The Helpful House

Each morning, at first light, a pair of Crows like to sit on their thrones on the roof of the house to survey their kingdom:

They call loudly and energetically from here, proclaiming that this is their land and anyone brave enough to question that fact can expect a fight.

However, Chuckles the Herring Gull is not prepared to accept any such nonsense from a Crow:

X9LT, the colour-ringed female gull

But it is not just as a lofty Crow perch that our house makes itself useful to wildlife. In places, it has Kent hanging peg-tiles on its walls and, getting old as they are, more seem to have fallen to the ground every time we look. We are going to have to do something about this eventually but, in the meantime, House Sparrows are enjoying the cavities that the lost tiles create.

This hole looks occupied and from inside the house I could hear that something was in there:

I loitered outside for a while and saw this female House Sparrow come out:

Should we ever get round to replacing the tiles, we will consider putting up some nest boxes on this side of the house to compensate the Sparrows for their loss.

Another aspect of the house has a jolly assortment of Swift and House Martin boxes up:

All of these boxes are nested in by Sparrows rather than the birds they are intended for, but a new nesting season is just beginning, so who knows?

Although badger cubs don’t officially come above ground until April, in mid February we saw a ten day old cub being moved from one burrow to another in its mother’s mouth:

This week, the cub was moved again. It is now thirty-five days old and much bigger than the last glimpse we had of it:

There seems to be just one cub this year and we are looking forward to getting to know it better when it is allowed properly above ground in about three weeks time.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease has caused a catastrophic crash in rabbit numbers across Europe in recent years and we do not often see rabbits in the meadows. But there is a small community of them in a neighbouring field and sometimes they do venture under the fence to us.

Peering through the hedgerow to photograph a rabbit eating grass in the next field. There is a small warren in amongst that dense bramble behind

This week we saw a sweet baby rabbit and its parent in our meadows:

But seeing rabbits here makes me worry for them since the densely vegetated cliffs allow for a thriving population of foxes and other would-be rabbit predators. As if to nicely illustrate the point, there was this photo one evening:

Twenty minutes later, the fox returned with just the hind legs and tail of the rabbit:

In the last post I mentioned a distinctive Magpie, with feathers lost on his face, that has been building a nest here:

It could be a mite infection that has caused this feather loss

The Bird Ringers set their nets up in the meadows this week and caught and ringed two Magpies, one of which was this very bird:

Great to get an opportunity to see him up close. You can just make out the ear hole behind the eye

They also caught a very smart Chaffinch, born last year. He had long wings, suggesting that he is an over-wintering continental bird, now about to leave the UK to return to his breeding grounds:

A Brambling was seen this week that is also on his way back:

As are these Starlings too:

Every day there continue to be more photos on the trail cameras of Magpies carrying sticks and mud:

We first saw a Magpie with a stick in its beak here on 24th January. One of the Bird Ringers can see a Magpie nest being built from his back garden in Folkestone and tells us that his birds started before Christmas.

This bird is now wearing a silver ring

Other photos from the meadows this week:

A Peacock on Blackthorn
A Comma feeding on Wild Plum blossom
A Blackbird with an ivy berry
The Phoenix, a two-masted brig, went past the meadows this week. Built in 1929 in Frederickshavn, Denmark, she began her life as an evangelical mission ship. She is now available to hire for events or to be used in films
A view over Dover Port this morning. Three P&O ferries, The Spirit of Britain, The Pride of Kent and The Pride of Canterbury are laid up on the cruise ship berth following the dramatic and depressing events of this week. All three of those ship names seem very ironic right now
The collateral chaos on the M20 resulting from the P&O ships being out of action

One morning this week, we walked the dog under our local white cliffs and enjoyed watching the Kestrels there. As a bird flies, the meadows would only be two minutes away from these cliffs and so surely these must be the same birds?

There is quite a lot of Goat Willow growing in the wood and it is not a tree that we had ever properly appreciated before. But when we visited this week, the catkins on the male trees had turned yellow with pollen and were alive with visiting bees. There were so many bees at work that their drone could be heard from some distance away – it was wonderful.

In the mature part of the wood, the catkins had only been produced right at the top of the tall trees, but on the smaller trees in the regeneration areas, they were lower and we could get a better look. The bees appeared to be mostly Honey Bees.

Clearly Goat Willow is a fantastic resource at this time of year and, from now on, we will give these trees their proper respect.

It was a really nice day with the sun shining strongly onto the newly coppiced area that we finished working on at the end of February:

Finishing off the last bit of coppicing at the end of February

It was extremely pleasing indeed to discover butterflies basking in the heat of this new clearing:

Brimstone in the newly cleared area
A pair of Comma were also appreciating the warmth, although they often broke off from their basking to fight each other, spiralling together high into the sky

We return to the meadows for the last photo today. 2022 is the year of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative has been running since October to encourage the planting of thousands of trees across the land to mark this auspicious anniversary. It runs until the finish of the tree planting season at the end of March and then restarts in October until the end of the year.

This week we planted a Beech tree in the meadows to commemorate Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne:

Planting a tree always feels momentous and I can’t help but imagine what this tree, and indeed the meadows themselves, will look like in 70 years time.

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