The Quarrels of Spring

Reluctant as I am to tempt fate, I can now report that there is a victor in the power struggle over a nesting box that has been playing out this spring:

Finally, the owls have won and the squirrels are just going to have to find somewhere else to nest

What exciting news this is, particularly since there should be an opportunity for us all to peep inside the box once John and John, the bird ringers, decide the time is right to ring any owlets that might be in there.

A tawny out and about elsewhere in the wood

Over the winter I lost a battle of wits with a rat who carried off all my tulip bulbs. By the looks of it, nearby Walmer Castle has had no such problem and now has a wonderful display in their kitchen garden. How have they done it?

One war we were determined not to lose, however, was the one we have been waging with alexanders these last few weeks. It has been hard work but we are not going to let a single alexander set seed here and have pulled thousands of these plants from the meadows. On-going patrols will still be necessary for a while to deal with any regrowth, but thankfully this job is now done and we have emerged, bloodied but victorious, out from the prickly hedgerows.

However, down by Walmer Castle, this scarily vigorous plant is blanketing out everything else:

A veritable hedge of alexanders along the coastal path
A bench bathed in alexanders

From the state of her tummy, this vixen in the wood is feeding cubs, but sadly we don’t know where the den is this year:

There has been a couple of other entertaining fox photos this week from the wood:

The pond we dug this winter has had its first raptor visitor:

A buzzard down at the new pond

A buzzard has also been perched up on this branch by the owl box – watching for young rabbits perhaps?

But the young rabbits are also looking out for the buzzard:

Some other photos from the wood this week:

Badger out during the day – this is most unusual
A blackbird sunbathing
Is it the flamenco where the dancers hold their fans like this?
We are in peak primrose season and the wood is looking pretty fabulous

Although the weather has continued to be very suspect, there have been two recent ringing sessions in the meadows.

A female and male yellowhammer
A chiffchaff, a small bird that has probably just flown all the way from Africa
A smart male blackbird

Somewhere in the hedgerows, a baby blackbird has now hatched:

Again this year, a male house sparrow is cheeping very loudly and insistently around the swift boxes in an attempt to interest a female in coming to nest in one of them with him. The advice is to keep bungs in the boxes until the swifts arrive to stop the sparrows taking early possession, but we never seem to remember to do this.

The results of the 2023 RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch have just been published and more house sparrows were counted than any other species – 1.4 million house sparrows counted by the British public over one weekend at the end of January. Although the UK sparrow population has fallen by almost 70% in the last forty years, more recently the rate of decline has slowed and their future is looking more hopeful.

We do see lot of house sparrows here but we are not the only ones watching them:

Sparrowhawk inspecting the hedgerow for small birds
And a sparrowhawk with plucked bird prey

Chuckles, the male herring gull who considers the meadows his territory, seems to have got himself a new mate. Herring gulls do mate for life but, should their partner die, as I suspect has happened here, they will find a new one. There is now a new adult gull coming down to the feeding cages with Chuckles and he is ordinarily not tolerant of other gulls on his patch.

Chuckles with what we hope is his new partner

The pair of mallards are still visiting the ponds every day but are spending less time here – perhaps all the eggs are now laid and the female has started incubating them. In this phase she will only leave the nest for a short break each day, but with the male still accompanying her for protection. Once the eggs hatch, the male departs and she will lead her ducklings to water within a few hours.

These days the pair of ducks are often arriving at dusk
Sometimes the male is even coming up on his own
A rabbit lolloping down the meadows at dawn

I am always interested in photographing and trying to identify invertebrates that I haven’t seen before and I saw this tiny little beetle inside the house one morning. It was only 2mm long but with distinctive colouring that I hoped would make it easy to ID:

Unfortunately the beetle turns out to be very ominously named – the varied carpet beetle. Although the adults feed on pollen and flowers, the larvae of this beetle feed on natural fibres such as wool and leather – the larvae are called woolly bears and are bigger than the adults, causing damage to household fabrics and carpets. The windows haven’t been open much and there is little chance that this beetle has flown in – it’s a deeply uncomfortable thought.

The weather has been mostly chilly and wet and, for the last few days, there has been a brisk and constant north-easterly wind blowing.

On Easter Sunday, while the rest of the country was bathed in sunshine, there was an entire day of fog here with horns atmospherically sounding at sea

Yet it is definitely spring out there even though we are not always tempted outside to enjoy it.

The cowslips are out in the meadows and the buttercups are waiting in the wings. We are looking forward to the butterflies arriving and surely it can’t be long.

4 thoughts on “The Quarrels of Spring

  1. Great news about the owls. Hopefully they’ll swiftly do the business and treat you to a few owlets. And great to see that shot of all those sparrows…I’ve seen just a couple in our suburban garden over the last year, and am jealous of your abundance!

      1. Er, don’t think so. Although I’m blog under the name of “Platypus Man” I live in central Derbyshire, UK. In our garden we do a passable line in Wood Pigeons and Blackbirds, plus an occasional robin, but not a lot else 🙂.

        But funnily enough, just 30 minutes after posting my original comment a sparrow turned up at our birdbath. I was tempted to crack open a bottle of champagne!

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