The Nights are Drawing In

Today we might have two minutes less daylight than yesterday but quality is more important than quantity

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Basking in the evening sun, a family of baby rabbits

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They might look sweet but we think they are after this

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In the same way, we are altering our stance on foxes, which we used to feed in the city.  They have been spotted on our patch in daylight hours – we think of our youngest, today taking a communal dustbath

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although May needs a bit of a shock

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She is going broody, spending all day in the nestbox, collecting other hen’s eggs under her radiating breast.  When ejected she complains bitterly. Tomorrow she is going in The Box.

A visit to a neighbour’s meadows to see their variety of orchids.  We are making a start, seeing a good showing of Yellow Rattle in our little meadow

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We will shortly be able to supply a full guided tour of the Composting Toilet but for now we can say that the balcony has been installed

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Elsewhere on The Plot today

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The Longest Day

The Solstice is rather overcast here.  Yesterday the cloud line hovered below the hilltops, later descending to mist up the field below us.  The sheep on the tops must think they are wrapped in a fleece. The ones in the field next to us are marched down the lane and later back up again, some of them having lost their fleece

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The hedgehogs can’t wait for the longest day to end and have to come to feed while the day is still light

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The work of a much appreciated visitor brings shape to the willow bower

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and it is now possible to access the compost toilet without going up a stepladder

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One of the hens is not pulling her weight today

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Elsewhere around the plot

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Flycatchers leave, Wagtails take over

The problem with setting up a motion activated camera is that if it is left trained on a nest of chicks for a day you end up with about two thousand pictures as the parents bring in a non-stop supply of food.  The Flycatchers have fledged and gone several days ago and now that we are missing their company we trawl through all those pictures.  The thing is, they all show the same thing.

Either the male arriving with food
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or the female arriving with food
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Bottoms sticking out of the box
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and chicks waiting impatiently
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Sometimes we see two family members together
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and occasionally a passing visitor
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But their box is now empty and quiet and attention shifts to the stump outside the kitchen window
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Three wagtail fledglings take up residence there and wait for the next airdrop of supplies; their two stronger siblings have already gone off to explore the world.
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They mob the hard-pressed parent
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and watch indignantly as he leaves
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How many insects are delivered each time?
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There are fledglings everywhere
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Meanwhile, out in the small animal house the Youngest Ones Of All don’t really like being on the floor
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looking at our feet. They would much rather wait to ambush us at eye-level
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Last night they ended up roosting on top of the Guinea Pig cage.

Elsewhere on the plot today

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A Tale of Three Nestlings

(1) The Happy One (so far)

The Pied Wagtail brood has been fledging from the eaves nest, conveniently outside the kitchen window

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the young all fluffy and dumpy but with a stump of a tail – which wags

Parents still busy too and fro bringing beak-fulls of flies

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(2) The Unhappy One which may have turned into a Happy One

Fledgling Siskins use the feeders

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and then, bang – one hits the window. Stunned, traces of blood, it is warmed in the hand for nearly half an hour.  Looking more conscious it is placed outside and flies up to perch

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before flying off for the next stage of its hazardous existence.

(3) The Definitely Unhappy One

Long ago we placed a Robin box low down outside the wood shed

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At that point it was open to the world, but a cottoneaster grew up and shielded it from view.  Then we realised we had placed it under a roof which poured down water.  We installed one deflector – which was not enough – then another.  A male wren chose it as one of its building sites.  The female he wooed selected it as her favourite. She layed, she incubated, they hatched.  The last week she has spent on non-stop to and fro, low across the orchard, bringing a constant supply of nourishment to her growing brood.  And then today this

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Nest strewn on the ground.  Fledglings gone. Magpies.

Later today the male is madly building and singing “come and try this one” on the house wall – resilience

The thing with guinea pigs is that they live in colonies

so we obviously have to work up to this.  Today we added

Fred
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and Ginger
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Elsewhere on the plot today

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Down In The Meadow

More than half the plot is a field, not utilised by our predecessors, used by the farmer for his ewes most in need of love after lambing. It did contain a giant waste wood pile which now, after sifting and sorting, has been reduced to a small bonfire 2015_06_14_24 Now the sheep have left, this field is growing up into an interesting meadow 2015_06_14_26 We think it has not had chemicals spread on it for twenty years and the range of species supports that.  If there are any meadow experts out there please let us know what are the key indicators for an old meadow. [see my comment at the top of the page] 2015_06_14_09 2015_06_14_10 2015_06_14_11 2015_06_14_12 2015_06_14_13 2015_06_14_14 2015_06_14_15 2015_06_14_16 2015_06_14_17 2015_06_14_182015_06_14_19 2015_06_14_20 2015_06_14_21 2015_06_14_22 2015_06_14_23 2015_06_14_28 We sat in the meadow this evening, as the bonfire smoked and flickered, and watched the farmer’s cattle released from their over-wintering. They were cantering around the hillside, led from the rear by Big Boy the bull (can you see him?) 2015_06_14_27 And now we have Cock Of The Day.  The Young’uns have been asserting their identity – we had the first attempt at a crow a few days ago.  Now today, our favourite – Fanny, who loves a good cuddle, – tried the same thing.  So welcome to Fanny, a (hopefully) beta-cockerel 2015_06_14_29 Elsewhere on the plot today 2015_06_14_01 2015_06_14_02 2015_06_14_03 2015_06_14_042015_06_14_06

Things are a swelling

As the sun goes down tonight the wagtails are taking a pause

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from the non-stop task of ferrying food to their under-eaves brood

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Stepping out this morning the veils were drawn

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signifying welcome moistness, dripping off the oaks

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and glistening on flattened grass

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Just as the fledglings are growing, so the vegetable kingdom is revving up to produce offspring.  In some cases this is unnerving

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having seen sycamore seedlings every few inches from last year’s crop.

Possibilities of fruit are more welcome

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together with signs of more immediate harvest

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Some things just keep on growing anyway

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Rotating your chickens

Up until a few hours ago the forecast was showing 24 hours of heavy rain from this evening.  Tomorrow now looks like this

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which is not fair at all because the outdoor beds were not watered tonight on the promise of this rain

This table shows the rain so far this month

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which pretty much amounts to – you had it all on the 1st, what more do you want?

Anyway, today was chicken rotation day which, as part of the worm reduction policy, involved moving both the layers and the Young’uns to new patches.

This meant abandoning lovingly carved out dustbaths

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and exploring pastures new

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For the first time this morning one of the Young’uns issued a proto-crow.  He was so excited by the experience he started chasing female Young’uns in an aggressive way.  We popped him in with the layers for a little while and being eyeballed by Molly and rounded up in a pincer movement by Wattle and Daub soon damped down his machismo.

We will shortly by revealing – to us and to you – the gender of the  Young’uns – if you haven’t made your predictions please look here and do it now.

Elsewhere on the plot today

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and for Roz – some of your gifts in a new home

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