On a visit down to our nearby chalk cliffs this week, we discovered with joy that the small colony of cliff-nesting House Martins have at last arrived and are building their nests. This same overhang of the rock had a nest last year, although it was then washed off by the weather over the winter. Now it has been rebuilt using around one thousand beakfuls of mud:
This puddle is replenished by waves breaking over the sea wall at high tide and beak marks can be seen in the wet mud as the birds gather it up to build their nests.
The same puddle from last year, taken by the the Bird Ringer:
We didn’t see Kestrels this time but talked to a birder who had seen the male coming in with a vole shortly before we arrived. The female Kestrel emerged from the nest to eat the vole and so is presumably still on eggs or with very young chicks. Excitingly, we also think we saw a Peregrine fly into a cavern in the cliff. It all happened so fast and we hadn’t quite gathered our wits but we will be watching for this now.
It is the time of year when Fox cubs start emerging from the protection of the overgrown hedgerows and cliff where they have their dens. In anticipation of this, we put cameras close to places where historically there have been dens to see if we could see the cubs as they emerge. Up at the top of the second meadow, at 7pm one evening, the female comes out to see if the coast is clear:
Then the male and their single cub emerge:
The male is attentive of every step of the cub’s inaugural trip out onto the big wide world:
Here is the same cub bouncing along behind its mother a couple of days later:
This morning we came across a freshly-eaten fish skeleton in the grass:
When I went through the videos taken overnight near the Badger sett, I saw the mother fox carrying a Dogfish at 1am..
..and a probable Whiting at 2am and it was the skeleton of this second fish that we had found. There was possibly a naive or inattentive fisherman down on the beach last night.
The Old Gentleman Fox seems forever in the wars and now he has hurt his front paw. How can he catch prey when he is hopping along on three legs?
This next photo is from the depths of winter in mid December. The Mahonia was flowering enthusiastically at this time of year and was being visited by a stream of Buff-tailed Bumblebees. These bees often attempt a winter generation here in the south of the country, fuelled by such winter-flowering garden plants.
This same Mahonia is now covered in berries that birds find delicious. I put a camera on it to catch them at it:
There were many visits to the plant by Blackbirds. However, eating the berries does have a distinctive side effect for them:
By providing insects with food through the winter and then supplying birds with delicious berries in May, surely Mahonia is worth considering for any wildlife-friendly garden?
We saw some Goldfinch probing open old Dandelion heads with their beaks to get at the seeds:
Song Thrush are well known for eating snails:
But here is also one with a mouth full of worms, hopefully to feed to young:
Other photos from around the meadows this week:
We rarely see Deer in the wood but a Roe Deer has visited this week:
This is the first time we have seen a Roe Deer here and he is very different to the Red Deer we saw a few times last summer:
Another family of Fox cubs have started exploring in the new part of the wood:
And finally a wary Rabbit in the wood – potential prey for both the Fox and the Buzzard!