A Day for Mothers

It is Mothers’ Day here in the UK and a time to celebrate the unconditional love that mothers have for their children and acknowledge the sacrifices that they inevitably have had to make for them. We know of two mothers in the meadows so far this year. In this photo from last week, a badger moves her cub between burrows:

The other mother is the One-eyed Vixen, with her blind left eye, who has returned to her former svelte self – there will now be a litter of cubs safely tucked away somewhere. Foxes often utilise unused badger setts and there are certainly plenty of those on the cliffs:

Her mate is a very fine fellow indeed with a distinctive dip at the end of his tail:

Here he is bringing another rabbit in to feed his family this week..

…and one more as well:

This is him yet again, out and about during the day, with a pair of magpies keeping him under close observation:

It is perhaps a case of keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer. The fox is in the magpies’ personal space and they are watching his every move.

Here, the magpies are with him again, but this time they are hoping for an opportunity to get at the nightly peanuts. I deliberately wait until it is heavy dusk before putting these out so that I do not feed magpies, but even so it looks like I was too early ..

..although if I go later, I keep the foxes hanging about and they have better things that they should be doing:

Every evening I attempt to get the balance right.

There is a camera looking at a new badger hole in the meadows. We have noticed before that rats often utilise badger tunnels and this week they have been seen in and around the entrance of this new one:

The camera has also been taking photos of Peacock butterflies basking on the bare soil of the diggings which will be at a much higher temperature than the surrounding vegetated ground:

In fact, we decided to measure this temperature difference with an infrared thermometer:

The result was really quite amazing – the grass was 16° C but the bare soil was 28° C.

Under a reptile sampling square it was even hotter at 31° C. This week lizards have emerged from hibernation and are to be found warming up in this heat:

Slow worms hibernate in holes under the ground and the entrance to one of these tunnels is very obvious here:

So fond have we become of Herring Gulls these days that we now find ourselves admiring other gulls when we are out and about. This pair, with the larger male in the background, was down on the beach and they both look so very similar to Chuckles and the colour-ringed X9LT that we see in the meadows. If it wasn’t for the lack of that orange ring, I’d have thought it was them.

This next gull is being seen in the meadows at the moment. Herring Gulls are long-lived birds and take four years to fully develop their adult plumage and start to breed. I think this must be a bird born in 2020, the grey in its wings now starting to replace the mottled brown feathers of a juvenile gull:

Before the storms of a month or so ago, there was quite a flock of Yellowhammer building up. Sadly, numbers now seem to have dropped but it is lovely to hear them belting out their distinctive song from the hedgerows these days.

Four is the maximum number seen on the cameras at the moment

This bird looks so much like a racing pigeon, that I was sure I was going to see rings round its ankles. There aren’t any though, so it must be an odd-looking feral pigeon passing through.

Until last autumn, we would always see several racing pigeon each year, stopping for a quick rest during a race back from France or Spain. I believe that international pigeon racing was going to have to stop in the UK last October due to European regulations concerning movements of livestock – but I haven’t been able to find out if that actually happened or if a last minute exemption for racing pigeons was negotiated. We shall have to see if any of these birds turn up this summer.

It is rare to see a Wren taking a bath here:

The charismatic Bee-flies are now hanging around the meadows, on the look out for mining bee nests to parasitise. This is a Dotted Bee-fly with black spots on its wings:

It has been beautifully sunny all week, although the keen north-easterly breeze blowing in off the sea is a constant reminder that it is still only March. Nevertheless, we been working in the garden and catching up on jobs in the meadows.

One of these outstanding jobs was to build an insect hotel in the paddock using wood from the winter coppicing work and other assorted things that were lying around. We under estimated how many logs it would need, though, and didn’t have enough to quite get to the top:

But there are plenty more logs available in the wood to finish this masterpiece off in due course. I do love an insect hotel.

In the wood, there is a camera on a pole looking at this Tawny Owl box:

The Beech grove owl box in the wood

There has been some recent and exciting owl activity around this box and I’m pleased to say that I have another image of an owl going into the box to show you:

There have also been many photos of a buzzard sitting on the horizontal branch in front of the box:

It is always the same bird. Elsewhere in the wood, a different camera has also often been seeing this bird, perched up in a hazel coppice:

We do have a second camera on a pole – this one is looking at the cherry tree that woodpeckers have nested in for the last three years. It is not taking many photos but here is a Green Woodpecker at the hole:

I’m not sure what is going on with that Squirrel but I view it with suspicion.

A female Blackbird has been collecting wet leaves from this mini pond for about a fortnight so far. I suppose that wet leaves stay where they are put more and are easier to weave into her nest:

Moschatel, or Townhall Clock, grows well in a damp patch of the wood:

For the last photos today, I am taking you off to the lovely village of Wye in the North Downs, where one of our daughters lives and where we went today for Mothers Day lunch. We accompanied them down to the nearby River Stour where they test monthly water samples for phosphates and nitrates as volunteers for Kent Wildlife Trust:

It is really good to know that a group of volunteers set aside time in their busy lives to keep an eye on water quality at set points along the river like this.

I look forward to hearing more about what all these results will reveal about the health of this lovely river.

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