FOXES SETTLING IN FOR THE SPRING


A Pair of Foxes in a West London Garden

Snowdrops. Tiny harbingers of spring. An eerie barking and screeching in the night – another sure sign, even in West London. It’s been building up over the past couple of weeks. The scrabbling sound as large creatures scale garden fences. The noisy stand-offs, the come-ons, and the face-downs as the vulpine sap rises. Listening at night, I reckon there are 4 foxes involved. I’ve often seen a single animal in the garden lying in a warm patch of sunlight, or sneaking behind the shrubs, or loping down the street in broad daylight. I’ve watched a small cat in our garden stand its ground and then chase away a fox with a clatter over the fence. But until today, I’d never seen a pair comfortably settled on the edge of the lawn.

These photos were all taken through glass. By the time I’d managed to open the French windows (silently, I thought) to get a better shot, they were off. Until tonight, no doubt.

A Pair of Foxes in a West London Garden

A Pair of Foxes in a West London Garden
A Pair of Foxes in a West London Garden
  A Pair of Foxes in a West London Garden

DARCY WITH BUTTERCUPS


Darcy & Buttercups 3Darcy & Buttercups 2Darcy & Buttercups 1Darcy & Buttercups-1Darcy & Buttercups-2

JACOB SHEEP, DORSET: THE MOWERS ARE BACK


JACOB SHEEP Totnell, Dorset i

Until the beginning of the year we had some beautiful DORSET SHEEP in the field. They arrived last summer with their lambs, carefully numbered but rather random in their choice of maternal feeding station. They had a guest to stay, the RAM. Then they were left to themselves for the winter before being relocated to allow the grass to recover.

Paddock mown

This time last year our son’s wedding took place in the field, and it had been smartened up for the purpose (Mrs RH and I had our wedding reception in the same field nearly… erm… x0 years ago). This spring, the grass has grown lush and replete with buttercups, ready for the next ovine mowers to graze. They arrived last weekend, 6 freshly shorn adult Jacobs with their 10 lambs between them. Here are some studies of the one I want (perversely) to call Daisy, with her lambs… 

Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 1Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 2Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 5Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 4Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 3Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 10 Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 9 Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 7 Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 6

A TINY FROG IN DORSET


Frog Totnell 2015 9 I was lying on the grass for rustic maintenance reasons when something small and greeny-yellow leapt onto my hand. And off again quickly. A tiny frog, dwarfed by mere pea-gravel, yet perfectly formed. It wasn’t in a hurry so I ran indoors, grabbed a camera, and had a leisurely photo session with it. I assume it’s just a juvenile common or garden frog Croakus vulgaris frequentis, but if anyone knows different I’d be pleased to know. You can see me reflected in the frog’s eye in the header image.Frog Totnell 2015 2Frog Totnell 2015 1Frog Totnell 2015 3

THE FROG HAS PICKED UP A COMPANIONFrog Totnell 2015 5Frog Totnell 2015 6Frog Totnell 2015 8Frog Totnell 2015 7Frog Totnell 2015 10

SIZE COMPARISON WITH A LAWN DAISYFrog Totnell 2015 4

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS (WITH CALF)


I recently photographed a group of dolphins and posted about them on my main blog (see Sidebar for link). They were not in UK waters, but since Bottlenose Dolphins are also common around the UK coast I thought I’d post a few of the images here as well, with apologies for the few followers who bravely tolerate both blogs…

Bottlenose Dolphins, Rocky Point, Abaco (Keith Salvesen : BMMRO) 7Bottlenose Dolphins, Rocky Point, Abaco (Keith Salvesen : BMMRO) 3Bottlenose Dolphins, Rocky Point, Abaco (Keith Salvesen : BMMRO) 4Dolphin Mother & Calf Abaco 9Dolphin Mother & Calf Abaco 12Dolphin Mother & Calf Abaco 6

DORSET SHEEP: THE RAM, READY TO PLAY THE FIELD…


Sheep supposedly have peaceful, grazey lives. Counting them is allegedly soporific. But in reality they lead busy and productive lives. No sooner do they lamb than it’s time for the circle of life to begin again for them. In the evening sunshine the field gate swings open. A truck’s catch is slipped. Enter the ram, harnessed for action to mark his conquests and raring to go… 

Some photos were taken after the ram had been investigating the 7 ewes in the field rather closely. Two had lambed, 5 were pregnant. The ram is demonstrating a FLEHMEN RESPONSE – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flehmen_response which explains it better than I can, and with a particular reference to sheep.

Totnell Ram 8Totnell Ram 9Totnell Ram 5

THE FLEHMEN RESPONSETotnell Ram 6Totnell, Dorset - Ram - Flehmen response in SheepTotnell, Dorset - Ram - Flehmen response in SheepTotnell, Dorset - Ram - Flehmen response in Sheep

FIRST OF THE WINTER LAMBS IN DORSET


In September I posted about the 7 pregnant Poll Dorset sheep that a young farmer in our village had put in our paddock. I predicted “pastoral scenes, evenly-cropped grass… with pre-Christmas lambs in prospect…”.  The sheep were removed for a month or so to let the grass regrow. Yesterday morning there was an unusual sound coming from the field. Rounding the corner of the house we saw a single tiny lamb, 2 days old, mewing rather piteously.

Number 2: the first in its field…Totnell Lambs Nov 3

It was soon joined by twin lambs a few days olderTotnell Lambs Nov 12

Then came the 2 mothers. Then the 5 still-pregnant sheep waddled into the field, all due to lamb within the next 3 weeks. Here’s one of the proud mothers.Totnell Lambs Nov 11

The sheep and lambs were numbered so it was easy tell which belonged to which. But whereas the mothers also knew their own lambs, it was taking the lambs a while to cotton on to the numbering system…  

Correctly matchedTotnell Lambs Nov 7

Number 2 has still to get the hang of the system…Totnell Lambs Nov 1

Number 2Totnell Lambs Nov 10

Number 2 and one of the twinsTotnell Lambs Nov 9

Pretty lambs all in a row

Totnell Lambs Nov 4

Settling in

Totnell Lambs Nov 8  Totnell Lambs Nov 5   Totnell Lambs Nov 2

OTTER STUDIES


There’s no great kudos in finding these particular otters. They are Asian short-clawed otters and they are one of the attractions at WWT Barnes, where a number are kept in a spacious enclosure. There’s plenty of water for them, obstacle courses (pipes and so forth) have been set up, and they look sleek and well-fed (as well they might be, with feeding times twice daily). I managed to see 3 at an uncrowded time, and one in particular seemed to enjoy being admired.

OTTER WWT 5OTTER WWT 4OTTER WWT 2  OTTER WWT 3   OTTER WWT 6 OTTER WWT 7 OTTER WWT 8 OTTER WWT 9 OTTER WWT 10

COMMON SEALS IN THE STOUR ESTUARY, RAMSGATE, KENT


The estuary of the River Stour (“Store”), Kent lies between Ramsgate and Pegwell Bay a short distance to the south. Common seals can reliably be found near the mouth of the river, sunning themselves on the banks. These seals come in a variety of colours. In September some of this season’s pups could be seen growing up among the adults. To be frank, although I took plenty of photos of these lovely creatures looking appealing and / or in amusing poses, the end results were disappointing.  Partly, a rocking boat made sharpness difficult to achieve but mainly the adult seals just looked like bloated sausages lying in an unattractive landscape of mud and coarse grass. Here are a few pictures that were spared deletion…

Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 1 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 2 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 4 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 5 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 6 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 7 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 9 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 10 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 11 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 12

‘SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE…’: PASTORAL DORSET


Alpaca Dorset

For six years we had our neighbour’s 3 alpacas in our paddock. Advantages: they mowed the grass and were decorative. Drawbacks: they caused a lot of damage by digging and from their peculiarly toxic waste; and were annoyingly passive / aggressive. So we moved them off, spent last winter filling in all the holes with a ton of topsoil and re-seeding, followed by a programme of regular harrowing, mowing and rolling to make the field ready for our son’s wedding on midsummer’s day (where we had our own reception a few years decades ago).

Wed Pad

Now what? The answer is: sheep. Peaceful, munching grazers with no obvious drawbacks. A young farmer in the village has put 7 pregnant Poll Dorset sheep in the paddock. Result: pastoral scenes, evenly cropped grass, and a damage-free field – with pre-Christmas lambs in prospect. Dorset Poll Sheep 7Dorset Poll Sheep 1Dorset Poll Sheep 8Dorset Poll Sheep 6Dorset Poll Sheep 3

The Dorset breed of sheep comes in both poll and horn varieties. Here are specimens of each kind photographed at a recent show in Dorset. The breed is hardy (as befits Hardy country), and unusually they can lamb 3 times over the course of 2 years, making them a productive option for a young farmer building up his flock. 

Dorset Poll Sheep, Stock Oak Fair Dorset Horn Sheep - Stock Oak Fair