Rain, Rain, Sunshine, Rain

Things were very changeable at the beginning of this week with plenty of gusty wind and sudden intense bouts of rain. The sort of weather that could trick the unwary into skipping off coatless around the meadows, bathed in sunshine and blue skies, only to find themselves soaked to the skin before they were halfway round. So, yes, that happened to me twice. The ponds are pretty much filled to winter levels:

Many of the trail cameras in more exposed positions have now got water on the lens and it then takes several days for them to dry out and start taking clear photos again. As a result, half our fleet of cameras has been out of action for most of the week:

The lens is that top circle that is fogged with water droplets on the inside

The cameras struggle with condensation like this for much of the winter and so we are going to experiment with ways to give them some protection from the worst of the weather. Perhaps build an outer casing around those most affected? Or maybe we buy more expensive cameras for these very exposed locations?

One morning we were out photographing water drops dangling off the Hawthorn berries….

…when we saw a Spotted Flycatcher doing its distinctive aerial loops to hunt down flies. We only see these birds on migration:

Thankfully the weather improved in the second half of the week, good enough for the Bird Ringers to come one morning and catch sixty-four birds, mainly migrating Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. The highlight, however, was this young Redstart:

The two central tail feathers are brown rather than red

They caught a Song Thrush, also born this year:

This young Wren looks a bit of a mess because it hasn’t yet got its adult feathers through:

On another sunny day, we had a grand day out to the Dungeness RSPB reserve, an hour down the coast:

The Dungeness nuclear power station as viewed across one of the reserve’s lakes

The reserve is still not fully back up and running and only three of the hides were open, although they have built a couple of additional viewing platforms for these Covid times. We were pleased to see this male Ruff:

Male Ruff in front of a monster Great Black-backed Gull

In the breeding season, male Ruffs have a collar (or ruff) of long neck feathers that they use to impress the females. One day I would love to see this display but it would need careful planning since, in the UK, Ruffs only breed in a few places in East Anglia.

By Arjan Haverkamp – originally posted to Flickr as 2009-05-22-14h06m00.IMG_9725l, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9141547

Back in the meadows, this is the male of our pair of Herring Gulls. Now that he is in his winter plumage, his head is flecked with grey rather than being brilliant white:

Jay drying off after a bath
Kestrel hunting for rodents from the perch
Sparrowhawk hunting for birds from the gate

This is a lovely portrait of the One-eyed Vixen, with her blue left eye. This fox has been with us through two summers now, raising a litter of cubs both years, and I have successfully treated her for mange twice. I feel a very personal connection with her, although she reciprocates with a healthy wariness of me and always keeps her distance.

This is a screen shot from a video of a fox carrying prey. The prey seems to be both squirrel-sized and shaped but with a furless tail with a white pom pom at the end. I have no idea what this can be:

In the sunshine of the second half of the week, we had a chance to enjoy the insect life around the meadows before it all disappears from sight for the winter:

Peacock Butterfly in such beautiful condition that you can observe all the wonderful details
Red Admiral. I always particularly like the two unexpected turquoise bars at the back
Small Copper
Ivy Bee on an Ivy flower with a leg loaded with pollen

We have been following the fortunes of a large European Garden Spider that has spun its web in a Hawthorn, about four feet off the ground. Today it had caught a woodlouse and was in the process of consuming it. How did a woodlouse get into the centre of the web, or did the spider go off and get it?

We have had the Almar at anchor alongside us for quite a few days. She is nearly 200m long and has sailed from India bringing 7,000 tonnes of steel destined for a company in Canterbury. Sourcing steel has apparently been a big problem during the Covid epidemic and her arrival was eagerly anticipated:

As we went through Dover on our way to Dungeness, we saw her in port:

The Port of Dover issued a press release about her because she is by far the largest ship to have used the new cargo facility there since it opened in December 2019.

On another calm, still day, we saw another migrant boat come in below us and this time it arrived on its own, unescorted by Border Force vessels. I can see a little boy sitting up at the front. The BBC website reports that this weekend more than 1,100 people crossed the channel like this and arrived in Britain.

We have been working hard in the wood. In the regenerating area there is a clearing that is covered in marjoram. This native plant is loved by pollinators, and it is here we saw the Silver-washed Fritillary Butterflies this year, gracefully gliding from plant to plant. But the glade was becoming heavily overgrown with dogwood which was starting to shade out all that lovely marjoram and so we knew we had to take action. It has been very good cardio exercise – we have now had three sessions of cutting down and clearing away the dogwood and it is really pleasing how much we have achieved. But light rain had started to fall once more for yesterday’s session and again I got very damp because I had not brought a coat.

I think this is going to look great next summer. The hope is that there will be a carpet of marjoram heaving with woodland pollinators and alive with butterflies and all this effort will have been worthwhile.

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