It’s been a funny old week and one in which I’ve not been feeling terribly well, covid having finally hunted me down and dealt its bitter blow. But me being out of action has not stopped the trusty trail cameras from stepping up and recording life in the meadows as spring starts to tip over into summer.
One warm and sunny afternoon, our long-standing pair of foxes spent a relaxing half hour grooming each other in amongst the buttercups. This is now the third year that these two foxes have raised a family together in the meadows and it soothed my troubled soul to see them tenderly bonding and caring for each other in the sunshine. The male started off the proceedings:
The One-eyed Vixen with her blind left eye:
Then the roles reversed and it was her turn to do the work:
I love this next photo in particular:
Cleaning his ears out:
This was a good opportunity to see her up close and be reassured that the mange treatment has been successful – fur is definitely growing back in those bald patches:
But there is also the important business of catching food to feed the family and here is the male again with a young rabbit:
And, on another day, with an adult rabbit:
This seems a good point to include this action shot of a different fox dashing full pelt after some pigeons:
The pair of foxes have had just one cub this year:
I had thought there were three badger cubs in the meadows this year, from two mothers. Now, for first time, here is a photo all three together and my suspicions are confirmed:
But then, this weekend, we have found a newly dead baby badger lying in the middle of the second meadow.
There was nothing obviously wrong. Sadly, mortality of badger cubs is very high, particularly in dry springs such as this year when the soil is hard and earthworms, their main food source, have gone down deep.
The vegetation in the wild pond is growing strongly and the Yellow Flag Irises are out:
The bumblebees love these flowers but have to crawl a long way in to get at what they want:
The dark lines on the lower lip of the flower guide the bees towards the nectar. As they crawl in, the upper part of the flower, containing the reproductive parts of the plant, is pressed down onto the back of the bee.
With unexpected time on my hands as I isolate, I found three different species of damselfly around the ponds at this time of year. I don’t often pay damselflies much attention:
There are two exciting new plants growing in the wet grassland at the margins of the wild pond this year.
One of the botanical recorders for East Kent is a neighbour and she has told us that, although somewhat different to each other, these are both Common Spotted Orchids. This is the first record of these plants for the meadows.
I often try to identify hoverflies but find them difficult. This one, however, with its stripy thorax is quite distinctive and I feel reasonably confident in saying it is Helophilus pendulus.
I am so pleased that the Alder Buckthorn trees are covered in Brimstone butterfly caterpillars again this year. We planted these trees specifically for the Brimstones to use and, for the first couple of years, they did indeed have lots of caterpillars on them. So many, in fact, that the young trees were stripped and I had to move the caterpillars from tree to tree to wherever there were leaves remaining for them to eat. But, for the last three years, there have been no caterpillars whatsoever chomping on the Alder Buckthorn leaves. In a way this was good because it has given the trees a chance to properly establish themselves, but what had happened to the Brimstones?
So this year we are glad to welcome them back and hope that they are now here to stay:
Froghoppers are busy in May and cuckoo spit is everywhere in the meadows. Froghopper nymphs suck the sap of the plant, excrete it and whisk it up with air into a mass of bubbles which then protects it. The salad burnet seems very popular:
It seems to be a good year too for Common Broomrape (Orobanche minor). This parasitic plant obtains nutrients underground from the roots of various plants in the pea and daisy families – clover is a particular favourite here:
Most of the Common Broomrape is a pinkish brown colour but, in one area of the first meadow, several stalks of the bright yellow form grow every year:
Blackbirds are still building their nests – this appears to be very late but I remember that the same thing happened last year. The breeding season for blackbirds apparently starts in March but can go on until the end of July.
The breeding season of Woodpigeon, however, can go on until the end of October:
We have quite a few pairs of breeding Starling here at the moment and I am looking forward to the juveniles starting to appear because they are always so comical.
The allotment is romping away although, once I’m feeling better, it definitely needs a jolly good weed:
Over in the wood, there have been no further photos of the Tawny owlets, but, then again, the cameras are not set up in good positions. It all feels very quiet and deserted around the box and there is no beak clacking – perhaps they have now fledged? There was a photo of an adult owl there this week:
And a Great Spotted Woodpecker peering in:
A very sweet fox cub, seen at the far end of the wood to the fox den that we have a camera on. Perhaps this cub is from a different litter:
A Broad Bodied Chaser hunting in the wood:
My previous post covered our recent trip to The Vercors in France, but I forgot to include the marmot that we saw and so here it is now:
This was the first time I had seen one of these animals fully out of its burrow and I was a bit surprised to see that they have that furry black tail
But, as so often happens with holidays, France already seems such a long time ago. I am taking things one day at a time here but, by my next post, I hope to have reemerged and be able to enjoy what remains of this glorious May before it disappears.