One Wild Winter – Handbags at dawn

two-robins-in-snowYou know it’s cold when two robins tolerate such close proximity under the bird table. They jerkily hop around each other with a wary eye. They remind me of two blokes in the pub who keep calling each other ‘mate,’ while squaring up for a fight. It ends, as such things so often do, with a quick spat in the neighbours garden before both parties withdraw to brood in the hedgerow.

Wildlife Rescue

 

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A sick magpie but not the one I rescued, who was feeling too poorly to pose for photos

Today I found a sick magpie in my garden. I hate these moments. You walk out for a breath of fresh air and there’s some bird with it’s head hanging low and half the feathers on its neck pecked away. What do you do?

As someone who spends a lot of time in the countryside I know the score. Things die , things attack other things. So do you let nature take it’s course? Nine times out of ten I do, survival of the fittest is there for a reason and is it really kinder to terrify an animal in its last moments?

 

Then there are the times you can do something and wish you had the stomach for it; a rabbit with myxomatosis, a fox that’s been hit by a car. My one reason to learn to shoot would be to put these animals out of there misery, if only I were strong enough to do it.

But, could I just go in, shut the door and let the magpie die? Of course I couldn’t. I threw a towel over it, bundled it into a box and gave it a bumpy ride to Sittingbourne to a kind lady who takes in injured wildlife. He survived the journey, she removed the ticks, she cleaned his manky eye and he perked up.

Many people hate magpies. They say they are viscous and cruel. I don’t think that any wild creature can be viscous and cruel. Magpies attack and kill other birds, they take birds eggs, they harass predators but all these things are done to survive, to eat, to reduce competition. Magpies are opportunists and carnivorous, they act according to their nature.

I am a human, a thinking animal. Humans can be cruel and viscous but they can also be emphatic and caring and just plain soft. I couldn’t do anything but rescue the magpie. I too must act according to my nature.

Dreaming of Butterflies

So many butterflies at Queendown Warren in Kent on a warm Bank Holiday Monday, they spun before my eyes as I fell asleep.

marjoren and wild flowers at Queendown Warren

Marjoram, knapweed and harebells at Queensdown Warren. A good source of nectar for butterflies

 

Chalkhill blue

Chalkhill Blue

Brown Argus Queensdown Warren

Hundreds of Brown Argus were laying eggs yesterday

silver

Silver spotted skippers were harder to spot but this one was obliging.

adonis blue butterfly

The eye popping Adonis Blue is easier to see.

small copper on marjoram

My favourite butterfly, a Small Copper, the only one I have seen this year.

Autumn ladies tresses Queendown Warren

It is easy to miss this tiny orchid while enjoying the butterflies but Autumn Ladies Tresses is one of the speciality plants of the site.

Longshore Drift

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photo by MLP

Longshore Drift is a new online magazine published jointly by the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership and Longshore Editions. Its primary focus is the landscape of the north Kent marshes, with occasional diversions into areas of related interest. They welcome submissions from writers, artists, filmmakers, photographers, musicians and craftspeople, who can inspire our readers to explore, understand and appreciate the importance of the area.

take a look at the first edition and find out how to contribute here

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Happiness is…finding a woolly bear in my garden

woolly bear caterpillar

Woolly bears were everywhere when I was a little girl. They were the ‘go to’ caterpillar for the pre pubescent naturalist wishing to imprison them in a jar and watch them turn into chrysalis and then become the beautiful black and orange garden tiger moth. As children we lived with tales of the terrible rash which would erupt on our limbs if we touched them but touch them of course we did.Then they became rare then they seemed to disappear from our ever more tidy gardens.

Luckily, with all this rain, my garden is a jungle and the woolly bear can roam at will. This one was tucking into an evening meal of jasmine.

 

A Year in the Life of an Environmental Consultant – May

Josh bird watching on Stoke Marshes

Josh Bartel surveys Stoke Marshes near the Isle of Grain.

The peak of the breeding season saw us visiting farms across North Kent to monitor breeding waders. Along with monitoring numbers of lapwing, redshank, oystercatchers, snipe and yellow wagtails, we also recorded the fledgling productivity of lapwing chicks. Detailed notes were made on the sward condition, grazing regime and the amount of water laying on the fields. This information is used to better understand the ideal management for waders on both grassland and arable sites and to inform advice given to landowners to ensure that farms receiving stewardship payments attract breeding birds and that chicks have the best chance of successfully fledging.

The project is a follow on from the work started through the Nature Improvement Area (NIA), and is a partnership between NE and the RSPB.

This month we also worked with the Environment Agency and the River Stour Internal Drainage Board to advise on management of a small river called the Sarre Penn, which runs close to the village of Chislet outside of Canterbury.

Sarre Penn © Copyright Marathon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Sarre Penn © Copyright Marathon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The channel experiences high winter flows and we discussed possible ways of managing this alongside enhancing the channel for wildlife. Options included reconnecting the channel with the floodplain and creating a two tier channel using woody debris to create pools and riffles which will create more diversity and opportunities for aquatic invertebrates.

The next stage is discussing the options with the landowner and undertaking a water vole survey, only then can we make decisions on the best way forward.

Lastly we undertook a bird survey for the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership at Hillyfields Community Park in the centre of Gillingham. We discovered that this remnant of old orchard and open fields is home to 16 species of birds, including coal tit and mistle thrush along with abundant blackcap, chiffchaff and wren.

Hillyfields Orchard © Copyright David Anstiss and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Hillyfields Orchard © Copyright David Anstiss and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This shows how important our small urban green spaces are for wildlife. Unfortunately many of these sites are currently under threat by developers looking to exploit the current relaxation of planning laws. Our towns and cities will be poorer places if these wildlife rich sites are deemed to be unimportant and swept away.