Sunday, 8 April 2018

the furious glare of the little owl ...

To New Farm where Little Owls seem to have adopted at least one of the nest boxes we made and sited. Unfortunately, the boxes also provide bespoke accommodation for grey squirrels. So, innovation time - and ferret bedding placed in the bottom of the nest boxes. The ferret smell might deter squirrels and the owls need a layer of material onto which they lay their eggs. The eu d'ferret is no deterrent to the birds.
Little owls have a wonderful way of glaring furiously.

Moth light set down by the pond, the gentle call of male toads my night time accompaniment. I counted 26 males and a pair in amplexus on a quick torch lit survey. This may seem a paltry figure, but it is the highest since the pond was dug in 2016. Carnage on two nights on Lamins Lane in the week as we drove home. Jill with hazard warning lights on driving slowly and me walking ahead moving toads that had not been crushed into the hedge bottom. I've sited 'Toads Crossing' signs into the hedge this week thanks to Froglife.

Later in the week watching a peregrine pass over Lamins Lane. Sleek and efficient. My friend the farmer complained that others had seen peregrine but he hadn't. I suggested that he spent too much time looking down at his rhubarb crop rather than up into the sky. He suggested that was what paid the bills.

Eighty moths of twelve species caught and released last night - about 50% down on the same time last year, but this is probably because spring is so late. Bats have been late emerging - our first soprano pipistrelle bat was clicking last night. Also late have been hedgehogs but at last my cafes are attracting customers as the video shows.

Mallards are ruining my small ponds. Whatever high-velocity laxative these creatures use is mightily effective. Each latrine/pond is now mushy pea green. My mother complains that the ducks are tapping on the lounge windows with their beaks. She is discouraging them with handfuls of muesli.

Himalayan Birch border
Thanks to the forty-five folks who joined us the see 'The Messenger' documentary about migratory birds at The Bonington Theatre on Easter Sunday. Not my ideal choice of date, but twice the audience they normally get. Everyone who came and spoke to me told me how powerful the film was. Thanks to the Friends of Bestwood Country Park for ensuring that all under 16's came in free.

Snowdrops have now finished but golden domes of wild primroses glow in the Woodland Garden. I'm  lifting and dividing snowdrops to get an even-more spectacular show next year. Propagation of primroses has been slower as we only brought a handful of plants with us from our old garden. I'm hopeful that each mature plant will yield a dozen or more divisions next month and I've also bought fifty plug plants to speed up colonisation. My memories of doing the BTO Common Bird Census up at Treswell Wood near Retford are of my ears throbbing with dawn chorus bird song - and the glory of the wild primroses. Such special flowers.

A hundred bluebells 'in the green' planted in the Cedar Walk. Bluebells planted by Crimea Plantation continue to thicken and spread and a third, small colony grown from seed is building up on the Cut Through Path. Self-sown bluebell seedlings are being transplanted into the Crimea Boundary hedgerow too.

Another mini-mountain of chippings has been delivered by a tree surgeon friend. More hours of shovelling and spreading, this time to mulch the Himalayan Birch border where the sweet violets (viola odonata) are at their exotic best. What about a man who washes the trunks of Himalayan Birch with a cloth to ensure that their snow-white trunks gleam? Counselling may be an option.

At least three bramblings (big, old gold and black northern chaffinches) still with us. Our kitchen window is turning into a stunning bird hide. Siskins remain too, although their numbers are falling as they return north.

Our first WWOOOF volunteer joins us later this month. If you fancy a bit of gentle exercise in a beautiful wildlife garden to the accompaniment of bird song let me know. No experience needed.

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