Just before last Christmas, we attached a barn owl nesting box to an oak tree on the flight path of a local barn owl. Colin Cross of CRC Ecology Ltd kindly came along to carry out the necessary monkey work. We cleared an area in front of the box as a hunting ground.
Audio recordings have confirmed that barn owls are flying close to the nesting box, but there is no evidence of occupation. The barn owl audio can be heard below.
I went toading at North Pond last night. The video below shows a few of the thousands of toads using this mating pond. It was a clear night with a full moon. The weather and conditions were perfect for toad watching. There was lots of floating frog spawn, but not many frogs singing.
(Click image to view video)
This video shows a honey bee swarm building a nest in a rotting tree stump on Wilden Marsh, which can spell disaster if the weather suddenly takes a turn for the worst. Autumn swarms can result in two depleted bee colonies being unable to muster enough honey for the winter. Without food, the bees are fighting a losing battle, often meaning the destruction of one or both nests/hives from starvation. Possibly, their only hope is for a local beekeeper to rescue them. I contacted our local bee group and was advised to leave them to take their chances with nature or cover the swarm with a piece of plywood.
I feel I have let too many honey bee swarms perish on Wilden Marsh through inaction on my part. I have decided to do something positive to improve the chances of this swarm making it through winter. The bees are exposed to all our weather can throw at them, and with the prospect of cold autumn/winter weather just around the corner, I made and fitted a protective wooden enclosure over the nest this morning using scrap pieces of wood from my workshop. Agitated and confused honey bees circled for quite some time, trying to work out what was happening, but they soon found a new route to their nest. I wouldn’t be concerned if this nest was high up in a tree, but it is exposed 300 mm to 600 mm from the ground and likely to be raided by badgers.
Honey bees can survive freezing winter temperatures because mother nature has equipped them with highly developed survival mechanisms and strategies. Simply put, honey bees must create their own heat source and maintain a food supply inside the hive/nest to ensure they make it to spring. Sometimes, when bees get things wrong, they can benefit from human intervention: a theory that can lead to highly contested debates, I suspect.
The honey bees have their first artificial feed: I poured half a jam jar of white granulated sugar on a log, forming a sugar cone, immediately under the nest enclosure. I also secreted ten crab apples at various places within the structure. Two hours later, the bees had removed almost all the sugar. A few wasps also took advantage of the free sugar.
The air and ground around the nest were literally buzzing with industrious bees rushing to get their food stores laid down before the arrival of cold weather. I have been thinking of making solid sugar lollipops with a wire running through them to hang in the spaces between the logs and the wooden nest enclosure. Any advice on the practicality of feeding with solid sugar lollipops would be appreciated. I envisage a lollipop size of 25mm diameter by 100mm.
The cattle need moving to higher ground; not far: from down there in the Swamp, to up here in the Northern Corridor and Hoo Brook Corral. The move could be easy or a real pain if the cattle decide to run further into the Swamp. Yesterday evening, in preparation, I separated the two Galloways from the herd and secured them in Hoo Brook Corridor to keep the rest of the cattle at the north end of the Swamp until it was time for the move this morning. Here is how it went:
(Please click on the image to view the video)