After weeks of wearying north-easterly winds, there has finally been a shift to south-westerlies, bringing with them some much needed rain. One night this week there was a storm with wild gale-force gusts battering the meadows for several hours.
On two of the calmer mornings, the bird ringers swung into action. They were particularly targeting Yellowhammer and they caught seven of them. It is such a privilege to be able to see these birds up close when in the hand:
Over the long Covid winter, we watched a lot of natural history Zoom talks, including two given by the Kent Bat Group. Although we still don’t know much about Bats, we did learn that they sometimes use log piles to roost in during the summer – yet another user of log piles that we hadn’t previously considered. There is a ready supply of logs from the wood and so, whenever there is space in the car, some are brought back to enhance the meadow habitat. One of our sons visited recently and he was put to work helping to build a log feature right at the end of the second meadow.
As well as being good habitat and shelter, I think this is also a thing of beauty.
The trolley that is being used to carry the logs is new and is already proving itself indispensable – the dog hurt her leg and it was converted into a temporary invalid carriage for our pampered princess.
There are two projects underway at the moment for our summer visitors. Across the country, Swifts are now returning and it is time to once again turn on the loud Swift calls. Our other son built us a sound system which plays the calls up into the sky to bring in passing Swifts so that they notice the nest box that we have on the side of the house. Over the last two summers this has been very successful in attracting in Swifts to the box but they have not yet nested here and we are hoping that this will be the year.
The good news is that we could still remember how to rig up the sound system and that it is working. But the bad news is that we failed to get round to putting polystyrene bungs into the nest box entrances to stop other birds nesting in it before the Swifts return. This has turned out to be a significant error because we noticed that House Sparrows are already nesting in both sides of the box.
We decided that rather than giving up on the Swift project for this year, we would take decisive action and buy two more Swift boxes with express delivery and get them up as fast as possible to try to retrieve the situation.
The second project for summer visitors is the scattering of supplementary seed onto the rotavated strip of meadow in an attempt to attract and support Turtle Doves. By spreading the seed thinly and widely, Wood Pigeon and Stock Doves are now spending a lot of the day pecking over the area and it is these birds that will hopefully interest the Turtle Dove enough to come down and see what all the fuss is about.
The pair of Grey Partridge and many other birds are also enjoying the seed:
We have now seen Swallows and House Martins, and a visiting daughter spotted a single Swift fly over the meadows. So we went down to our local chalk cliffs this week to see if the House Martins that nest on the cliffs there had arrived. But they were still not to be seen and actually neither were the Kestrels in evidence, although presumably they are quietly sitting on eggs tucked away in holes in the rock. We were very pleased to spot this female Wheatear though:
And the Fulmars were noisily carrying on as normal:
The Herring Gull pair in the meadows have now started collecting nesting material. I wonder where they are nesting? I am not aware of any Herring Gull nests in the area:
Blackbirds are still building their nests as well:
And the Crows are also nest building. A couple of the houses down on the seafront are having building works at the moment and it looks like the Crows are purloining their roof insulation. I have had a lot of similar Crow-with-roof-insulation photos this week:
I would also love to know where the Tawny Owls are nesting…
…and if the pair of Kestrels we see here are the ones nesting in the nearby white cliffs:
This looks like Stock Dove courtship to me, but it seems that he is failing to impress:
Other photos this week from the meadows:
In the wood, I do now think that Green Woodpeckers are nesting again this year in the cherry tree hole:
At the moment we have a roving camera in the wood. On every visit, we move it on to a different nest box to see what birds are nesting in it. We are hoping for Marsh Tits, but so far are almost exclusively getting Great tits.
This box is in the new section of the wood:
This is a different box but it also had Great Tits nesting in it:
Having determined that there was no adult around, we peeked inside the box and found nine lovely warm eggs:
There are Marsh Tits in the wood and they do apparently use nest boxes and so we will continue to move the camera around all of the eighteen small boxes just in case.
As the meadows roll through the year, waves of different plants come to prominence and then fade back as another one has its day. This all kicks off with the Buttercups and these are starting to build to their beautiful crescendo right now:
At the same time there is another unstated yellow plant flowering, Black Medick. It might be small and easily overlooked next to the showy Buttercups but it is a heavy-weight for the insects.
Our trips round the meadows are starting to take so long, surrounded as we now are with all this wonderful blossoming nature at long last. Today, we didn’t even need our coats!