Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Red kites in the garden

There have been a pair of red kites hanging around for a few weeks now, but mostly sitting in a tree a few houses away from us. They have been in our garden today though. I could hear them calling close by, so went out to see if I could see them and one was sat in the maple tree at the end of our garden. He flew off when he saw me, but landed again in a tree next door. The pair of them have been calling for most of the morning and seem to be here a lot. How exciting would it be if they nested in one of our trees in the spring!

#100DaysOfNature Day 69

Interesting facts about red kites:
  • They were extinct in England for over 100 years
  • They were re-introduced to the Chilterns 25 years ago
  • There are now thought to be over 1000 breeding pairs in the Chilterns and eggs/young birds have been taken from the Chilterns to start re-introduction programs elsewhere in the country
  • They scavenge most of their food, but will kill chicks, rabbits and invertebrates (worms and beetles)
  • They make a nest out of large sticks and twigs, but line it with all sorts of strange things such as socks, kitchen paper, baler twine, plastic bags and anything else they can pick up

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Brush Hill nature reserve

It was a lovely sunny morning, so I took Bug Mad Girl up to Brush Hill nature reserve. It's one of our favourite sites for fungi at this time of the year, but we didn't see any at all. It was very dry though, so I expect we need a couple of days of rain for them all to appear.

The view was lovely when you got out of the woods, onto the top of the hill.

Bug Mad Girl climbed her favourite tree. It's covered in lovely lichen and moss.

Lovely lichen
We went for a walk through the woods and saw lots of squirrels and a few pheasants. We also saw 2 Jays (unfortunately no time for a picture), but as they flew away from us we could clearly see the electric blue fan of their wing feathers. Bug Mad Girl has always loved Jays, ever since she found a bright blue feather at Brush Hill when she was about 4.

There seemed to be lots of old badger setts around, but I don't think they were being used as there was no fresh soil or chalk scraped out of the hole. This one did have a big poo outside the hole, that was full of red berries.

This enormous bird house had been put up - not sure what sort of bird it was for, but something big, maybe an owl (?)

This old bird house was hanging off a tree. I just like all the ivy and branches, with the green leaves behind it.

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Bug Mad Girl found a millipede on a tree

She also spotted where something had eaten pigeon for tea

And she found some woodlice in an old rotten tree trunk
We saw a few butterflies around (a comma, speckled wood and a small tortoiseshell), then we spotted this Robin sitting on a log. It was very tame and didn't seem to mind us getting very close to it. I think it may be a young one that's still getting it's adult plumage.

#100DaysOfNature Day 67

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A box of Crane Flies

We put the moth trap out last night. It's always exciting when you open it in the morning as you never quite know what you're going to find! The birds also get very excited when they see it and start twittering and jumping around in the trees around the patio. We try hard to let the moths go in the bushes, but there are a lot of moths everywhere that are easy targets for the sparrows and robins.

Even Little Brother gets involved and likes to hold a moth on his finger. This Common Wainscot, which he called Yellow, was quite happy on his finger for about 20 minutes, before it (wisely) made a break for it.

Little Brother (and Yellow) helped open the moth trap

Yellow, the Common Wainscot
One of the first moths we spotted was a Ruby Tiger, sitting on the outside of the box. It had dark red/brown wings, with a bright ruby red furry body. I only managed to get one photo, which unfortunately doesn't show it's ruby colour at all. It flew off before I could get a better shot.

Ruby Tiger moth
There were lots of Crane flies in the box. Not my favourite thing - They're all dangly legs and fly into everything.

I was surprised how many moths were in the trap. Most were different varieties from the small brown club. Some of those are quite pretty and have intricate patterns on their wings and some are bright orange. We also got several Large Yellow Underwings and a couple of Broad-bordered Yellow Underwings.

We got a couple of Burnished Brass moths, which are really pretty with their metallic green pattern and wild tufty hair.

#100DaysOfNature Day 66 - Burnished Brass moth

We also caught one Autumn Thorn. I love the shape of their wings and the way they hold them up in the air.

Autumn Thorn

Autumn Thorn

Friday, 26 September 2014

Out and about

This is Pete the pigeon, who lives at Nanny Moths house. He was sat right next to us this afternoon, totally oblivious to us being there. He's a very handsome chap!

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On the way home, I took this photo of Whiteleaf Cross as it looked so pretty in the evening sunshine. You can see how the leaves have started to change colour. I've already written a post about it being cleaned recently, but this shows just how white and shiny it is now.

Back at Bug Mad HQ, there's been something strange happening in the garden. There were a lot of feathers, some poo and what looked like lots of bird poo that had been eaten by massive worms. I don't know for sure what happened, but I can only assume something (maybe a cat or fox) ate a bird (hence all the feathers), left us a poo in the garden, then the worms ate whatever was left over. Very strange!

Bug Mad Girl has put the moth trap out tonight, so we'll see in the morning whether there are lots of moths still around.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Yoesden Bank

We had lunch in Bledlow Ridge today, so afterwards we had a quick walk around stunning Yoesden Bank. In the summer it's completely covered in wildflowers and butterflies and is an amazing place to visit. It still has the breathtaking views of Radnage and the Chilterns, but is a bit quieter at this time of year.

Yoesden Bank, looking down to Radnage
A lot of the fields are being ploughed at the moment and the red kites love it. They follow the tractors around looking for worms being brought to the surface. There were a lot gliding around overhead and even a few down on the ground.

Fields being ploughed in the distance

A red kite down on the ground

Take off

The distinctive shape of a red kite gliding overhead
Most of the flowers had gone over on Yoesden Bank, but there were still some in the fields. There was lots of sows thistles and some clover and ground thistles still flowering.

There are still some flowers around
Most flowers have gone over now - Scabious seed heads

Ground Thistle

Sow Thistle - More like a Dandelion than a Thistle

The hedgerows were full of berries, especially Sloes. I can't remember seeing so many before. It's definitely going to be a bumper year!

We had a look through the woods as well and found a few interesting treasures.

There were lots of old badger sets - I don't think they were in use though
as there was no fresh chalk/soil scraped out of the entrance
There wasn't very much fungus around, but we did find this large
bracket fungus

There was some tiny lichen growing on a gate

#100DaysOfNature Day 64 - This caught my eye, because it looks like
the bramble leaves have been stuck onto the log

An old rotten tree was being chewed and eaten

We found a huge Yew tree, covered in poisonous berries

Yew berries

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lovey doves, a wren and some sweet chestnuts

I called in to see Nanny Moth this morning. There were two very pretty Lovey Doves on her bird table. We always call them Lovey Doves because you often see them in pairs and they look so cute together, but they're actually Collared Doves.

I have to admit, I'd never noticed they have dark red eyes. Bit creepy, but we still love them!

Then a very noisy Wren sat on a fence post and sang at us. They have a very big voice for such a tiny bird. I love their big round tummies and the way they stick their tails up in the air.

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Nanny Moth had found some Sweet Chestnuts whilst out and about. They're the chestnuts that you roast and eat at Christmas and are distantly related to the Horse Chestnut (Conkers). They're very strange looking things, as the seeds are surrounded by a spiky case, making them look a bit like a sea urchin. They're very prickly to hold and you can definitely see how the spikes would protect them from being eaten by animals.