Tying the Knot

There was a very concerning weather forecast for our daughter’s wedding last weekend but in the event we were lucky. The reception was in a marquee on our lawn but there was a magical little bar set up in the meadows that worked so well towards the end of the evening. With only thirty of us, it was a small but perfectly formed and joyous celebration to launch them on their married lives together.

The morning after

But as a result of all this celebrating, we have once again missed this year’s Green Woodpecker fledging in the wood and this photo is the best that I can offer you:

Trail camera photo of one of the chicks shouting out of the hole

We actually did quickly nip to the wood the night before the wedding but found the birds had already left the nest, although we could still hear them nearby. We did, however, find this dead Mole:

I was surprised to see that Moles have quite long tails
What amazing claws

I didn’t know much about Moles and so I have read up about them. They have a system of permanent deep burrows forming a network that is hundreds of metres long with tunnels at different depths, the deeper ones being used during droughts and when it is cold. Many generations of mole will use these permanent tunnels to find their earthworm prey, which they store alive but immobilised in chambers.

In the wood, the Moles will be predated by Tawny Owls, Buzzards and Stoats and the young ones are particularly vulnerable as they disperse away from their mother’s range above ground during the summer. I wonder if this dead Mole is a dispersing youngster, although that doesn’t explain why it hasn’t been eaten.

Molehills in the wood. These hills have no opening to the ground surface and are formed during the excavation of the permanent tunnels. Beneath each molehill there is a sloping tunnel through which the soil has been pushed to the surface.

Other photos from the wood:

Father and child
A sweet young Rabbit
This trail camera took a photo of the first amphibian we have ever seen in the wood. A Frog in the new pond. Frogs are a pioneering species, finding new ponds to colonise ahead of any Newts and other predators that eat their tadpoles
Young Crow, fledged but still being fed by a parent

Crows have fledged in the meadows as well:

There is a flock of about forty young Starlings now working the meadows:

And a young Stock Dove on the left:

After all the recent rain, the ponds continue to look really full and healthy – unprecedented for late June.

We found a Sparrowhawk kill up on the strip. There was still much meat on the bones and so we put a camera on it in case the Sparrowhawk came back.

A Collared Dove victim of a Sparrowhawk

But it was the Crows and Magpies that arrived to peck over the carcass

But, unexpectedly, a House Sparrow also came to gather up some of the feathers.

Yellow Rattle is parasitic on grass and helps knock it back, giving meadow flowers more of a chance to thrive. Three or four autumns ago we sowed a test area with Yellow Rattle seed as a bit of an experiment. It is far too densely planted but there is no disputing that the grass has been disadvantaged and the area can now function as a seed bank for the rest of the meadows.

The area of thickly-planted Yellow Rattle in the first meadow

We got the tractor out to cut a section of the first meadow to become a car park for the wedding weekend:

The tractor shaves off the tops of any anthills, creating bare earth patches into which new plants can get a hold. Now that the Yellow Rattle has finished flowering in the test area, we collected some of the seed to spread over this newly cut section.

Collecting Yellow Rattle seed to spread onto the newly cut car park

Although we have planned to collect and spread this seed for several years, this is the first time we have got round to actually doing it and it feels good.

Last autumn I planted Sweet William in the allotment to use as cut flowers. These are old fashioned plants but they have been fantastic and I have been cutting them for months now to put into jam jars to bring in to the house.

Samantha Jones Photography
The Sweet William patch still flowering strongly at the end of June. It is a short-lived perennial plant but usually grown as a biennial in this country

One afternoon this week I was picking some strawberries in the allotment and saw a Hummingbird Hawk-moth on the Sweet William. I ran for my camera but this is the best that I could achieve before it flew away:

I had already decided to plant more Sweet William this autumn but now that I know that Hummingbird Hawk-moths like it, I shall certainly be growing some every year.

A gathering with the correct two metre distancing at peanut time:

Here are the two vixens that have had cubs this year. They seem very comfortable together and are presumably part of a family group:

One of this year’s cubs
The One-eyed vixen with Stock Dove prey
There is a beak right at the top of this picture – perhaps this Fox was being bombed by a Magpie?
Love this one

Some other photos from the meadows:

The extraordinary Ruby-tailed Wasp, a parasitoid of mason bees, hanging around the bee box and looking for an opportunity
This Broomrape is more yellow than the normal Broomrape we have here that parasitises Clover. It is possibly the Bedstraw Broomrape?
Pyramidal Orchid
Thank you for letting me know that this plant is Sainfoin. Apparently it produces loads of nectar and flowers on right into September and so is great for pollinators
Six-spot Burnet Moth caterpillar
Dusky Sallow caterpillar amongst the meadow grasses
The Common Malachite Beetle
Breeding season still going strong for Woodpigeon
Demanding young Magpie
Yes, the ringed female Blackbird is still carrying nesting material…
…but perhaps this is for on-going nest repairs because here she also is taking in food for chicks
This Emperor Dragonfly larva has crawled six feet from the garden pond and up the side of the house in order to emerge as an adult
I have been trying to get a photo of this for ages. This is the male Herring Gull who waits for us every morning to put seed down on the strip. He and the dog are not the best of friends – she barks at him and he repeatedly dive-bombs her. It’s part of the daily routine
We saw our first Small Blue Butterfly on 22nd April last year, although we would normally expect to first see them in May. This year, however, it was 24th June.
Small Blue on its larval food plant – Kidney Vetch
Marbled Whites have arrived….
…and Essex Skippers……
…and Large Skippers with their wing checkerboarding….
…and finally Meadow Browns

This photo of a Kestrel with a mouse in his large yellow feet reminded us that we had taken our eye off the ball down at our local white cliffs:

We went down this week to take a look:

Perhaps the Kestrel hunting in the meadows is the father of these chicks?

At least two Kestrel chicks this year

A bit further along, there were two adult Peregrines perched near their nest high on the cliffs:

We stopped to watch a recently fledged family of Whitethroat:

The adult Whitethroat feeding a cranefly to its chick above
A just-fledged Whitethroat
Some splendid Pyramidal Orchids down there
Viper’s Bugloss

I finish today with mating Hedgehogs on our son’s lawn in Berkshire. Previously unaware that he even had Hedgehogs, he now hopes to raise awareness amongst his neighbours and perhaps they might even be persuaded to set up a Hedgehog highway network within the gardens so that the Hedgehogs can get in to forage. These animals are in such desperate trouble that they need any help they can get.

3 thoughts on “Tying the Knot

  1. Sensational photos as usual Judy.
    What a wonderful habitat you have both created on your land.
    It surely is โ€œAll creatures great & smallโ€ ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  2. So much to see in your post. Looks wonderful. It sounds like the wedding was lovely too. I love the pyramid orchids, they are so colourful. Found a bee orchid today in the quarry area of a nature reserve in Clitheroe. Always a treat to see. X

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