It’s been a difficult year for ponds. Both of ours were on the verge of drying out completely several times during the long hot summer and we reluctantly added tap water in the hope that some aquatic life could be saved.
But now it’s autumn and the ponds are nicely refilled and refreshed with rainwater:
We did some pond dipping this week to assess the health of the ponds following this most trying of summers. The two ponds are only a hundred metres apart and were built within a year of each other and yet the life within them is so very different.
The hide pond is usually very good for smooth newts and dragonfly larvae. By this time of year both the adult and the juvenile newts will have left the water but we did see some dragonfly larvae. Other than that, however, there was worryingly very little else to be found.
In contrast, the wild pond, which has a soil substrate above its liner, was absolutely teeming with life:
On a gloriously sunny but crisp autumnal day, I started the job of pulling the reeds out of the wild pond. This definitely involves waders:
Some progress was made before my lower back started aching and I climbed out for a cup of tea, but there’s still a long way to go…
Weasels live a solitary life and only come together to mate. We don’t often spot them here, but this year the meadows seem to be part of a territory and there has been one photographed on this gate several times:
This week we have seen it again, this time carrying its rodent prey:
The gate itself is at a right-angled junction of hedgerows and, at night, is a busy highway for rodents travelling around within the security of the hedge.
At the end of the second meadow, an awful lot of earth was excavated by mice over the course of just one night:
I put a camera on it to confirm that it was indeed mice producing all these diggings:
A much larger rodent has recently moved in with us here in the house. Now that our youngest daughter has gone to live up in London, she no longer has space to house her chinchilla, Pebbles. We rescued him years ago when she was a little girl and he was about five years old. We think he must be well over twenty now, but he’s still going strong:
A year of travelling the world is coming to an end for one of our sons and his girlfriend. They set off in mid October last year and are due back at the end of November. When they were in Peru, they visited Machu Picchu, high up in the Andes mountains, and saw a wild chinchilla amongst the ruins:
They are now in Vietnam, a country of fantastic landscapes:
The mountains don’t look the same as ours because of tropical weathering and erosion – intense heat and heavy rainfall cause the limestone rock to be worn down differently resulting in very pointy mountains called tower karst.
Some of the eroded hills are very eye catching:
In fact, for the tourists of Vietnam, this pair of hills has been given a special name:
Whilst on the subject of our children, another daughter who lives in the North Downs in Kent has a thriving population of hedgehogs in her garden. They have been monitoring them all year, as well as providing food, water and a hog house. The animals are now preparing for hibernation and are trying to put on weight so there is much activity:
To get myself back on track, I return to the wildlife of the meadows and have some other interesting photos from this week:
Over in the wood, we are starting to plan this winter’s work. Although the section below is very near to the prime dormouse area, the trees here are too close together and there is no plant understorey, making it unattractive to dormice.
We hope to thin these trees out over the coming season to let light in and ground cover to grow. Whilst the trees still have leaves on and are easily recognisable, we have marked up the ones we definitely want to keep:
There are only a couple of sweet chestnut trees in the wood, but their fruit gets carried far and wide by squirrels:
Although summer is over and temperatures have dropped, tawny owls are still coming to this pond every night to bathe:
A little group of bullfinch visit this pond:
Autumn is the time for toadstools and a lovely variety has arrived in the wood as usual:
I had thought that the lack of rain for many months this summer might have led to a poor show of toadstools this autumn. But happily this doesn’t seem to be the case and there are so many around for us to enjoy.