Missing from the Meadows

As a rule our bird feeders do brisk business but, at this time of year, they are like ghost ships on a becalmed sea.

Up until recently the large capacity feeder at the hide pond was having to be refilled every few days. At the moment, though, the seed level is hardly going down at all. Although there wouldn’t be birds on the feeder whatever the time of year when a Sparrowhawk is at the pond

Seed-eating birds are missing from the meadows and the wood because they are off hoovering up grain in the fields after harvest and it is lovely that, for a few weeks at least, the land is amply providing for them. A badger latrine near the sett in the wood supports my point- this badger has surely been off foraging in the agricultural fields all night:

Sorry to be introducing badger dung so early in the post

The Hazel coppices in the wood are covered in these silvery blisters. These are the leaf mines of the Nut-leaf Blister Moth (Phyllonorycter coryli).

The moth larva lives and then pupates within the safety of the blister, eventually emerging as an adult micro moth.

The adult Nut-leaf Blister Moth. Photo from Naturespot.org.uk

A Tawny Owl was photographed on three separate woodland cameras this week:

Lots of birds use this branch to perch on in the Beech grove:

Great Spotted Woodpecker

This squirrel made some sort of miscalculation and ended up getting wet feet:

One morning this week we went down for a swim at the local beach below the meadows with a visiting son. There were some people going out foil surfing – I hadn’t heard of this water sport before:

The board has an attached hydrofoil underneath it and the sail is held in the hand.
The idea is to get the board to lift up onto its hydrofoil which hasn’t happened in this photo yet – possibly it wasn’t windy enough

There was also a yoga lesson going on down there:

This large and amazing caterpillar was spotted in one of the beachside gardens:

The Privet Hawk-moth caterpillar. What is the purpose of that black, hooked tail?

What immediately sprang to my mind was that the caterpillar is in the colours of the Suffragettes:

Suffragette hunger strike medal and badge in the British Museum using the same colours as the Privet Hawk-moth caterpillar

The Privet Hawk-moth is the UK’s largest Hawk-moth and one that I often catch in the moth trap up in the meadows:

Two Privet Hawk-moths with their pink and black-striped abdomen. Also two pink and green Elephant Hawk-moths and an Eyed Hawk-moth. Photo from July 2020

The caterpillar will be feeding up on various plants including wild and garden Privet from July to September, at which point it will burrow more than 30cm underground to pupate and spend the winter. Perhaps it will use that black tail spike to dig its way underground?

The tractor has gone off in disgrace to be serviced and repaired and will be missing from the meadows for a couple of weeks. Here it is being picked up in front of the enormous pile of hay that it has already harvested from the first meadow. The much bigger second meadow is largely yet to be cut and so I hope that the tractor will be back soon and we can find a weather window to continue the job.

The hay will gradually be taken away over the next year with the household green waste collections. Currently, however, these have been suspended since the beginning of August because of a shortage of HGV drivers and the hay pile remains as large as ever.

Our hopes for reasonable October weather in order to be able to get on with the harvesting have been somewhat dampened after this last wild and stormy week. One night the wind was so strong that the stringing mechanism in the flag pole snapped and we found the flag in a sodden heap on the ground.

The flag has come in to get dry, and working out how to restring the flagpole has now been added to our list of jobs. It has been very autumnal out there but we haven’t yet felt the need to turn that Aga on

Last week I was getting on with another autumn job of pulling reeds out of the wild pond:

After leaving the pulled reeds by the side of the pond for a day so that any displaced animals can crawl back into the water, I put a pile of the reeds close to the badger sett.

Even though the reeds are uncomfortably coarse and still dampish, the badgers can’t resist them. There is also a pile of soft, dry hay nearby that they have left untouched:

Dragging the reeds back to their burrow as bedding

Much progress has been made on the project of revealing the young hedgerow from surrounding vegetation and laying bark chips down to stop moisture loss and discourage weed growth next summer:

We have quite a lot of this wool insulating packaging that arrives with food deliveries, stored up in the attic and awaiting inspiration on the best way to reuse it. We probably have twenty metres in all and realised that it would be good under the bark as additional mulching material.

Covering the wool with bark chips

It is so enjoyable to see Kestrels back hunting in the meadows where the vegetation is now short. They sit and look for rodents from the perches where possible because it uses less energy than hovering:

This next photo has got some rain on the lens but I like the very British queuing system to use the bath. Kestrel, Magpie and then Herring Gull.

Magpie springing from the bath

The way the gang of Magpies are surrounding and staring at this juvenile Herring Gull feels a bit sinister:

Crows are great big birds, yet it seems that they are still interested in the tiniest of millet seeds:

We found another interesting caterpillar this week – this time the larva of the Muslin Moth:

Muslin Moths are regulars in the moth trap here. They are lovely moths with their furry boleros. This is a male and the females are white:

Naturespot.org.uk

Squirrels are always largely missing from the meadows but there is a mature Walnut tree in our neighbour’s garden and this autumn this animal has been scampering around burying their nuts in our lawn:

I watched the squirrel bury a walnut, which was large because it was still in its protective green outer casing. There was a lot of digging and subsequent covering up and the whole thing took quite a long time. I hope it remembers where it put it because we don’t want a Walnut tree growing in the lawn.

Although we didn’t find any Wasp Spider webs in the long grasses of the meadows during the summer, this week we found a forlorn Wasp Spider cocoon being buffeted around by the wind in a vulnerable place on a short grass path:

A Wasp Spider cocoon, attached to a leaf by some sticky black threads

We only recognised what it was because we found some in good condition safely secured to long grasses last winter:

This is how a Wasp Spider cocoon should look. Photo from December 2020

We relocated the cocoon to within some long grass that won’t get cut this year, even if we do manage to get round to some more harvesting. Hopefully it can now survive through the coming winter and release its spiderlings next spring.

Next summer we will search the area where we relocated the cocoon to see if we can see some of these spiders and get that warm feeling that our rescue mission was successful. Photo from August 2020

This was a glorious sight when I pulled back the curtains one morning this week

Today’s weather is forecast to be awful this afternoon with winds of nearly 60mph for several hours and heavy rain. However, the day has started so peacefully with no hint of what is to come. The Herring Gulls are rising up from their overnight roosts on the sea and flying inland over our heads to their feeding grounds to start their day, calling to each other as they go. Very atmospheric:

The sun just poking her head above the horizon this morning

We do see magnificent sunrises from the meadows when the conditions are right and, now that the days are getting shorter, we are more likely to be awake to see them.

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