Tipping Points

This toadstool, with its covering of frost, perfectly captures the essence of the season – the last gasps of autumn just tipping over into winter:

We have had to reacquaint ourselves with all our warm clothes

There has been a significant storm that brought snow to large parts of the country and thousands of people had no power for a week. No snow here, although inevitably we did have strong winds. So much so that this old Magpie nest was blown out of the top of a tall pine:

This photo of a Magpie has three Blackbirds working the hedgerow behind – there are so many here at the moment:

They are busy hoovering up what berries are left:

There are also more Song Thrushes than usual

A Sparrowhawk came in for a bath. We saw him last week as well:

We put seed down every morning throughout the year and this is being keenly anticipated as the cold weather starts to bite:

Stock Doves and House Sparrows

This Fox has a fish. Perhaps he has been foraging on the foreshore or opportunistically lurking around night fishermen down on the beach:

The Badgers have been taking yet more bedding underground into their sett this week:

Back in the summer, a deep vertical aeration shaft appeared in the second meadow, about five metres in from the cliff. Now, the Badgers have begun digging it out into a proper tunnel entrance and it will be easy for us to get a camera on this to observe the comings and goings:

We toured the meadows trying to remember where the bird boxes were so that we could empty them of this year’s nests:

One of the boxes hanging in a Wild Cherry tree

Seventeen boxes were discovered but, shockingly, only three had bird nests within:

In previous years we have collected a whole wheelbarrow full of old nests and we were very dispirited that there were so few. It is surely an indication of a very poor breeding season for Blue Tits and Great Tits this year because of the cold spring weather that we had.

But this nest was very lovely. Fur from one of the dog’s pink balls was woven into the top:

When viewed from the side, you can see how much Badger fur has been collected to make a thick, soft top layer above the moss. What a comfortable nursery that must have been and all the babies successfully fledged:

This next nest was a Blue Tit nest back in the spring but subsequently the box has been well used as an overnight roost:

Many of the other boxes, although not containing nests, did have droppings inside as evidence that they were now being used as sheltered roosts. Last winter, a Wren regularly spent the night cuddled up in this teapot nest box that we have in the garden. We put a trail camera on the box and discovered that the bird went in at very heavy dusk and, here it is, leaving just before dawn:

This week we put up a selection of interesting-looking roosting boxes in the garden to see if these could be of use to the birds over the forthcoming cold winter nights:

I dressed the wreath rooster up with foliage from the garden. What bird is going to be able to resist roosting in this?

Before dressing:

After:

In the wood, this winter’s coppicing has commenced. It is hard work and we find that three coppices a session is really all that we want to do and so progress is slow. These two Hazel coppices to the right of the Goat Willow were cut this week:

The chain saw helps immensely, although all this cut timber then needs to be dragged off to make a dead hedge at the boundary of the wood:

A completed stool

While we were sitting having a cup of tea, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers came in together to the feeders:

There was also a nice photo of one of these birds on the trail cameras:

This particular camera is looking at a Tawny Owl nest box. We have put all sorts of boxes up in both the meadows and the wood, many especially designed with a particular species in mind. But it has become a bit of an inevitability that it is always a different species that takes up residence. However, this is surely ridiculous, even by our standards:

There were several Blue Tit visits to this box this week.

Other woodland photos:

It has been very cold
Woodcock stretching its wings
Woodcock unusually out and about in daylight
This Fox’s facial features all seem to have been outlined in black

Our son and his girlfriend, travelling the world for a year, have reached Guatemala having spent the last fortnight or so in Belize.

Collared Aracari, a smaller member of the Toucan family. How do they eat tiny fruits with that unwieldy bill? Do they pluck the fruit off with the point of the beak and then toss it up into the air to swallow it? It looks like they may.

December now and the eagerly-awaited winter solstice is just over a fortnight away. This always feels to us like a momentous tipping point after which, tiny step by tiny step, the days start to get longer and spring gets that little bit nearer. As I draw the curtains at 4pm with darkness descending, six hours earlier than it does in June, this can’t come soon enough for me.

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