Welcome to this week's blog from Greylake, West Sedgemoor and Swell Wood. It feels to me that our seasons have got all confused. Spring was more like summer, with soaring temperatures through April and May, and very little rain. Then June was very wet and July is grey and windy so far. There's a sense of Autumn in the air, even though we haven't even quite reached midsummer in meteorological terms. I wonder if summer will come back or whether the weather will continue in this unsettled manner until Autumn really does arrive.
I took this photo from the viewpoint at Swell Wood on Thursday morning, showing the gloomy skies we've had this week. The moor is greening up again with the rain we've had but there's still a brownish tint from the long dry spell we had. Varying vegetation also produces different colours in each field.
I realised that last week I forgot to update you on our remaining nests here on the farm, so I will start with that. The pied wagtails fledged their chicks on Monday. I saw one youngster on the roof with an adult, and then again on Thursday, I saw a juvenile following an adult across the yard looking to be fed. Then on Friday, when I went out to experiment with my new camera, I saw at least three chicks around the yard, possibly more.
I never did find the nest. I could hear it, when the adults came in to feed the chicks, but it must have been well hidden up in the shed roof as I couldn't see it from inside or out. It's been a good year for them with two broods successfully fledged.
I saw the first swallow chick pop its head up on Tuesday this week, still looking a bit fluffy. But by Thursday, when I could see two together, they were looking a bit better feathered, with the adult red colouring appearing on their throats. I imagine they will start to come out of the nest within a few days and start taking short flights within a week. My new camera came in handy again to get a couple of pictures of this chick looking somewhat disgruntled. You can just about see the head of a second chick behind it.
We also had some news from nests out on the moor. The most exciting is the fledging of a single juvenile marsh harrier from West Sedgemoor. We'd been watching the pair since early March, when they began setting up a territory and building their nest. It's been a long wait, trying to work out what stage they were at, as they can be very secretive about bringing in food. Our conservation officer believes this is the first known fledging of a marsh harrier from this site in around 100 years, although we haven't researched this for certain. It's great news for this Schedule 1, amber listed species. In 1971 only one breeding female remained in the UK, but thanks to conservation efforts there are now nearly 400 pairs and numbers are increasing.
The kestrels that I was watching earlier in the year around the barn have also managed to fledge three chicks. It turned out they were nesting in some willows near the barn.
Our cranes are still doing well. The pair that I thought had lost a chick actually hadn't and still have two. The other pair still has their single chick, so there are three in total. Not the best year for them but they are long lived birds so they can cope with a bad year. Numbers overall are increasing nicely.
I took my new camera out into the garden on Friday morning to see what I could find to photograph. Almost straight away, this gorgeous greenfinch landed on the feeder. It's probably a male because it's so bright.
I noticed it flew back into a bush, where there was a whole family of greenfinches hiding. I tried to get a photo but they were amongst the leaves and kept moving about. There were at least four juveniles though. As I was watching them, I heard a rustle and spotted this little fledgling on the ground. At first I assumed it was a young robin, but the colouring isn't quite right so I think its probably a young dunnock, especially as it's on the ground.
In non bird news, I was walking across one of the fields at Greylake on Thursday and saw these cool funnel webs. I took a look inside and found this labyrinth spider lurking at the bottom of the funnel. The female spiders lay their eggs in a sac at the bottom of the funnel and then guard the eggs until they hatch and are ready to leave the web. Strands of web are laid to bring unsuspecting prey closer to the centre of the funnel where they can be caught and dispatched. Look out for the webs close to the ground in grasslands and heaths.
There will be a break in the blog next week as I am taking a week off. I've only taken a few days here and there since Christmas so I'm very ready for a proper break. I'll be back in two week's time with all the latest updates.
P.S. All photos by me
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