Where Has Spring Gone?

We had been hoping for some marvellous May weather this week but the reality was that we mostly got cloud and rain topped off with some very strong winds on Friday. Where has spring gone? We would like it back please.

It can be so very windy here. This swinging bench has fine sea views but it makes the meadows look like a garden rather than a wild space and we want to move it but, because of its weight, this would be a several-person job. Despite it being so heavy, it was blown over three times this last winter, such are the winds coming in off the sea.

Fox and swinging bench amongst the buttercups

The Badgers, with no young this year, seem to be keeping a low profile. However, the Foxes are very much in evidence as they work hard to find food for themselves and for their cubs.

The new camera position up near a Fox den, has been giving us some lovely photos of a pair of Foxes, both of which I recognise as my regulars. No cubs have been seen up there yet though:

This same vixen was also down by the Badger sett carrying prey. Wood Pigeon perhaps?

There has been an occasional glimpse of a cub down by the Badger sett but it is very elusive at the moment.

Last week we put two additional Swift nest boxes up because we had House Sparrows nesting in the original box and we wanted vacant homes to attract Swifts in. But within a day, one of the newly arrived boxes was occupied by a male House Sparrow, cheeping loudly to attract a female to come and nest in it with him:

It seems that he has been successful because this week there was this:

We have seen a few Swifts soaring high overhead, but none have been observed flying close to these boxes, having been brought in by the calls that we are broadcasting up into the skies.

These next two photos show that, unlike species such as Blackbirds, both male and female House Sparrows are involved in building the nest.

A view of the meadows out across the hide pond. This pond doesn’t get much attention but it is packed full of newts, and dragonflies love all that open water:

A beautiful Stock Dove at the hide pond

Although it is only 100m from the wild pond, it is very different and does seem to support a noticeably distinct ecosystem.

The wild pond

Here is the second of this year’s young birds. It always seems a cause for celebration when birds with vulnerable, open-fronted nests like Robins manage to avoid the attentions of the Magpies and successfully fledge young.

A just-fledged Robin

We are learning a lot about Herring Gulls by watching the pair that have adopted the meadows as their own. Although the male is around every day still, the colour-ringed female hadn’t been seen for about a fortnight – presumably because she is sitting on eggs. I read that the clutch of 2-4 eggs is actually incubated by both parents for around 30 days and vegetation is added to the nest throughout that time. The female did turn up one day this week and she continues to collect nesting material:

The colour-ringed female Herring Gull

I am hoping that they will bring their young here in due course and I’m looking forward to seeing them.

Here is a selection of the invertebrates we have seen this week in the meadows:

The Caterpillar of the Yellow-tail Moth
A Wall Butterfly
A Common Blue
A Brown Argus
Red-headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)
A Click Beetle (Agrypnus murinus)
Broad-bodied Chaser
Pine Ladybird on a Pine tree
We have been watching a Wasp Spider cocoon since we discovered it just before Christmas. The little spiderlings look like they are getting ready to leave the shelter of the cocoon and venture out into the meadows

In the wood, there are two Fox cubs and they are such different colours.

The same camera caught these three lounging Badgers one night. I love it.

In this next photo, the female Green Woodpecker is looking out of the nest hole as the male approaches. Initially I wondered why he was looking all agitated but then I noticed the Squirrel right at the top

Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum) is a plant that grows so freely in the wood that we no longer pay it much notice. But it does have a really interesting pollination mechanism that I wanted to try to photograph. But when I wandered around the wood looking at these plants, I failed to find a single flower that had not been nibbled by rodents – apparently they really like them.

The flower of the Lords and Ladies puts up a purple poker which gives off a smell that is irresistible to flies:

The nibbled purple poker

Arriving at the flower, the flies crawl down into the bulb at the bottom and are trapped there by downward-pointing hairs.

The poker in this plant has been completely eaten, but you can see the hairs at its base that trap the flies in the bulb

The male and female parts of the flower are in the bulb and the imprisoned flies will get covered in pollen from the male parts. But those hairs that were trapping the flies then wither away, allowing the flies to escape. They will subsequently visit another flower and once again get stuck within its bulb, this time transferring the pollen they are carrying onto the female part of the flower and fertilising it.

The female parts of the flower within the bulb.

This pollination method clearly works very well because Lords and Ladies is a very abundant plant in the wood, with so many stalks of luscious red berries in the late summer. Birds eat these berries, thus dispersing the seed.

This morning there seemed to be the possibility of some better weather and we took the opportunity to visit another iconic orchid site in East Kent, Bonsai Bank. Here we saw a Lords and Ladies purple poker that put those in our wood to absolute shame:

This is what they should look like

We had been hoping to see the Duke of Burgundy butterfly. We had seen him here before and he flies in May but the sun was scarcely out and we didn’t see a single butterfly of any species, let alone the rare and exciting Duke.

Lady Orchids and Early Purples growing in good numbers at Bonsai Bank

Bonsai Bank is in an area of Kent that used to be famed for its hop growing and there are still many signs of that today with the tall, thin hedges around fields which provided shelter for the hops. But English hop farming declined in the 20th century when beer brewers started using hops in pellet form from China and the USA. Also, lager became popular which uses far fewer hops in in its manufacture. One of the loveliest features of Kent’s hop-growing past that can still be seen are the oast houses, once used as kilns to dry the hops, but now mainly converted into homes:

Two oast houses seen on our journey to and from Bonsai Bank this morning

It looks like spring might be returning next week – I do hope so. Only one more week of May left and there is so much we want to do.

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