In Part 1, earlier this week, we went on a whistle stop tour of the meadows through the first part of 2021. Now you will need to hold on to your hats as we are off again, this time looking at the highlights of the second half of the year.
2020 had been so dry, and the ground so hard, that there was much concern in the press that birds such as Blackbirds were not able to get at worms to feed their chicks. 2021 was altogether a much wetter year and this, at least, was one thing that no one had to worry about.
After all the photos of Blackbird chicks being well provisioned, it was lovely when they started to fledge and appear on the cameras:
Yellowhammers also bred successfully here:
Unusually, there were no speckled, young Green Woodpeckers this year. There was a juvenile Great Spotted but these birds are not around here very often and the nest was probably not that local.
Magpies and Crows also successfully raised families in the meadows. These young Magpies were being brought food by a parent as they waited on the gate and they’ve been given a dead bird here, possibly a Blue Tit:
When we cleared out the nest boxes in the autumn, we were dismayed to discover that only three of the seventeen boxes contained nests, suggesting that Great Tits and Blue Tits had had a really poor breeding year. A spell of very cold weather in the spring must have impacted these early nesters.
It is always exciting when the Bird Ringers set their nets up in the meadows. In 2020, 1059 birds were ringed here, this number boosted by the exceptional autumn migration that year. In 2021, for one reason or another, only 253 birds were ringed but this did include 26 species.
Kestrels and Other Birds of Prey
For the last few years we have been following the fortunes of a Kestrel nest in a hole in the white cliffs, a short walk away. In 2021 there were four chicks in the nest:
It is only when the meadows were cut in the autumn, and voles had fewer places to hide, that these birds started hunting here in earnest.
Our residents Crows are annoyingly quick to escort any visiting bird of prey off property:
But Kestrels and Sparrowhawks are usually tolerated. One day, however, we enjoyed watching a Crow make four attempts to get a Kestrel to move on but she wasn’t to be intimidated and stayed put.
I was most impressed to see how far round a Sparrowhawk can rotate its neck..
..and also at the length of that leg:
Given all the eggs and young birds we have seen in a Magpie’s beak over the course of the year, it is sort of nice to see a Magpie on the back foot for once, as it became aware that it had caught the eye of a Sparrowhawk:
It’s difficult to know how many foxes live in and around the meadows because I do not recognise them all. But some, such as this handsome fellow with the tip of his tail dipped down, I see on the cameras a lot and have got to know:
He seems to be a successful hunter and here he is with what we believe to be a Tawny Owl, for goodness sake…..
…and another unidentified but interesting-looking bird
Two small litters of fox cubs were born here in 2021. The male with the tail dip was the father of a single cub. His mate was a vixen with distinctively starey eyes:
We put a camera close to their den and it captured the most wonderful sequence of photos of the little cub being taken on its first trip out into the big wide world. To begin with, the vixen looked out to check that the coast was clear:
Then both parents came out with the cub, the father watching over it so tenderly that my heart melts every time I see it:
The mother of the second litter of cubs was our old friend the One-eyed Vixen:
Both of the vixens with cubs are relaxed in each other’s company and perhaps are themselves related:
These two vixens had mange on their tails in the summer but I successfully treated them with medicine-laced honey sandwiches. This did not work for the Old Gentleman but I’m so pleased that it did for these mothers with cubs to care for.
There have been a lot of photos of foxes carrying fish this year. I am not entirely sure how they are getting hold of them but guess that they are opportunistically hanging around night fishermen down on the beach:
The final thing that I want to say about foxes is to mention their love of pears. As the fruits ripened on the tree towards the end of September, the foxes got to work to take off as many as they could, although this year we did not see them climbing into the tree as they had the year before.
At the same time, apples lay on the ground untouched. All very interesting.
Every year we take a little step forward in our understanding and appreciation of the invertebrates that we share the meadows with. Here are some of the invertebrate highlights of 2021:
Other Interesting Photos from the Second Half of 2021
2021 was another year in which the world was beset by problems and concerns and it was easy to be overwhelmed. But here in this little corner of East Kent, we have managed to find a certain amount of solace and escape for a while into the wonders of nature. I would say that we are definitely feeling positive about this new year just beginning and there is much to look forward to as we roll on towards spring.
A happy new year to all and let us hope that this one is a good one.