Several years ago we were attempting to get turtle doves to breed in the meadows. Supplementary seed was going down and a perch was banged in close to the feeding area in the hope that the doves would land there. Sadly a turtle dove is yet to be seen, but hundreds of birds do now alight on this perch every day. Admittedly these are often woodpigeon, magpies and house sparrows that don’t get the heart racing, but sometimes something rather wonderful happens. This is what has been seen on the perch over the last couple of weeks:
We have a camera on a hedgerow gate as well and this has had its own successes. As well as acting as a perch for birds, the top of the gate forms a motorway for small mammals moving along the hedgerow. This week there was a magpie who had caught a rodent:
But my most memorable sighting on the gate was a weasel last year, tracking the footsteps of its rodent prey:
A pair of substantial English oak logs sit out in the meadows, remnants of a beautiful old oak tree that was blown over in a storm when we lived back in Berkshire. It has been interesting to watch these logs as they have slowly started to break down over the years. This autumn, one of these logs has had lots on holes drilled into it, each with a fine tilth of discarded wood below:
Small black flying insects were coming and going from the holes, although it was tricky to get a good enough photograph to get an ID:
I did finally get some photographs of the insects from various angles – not very good but sufficient to tell that this is a colony of digger wasps, probably from the Crossocerus family, but there are many similar species that would need to go under a microscope to properly identify:
The female wasp will be digging a tunnel into the wood that will ultimately branch at its end. An egg is then laid into each branch and the tunnel packed with paralysed insect prey that she has caught and stung. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the prey before pupating. The wasps will finally leave the tunnel once they are adults.
We found two juvenile dormice on the September tour around the thirty dormouse boxes in the wood.
We did also find some dormouse nests but these were empty. There will no doubt be dormouse litters being raised in the wood but that I think these will be in the woodcrete bird boxes that we didn’t check this time – unfortunately dormice seem to prefer these to the wooden dormouse boxes that we put up in order to monitor them.
Although we do have two barn owl nest boxes up in the wood, we have never seen a barn owl there. We have been seeing a lot of the tawnies though.There has been so little rain recently that they are coming to the ponds every night:
They have also been visiting the tawny nest box that they reared chicks in last year:
One day a tawny roosted in its entrance, much to the consternation of this jay:
Some other woodland animals that have been coming to the ponds:
I finish today with the sad news that the One-eyed Vixen has not been seen in the meadows for several weeks, and we presume she is now dead:
She and her mate have reigned as the Fox King and Queen of the meadows for several years and have together raised many cubs here.
It feels so odd that she is no longer waiting for me as I take the peanuts down at dusk. She was one of the meadows’ great characters and I shall miss her.