magpie is not thinking of coming down to the ground amongst five Foxes?

There is a long-ago but just remembered way of living where it was possible to go away on holiday and such fabled days are rumoured to be returning soon. These animals have become rather indulged over lockdown and I need to ready them so that I can leave the meadows this summer with a clearer conscience.

We have had yet another week of cold north-easterly winds blowing in off the sea that continues to slow down the onward march of spring, although we have seen Green Hairstreak and Small Copper Butterflies newly out this week. Two mornings were foggy, with the Dover foghorn atmospherically sounding through the mist up from the south.

The Herring Gull pair in the fog

But what fun we have been having with a wool dispenser that we put out in the meadows with a camera on it. Crows and Blue Tits are still pulling out nesting material:

And now Great Tits have started as well. The wool is a mixture of different colours and I was interested to see that the Great Tits were selecting the darker hues:

The summer visitors will be arriving and starting to build nests soon and maybe they too will use this dispenser.

A House Sparrow with a feather suggests that they are also busy finishing off a nest somewhere:

And Magpies have been building nests for weeks:

Song Thrushes appear on the cameras every day:

But this week we found a Song Thrush’s anvil – a stone used by the bird to smash open snail shells:

Then, this morning, we have found a second anvil, still wet with snail juice. The bird had used a stone that was securing a camera’s tripod legs to stop it blowing over:

When I looked at the pictures taken by that particular camera, it had captured the moment the Thrush found the snail:

I subscribe to Birdguide alert emails which tell me that a few Turtle Doves have started arriving in Kent. Bags of special Turtle Dove seed have been delivered from the RSPB and Operation Turtle Dove to be put out on the rotavated strip for eight weeks from the beginning of May. The hope is that the seed will attract in Pigeons and Doves as an advertisement to a passing Turtle Dove that this is a great place to be. Should they decide to come down and take a closer look, the supplementary seed will then help them feed up and get back into breeding condition quickly after their migration.

Turtle Dove seed arrives for our fourth year of Operation Turtle Dove. One additional bag still expected
A group of Stock Dove. Now that Turtle Doves have started arriving, I’m going to have to take better care to check out all of the Doves as I go through the trail camera footage.
Collared Dove

This photo gave me a bit of a shock when I downloaded it off the camera. Perhaps the prey she has got is a partly plucked Blackbird?

Sparrowhawk with prey
Bedraggled Jay after a bath
One of the Crows here with a very distinctive domed head. Crow wars are still continuing unabated.
The dome-headed Crow and his mate
Sweet Rats drinking
I was pleased to find such a beautifully marked small fly. It is one of the picture-winged flies, Tephritis neesii
A gorgeous female Tawny Mining Bee. We have identified several of their nests around the meadows now.
There are ten species of Pond Skater in the UK, some of which are difficult to tell apart. These are possibly the long-winged form of the Common Pond Skater, Gerris lacustris
Green Hairstreak on Alexander seen for the first time this year
Walking amongst a forest of Alexanders. We have operated a zero tolerance policy on Ragwort for several years and last year we also started controlling Wild Parsnip with its irritant sap that was spreading alarmingly. This spring we have additionally been hitting Alexanders hard because it is a worryingly successful plant at propagating itself. Its flowers are very popular with insects though and so the ideal time to remove the plants is after the flowers fade but before the seeds set.

It was also foggy in the wood this week. On three different occasions the Buzzard was perching in this exact spot at the top of this photo. This is near the feeders and so I wonder if it is waiting for Pheasants and Squirrels?

The magnificent bird then visited one of the shallow baths but found it dried up:

But it did find water in this deeper pond and twice came to bathe this week:

There have been more amusing Jay bathing photos in the wood as well. They don’t seem very waterproof:

This Chiffchaff is probably a newly arrived summer visitor…..

…but all of the winter visitors are yet to leave. The Woodcock have gone but this Redwing is still here, although perhaps it is waiting for its northern breeding grounds to warm up a bit more before it starts on its way.

For more or less the whole of April I have been on tenterhooks awaiting the arrival of this year’s baby Badgers above ground. Yet here we now are at the 24th and still they have not been glimpsed. In previous years we have had clues as to their existence – some years the mother carries her young above ground to a different burrow and in every previous year I have caught sight of the mother’s undercarriage at some point and seen signs of lactation. This year there has been nothing and I am now wondering if perhaps there are no young. After all, the family had four youngsters last year and maybe they need a rest.

But then again, they could be waiting until this cold wind finally stops blowing. In the meantime, I am really enjoying the allotment. The Tulips grown as cut flowers are ready to bring into the house, and also to give to visitors to spread the joy.

Our daughter’s wedding, postponed from last June, is now going ahead on a very much smaller scale this summer with the reception hopefully being held here in an open sided marquee. This is a big incentive to keep on top of everything to try to get the meadows, allotment and garden looking at their absolute best for then. My big worry is not so much rain as the wind, but we will have to wait and see.

3 thoughts on “The Summer To Come

  1. Sounds like the wedding will be even more charming and intimate if your meadows are part of it. šŸ™‚
    What will you do about your foxes when you wish to go away. Will you be weaning them off their suppers? They look so sweet all waiting…..
    Jay’s are such beautiful birds, they look so funny though when they have had a bath!

    1. In the past I managed to find some kind person to come in at dusk every other day while we were away – they topped up the bird feeders as well and watered all the pots as well. I love going on holiday but there is always a point before we go when I wonder if it is worth all the aggravation of getting ready to leave here. But let’s hope it happens, nonetheless!

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