Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

It looks like it is going to be a good year for sloes. I’m afraid that we have developed a bit of a taste for sloe gin since we have been here – very sweet but oh so very delicious – and we are certainly going to be making some again this autumn.

Back in the spring, there were several days of icily freezing north-easterly winds which hit our hedgerows hard just as the Hawthorn was coming into leaf. Along the entire 300m run of hedgerow along the western boundary, the leaves shrivelled and browned. As a result, the Hawthorn had no blossom and consequently now has no berries. Birds love Hawthorn berries but sadly our crop of them is seriously depleted this year. There are, however, still a few Hawthorns along the cliff that were more sheltered from those terrible winds and do now have some berries that we can offer them:

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. What a wonderfully evocative line from John Keat’s poem ‘To Autumn’. We don’t see many mists here with our winds but on a glorious autumnal day this week we visited Brogdale, home of the National Fruit Collection, which is on the outskirts of Faversham, just the other side of Canterbury. We had been meaning to go for ages:

In their 150 acres of orchard, they grow 2,300 different varieties of apple, 550 of pear, 350 of plum and 320 of cherry.

September is a great month to go when the fruit is heavy on the trees but, of course, it wasn’t the best year to visit – they are not running their guided tours for Covid-19 reasons and so we walked a self-guided route round the orchards and admired all the wonderful fruit. But it would have been nice to learn a bit more about all the different varieties and get to taste them too and so we will try again next year.

I really liked the look of the variety called ‘Josephine’ shown below. The lacework pattern of russeting is so beautiful and they look very tempting:

Brogdale has a weather station – below is the Stevenson screen which is a shelter for wet and dry bulb thermometers to measure air temperature and humidity. It is famous in meteorological circles because it measured the hottest temperature ever recorded in the UK – 38.5 degrees on 10th August 2003.

Back in the meadows, the weather has been calm for a while and no further pears have fallen from the trees. That hasn’t stopped the Foxes staring longingly upwards hoping for one to drop:

We have been starting about our autumn jobs. The first meadow is now almost cut. As usual, we are leaving several artistic areas uncut on a rotational basis so that we don’t wipe out insect populations such as Large Skipper Butterflies whose caterpillars will be living within the grass blades, only venturing out to feed.

I started to pull reeds out of the pond but could only do the ones that were standing in the small amount of water that there is in there currently. Otherwise they just snapped off rather than coming out with their roots. I will revisit this job once we have had some more rain.

I made a pile of the pulled reeds close to the Badger sett in case they wanted to take them as bedding.

Of course they did. Here is the male, Scarface, taking some reeds off to his bed:

We also scythed some long grasses and helpfully put them by a Badger hole. The next morning the pile had gone:

It is now a few weeks since I have seen all seven Badgers together, although there are often six. It is quite difficult to tell, but I don’t think that one of these Badgers below is Scarface, in which case I am happy that we haven’t lost one because he is often to be seen on his own elsewhere:

I took the photo below of the Wasp Spider on Tuesday, 9th September and, ever since we discovered her on 4th August, she has been sitting here on her web. For most of August she was kept very busy catching, wrapping and eating prey, but then the flowers around the web went to seed and were no longer visited by insects. Since then things have been much quieter for her.

The day after I took the photo, she was gone. I read that Wasp Spiders mate in July and spend August feeding up as eggs are produced within her. Then, a month after mating, she leaves the web and makes a cocoon containing her eggs which hangs on nearby foliage. It did not say, but I presume that she stays by the cocoon, protecting it, because she has not returned to the web and she will then die over the winter. Although we searched in the vicinity of the web, we couldn’t find her but the grass is not going to be cut in that area so her cocoon will be safe even if we don’t know exactly where it is.

Now that autumn is here, the Ivy is just starting to come into flower in the hedgerows of the meadows. This is something that you can actually hear more than you can see – the buzzing coming from these hedgerows in the sunshine is amazing:

Autumn is also the time when we see Migrant Hawker Dragonflies in the meadows. This is a common Dragonfly in wetter areas of southern Britain but its numbers are boosted by migrants coming in from continental Europe in the autumn and it is these migrants that we see here.

Recently we have been watching a pair of Stock Doves successfully raise a single young bird in a Kestrel box. After it fledged, they immediately laid two more eggs, but they now seem to have had a rethink about having another brood this year and have abandoned the eggs:

We are no longer holding out any hope at all that Kestrels will ever use this box and we would be delighted to welcome the Doves back again next year should they wish to return and raise another family. Meanwhile, we might as well keep the camera in position in the box to see if anything else interesting happens over the winter.

The autumn bird migration is in full swing here. Chiffchaffs in particular are moving through right now and the Bird Ringers were working in the meadows three mornings this week, catching and ringing well over a hundred birds on their way to Africa.

Here is a Chiffchaff, soon to set off on its long and perilous journey to another continent and now wearing a shiny anklet which can be used to find out where and when it was ringed should it be caught again as it goes on its way.

Some other photos from the meadows this week:

The headlines from the wood this week is that we saw a Hare in the field that borders the wood. I don’t have a photograph to support this sighting but there was no doubting what it was. This was very exciting because we hadn’t seen a Hare there before, although our woodland neighbours have.

Other goings-on in the wood:

Finally, back to the meadows, where the barge arrived back from Falmouth this week, carrying another load of granite to build the new groynes on the beach. The barge itself has no motor and has been towed to Cornwall and back:

After the barge had discharged this second load of granite, I went down to see how the beach is getting on. The answer is that it is currently all a bit of a mess – the groyne in the foreground below is perhaps now completed but the other two are still just piles and look like they might yet need more stone.

We will await another delivery of Cornish stone next week.

Today we are flying the Welsh Dragon in memory of my much-loved and much-missed mother whose birthday would have been tomorrow. Although she moved to England when she married, most of her heart remained in Wales.

Bank Holiday Entertainment

Dover Council laid on some August Bank Holiday entertainment for us this week with the arrival of a work barge, loaded with granite. We saw it when it was still offshore and wondered what it was:

It was a time of full moon and the barge was pushed to the shore on the high spring tide in the late morning and started unloading its boulders onto the beach.

As the tide retreated in the mid afternoon, so did the barge and it moored up just offshore. Then, at the next high tide shortly before midnight, it was back at the beach unloading the rest of the stone and keeping the inhabitants of this part of Walmer awake late into the night with its clanking and crashing.

The next morning, the barge had gone but there were two piles of stone on the shore:

This granite has come from Cornwall – probably Carnsew Quarry near Falmouth – and we presume the barge is now being towed back there to pick up some more. We have a small sliver of the rock that had sheared off as the stones crashed together:

Dover Council are paying £831k to construct three rock groynes here at Walmer and one a bit further north at Sandown Castle to stop the beach being eroded and carried north at the rate that it has been in recent years.

We are now expecting the return of the barge with another load of Cornish granite before too long to finish what it has started. In the meantime, heavy machinery is still at work on the beach, repositioning the boulders and filling the gaps with smaller rocks. Once the groynes are finished, they might provide habitat for Rock Pipits, Purple Sandpipers and other exciting birds as well as helping with the beach erosion.

The recent storms caused fruit to fall from the fruit trees in the orchard. One week on and we noticed that the apples were still lying, gently rotting, on the ground:

However, all the fallen pears had disappeared. We pulled a few more pears from the tree down onto the ground below and put a camera on them to see who is so partial to our pears whilst ignoring the apples:

The camera also caught them eating pears off the tree:

I don’t blame them – they are ever so nice.

In the wood, the recent rains provided a little taster of a winter phenomenon there that I eagerly await – the Tawny Owls nightly worming. The Owl’s posture is very distinctive, staring intently down at the ground just in front of its feet.

Hopefully I will get better photos for you when the ground softens more as autumn gets properly into its stride.

Before we bought the wood, there was a big shoot there in the winters and we have quite a few Pheasants around still which, I think, are a legacy from that time. Astoundingly, 43 million Pheasants are released into the British countryside by the shooting industry every year. But, although we have seen courtship behaviour amongst the adult birds, we hadn’t ever seen any juveniles as evidence that they were successfully breeding in the wild. However, I think now we have because this bird below must be a young bird, with its short tail feathers:

In the meadows, this Fox is being very brave:

It is an exciting time of year for the Bird Ringers with a lot of Birds on the move and they have been ringing in the meadows a couple of times this week. On Friday they caught a Spotted Flycatcher:

This Bird was born this year and is now migrating to south of the Sahara. It has a very distinctive beak shape with coarse whiskers on either side:

Also, the very tip of the top beak turns down:

This species has suffered a devastating 89% population decline in the UK between 1967 and 2010 and I had actually never seen one before. Spotted Flycatcher has now entered the meadows bird list at number 80. But Friday was a great day and there was more to come. As the Bird Ringers were sitting in the meadows, they heard and saw two Crossbills fly overhead (Species 81) and then a Hobby (Species 82).

Earlier in the week they had caught a second Sedge Warbler and look what a beauty it is:

Also a lovely variety of other Warblers:

Some other photos from around the meadows this week:

I sent my Moth records up to the end of August in to the County Moth Recorder. There were a very large number of records and he queried nine of them that stood out to him as odd or unusual. I was quite pleased with that but he told me not to be disheartened which seems to imply that he thought I might be. Of the nine queries, I didn’t have photos to support two of the records so they are ignored. I sent him photos for his remaining seven queries and five of these were found to be misidentified by me. However, I did get two correct!

My mothing enthusiasm continues undaunted by all of this – I have learnt so much this summer. This is a beautiful Moth, Campion, that I caught in the week, with its purple undertones. I hadn’t seen one of these before.

I finish today with a Spitfire. In normal summers these aeroplanes are a very familiar sight over the meadows. They do acrobatics over our heads several times a day at weekends as they fly along the white cliffs, carrying fare-paying passengers in a two-seater training version of the plane. This summer, unusual in every possible way, we have scarcely seen them. However, one flew over this week and it was so lovely to see it and hear that distinctive 1940s engine again.

The Summer Fades

The weather forecast foretold wind gusts of up to 55mph and heavy rainfall for most of Tuesday as we waited for Storm Francis to make his way over the top of us. The ponds need rainwater so badly that we pulled out all the stops to gather as much of the promised water as possible to boost the flagging water levels.

We also worried about the orchard, laden with heavy fruit as the trees are at this time of year.

We decided to do an emergency harvest of some of the fruit to lighten the branches and make them less vulnerable to wind damage.

There was then an awful lot of processing to do to get this lot into the freezer. In the event, Francis had somewhat blown himself out by the time he got to us, although we did get a precious 8mm of rain. Hurricane Laura, that has battered Louisiana this week, makes Francis seem minor. But it was Francis’ timing that was so concerning, coming as he did when summer was still in full swing.

Then, on Thursday and Friday there has been another glorious 14mm of rain.

Thunder rumbled loudly and atmospherically around the meadows and then suddenly the sky was filled with Swallows, riding the wave of air displaced by the approaching weather system. A twister started to form out to sea although it didn’t touch ground:

With all the rain that has fallen from the skies this week, the ponds are still a long way from looking great but they are certainly improved.

This Sparrowhawk below has chains of hearts rather than barring on its upper chest indicating that it is a juvenile:

These next two images might well be the same bird in different lights:

This is another Sparrowhawk below but it is stretching my Sparrowhawk ID skills. I think it is a different juvenile with those love hearts on its chest again and it somehow looks a bit cuddlier than your normal Sparrowhawk:

But I am certain that this next bird is an adult male Sparrowhawk with his rufous sides and cheeks:

The pair of Grey Partridge visit the strip every day. This is the male with his rufous head and faint patch of red skin behind his eye. That red would have been very bright earlier on in the summer:

Females usually have a pale supercilium – a stripe above their eyes – although some don’t. Ours here doesn’t but I am wondering if perhaps it is actually a juvenile going around with its Dad. There is much higher mortality of adult females since they are more exposed to predators such as Foxes whilst sitting on the nest in a hedgerow.

We have been seeing Kestrels perched high in the hedgerows, watching for rodents:

We continue to have a Rat visiting the seed cages up on the strip…

…and I wonder if this is what this Kestrel was after:

A quick bit of research on the internet suggests that Kestrels do prefer mouse-sized rodents but there were several references to them also occasionally taking Rats.

It is a couple of weeks since I have seen all seven Badgers together. However, there are six of them here a few nights ago and I don’t think any of these is the heftier adult male, Scarface. I have definitely seen him on other cameras and so that would mean that all Badgers are still accounted for. The little cub is front right.

Seventy percent of a Badger’s diet would normally be Worms, but at times of drought such as now, the ground is hard and the Worms have retreated down deep. The Badgers need to find alternative sources of food until the rains come again and one of the things they do is to dig up Wasp nests and eat the grubs, being able to smell exactly when the most productive time is to do this. We found such an attacked nest that had been built in an old vole hole:

A couple of Wasps were still hanging around in the hole, surrounded by the sorry destruction of their nest:

Another animal that would have liked to have found this Wasp nest flew low across the meadows on Friday morning, with a pair of Crows in hot pursuit:

This is a new species for the meadow – a Honey Buzzard. Its main source of food are the nests, larvae, pupae and adults of social insects – including Wasps, Bees, Bumble Bees and Hornets. It finds a nest by following the insects back to it and then digs the nest out with its feet. It can dig down as deep as 40cm. This is a really unusual diet for a bird and it is adapted for it, having small, dense feathers on its face to reduce stings, powerful feet for digging and slit-like nostrils to stop soil clogging.

In the wood, some of the English Oaks have an alarming number of these galls. In fact on a few of the trees, every one of its acorns seemed to have been transformed:

This knopper gall is caused by the Gall Wasp Andricus quercuscalicus which arrived naturally in Britain in the 1960s and caused much concern for a while because of the widespread destruction of acorns. However, some years are much worse than others and there have always been enough acorns surviving intact so that it has not turned out to be the problem that was at first thought.

These galled acorns fall to the ground and the Wasp emerges next spring. The Knopper Gall Wasps have a complicated two-phase life cycle – they have an asexual all-female reproductive year, making these galls on English Oak, but the next year they will have a sexual phase and make small conical galls on the catkins of Turkey Oaks.

The same Oaks that had the knopper galls, also had these galls below. These are silk button spangle galls caused by another Gall Wasp, Neuroterus numismalis. These spangle galls are the asexual phase for this Wasp. The Wasp has a sexual phase as well, which produces different looking galls also on English Oaks.

The Ivy is just beginning to flower in the wood and the Ivy Bees have arrived, in beautifully-timed choreography:

Back in the meadows, the Ivy is not yet in flower and Ivy Bees aren’t to be seen but we are expecting hundreds of thousands of them shortly. They are a harbinger of autumn here.

The one-eyed vixen is now almost looking like a normal, healthy Fox. The seven-day treatment with Psorinum worked a treat:

The Stock Dove chick fledged on 24th August and we found the box empty. What a success and what a relief:

However, on 27th, there was this:

It looks like we are going to go through the suspense of observing another chick grow up in the box. It seems very late in the year to be starting again – September is just round the corner after all. We have also been seeing Stock Dove courtship on the trail cameras:

Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs are starting to move. The Bird Ringer was in the meadows targeting them this week:

There has been a definite nip in the air these last few days, suggesting the end of the tired old summer and the ushering in of an exciting, fresh new season. Autumn brings with it the bird migration, the cutting of the meadows and the starting of this year’s coppicing in the wood and there is much to look forward to.

Climate Canaries

On the beach below the meadows, the action of the sea moves the pebbles inexorably northwards with the on-going process of long-shore drift. Every year, large trucks arrive and drive along the beach moving it all south again. The dog really objects to these trucks and sees it as a personal responsibility to race pointlessly up and down the meadows to chase them off. There is so little water in the ponds at the moment that a cooling dip afterwards turns her into this objectionable mud monster.

This annual beach-moving seems a very costly exercise, both in money and in terms of the environment. Surely there is a better solution.

On these warm August nights, I have been getting some good catches of Moths. I only run the Moth trap if I know I’ve got a few spare hours the next day to work through and identify them all.

Jersey Tigers were rare immigrants until recently. But I know from FaceBook Moth groups that I follow that people have been getting large numbers of these Moths in their traps this year and I had eleven one night this week.

A few years ago, one of our sons visited Butterfly Valley on the Greek island of Rhodes where countless thousands of these Jersey Tiger Moths are to be found. I don’t think he took a photo while he was there and so here is one from the internet:

Moth and Butterfly numbers respond rapidly to changes in climate and other effects on their habitats and so it feels really important to observe and record them – they are like the Canaries that the coal miners took down the mines to quickly detect poisonous gases.

A really quite large area of this yellow umbellifer appeared in the first meadow this year:

We realised that we hadn’t seen this plant before and didn’t know what it was and so took some back to identify:

It’s good that we did because it turns out to be Wild Parsnip. This is an unwelcome development because the sap of this plant causes rashes to the skin if it is exposed to sunlight after contact.

Wild Parsnip is a biennial which means that, having now set seed, all these plants will die at the end of the summer. If we were going to control this plant, it was urgent to act quickly and ensure that none of these seeds reached the soil and be given a chance to germinate. In the sweltering temperatures of this week, we ventured out in long trousers, long sleeves and gloves to cut out and bag up all of the plants and get them off site while their seeds were still attached. A job well done and Wild Parsnip has now joined Ragwort and Creeping Thistle on the ‘Not Welcome Here’ list.

This plant, however, is very welcome here. It is Autumn Lady’s Tresses – an Orchid that seems to like it round these parts. Every year from August we have many hundreds of the little beauties growing in a close cropped turf area. The delicate individual flowers grow in a spiral up the stalk.

It seemed that everywhere else in the entire country had been having rain this week except for us on the east coast of Kent. However, on Wednesday evening, some finally fell.

The fall of rain, hopefully bringing worms up from the deep, hasn’t stopped the Badgers still being very interested in any bird seed that may be lurking in the cages up on the strip. In the photo below, there is a Badger actually in one of the cages:

One night, a Badger dislodged a cage such that it was sticking up a bit into the air:

Then, the next morning, a Feral Pigeon managed to squeeze under and become trapped. Funnily enough, we have never seen a Feral Pigeon here before – only ringed Racing Pigeons:

It was trapped in there for a couple of hours before we turned up and released it:

We hadn’t foreseen a set of circumstances that could result in a bird getting trapped in these cages and yet it happened. A salutary lesson learned that we should not leave them out if we are away.

At the end of a long night, some lounging around before bed:

The young Stock Dove, that hatched in the Kestrel box on 30th July, has now become a beautiful Dove

It will fledge before too long – I expect one day we will connect to the camera and the box will be empty. I hope to then see it on the cameras around the meadows, identifiable because it is almost certainly the only one that will be ringed.

It has been quiet here for the last few days but here are some of the more interesting photos from the week:

Finally today, I just wanted to have a small celebration of Yellowhammers. Two years ago we had no Yellowhammers in the meadows but now they are around so often on the cameras that our feathers have ceased to be ruffled by them. Around ten of them have been ringed here this year and I am still seeing unringed birds on the cameras. Furthermore, in the past few weeks some juveniles have been caught and ringed suggesting that there has been successful breeding here too and hopefully a little population of them has now been established – one of our big successes of the year. Here are some photos from this morning’s trail cameras – such a fantastic bird:

The Melting Days of Summer

This week we took a trip a few miles up the coast to Sandwich Bay.

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The reason for going was to see if the colony of the Bee Wolves that we found last year, dug into a sandy incline, were there again this year. We were pleased to see that they were:

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A Bee Wolf (Philanthus triangulum) by her tunnel

The Bee Wolf is one of the UK’s largest Solitary Wasps. A female will dig a burrow in the  sand that can be a metre long with up to 34 brood chambers coming off it. Then she goes out hunting to catch Honey Bee workers. When she gets one, she will paralyse it with a sting and carry it back to her burrow. Up to six paralysed Honey Bees are placed in each brood chamber and then a single egg is laid on one of the Bees and the chamber is sealed with sand. After hatching, the Bee Wolf larva will live on the cache of Honey Bees before spinning a cocoon to hibernate through the winter and hatch next spring.

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A Bee Wolf lands, carrying a paralysed Honey Bee below her. A bit difficult to make out, but the Bee is on its back with its eyes by the Wolf’s front legs
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The Wolf and the hapless Bee go off down the tunnel together

Since we were at Sandwich Bay at the end of a exhaustingly hot day, it would have been a shame not to have submerged ourselves in the deliciously cool water.

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The photo below, taken from a video, captures the moment when the smallest Badger cub was making for the hole under the fence but found the one-eyed vixen in its way. You just need to look at the little Badger’s whole body posture to see the difficulty it is having coping with this unexpected turn of events.

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Over the course of the video, the vixen moves off but the Badger stays rooted to the spot in shock. It is interesting how separate these two species keep themselves, given that they are living in very close proximity and both using this same hole under the fence into the meadows. You would think that they must rub up together so often that they become accustomed to it. I am also enjoying how good the one-eyed vixen looks these days, with her tail now bushing up nicely.

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Grooming session at 4.30am, preparing for bed

Halfway through August now and all seven Badgers still accounted for:

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However, with this hot, dry weather the soil is rock hard and the worms, that ideally would make up 70% of their diet, will have gone down deep and unreachable. I can tell the Badgers are hungry because several of them spend a lot of each night scouring the area around the cages on the strip trying to find any seed overlooked by the birds. A few seeds here and there are not going to keep a Badger going for long – we so desperately need some rain.

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Searching for overlooked seeds

Mind you, there are a lot of apple drops in the orchard that are not being eaten by anything and, if you were a hungry omnivore like a Badger, I would have thought you would have eaten those.

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As the temperatures soared this week, we had Raptors coming to the ponds for a drink and a bath.

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Male Sparrowhawk on the strip
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Just four minutes later, this female Kestrel arrived in the same spot
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And a lovely male Kestrel as well with his grey head
We don’t see males so often

Although the wood is generally in the shade, the air temperature was very high there too  – hot enough to bring the Tawny Owls in for a bath at night:

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Female Sparrowhawk in the wood
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Green Woodpeckers are very enthusiastic users of any watering hole and here is a speckled juvenile drinking in the meadows:

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We have been seeing some additional fledglings around this week:

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Two young Greenfinch, with their mother at the back
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Three Goldfinch young (no red on their heads) with their mother
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Spotty Herring Gull juvenile at the back
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I love to see the normally bully-boy Magpies put on the back foot
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The Magpie is out-numbered

As I was meandering around the wood, I disturbed a group of about six Wrens from a Silver Birch coppice stool. I presume that this was a group of fledglings and how lovely was that. Two days later, they were all there again in more or less the same place. This time I managed to get a photo of one of the youngsters:

One of the cameras in the wood captured this Fox with prey – this looks like a pair of bunny back legs to me?

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There is an open area in the new part of the wood that is carpeted with Marjoram and, at this time of year with the Marjoram in flower, it is absolutely alive with bees and other insect life.

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We are going to remove some of the encroaching Rosebay Willowherb, Dogwood and Silver Birch saplings this autumn to ensure that this area remains open and filled with prolific Marjoram growth. A Green-veined White Butterfly was enjoying the nectar in this area:

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Although every year in the meadows we see 23 species of Butterflies, we have never seen a Green-veined White – yet it is one of the UK’s most widespread and common Butterflies. However, damp lush vegetation is an essential requirement for it and nothing about the meadows is damp, lying as they do on free-draining chalk.

We have also never seen one of these Butterflies below in the meadows. The Bird Ringer snapped it on his phone this week at the nearby Lyddon and Temple Ewell nature reserve:

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This is the Silver-spotted Skipper, a rare Skipper found on chalk downlands in parts of southern Britain. However, a grazing regime is critical since it can only survive in really closely cropped turf with bare patches of earth. We do not want the responsibility of having grazing animals here and so we have to therefore also accept that we will never have the delights of Silver-spotted Skippers.

You might not recognise our Stock Dove squab – what a difference a week has made. Here it is when it was ringed last Friday:

And here it is this Friday, just seven days later:

For a few days after the egg hatched, one of the parents stayed with the chick most of the time. But then they went off and this young bird is now alone almost always. Stock Doves spend a lonely childhood, we have discovered, although there are usually two eggs laid. However, there is no doubt that it is being well fed and growing quickly. When a parent comes in to feed the chick, it first of all lands elsewhere in the tree and takes its time looking around for danger before it hops into the box.

Just as I was about to publish this post today, I went through the day’s cameras which included several photos of this bird up on the strip:

Fortuitously the Bird Ringers are here this morning because I had no idea what this bird was although I suspected that it was something interesting. It turns out that it is a Whinchat – species number 78 on the meadows bird list. This is a young bird, on its way to West Africa, south of the Sahara. The Bird Ringers would have loved to have caught and ringed this bird.

One day this week, we had several fly-bys by this RAF aeroplane, an A400 Atlas. It was so noisy that it was impossible not to stop what you were doing and give it your full attention as it went past.

This plane had flown here from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to assist the Border Force and spend the day patrolling for migrant boats coming across from France

It was quite a spectacle but we are pleased that she has now returned to her other duties elsewhere.

It has now been announced that, as of today, people arriving here from France are once again going to have to quarantine themselves. To mark this sad development and all that it implies about the current Covid situation in France, we are now flying their tricolour as a gesture of support.

WilWas and WooWas

Warblers have started their migrations from their breeding grounds, down through the country and on, all the way to Africa. The Bird Ringers came early one morning to target WilWas and WooWas – this is ringer-speak for Willow Warblers and Wood Warblers. Because these birds are no longer breeding, they are now allowed to play their song to bring in any of these species that are in the area.

Although they did not catch a WooWa, they did get some WilWas:

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Willow Warbler

They also caught four other types of Warbler:

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Sedge Warbler. From the finger, you can tell it’s been eating blackberries

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Reed Warbler

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Reed Warblers have such arrow-shaped heads

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Garden Warbler. Small white eye ring is its most distinctive feature

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Whitethroat

All these birds have been born this year and are now making their way south for the first time. The adult birds are also migrating now but probably go straight through, without stopping at the coast.

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They also ringed this young Yellowhammer who will have been born here this year. A very different beak shape to the warblers.

One of our sons, visiting this week, spotted a Wasp Spider in amongst these flowers below. The Spider was doing brisk business catching unfortunate insects.

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A magnificent female Wasp Spider

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With wrapped prey

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You can just make out a Bee in the parcel. This size comparison gives an idea of how large she is.

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From below and you can see silk coming out from that circular spinneret

We also found a second Wasp Spider, a couple of feet further back, and I started going down to visit both webs several times a day because I really wanted to also see a male, who is tiny in comparison. However, I have now read that I was too late – these spiders mate in July and unfortunately the male often doesn’t live to tell the tale, being eaten by her. During August, the female gets larger and larger as the eggs grow inside her and, a month after mating, she finally builds a cocoon for her eggs. Every time I go down to look  at them, they are both busy with new prey items – enthralling and horrifying in equal parts.

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Their webs have a distinctive zig zag ribbon down them – possibly to strengthen them or to make them more visible to larger animals so that they don’t walk through it

We used the welcome injection of enthusiasm in the form of our visiting son to progress a couple of projects. In the wood, several hours were spent working hard on the round house, which we are making out of the by-products from our coppicing efforts over the winter:

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The circle is now complete. Next step is to bang in some larger posts to get the walls a bit higher.

In the meadows, we scythed the green hay off the flowery rectangle that was sown five years ago and laid it onto a neighbouring less-flowery area. We hope that flower seeds will now drop and germinate in this new area.

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Scything the spent flower stalks

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Cutting the grass on an adjoining area really short and scratching up the soil

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The cut flower stalks now spread on the new area

In the wood, we have now got much better photos of the Polecat/Ferret Hybrid:

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There are also other interesting photos from the wood this week:

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Red Deer. This is a second Red Deer  – the other one we have seen had small antlers

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The long-legged giant on a different night

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Tawny Owl

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This Sparrowhawk arrival must have given the young Jay a horrible shock

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Sparrowhawk on another occasion

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Buzzard

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I love the way they walk

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The same Buzzard in a different part of the wood

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Peaceful woodland scene with a male Badger relaxing

In the meadows, a pair of Grey Partridge have begun visiting the strip:

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This Kestrel below is ringed and so I suspect that she is the one that was ringed here in the meadows last year as a young bird.

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Here she is again:

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Young Crow with parent

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Young Yellowhammer with parent

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Yellowhammer bathing

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Green Woodpecker preparing to bathe..

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..and afterwards

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What a sight – a moulting Magpie

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This is intriguing. 1.30am at the dead of night and something goes over the gate. But surely that is fur rather than feathers? I have no idea what this is.

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Two of the triplets

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One of this year’s cubs

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Two roosting Common Blues

We have been following the fortunes of this Stock Dove squab who hatched out of an egg on 30th July. Its a funny looking little thing, and its ears aren’t where you might expect.

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When the Bird Ringers were here this week, they ringed this squab:

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Getting the squab out of the box, having first checked the camera to see that it was on its own

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Fitting the ring

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All ready to go back. Its feathers are in quills still, giving it a very odd appearance

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After the squab had been ringed, a parent is back at the nest, feeding it crop milk

It’s been a hot and busy week. Last night, one of our old favourites, the Patricia, was at anchor alongside. This ship is operated by Trinity House and she tends to the needs of the lightships and buoys marking the treacherous Goodwin Sands that lie just offshore.

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The sea was so unusually still and calm that the reflections, the throb of her engines across the water and the warm, summer evening created a magical atmosphere, one to remember with nostalgia when we are once again in the grip of winter

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The Moon rising with the Patricia on a serene summer night

 

Fledgling Joy

On Friday this week, when the temperature rose above 30 degrees, the Flying Ants took off and we were treated to a fantastic wildlife spectacle in the column of air above the meadows:

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Hundreds of Black-headed Gulls quietly circling round and round feasting on the Ants. We try hard to get the Insects right here in the meadows trusting that everything else will follow and at times of like this we are filled with hope that we are doing things right.

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Now seems a good time to celebrate all this year’s fledglings that are arriving, proof that the natural cycle of renewal is carrying on, unhindered by what is going on in the human world.

Although we have no idea where the nest is, we take great delight in seeing juvenile Green Woodpeckers in the meadows each year – another animal that is drawn here by the Ants:

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Looking rather pleased with itself, I thought.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have announced that over a million rings were put on birds by its accredited ringers in 2019. That is an enormous volunteer effort, especially given how highly trained they all have to be. The Bird Ringer, one of these very volunteers, caught and ringed this young Yellowhammer this week. It will have fledged from a nest somewhere in the meadows this year:

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He also caught five recently-fledged Dunnock chicks and this sweet, juvenile House Sparrow. You can still just see the remains of its yellow gape at the back of the beak:

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Here is young Crow being fed by its parent:

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And Robins have also recently fledged nearby:

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These two Willow Warblers below were born this year but they are already on the move. They stopped off in the meadows this week on their way to Africa for the winter:

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The Bird Ringer tells us that Willow Warbler and Wood Warbler migration has just started and will now continue throughout August. The Chiffchaff migration won’t start until the beginning of September since they don’t travel as far into Africa as the Willow Warblers.

We have also been seeing fledglings in the wood and here are two young fluffy Jays:

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In the meadows, the Stock Doves’ egg has hatched. There is now a long and dangerous road to travel before this little one fledges in 27-28 days time. In that open Kestrel box, the nest will be very obvious and exposed to Magpies and Crows and I already feel nervous for it.

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The adult is pecking the baby’s beak to stimulate feeding

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Feeding the baby crop milk

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Once breeding is over for another year, the adults go into a moult and this Magpie is doing just that and not looking great on it:

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All seven Badgers are still to be seen in the meadows:

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One of the triplets annoying its mother while she tries to drink

One morning we found that a bird feeding cage had been flattened:

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We suspected some teenage hooligans and discovered that we were indeed right when the trail cameras caught two of the triplets red handed:

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One of the perpetrators was even seen sloping away from the scene of the crime at first light:

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I know the Badgers in the wood much less well. This one just looks like it has got a button as a nose:

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Gorgeous colours on this wood Fox

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Haven’t seen a Tawny Owl for ages

On a sunny day, the meadows are absolutely billowing with Butterflies:

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Mating Common Blues

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A Wall Butterfly liking the heat of a sampling square

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Mating Gatekeepers

We have now rescued five Hummingbird Hawk-Moths from inappropriate places so far this year. We have only ever seen one here before, so they are clearly having a good year:

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Hummingbird Hawk-Moth in the process of being rescued

I have been getting some lovely Moths in the trap this week:

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Jersey Tiger

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Magpie Moth

We found this Broad-barred White on a door. Since they have never seen themselves, I am intrigued how they know where to roost so that they are disguised:

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I suppose the ones that get it right are the ones that survive to pass that information on to the next generation – Darwinism in action – but it’s all fascinating stuff.

This photo of a Magpie is also amazing. Its lower beak is so much longer than its upper beak, which is what enables it to open its mouth so wide.

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As the temperature hit 30 degrees this week and the Ants took to the air, we took ourselves down to the beach and swam. It has to be really hot and still to get me into the water and conditions were perfect:

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My only regret was that we forgot to take some wine and glasses.

Polecats and Ferrets

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We saw this animal in the wood last week. It is difficult to get much detail from our photo but our woodland neighbours have seen much more of a pair of them and have identified them as Polecat-Ferret hybrids.

Polecats were persecuted to near extinction in the UK at the end of the 19th and early 20th century, although they retained a stronghold in Wales. Since then, they have started recolonising – both outwards from Wales and also by reintroduction in some places, such as in Cumbria.

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Ferrets are a domesticated form of Polecat, historically used to flush Rabbits. Over the years, a feral population of Ferrets has also become established in Britain, although they don’t survive as well in the wild as Polecats do. However, Polecats and Ferrets can breed together producing fertile Polecat-Ferret hybrids and this is what we think we have in the wood. Actually, in East Kent there has never been a validated Polecat sighting but there have been a few of these Polecat-Ferret Hybrids.

Polecats and these Hybrids eat Rabbits as the main constituent of their diet. I wonder what impact the extension of their range is having on Stoats, who seem to live in the same kind of places and also eat Rabbits?

The Red Deer is still making occasional visits to our wood. It is so enormous but it took me a while to spot it in this photo:

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A Buzzard came in for a drink:

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I was very pleased with this next photo – a speckled juvenile Green Woodpecker and a red-capped juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker in the same shot:

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In an open area, full of luxuriant Marjoram growth, there were a lot of these funnel webs. I could see the Spider at the bottom of the funnel but I’m afraid that I failed to achieve an adequate photo for you:

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Back in the meadows, I have now reported back to the Fox Project that the seven-day treatment of Psorinum that I gave the Foxes in mid June does appear to have worked. Below is the one-eyed vixen and the bare patches on her tail, back legs, shoulders and neck all now seen to be growing fur back. She still looks a bit of a mess but I am so pleased that I was able to help her.

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It felt like a fantastic reward when she came up onto the strip at dusk with her mate and their two cubs:

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The one-eyed vixen at the front and her mate sitting right at the back

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Unlike her, her mate looks in fantastic fettle

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As well as this lovely look at her family,  she has also found her own special way to thank me:

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However, I am now watching what’s going on with this whip-thin Fox below – that tail looks a bit suspect to me:

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This next photo reminds me of a Brownie pow wow:

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Only six Badgers there but no need to worry because all seven are still being seen:

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The littlest Badger, distinctive with its very narrow head, still spends a lot of time going around with its mother:

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The Fox below is trying to get at the food in the cages:

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So, too, is this Rat. Indisputably a male, I have also seen a female and so there are at least two:

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Another at one of the shallow ponds:

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A lot of Ant nests have formed under the protection of the Reptile sampling squares and these nests have been producing Flying Ants recently. This is a way of dispersal – there are both male and female Flying Ants and all the Ant nests in an area synchronise so that the flights happen at the same time. In this way, a flying female might well meet and mate with a flying male from another nest, thus avoiding inbreeding. She will then finish her flight and start a new colony.

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Last year on 25th August we had flocks of circling Black-Headed Gulls over the meadows eating these Ants on the wing. We are watching for this again this year but haven’t seen it yet:

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Black-Headed Gulls eating Flying Ants last year

Because the nests all produce Flying Ants at the same time, it can lead to situations such as last weekend when the Met Office radar mistook an 80km wide Ant swarm in southern Kent as a rain cloud. What a food resource for Gulls that must have been.

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Also in the meadows this week:

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Kestrel coming in for a bath

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This is a very odd effect with the wings on this male Sparrowhawk. I have not seen one holding its wings like that before.

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This is probably the same bird

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A male Blackbird taking back Worms for young. The Worms have wrapped round and round its beak

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There must be a nest with young to be fed close by. There were so many photos of Blackbirds carrying food on this gate. Here is the female.

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A fledged young Blackbird still going round with its Dad.

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If you thought the young Blackbird on the right was so speckled that it might be mistaken for a Song Thrush, here it is an opportunity to see both at once.

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Fledged Wren

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Really interesting view of the ‘fingers’ at the end of a Crow wing

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This is a really unfortunate way to see our first ever Hawkmoth caterpillar

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A Crow carrying a flint stone – is it using it to smash something open?

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Could it be anything to do with their taste for snails?

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Herring Gull not happy with Crows coming in

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Beautifully marked Viviperous Lizard

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Mating Gatekeeper Butterflies

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Mating Six-Spot Burnet Moths

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A Festoon. I had never had one of these in the Moth Trap before

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A Rosy Footman Moth

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Swollen-thighed Flower Beetle

I found this beautiful Rosemary Beetle on some Lavender:

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Chrysolina americana

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This Beetle is native to Southern Europe but was found living in London in the 1990s and has since spread outwards, even though it can’t fly. It lives and breeds on aromatic plants such as Rosemary, Lavender and Thyme but rarely does much damage.

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The Creeping Thistle is now going to seed. We couldn’t delay any longer – we got the tractor out to cut down the area where it grows densely:

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Here are the meadows now, in late July:

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We had a wander amongst the long grasses:

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7-spot Ladybird eating Aphids

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There were so many 7-Spots on this one plant

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But one of the Ladybirds had fallen victim to a Spider

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Still on this same plant was this caterpillar of the Dark Arches Moth

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A Marbled White Butterfly being eaten by an Enoplognatha sp Spider

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Common Blue roosting on a Plantain

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Gatekeeper on Ladies Bedstraw

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At least five Small Blues down by the wild pond. This is a male with a few blue scales on the wing

Finally for today, the Stock Doves are still incubating in the Kestrel nest box in the Pine Tree and occasionally we get little glimpses of an egg:

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We are very excited for the egg to hatch.

 

 

 

 

 

The Digiscopers

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Various family members going for a swim

The year now seems to be galloping past and it has got to the point when the sea becomes so inviting that even I may consider going in for a swim. I haven’t got there yet personally, but everyone else has.

Down at the white cliffs, the chicks in the second Kestrel nest are growing up fast. We thought that there were two of them:

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One eye open, one eye closed. Good results with the digiscope that we took down with us.

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But then we saw that actually there were three:

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The chick at the back looks so much older

When we passed the nest again on our way back, that oldest chick was out of the nest:

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Really short tail feathers still

It hopped back in while we were watching.

The House Martin nest, that I thought had been abandoned, has been repaired and is still going strong, with young being fed. So that is good news:

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There are now a lot of House Martin nests – my guess would be around 30 – and it is lovely to see the birds all flying around and about. Here is another of the nests:

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The digiscope – a normal birding scope with a connector so that a mobile phone can take photos through it – took a photo of the same nest, showing the pile of muck that has collected below as well:

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This stretch of cliff also has Fulmars nesting in the little caves and crevices that are cut into the chalk. In the photo below, the nest is tucked in the back and one of the adults can just be seen sitting on it:

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Fulmars are in the same family as Albatrosses and have a similar tube on their beaks to excrete excess salt.

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The digiscope also did a good job with the Fulmars, capturing an adult and its chick making a right old racket:

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Herring Gulls seem to be able to manage without the shelter of a cave. Here is one of their nests built on an exposed ledge and with a spotty-headed chick:

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This cruise ship, the Carnival Magic, came to Dover this week, apparently to pick up staff. Are cruises starting up again then? Surely not.

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I know I was meant to be taking photos of the wildlife but the image of this man below, admiring the cliffs as they stretch off towards Dover, was so striking that I couldn’t resist. It looks like he was standing on the top of the world rather than at sea level.

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Once he had got down, he came over and had a look at the digiscoping of the Kestrels with us.

Back in the meadows, we have a Kestrel box up in a Pine tree that has been standing empty and rejected for five years now. But this week we noticed a Stock Dove coming out of it and so climbed up to see what was going on:

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A single Stock Dove egg. We put that wood chip in there, so the bird has done little, if any, nest building.

Stock Doves normally lay two eggs and so another one might be expected shortly. Then incubation is 16-18 days and apparently they can have up to five broods a year, which sounds like hard work.

We have now managed to get a camera in the box:

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It is a different sort of camera to the trail cameras that we usually use – it has cables running off it that we then plug into the computer to see live footage from the box. The camera doesn’t record movements when we are not around but this does mean that we do not need to go near the nest again. We can just connect our computer up at a distance from time to time to see how things are progressing.

It seems that Wood Pigeons are still actively building nests. We have had several carrying sticks on this perch in the week:

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And there was also this emergency landing which made me smile:

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Somewhere about the meadows a family of Robins has successfully fledged:

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Just-fledged Robin

Goldfinches as well. We rescued this young bird from a shed:

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A Crow found a bit of jam sandwich that the Foxes must have missed and took it to water to soften it before eating:

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We continually move the cages around so that there is no food build up, but when the cages are close to the hedgerow, they have been getting occasional daytime visits from this Rat:

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I have an instinctual negative reaction to seeing a Rat but I think this is misplaced and try to overcome it – after all, these cages are a long way away from any human habitation. We see Rats rarely here – there are far too many Foxes and Badgers, both of whom love to eat Rats.

Some other photos from the meadows this week:

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A single stem of Ragwort supporting so much life – Cinnabar Moth caterpillars and Common Red Soldier Beetles

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A second flush of the tiny Small Blue Butterflies is now to be seen

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My friend the one-eyed vixen. Well, she is my friend but I’m not sure I’m her friend

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One of her three cubs

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Mother and cub

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Phew – all seven Badgers still with us. The male is at the front. The small cub is on the far left

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The dog is a disgrace

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Sparrowhawks being seen daily on this gate

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Emperor Dragonfly laying eggs in the hide pond

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The wild pond has only been there five years and it is wonderful to find that it has attracted specialist species. This is a Stretch Spider, Tetragnatha striata, and is a water reed specialist. There are reeds in the wild pond but this is the only habitat like this for a large distance – so how on earth did these Spiders get here after we dug the pond?

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On a trip back to Maidenhead this week, I found this Wood Louse Spider under a flower pot. (Dysdera crocata). Although I have never seen one of these in the meadows in Kent, I  have often seen these Spiders under flower pots in Maidenhead. Never before actually with prey, though and so I was excited to include it

Time now to move to the wood. What on earth is this? Possibly a Mink – although it has quite a bushy tail and we are a long way from a water course. I’m not very good with Mustelids.

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I believe this animal was also seen on our woodland neighbours’ camera a while ago and we tried to work out what it was then but I don’t think a firm conclusion was reached.

Young Green Woodpeckers have now fledged somewhere in the wood:

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So very speckled

The Great Spotted young are around as well and so we have had a successful Woodpecker year:

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Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker with its red cap

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Scorpion Fly (Panorpa sp) which feeds on small invertebrates in woodland margins. Look at its wacky elephant trunk and scorpion tail. A most peculiar thing.

We were a bit alarmed by this ship this week. The south to north shipping lane is too far east for us to see from the meadows, but this container ship, the Estelle Maersk, was travelling north quite close to us – we have never seen a container ship so close.  She was way out of the shipping lane and on a direct line to bump into Thanet. Then she seemed to abruptly change course and veer off sharply north-eastwards, away from us. All very peculiar. It is actually a wonder that they can see where they are going over all those containers – perhaps they can’t! Here she is as she passed the Goodwin Sands Lightship after she had veered north-east.

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Below is a strange vessel. This is Hawk, a semi-submersible, heavy load carrier, nearing the end of a fifty day journey from the United Arab Emirates, via the Cape of Good Hope, to Nigg in Scotland. She is carrying footings for the Moray East Offshore Windfarm and I suppose these go onto the seabed and the wind turbines will slot into the rings at the top.

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She is just over the horizon so we can’t see the bottom of the vessel

Below is Hawk again but also in the photo is Le Jacques Cartier, a brand new, super sleek cruise ship. The company that owns her, Ponant, only took delivery of her a couple of days ago. This ship has an underwater multi-sensory lounge with two round observation windows to watch the sea life as you cruise along drinking champagne which sounds really lovely.

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So, that was a lot of shipping to include in a wildlife blog but the variety of the stuff that sails past us here is completely fascinating and, now that we have the fantastic digiscope set up, we can get a proper look at it all.

 

The Insect Siren

I already knew that I was adored by Mosquitoes, Horse Flies and a host of other biting insects, but it turns out that I’m pretty popular with Pollen Beetles as well:

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This sort of attention I could do without, but it serves me right for going out in a T shirt that makes me look like a giant Hawkweed. At least we have proved that it is the colour yellow that draws the Beetles in to the flowers, rather than smell or shape – so a scientific experiment, then, rather than a wardrobe miscalculation. The other one of us, wearing a shirt of muted greens and blues, had not a single Beetle on him.

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Quite a high tide – it has been a full moon

Down at the white cliffs, two of the young Kestrels have now fledged and are inexpertly flying around in the vicinity of the nest:

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Talking to a fellow nature enthusiast that we met, there are another two still in the nest:

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There were also a pair of Ravens to be seen. Back in 2010, Ravens nested and successfully raised two young in the white cliffs around Dover for the first time in more than a century. There are now, I believe, several Raven nesting sites in the area, including one quite close to here:

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But there has been drama down at the white cliffs. The House Martin nest that I had been particularly watching now seems to have been attacked and is standing empty.

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But what bird is capable of robbing a nest on a sheer cliff like that? A quick search on the internet tells me that both Sparrowhawks and Great Spotted Woodpeckers would be able to do that- and of those two, Sparrowhawks have to be the prime suspects.

Having shut the gate between the meadows, we are now starting to see our Sparrowhawks again, rather than just the sorry piles of feathers that they leave as their calling cards:

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Female

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Male

The male is distinctive with white feathers on the back of his head:

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And so here he is again on the strip:

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We have had some more much-needed rain in the week. The Wood Pigeons and Stock Doves always seem pretty waterproof, the water simply forming spheres on their feathers that then roll off. But what on earth had happened to this one? In all the years of looking at these birds on trail cameras, I haven’t seen one looking wet like this before.

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It is always entertaining to see what state the Badgers manage to get themselves in when it rains:

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Although too early still to start this year’s cut of the meadows, we got the tractor out and cut the paths round the circumference.

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IMAG0837The cut field margins stop the hedgerows encroaching too enthusiastically into the meadows as well as making it much easier for us to walk around.

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An enticing path through the meadow flowers

We operate a zero-tolerance policy for Ragwort and just about now, as the Ragwort clearly advertises itself by coming into flower, we go round with the Ragwort fork and dig it all up. Ragwort is an injurious weed and its toxins build up in the liver of grazing animals, especially dangerous if it is in hay and they can’t recognise and avoid it. Our cut grasses don’t go to animals but we are under a legal obligation to ensure that Ragwort seed from our land doesn’t spread to other people’s.

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We have been doing this now for five years and there is only a small amount growing now compared to before. However, Ragwort has many wildlife benefits – one of the most obvious being as the larval food plant for the beautiful Cinnabar Moth. We have been finding some of these caterpillars here this week:

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I hadn’t noticed those hairs before

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We have decided to delay the Ragwort-removal job for a couple of weeks to give the Cinnabars time to pupate – there is time before these plants start to go to seed. When the caterpillars are fully grown, they will leave the plant and pupate just below the surface of the soil until next spring.

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For now, our bright yellow Rag-Fork will remain hanging in the shed

Now that we are in July, an extra layer of richness is brought to the soundscape of the meadows with the song of Grasshoppers and Crickets. Shut your eyes and you are on a Mediterranean holiday. They are very much part of the ecosystem here but we have never put the necessary effort in to get to know them. There are 34 species of Orthoptera (Bush-crickets, Crickets and Grasshoppers) in the UK but we have no idea how many of those live here. With East Africa currently suffering the worst locust devastation for many generations, it seemed a very appropriate time to find out a little more about these animals.

We saw this Roesels’s Bush-cricket on a window, very distinctive with the yellow spots on the side of her thorax and the margin of the pronotum, just behind the head. She is a female with her sword-like ovipositor.

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I remembered that last year I had rescued a Roesel’s Bush-cricket from a spider web in a shed and I searched back for the photo:

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This is also a female with that ovipositor – but the big difference is that this one’s wings are really short.

There is a form, f. diluta, of this species that has the long wings and f. diluta usually makes up less than 1% of the population. This percentage can rise, however, in long hot summers or if the population density is getting high – that is, in conditions where it might be necessary to disperse.

Here is a very different Bush-cricket that we also saw this week, the Speckled Bush-cricket:

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A female again, with that ovipositor

We were finding this all so interesting that we decided to do some sweeps of the grass with a net and see what we caught.

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What fun! (but we don’t get out much)

As well as the Roesel’s, we found Meadow Grasshoppers and Field Grasshoppers, although both of these come in many colour forms and identification proved to be a somewhat tricky business.

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Meadow Grasshopper male. Chorthippus parallelus

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Field Grasshopper. Chorthippus brunneus

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Another female Roesel’s Bush-cricket, also with those long wings. Notice the white spines at the rear of her abdomen. We guess that they are used as anchors as she sticks the ovipositor into the ground.

The net also contained all sorts of other things – caterpillars, spiders, moths. We had never seen anything like these sweet little things before:

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These are different instars of the nymphs of the Tortoise Bug (Eurygaster testudinaria). We didn’t find an adult but it is perhaps slightly too early.

Here are a few other photos from this week in the meadows:

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Marbled White on Teasel

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Goldfinch eating the flowers seeds

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Scarface out and about in the light

One wet morning this week, the De Gallant was at anchor alongside the meadows.

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She was launched in 1916 and served as a Herring lugger in the North Sea until 1936. In recent times she has become a wind-powered cargo ship that also carries fare-paying passengers, who go along for the ride and also help crew the vessel. Last October, she sailed into Deal bringing produce all the way from the Caribbean that the people of the town had pre-ordered, powered only by the strength of the wind. We happened to see her arrival from the meadows as we were standing talking to the bird ringer:

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This week, the De Gallant stayed at anchor all morning. We used digiscoping to get these more detailed images of her:

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We thought she was getting ready to sail when we saw this bare-footed young man go along the bow sprit to grapple with the sails, but, in the end, she slid further along towards Deal with the tide and we lost sight of her.

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I mentioned earlier that the tides have been high this week because of the full moon. Late one warm evening, we watched it rise above France.

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It was completely magical.