Our local Swifts arrived back on Bank Holiday Monday, 31st May, just as I had given up all hope. Since then they have been frequently and vigorously dive-bombing the boxes much to the concern of the nesting House Sparrows within. All four Swift boxes are currently occupied by House Sparrows but I read that Swifts will eject the Sparrows if they decide that they want to nest there so we will just have to see what happens.
It is so completely joyous to hear their screams, look up, and see a squadron of them shooting through the meadows and around the house. They also spread out and feed high in the skies above. These birds have had a battle with the weather to get here this spring, so let’s hope from now on things improve for them.
Another special experience is to sit by the pond at dusk at the end of a warm calm day, surrounded by the gentle sounds of the meadows winding down for the night, while at the same time something truly astonishing is happening in front of your eyes.
The late spring bank holiday is around the time each year that the largest dragonflies in Britain, the Emperors, emerge from the depths of the pond and undergo a remarkable transformation. It all begins when a larva climbs out of the water and clings on to a reed:
Emperors are known as colonisers of recently dug ponds and, when the ponds here were new, we had over a hundred of these Emperor emergences at the end of May every year. Now we only get a handful, but they continue to be a highlight of the wildlife year for us.
Broad-bodied Chasers generally emerge before the Emperors and so are already now busy mating and egg laying.
After all the dragonfly admiration I had been doing, I was a bit shocked to see one in a Blackbird’s beak:
Surely this bird wasn’t going to try to get that dragonfly down the throat of a chick? This time last year, it had been hot and sunny for weeks and the ground was baked hard. There was much concern about how birds such as Blackbirds were managing to get worms out of the ground to feed to their young. Now it couldn’t be more different and every day I am seeing a selection of glorious photos on the cameras such as the one below. This is one thing I don’t have to worry about this year – baby Blackbirds are getting enough food.
I have lost count of how many weeks I have been posting photos of this ringed female Blackbird collecting nesting material. What on earth is going on? Is she building several nests?
A possible reason might be that her nests keep getting predated, perhaps? If so, here is one of the top suspects:
A lot of bird seed gets put down here and we definitely do see Rats:
But rodent populations here always seem to stay in a healthy balance and perhaps we have the foxes to thank for that:
Towards the end of the week, we have seen two cubs together. The One-eyed Vixen also had cubs this year and I wonder of this is our first sighting of her young:
Only one Magpie chick has appeared in the meadows so far this year:
The female Sparrowhawk came down to the pond to bathe and this Magpie probably got a bit of a shock. No bird would ever want the gaze of a Sparrowhawk on it like this:
Other interesting photos from the meadows this week:
One day this week we organised a dog sitter and took ourselves out. Our first stop was Orlestone Forest in Kent where we hoped to see the Grizzled Skipper butterfly. Unfortunately we didn’t spot one but we saw plenty of these Speckled Yellows – a day-flying moth that we had never seen before:
We also saw this Green Tiger Beetle, another new species for us:
For our second destination, we crossed over the county border and visited Rye Harbour, a Sussex Wildlife Trust nature reserve. We were hoping to see Little Terns nesting on the beach but once again we failed. We saw plenty of Avocets though:
We were very charmed to see a Ringed Plover trying to impress a female with his courtship moves:
A Turnstone was very unimpressed with all this disturbance and gave the courting Plovers a piece of its mind:
One of our daughters has recently moved to East Kent and now is volunteering for Kent Wildlife Trust as a guardian of the River Stour. This weekend a group of the volunteers went out in Canadian canoes to collect litter from the river.
Beavers now live in the River Stour and I finish today with our daughter’s wonderful photo of a Beaver lodge that they paddled past whilst collecting litter. Who would have thought we had wild Beavers in East Kent.