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Saturday, 8 August 2020

Reynard the Fox, Common Green Bottle, Sunflower, Holly Blue, Jacket Spuds.

 A short camera trap update, Reynard the Fox has been back to the garden, twice. Once on the 3rd of August,

and once on the 6th of August.

I now know what he's eating, it isn't the dried mealworms but suet fat sticks that the Birds hadn't found. To test this I put the suet in piles instead of scattering them, and the piles were gone after his visit. Still no sign of the Hedgehogs. 

In other news:

Common Green Bottle flies were finding something interesting in the grass.


I could not see anything in the grass, but they are quite a nice shiny green.

The Sunflowers that had sprouted from spilt birdseed are opening up.

I spotted another female Holly Blue feeding on the Ivy flowers, I thought at first she was laying eggs but after she had flown off, I inspected the flowers and saw nothing egg like. I now question my assumption that the behaviour I witnessed last time was egg laying.  

I have also done another outdoor cooking test, my aim is to do a jacket spud without burning them, personally I think the burnt bits are the best bit about this sort of cooking but it's not to everyone's taste. After quizzing Becky, of Girl Outdoors on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/c/GirlOutdoors/featured), She suggested to keep turning them, no flame and not too hot. I usually just bury them in the fire. 

I wrapped them in foil, I suspect this isn't what a proper outdoors person would do but it keeps them clean. 

I turned them a quarter turn about every five minuets, after about an hour I gave them a poke with a skewer and it went in fairly easily, so I opened up the foil so the skins would crispen up a bit.

When the skins had dried out and crispend up, I deemed them ready. I served them with butter and cheese, that's probably over indulgent but that's what I like and they were really nice. There was a little firmness right in the centre but this wasn't a problem.

I would count this as a success, no burning happened, I now have a time frame that I can adjust for better results. 

Monday, 3 August 2020

Wittenham Clumps, Woolly Thistle, Buff-tailed Bumblebees, Common Knapweed. Kestrel, Red Kites, Teasels, Red Admiral, Blackberry, Wild Carrot, Chalk Hill Blues, Blackthorn, Marjoram, Field Bindweed, Clustered Bellflower.

A trip out for a COVID-secure walk with my other half and little Dougal, to Wittenham Clumps, (https://earthtrust.org.uk/visit-us/wittenham-clumps/) or as it says on the OS map The Sinodun Hills. 
There are two hills, one called Round Hill, 

and one called Castle Hill with an Iron Age hill fort on top. 

We started our walk from the car park up the slope of Round Hill, there is a mown path in the grass field that takes you to the summit. The field has large clumps of Woolly Thistle dotted about, their big flower heads attracting Buff-tailed Bumblebees. 
 




There are also Common Knapweed trying to attract the Bees attention. 
 

Above us a Kestrel was hunting, it would start by soaring high in the sky, then it would hover, from there it would stoop to a hover at a lower height, it would glide off and then return to the same spot for a hover, slowly drop height while in hover till it nearly reaches the ground, there it would drop to the ground and then fly off to start again.  


There were also two Red Kites, zooming about but I only managed to photograph one.

Once at the top of Round Hill, we stopped to take in the views.
Castle Hill with the Chiltern Hills way off in the distance. 

Those two upright dots on the horizon in the centre of the photo are the chimneys of Didcot B Power Station. It feels odd not seeing the big chimney and cooling towers of Didcot A, it had been part of the view all my life and a good landmark for when coming home. 

The harvest in full swing.

The River Thames and Days Lock.

As we walked around the trees on top of the hill, we came across some Teasels in flower, with a Red Admiral feeding on the flowers, we watched it go from one flower to another, bewitched by it and snapping photos like hungry paparazzi till it flew off. 




Next to the Teasels was an extensive Blackberry bush, looking like it's going to be a good year for Blackberries. 

Walking down the slope of Round Hill towards Castle Hill, the clumps of Woolly Thistle are joined by some Wild Carrot. 


In the grass we came across this amorous couple of Chalk Hill Blues, I took my photo and then felt embarrassed, so I bid them good day and moved on.

At the top of Castle Hill there were some Blackthorn bushes, with lots of dusty blue Sloes. It seems this year is going to be good for all fruits. 

Dorchester Abbey is clearly visible from Castle Hill. 

It was getting quite hot in the Sun, poor Dougal had to cool off in the shade. He wanted a pint of beer but he couldn't have one on account of him having to drive my other half home.

It's a shame the old Poem Tree has died and rotted away. It is locally famous, only this plaque remains to tell the story. Poet Joseph Tubb carved the poem into a Beech Tree. On the Earth Trust website is a trans script of the poem, https://earthtrust.org.uk/news/the-poem-tree/ . 

Artist Paul Nash did a water colour of this view. 

The view to the South.

Walking around Castle Hill back towards the car park, there was a different assortment of wild flowers, in amongst the Bird's-foot Trefoil and Field Scabious was Marjoram,

Field Bindweed,

and Clustered Bellflower.

It's always nice to be up the Clumps, what ever the weather, but it was time well spent with my other half and little Dougal. 



Sunday, 2 August 2020

Reynard the Fox.

Well last night I set my Browning Recon Force camera trap up, to see if I could capture the Hedgehogs. Usually they can be seen mooching abut the garden at early night time. It's been a while now and I haven't seen any, I put the camera so it covers as much of the lawn and the pond as possible. I sprinkled some dried mealworms over the lawn as a bait. I can't put meat or shop bought Hedgehog food out because the local Cats just eat it. 
In the morning I retrieved the camera's memory card and whacked it in the laptop. To my disappointment there was no footage of any Hedgehogs; however to my surprise and joy I had captured young Reynard the Fox. I had thought that its last visit would be just a one off, but it now seems that it visits quite often. 
My camera only records night video in twenty second bursts so I joined all my little videos together to make one video with a free app off Google Play.
I presume it is eating the mealworms that I put out, it's the same Fox as last time and I am now wondering if there is a family somewhere or if it's on it's own. 
     

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Garden Pond, Large White Caterpillers and Blackbird.

One thing I did while spending time at home, was to clear out all the accumulated silt that had built up in my little pond. It needed doing as there was only about an inch depth of clear water in what is almost a foot deep tub. While digging out the silt I found three small Gnomes and some plastic fish that must have fallen in some years ago and had been long forgotten. I cleaned them up and gave them a new home around the pond. 
The pump that use to create a little water fall down the front of the stones was beyond repair, which was a shame because it helped keep the water oxygenated, so I decided to replace it with oxygenating plants, because I've come to learn that a calm still surface to the water is better for insects. 
Because the ground level had sunk around the front of the pond, I built a gravel ramp up the side so animals can access the water for a drink or a swim. I have in the pond a castle front that's supposed to be in a goldfish tank, this makes a very good ladder for animals to get back out, something the Rat uses when it takes a dip.   

Signs of life were very quick to appear, in the form of Water Fleas (Daphnia pulex), they were there before the pond silted up, I thought they had died off but the water is now teaming with them. 
Not the best of photos but good enough to get a sense of what they look like. I'm glad they survived the cleaning out.  

There is also Mosquito Larvae, that's the wiggly things in this video. My underwater camera has a fixed focus so most of what's in the pond is too close to be in focus, but again it's good enough to get a sense of what it looks like. 
Known visitors to the pond so far have been the above mentioned Rat, a drinking Goldfinch and a drinking Hedgehog. 

In my last Blog I mentioned that the Small White Butterfly was laying eggs on some Wild Cabbage in the garden. Later on I spotted one green Caterpillar belonging to the Small White on the Cabbage, the next day I went out expecting to photograph a lot of their Caterpillars but what I found was these Caterpillars, they are Large White's.



The yellow dots are the eggs.
       
So that was an odd surprise, considering I haven't seen a Large White on the Cabbage. 

I have the sad task of reporting that I found a dead juvenile Black Bird, under the sunflower feeders, it had no obvious wounds and looked in very good condition, there's no bird shaped marks on any of the windows so I don't know why it died.