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October 2020: wildlife, from the Somerset Levels

October 27th 2020. Our Roe mother was back for much of the morning, scratching and grooming her new coat. It must be a difficult period for her. The young ones have never found it much of a distraction. She came and went during the night, as the trail camera revealed.

 Roe mother Capreolus capreolus

Roe mother Capreolus capreolus

October 26th 2020. Although it was cold, damp and not particularly pleasant, Ham Wall provided a good walk in the afternoon. I took the camera but expected little. On the way in, a Chaffinch posed very confidingly for a few minutes, feeding within feet of me, apparently not in the least worried by my presence. Further on, I was suprised to see one or two Migrant hawker dragonflies flying backwards and forwards across the reeds. I cannot rememember them being around as late as this previously.


Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs f


Migrant hawker Aeshna mixta m

Migrant hawker Aeshna mixta m

October 25th 2020. A walk up to the North Hide on Westhay Moor was much more rewarding than I had expected. Harriers supplied an enjoyable visual experience, as well as those from various ducks and Cormorants, in between flashes of sunlight and overhead cloud.

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus

 Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f

At one point I watched fascinated as a harrier was quite literally harried by a bunch of crows. I have seen this frequently with a single opponent, but there were six of the crows having a go. It must be absolutely infuriating when you are concentrating on some small creature below and the aerial warfare starts up. Nothing would deter them, however much twisting and turning took place. In the end they all drifted out of sight, still in combat.

 Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

The hide was empty for most of my visit but, once again, those who did come in, did not wear masks - in actuality, relying on my mask to keep them safer! I feel like an old curmugeon saying this, but we are about to go into countrywide lockdown because of Coronavirus-19.

October 24th 2020. Mother Roe spent a deal of the day with us, apparently on her own, though the trail camera showed that more of the family came and went during the night. She still looks unkempt, but her ribs have filled out now the family does not appear to depend on her for food.

Roe mother Capreolus capreolus

 Roe mother Capreolus capreolus

Roe mother Capreolus capreolus 

 Roe mother Capreolus capreolus

October 22nd 2020. I heard that migrant duck had started to arrive at Catcott Lows pond, so felt it worth a visit though it was dull and overcast. The hide was full, no-one with masks, so I was forced to stay outside and use the pierced fencing as my base. I had expected Wigeon Anas penelope, but those feeding in front were all Shoveler, mostly males, still with traces of earlier grey plumage. I was delighted, as these are amongst the most entertaining of all ducks.

Shoveler Anas clypeata

October 21st 2020. It rained on and off all day, as it has for some time now, but that did not seem to faze the deer; they were with us for most of the day. At the period of heaviest rain, two of them were at the back in plain sight, lying down and looking around periodically. It is not as if there is no shelter, futher up there are numbers of trees with good canopies. The trail camera showed the animals moving in and out during the dark hours.

October 15th 2020. It was a beautiful morning, brilliant sunshine and a fresh breeze, but much colder first thing. I went for a walk up London drove on Westhay Moor, both for some exercise and hoping to see a few more birds. Dressed properly, it was a fine walk, most of the leaves remaining on the trees and the sides of the drove still in growth. A great many darter dragonflies were still around, sometimes rising in clouds as you walked.

Common darter Sympetrum striolatum m

Perhaps the most surprising sight was this battered butterfly still gamely flying on in spite of wind and cold.

Speckled wood Pararge aegeria - extremely old and worn

No new birds on the ponds and lakes. I suppose the temperature has not yet encouraged migration, though this may well change soon. However, when I looked into an almost empty tower hide, I saw a harrier Circus spp. immediately, circling, wavering and dropping down into the reeds in the distance. Let's hope this is the real start of their flying and courting season.

October 14th 2020. A Green woodpecker appeared at the back of the house, hammering away at the grass for his breakfast. We are only too aware of the numbers of ants Formicidae in that area, as we once removed some paving stones round the pond to tidy up the surround and found there were ants nests stretching all the way round. There must have been millions of the tiny, industrious creatures - looking like a black, moving carpet. He had spent much of the hot weather in the same place at the same job. But that was not his only connection with us;  he spent much time banging on our windows, presumably attracted by his reflection. This would start really early while we were asleep; we were woken by the rhythmic sound. He did not confine himself to one window, but circled the house. 

 Green woodpecker Picus viridis m

Green woodpecker Picus viridis m 

Green woodpecker Picus viridis m

The picture below was from an earlier time in the middle of summer. a time when the window-banging was in full blast. I wonder why a male bird should have been on his own?

Green woodpecker Picus viridis m

Later in the morning, the deer again reappeared - now becoming a daily event. Almost immediately the mother settled down and went to sleep, though changing to another location after a while.

Roe mother Capreolus capreolus

Roe mother Capreolus capreolus

October 13th 2020. Jilly and I had a short but productive visit to Tealham Moor in the morning, spotting the required Cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis before I had to rush off to lunch with Clare and Romey at the Red Cow, Brent Knoll - excellent and very well organised for keeping visitors safe.

October 10th 2020.  Another deer morning. Aren't they all nowadays? The mother deer was up and down a great deal as she spent much of her efforts scratching to remove the summer coat. It really is a lengthy and uncomfortable process for her, though providing us with a deal of entertainment as we watch her assuming all sorts of impossible positions during their efforts.

Roe mother moulting Capreolus capreolus

Roe mother Capreolus capreolus

October 9th 2020. The mother Roe deer spent the whole of the morning and part of the afternoon behind a screen of ancient rose bushes scratching at her fur. Quite clearly, it gave her a terrible itch. For much of the time she used her mouth and her hooves to tear at the coat. Occasionally she would pause and try to settle but soon she was up and pulling at the coat. It came out in bundles but still there seemed to be more. The summer coat, which you would imagine to be thin and fall out, looked like lumps of thick wool. She was busy changing from the bright red summer coat, with virtually no pale area round the tail, to the winter one, variable from light to darker grey, with a large, bright tail patch.

Roe mother moulting Capreolus capreolus

Roe mother moulting Capreolus capreolus

Roe mother moulting Capreolus capreolus

October 11th 2020. Romey and I took ourselves off to Ham Wall for a breezy walk this afternoon. And that was what it was, there were no birds to be seen. The only creature of note was a Migrant hawker busy hawking from a station on some pale waterside leaves. This must be a rather late appearance for this dragonfly?

 

Migrant hawker Aeshna mixta m

Glastonbury Tor, from Westhay Moor NNR

October 7th 2020. The deer were back for most of the day, but this time there were four of them, a real surprise. I am now certain that the adult male is the same one who spent last winter and spring with us as a youngster; the antlers are exactly the same shape and configuration. We spent much of the morning watching the tightknit little family of mother and her two children, as they wandered round the garden, sometimes coming close to feed right in front of the window. It was only later, when the family emerged from round the barn, that we realised that there was this fourth member, a visual crowd. It was a most exciting moment - we felt like applauding them for their presence. What was amazing, was watching them wandering around, at times distant and small, then looking up to see their incredibly solid, three dimensional bodies, only yards away. This close, it is impossible to watch without realising the power of their personalities, the way their heads dart round, always on the lookout. Romey says that they must have a tiring life, their nervous energy so obvious. Yet they do settle down here, sitting down and eventually closing their eyes. It shows just how they apparently see this area as their own.

young Roe deer Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer family Capreolus capreolus f

young Roe deer Capreolus capreolus f

In the afternoon, I drove down to Catcott Lows and spent a while in the hide, though with few real finds. I left when someone came in, ignoring three of us already there with masks, wearing none and obviously not prepared to conform. It is such a little thing. A mask is said to protect others from any hidden infection you may have. I wear mine - I protect them. It is even more imortant as a second wave of infection is racing across the country - even if not too near yet. It is such a selfish attitude, but surprisingly it comes from older people, not the young. During my visit a Great white egret sailed in and started fishing round the edge of the pond, feeding on minute creatures which seem to satisfy its appetite as it never seems desperate in its search. There were Cattle egrets present, but far off. Every so often a cloud of them would take off from where the cattle were feeding, then settle again. I reckoned there must be well over fifty present. On my way home there were Cattle egrets at several locations on Tealham Moor. The largest gathering was at the junction oif Little Rhyne with the road. I was lucky enough to have a long period when there was no local traffic and was able to concentrate the lens on recording their ways. There is no doubt that they are far more widely spaced out in the area than in the previous year. I had a wonderful period, before I had to drive on as another car approached. How lucky we are. When we first came here there were no egrets in the country. Now, Great white Egretta alba, Little E. garzetta and Cattle egrets are present in some numbers, breeding and throughout the year. We have become used to seeing white 'tropical' birds feeding on our fields. Fortunately, not everything is a loss.

  

Grey heron Ardea cinerea

Cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis

Cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis

Cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis

Cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis

October 6th 2020. DEER, DEER, DEER; all day. A marvellous and never-ending sight. A celebration of the family as it played around the garden, sometimes close-by, sometimes almost upon the kitchen window, at other times seen as flitting silhouettes under the trees in the orchard.

young Roebuck Capreolus capreolus

young Roebuck Capreolus capreolus

young Roe Capreolus capreolus f - lovely roses!

young Roe Capreolus capreolus f

young Roe Capreolus capreolus - the babies

Roe mother and family Capreolus capreolus 

Roe mother and family Capreolus capreolus - look at her ribs

October 1st 2020. Once again, the bathroom provided the sight of the day. Caught in hazy sunlight, a larger Roe was standing on the edge of the bank  up the slope. While I fetched the camera, he sat down on his usual patch and started chewing the cud, which he did for over half an hour. A look through binoculars confirmed it was our old friend from last winter and spring. I could see his slender antlers quite clearly. Last week, what I assume were his sister's children were in the garden. Now the male sat down in exactly the same place, his spot. What an amazing privilege!

Roebuck Capreolus capreolus (our old friend in his own 'patch')

 

Roebuck Capreolus capreolus 

Roebuck Capreolus capreolus 

 

Roebuck Capreolus capreolus

 

 

 

 

 

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