Calm After the Storms

Dudley, Eunice and Franklin – three named storms in quick succession – have left us longing that the weather would go away and leave us in peace.

The Kestrel hunting at dusk in the brief lull between Eunice and Franklin. How on earth was she managing to find her vole prey and feed herself during those long days of strong winds?
Yet, several days after the storms, she is happily still going strong, stretching her wings in the sunshine

As Franklin finally threw in his cards and roared off across the North Sea, the hunkered-down animals could venture out and once more get on with their normal lives.

A fox out enjoying the warmth of the sun:

This fox was not one of our regulars and was no doubt a winter-dispersing male. He had a distinctive mangey tip to his tail:

That night he was seen going over one of the gates between the meadows, unfamiliar as he was with the holes under the fence that are used by our resident animals:

That same night, there was a second mangey visitor to the meadows:

I always find this so upsetting, yet there is nothing I can do to help these animals that are passing through.

The frogs quickly resumed their amorous activities and now it was calm enough for us to hear their distinctive churring coming from the garden pond as we readied ourselves for bed. The heron, who is unfortunately not scared of scarecrows, continued to return to the wild pond to stand over the frogspawn awaiting a meal:

A quick preen whilst waiting for frogs

Badgers are pretty resilient to bad weather, but it was only after Franklin had departed that the mother badger moved her cubs from one burrow to another and we got our first thrilling view of this year’s young:

Born around 11th February, this tiny, hairless cub in her mouth was ten days old at this point. I believe that there were one or two more babies moved as well, but the trail camera did not quite catch these. It is surely not normal behaviour for cubs to be carried above ground like this – but our badgers here do it every year, affording us tantalising glimpses of the young animals before they are officially allowed up out of the burrow.

After a spot of tidying up, we left a pile of long, dry grasses by the badger sett:

This is like catnip for badgers and the next morning it had all gone off underground to start a new life as soft bedding for the cubs:

The grasses being dragged off into the sett

The location of this year’s magpie nest is still unknown to us but, nevertheless, work continues on its construction:

Sticks being flown along the hedgerow
Gathering soft lining

The birds have now started collecting soil from around the mini pond on the strip – soil that has been transformed into mud with water sprayed by bathing birds:

This week we made a trip up the coast to Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory where we saw saw a group of twenty Curlew at Restharrow Scrape. The burbling song of a Curlew is one of the most glorious and atmospheric sounds of the British countryside, but these large waders are red listed and have suffered horrible declines in recent years. Thankfully work is now being done to understand what the problems are to try to halt and reverse their losses.

Scandinavian Curlews fly here to spend the winter and they can be seen in groups at the coast at this time of year:

What amazing and beautiful birds they are:

The wood was not too badly affected by the storms and we have managed to fit a couple more coppicing sessions in before the start of the bird nesting season at the beginning of March.

This horizontal branch of a venerable Beech is a favourite perching post for birds of prey. This week we have seen a Sparrowhawk by day:

And a Tawny Owl likes to view the woodland floor from here at night:

It even flew up and sat on the nest box:

Tawnies are faithful to their existing nest site and so it is unlikely that the pair of birds whose territory this is will need this box – but we remain hopeful that one day it will be occupied by something other than squirrels.

This is an unusual sight. It has been light for some time because the sun is up and shining on the birch trunks, yet here is a badger above ground and some distance from the sett. What is going on?

Fox in the wood
Our winter-visiting Woodcock are still here but they will have left by the end of March, flying back to more northerly parts of Europe to breed.

Now that the storms have abated, we too have ventured out, filled with a fresh enthusiasm to get the garden ready for spring. It is always exciting when it is time to bring the supports back out for the peony bed and, at this stage of the year, difficult to imagine that these cages will be filled with flowers by May:

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