Monday, 27 June 2011

Fox cub and bat

A few weeks ago I suspected that I had seen two fox cubs in the back track (back entrance to houses) after dark. They could only be seen as black shapes as it was after dark, about the size of a small cat but not moving like one.

Last night at about 9.00pm, I looked down the track to see if the adult fox was around, or the bats that I had not seen since the neigbours cut their tree down.
Out of the gloom I noticed a tiny shape, following the edge of the vegetation. It crossed over the track and continued down to where I stood. It was a little fox cub.
Our house is right at the beginning of the track. The cub was sniffing and listening to the sounds from the road. The cub looked at me on  several occasions and then looked back towards the road. All of a sudden it turned round and scampered back up the track and into the gloom.

I kept a watch again this evening. One of the adult foxes on its usual route walked along our flint wall, from back garden to front, jumped down and made its way up the track.

When it reached a third of the way down, level roughly where I suspect it has a den, it turned and look back down the track towards me. While it stood there it was joined by a cub. You can just see the shape of the cub at the front of the adult fox, head pointing to the right.
Not a good picture as it was taken on full zoom at just before 9.00pm.

The adult fox slowly turned and headed off up the track, the cub trotting behind. It appears from this that their may only be one cub now.

I also saw one of the bats for the first time in ages. As it has got increasingly lighter in the evening through the spring, it has been increasingly harder to predict when they are on the wing - same problem last year.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

A great day for butterflies

Having seen few butterflies this year so far, it turned out to be a great day for butterflies.
I think this is a male ringlet butterfly. The markings are a bit more striking than I have seen on other specimens but maybe this one has emerged recently as they usually fly July to August. This one in on the grass verge outside our garden.

This is a large skipper on our hydrangea bush

Another meadow brown, I think this is also a male

A small white on the lavender

A comma butterfly also on the lavender

You can clearly see the white mark on the underside of its wing which gives this butterfly its name 'comma'

I decided to check on the other herring gull family. They have 3 chicks.
These two are getting some shade from the chimney

The third chick is smaller and weaker.

I looked back at the house and watched the swifts skim head height over our garden

Friday, 24 June 2011

The herring gull saga continues

The gulls are still sitting on the nest, even thought they now have no chicks.
Later I saw and heard what appeared to be courtship behaviour.
This was followed by one of the parents collecting nesting materials and bring it back to the nest

The other adult would the use its feet to push the materials into position.

Sadly, I don't think its possible for them to have another clutch this year, seabird generally only have one chance.
The pair were very wary of everything and would take to the air and shout in aggression circling before eventually settling back down again.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Herring gull tragedy, fox and a tortoiseshell butterfly

A morning of heavy rain. One of the nest gulls is curled up on the nest.
As the rain eases the gull gets up and has a good preen. No sign of the remaining herring gull chick.

Later the sun comes out and the first tortoiseshell butterfly visit the bramble flowers just outside of our garden wall.

It was after 9.00pm when the Herring gulls on the nest became agitated and very vocal. It started flying around squawking and diving low over the houses garden, flying straight up over our back garden turning and then swooping back again.

As I stood there watch a fox came slinking along our side wall carrying something big and brown in its jaws. The second missing chick? It was too dark to tell. The chick may have fallen in the strong wind and rain over night and this morning.

There had not been any calling (and the chick had previously been very vocal) or any distress calls before the fox appeared so I am guessing that if it was the chick it was already dead. I followed the fox around the side of the house and by the time I reached the front garden the fox was already well down the track.

The Herring gulls on the other nest around the front were also dive bombing the fox, so I did not ant to follow to closely in case they dive bombed me too. Herring gulls have a good memory and would likely dive on me when ever it saw me again.

The fox turned and looked at me before disappearing into a garden on the left where I had suspected before that there may be a den.
I went back in doors and after a while the gull started dive bombing the same garden again.
I thought I heard a screech on one of the dives and so I went up into the loft and looked out of the skylight. There on our shed roof was a fox. It did not seem to be particularly bothered by the noisy gull diving on it.
I went back down stairs and looked out our back garden. Ahead poked over the roof and looked at me, a fox. Then another head appeared beside it. The infra red light from my cameras focusing illuminated their eyes red and one fox ran away. I managed to get a quick photograph before this one too disappeared.
It took several hours before the gulls calmed again.

What ever the cause, the herring gull nest appeared to be empty

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Scavenging Herring Gull

Just up the road a herring gull has found a rubbish bag.
Its shark beak makes short work of the flimsy black bag

Herring gulls get a lot of bad press for doing exactly this, but they are natural scavengers and showing  intelligence and adaptability.

So what are they doing in our towns and cities. Well, due to the overfishing and other damage we are dong to the oceans that are finding alternative food sources. You may be surprised to know that this species is doing so badly in the UK it now has red threatened status.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Caterpillars, Ladybirds, Slowworm and Herring gull

Still lots of bees, hoverflies and lady birds on the bramble in the track just outside our house. I noticed this very striking caterpillar called a Vapourer (a species of moth)
It is common in urban areas, the caterpillar feeds on almost any deciduous tree foliage and can become a pest.

I also noticed that amongst the lady birds on the bramble were a couple of damaged specimens.

There was also a pair of ladybirds mating

I lifted an old piece of damaged concrete path edging in the back garden and curled underneath was this slowworm

I have continued to observe the herring gull nest on the chimney of the house behind ours. I have come to the conclution that they have lost one of their two chicks.
The chick that remains is very vocal and active. The last two years this pair have successfully reared two chicks.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Starlings and the Cherry Tree

The starlings have discovered that the fruit on the cherry tree just down the track is now ripe. They arrive, a mixture of adults and young.

They soon get stuck in in some cases just leaving just stalks and stones.

Luckily for the starlings, the lady whose garden the tree is in doesn't like cherries and so the birds are allowed to eat them all.

I have also noticed a couple of blackbirds also taking advantage of this free supply of fruit.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Nesting Swifts

The swifts are nesting under our neighbours eaves. They are amazing to watch as they scream low over my head as I sit in the garden.

Every now and again they fill fly back up to the young before leaving the nest again.

I could watch them all day