Butterfly log pile and other conservation stuff.
Sunrise: 07.29 Sunset: 06.21
It was calm, windy, cold, warm, dry, cloudy, and it poured on the marsh today. In spite of the varied weather conditions, Mike Averill and I managed to finish the butterfly log pile we began building a few months back. There is some titivating still to do over the winter months, but at least it’s functional and another job I can cross off my to-do list. We will install a few solitary bee nesting blocks there too.
A heron and, later in the morning, a Harris hawk flew from perches in the large willow at the north end of the pond: a favourite meeting place of great spotted woodpeckers early in the year. The resident moorhen scolded us as it scooted across the water surface, annoyed at our disturbing its Saturday morning I expect. Wasps from a low nest in the second oak lightning tree were very active and harried us at every opportunity.
Inspection of otter cam memory card revealed more of the critters I now regard as regular visitors to the holt: mice, rats, rabbits, stoats and weasels, but no otters. I believe it’s just a matter of time before an otter takes up residence. The holt is settling down very nicely and blending well with its surrounding. Many local plants are established in the soil covering the holt, and the willow used in its construction is strongly rooted.
Lunch consisted of cheese sandwiches and a cold blackcurrant drink consumed from a sawn tree stump in middle of a rain storm, alongside the lightning tree, with occasional wasps bouncing from my cagoule hood. It might have rained, but there is still nothing quite like lunch alfresco with workmates on a marsh workday.
The log pile has a waterproof plastic roof membrane. The south-facing side is sealed against the high winds that whistle up the Lower Stour Valley. The east and west sides are open and the north side is protected by a thick bush. To the left is the North Pond chain, and behind the large bush to the right of the image is the living otter holt we built earlier in the year.
A little way out of shot, to the left of the image, is one of the two large oak lightning trees; part the second is just in-shot on the right hand side of the image. We dug under the roots of the first lightning tree this afternoon, extending the existing cavity to create an exit at ninety degrees the entrance, just in case an otter should prefer a more basic and smaller residence to the rent-free palace that is the living otter holt. There is always the exciting possibility, when digging under a very old and large oak tree that someone from the distant past has hidden their fortune there, but it was not the case today.
We cleared out an old fox den in the hope that the north marsh vixen might take an interest in it next spring.
Adult foxes do not live together; they sleep independently above ground, curled up in the cleft of a tree root, in a hedge, or some other place offering shelter from the wind. The fox will squeeze into a tight nook or cranny, fluff out its fur, drape its tail around its head and nose, and brave the coldest temperatures.
The vixen gives birth underground. The dog fox supplies her with food during her confinement. When the Cubs are old enough to be left in the den alone, both foxes will bring food, leaving it outside the den for the cubs to collect.
I have spent many happy hours watching fox activity around dens. Although a vixen might reuse her birthing den, she might dig separate birthing chambers; I suppose she does this to reduce the risk of mange. On the marsh, though, the vixens rotate their dens. The dog fox makes certain that no other male fox invades his territory .