Spring Marches on Apace

Flowers, insects,nesting and migrating birds all happening at once, even the mammals are getting in on the act. Not photographed as yet, but so far this year I’ve seen three stoats in different places and have taken a few night shots of badgers but no young out yet.

Plenty of Hares running around, but not seen any boxing, lots of chasing in circles though

Brown Hares

Red campion, ajuga, wild arum and ground ivy all abound at the moment.

Ajuga

Red Campion

 

 

 

 

 

We, – do we ? – view ground ivy as a weed in the garden but what a wonderful flower in the woods.

Italian Wild Arum

Ground Ivy

 

 

 

 

Along with the flowers, insects appear, plenty of hoverflies wasps, bees, butterflies and a few moths

Leucozona Lucorum

Myothropa Flores

 

 

 

 

 

Female Orange Tip

Male Orange Tip

 

 

 

 

 

Green Veined White

Holly Blue

 

 

 

 

 

Below a micro moth often seen in gardens, its very small, maximum 10 cm from wing tip to wingtip. The lattice heath is one of the first out day flying moths.

Mint Moth-pyrausta aurata

Lattice Heath Moth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nesting birds are everywhere, the herons and swans are sitting again on Wimpoles Lakes, young coots have hatched out and mallard ducklings are seen ‘skittering’ around after insects and in my garden nesting robins below a window cill

Five robin nestlings

 

Swallows arrived on 16th April, closely followed by house martins, both now busy collecting mud for their nest building. The house martins I think are even more handsome than the swallows, love their feathered legs.

 

Swallow

House Martins

 

 

 

 

 

Coot

Cormorant

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cormorants also feature on the lakes but not a problem here as the lakes are not fished nor stocked with expensive trout

Herons and Heron Food (amphibians)

The warmth over the past few days, mid March, have brought on plenty of flowers, insects and nesting birds. Last year there was one pair of herons nesting at the lakes in Wimpole Park, they successfully reared four young which is good sized brood

They usually nest early to mid March and they have already returned and they are sitting tight on eggs. They are probably due to hatch out around 1st to 2nd week in April and will fledge around Early June.

There have also been frogs producing spawn and masses of toads ‘mass mating’ just below one of the dams of Wimpole Estates lakes. I’ve not seen any toad spawn as yet so will have to return. I suppose its not surprising for the herons to rear four young, plenty of fish in the lakes and toads to eat

Mass of Toads

In my garden I found the remains of hatched out blackbird eggs, so the young are already in the nests.


This reinforces the need for hedge owners to be aware of nesting birds and to cut hedges  not before, but by the end of February

On the sunnier days there are plenty of butterflies and insects about, in particular the Brimstone in good numbers

Comma

Brimstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of the earlier the hoverflies have been flying around along with bees and bumblebees

Eristalis Tenax

Episyrphus Balteatus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not to be outdone several wildflowers, the Dogs Mercury carpeting the woodland floor, Common Dog Violet, Colts Foot, Lesser Celandine, Woodland Primroses and a very early Cowslip

Dogs Mercury

Dogs Mercury on the woodland floor

 

 

 

 

 

Dog Violet

Colts Foot

 

 

 

 

 

Lesser Celandine

Primrose

 

 

 

 

 

Cowslip

Hedges, Berries and Birds

October has nearly ended and with the temperature dropping everywhere, we’re soon to welcome some of our bird winter migrant visitors, Fieldfares, Redwings and if you’re lucky, Waxwings.

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Song Thrush In Full Voice

 

 

 

 

When these birds arrive they feed in the fields but also on the hawthorn berries in the hedgerows, especially when the ground freezes . Many of our resident birds also rely on hedgerow berries during the winter months, yellow hammers, thrushes, blackbirds, greenfinches, chaffinches, starlings and many others

Yellow Hammer

Yellow Hammer

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Fortunately, hedge removal by farmers in the 1960’s has ended, and many farmers have replaced old hedgerows, vital not only for the birds, but insects, small mammals and some plants as well.

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The revival of the practice of hedge laying also aids wildlife by thickening up the base of the hedge. If hedges are left uncut they turn into trees and have bare ground beneath. In the first year or two the plant thickens up the base but produces little or no berries, but once re-grown the berries come back in force.

It’s important therefore that hedges are laid in sections, say 50m per year,  leaving the rest of the hedge for this years berries.

At Wimpole and many other places, training courses in hedge laying are arranged to keep this practice alive.

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Hedges are laid roughly every 15+years

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What is needed is a variety of hedge plants and a variety of heights; stubby laid hedges, medium height hedges and some tall ones. Adding to the diversity of habitat are the hedgerow trees, oaks, ash, maple and some large hawthorns

Whilst praising some farmers for their hedge replacements, there’s a need to educate some  to leave the cutting of hedges until late winter, February time, this would leave the berries intact for the birds.

These two photos make the hedges look neat and tidy, but what use is it to hungry birds, just look at the left hand photo.

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One practice that could be done is to cut 50 metres in one place, leave a long stretch of hedge uncut then cut another 50m, at least the birds will get something, then alternate the cutting in the following year or so

There are probably many good reasons to cut hedges earlier in the year, winter sowing of crops, the need to get on the fieldside ground before it gets too wet and muddy, this is not difficult to understand. However the roadsides of hedges don’t have to be cut until later unless there is a good safety reason, they don’t need topping off either but remember in a mild winter some hedge nesting birds breed early so it would be a good idea to watch the weather and do the pre-spring cut before birds start to nestnest.

This photo illustrates what happens when hedges are cut too early in the year, the machinery stopped short of the telegraph poles so as not to damage it leaving a bush of berries – just think of how many berries would be left if the hedge were not cut early.

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Below an uncut bird friendly hedge

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This plea about hedges is added to the plea not to unnecessarily cut roadside verges during the summer months.

Not only do hedges provide feed for birds insects and mammals, they also provide some spectacular autumn colours.dsc01969

BARN OWL MONITORING

Wimpole Estate has four pairs of nesting Barn Owls, two in tree nesting sites and two in owl boxes. Most years an expert from the BTO, licensed  by English Nature, comes to check on numbers etc. Earlier this year he did a check and is sure that two of the sites had young although this could not be verified with photos. One of the Boxes had fallen off the tree and had to be re-erected which was done.
I was unable to keep up my weekly sight monitoring due to a slight incapacity for a few weeks, however I was out around the end of August and saw an adult leaving the re-erected nest box, I reported what I saw and the expert came back to check the box as there have been a good number of second or late broods this year.
To get to the birds you have to block off the nest hole with an extension with a ‘screen’ on the end, this stops both young and adults from escaping. Its then up the ladder with a bag and each one is put in and brought down
To our delight there were four well grown owlets present. They were removed and given a full check, weighed, sexed, aged and ringed.

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All of the young were in good health, one in particular wasn’t too keen on us and kept up a challenging hissing/snoring noise.
They weighed in, two at 350gm, one at 360 and one at 420, quite interesting as an adult bird generally weighs around 360gm.

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There were three female and one male and ages ranged from 35 to 42 days old, this check is done by measuring the length of feather exposed from the quill.

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After the overall check the owlets are ringed for future identification

The sex of the owlets can be determined by looking at the feathers inside the wing, small black spots at the root area of the feather and its female

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And here are the happy quads before being retuned to the box

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Finally there were a few adult primary feathers on the ground, these were checked, experts can tell the age of the adult bird from these and ‘Mum was in her fourth year.

Not Wildlife but a Nice Machine

I thought people might find this interesting.
Sometime ago I bought a Singer 29K “cobbler” sewing machine, Its very good and does an excellent job stitching leather, it has all sorts of ideas to make life easy ( machine dates 1904 ). It is however restricted on the thickness of thread it can take and the thickness of leather it can stitch.

Singer 29K

Singer 29K

Singer 29K Boot repair

Singer 29K Boot repair

 

 

 

 

 

So I’ve just bought a British United Shoe Company machine ( model :- Pearson No.6 ), it takes a much thicker thread, see the needle size, and it will go through 3/4 inch of leather.

Pearson No.6 needle

Pearson No.6 needle

Pearson No6

Pearson No6

Pearson No.6 back view

Pearson No.6 back view

The workings of both machines is amazing, someone, I imagine a Mr Pearson, designed this one.


Just look at all of the parts moving, all driven from the “hand wheel”. There are three definite actions, the shuttle going back and forth, the needle going up and down, the foot pulling the leather through.
These actions are controlled by many other moving parts.
The mechanical noises made by both machines is a delight and has a definite rhythm, you could use it for a bands rhythm section

Bank Holiday Walk on Wimple Estate

A bit overcast but when the sun appeared it was quite warm and a bit humid, so I expected to see quite a few insects about.
So far this year I’ve not seen many Speckled Wood,  no Small Copper or the Migrant Clouded Yellow butterflies, today it was the day!
Speckled Woods by the ‘tens’, a solitary Clouded Yellow and a Solitary Small Copper, it flew off before I got a really decent photograph.

Plenty of Common Blues and Common Heaths

Clouded Yellow

Clouded Yellow

Small Copper

Small Copper

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood

Common Heath

Common Heath

Common Blue

Common Blue

Brown Form Common Blue Female

Brown Form Common Blue Female

Green Veined White

Green Veined White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst looking at the butterflies there were also a reasonable variety of Hoverflies, more than I’ve seen for some time

Myathropa Florea

Myathropa Florea

Helophilus Pendulus

Helophilus Pendulus

 

 

 

 

 

Eristalis Pertinax

Eristalis Pertinax

Sphaeophoriar Scripta

Sphaeophoriar Scripta

 

 

 

 

 

Episyrphus Balteatus

Episyrphus Balteatus

Syrphus Ribesii

Syrphus Ribesii

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of day flying moths, Silver Y and Lattice Heath

Lattice Heath Moth

Lattice Heath Moth