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My New Year Resolution is ....

Posted on 24th January, 2021

..... to keep up to date with this blog! Fingers crossed...

 

I won't use Covid as an excuse for my lapse - although lockdown has played its part. My time has been taken up with an enthusiastic group of farmers and residents in Marden where, as a result of last year's lockdown, the loose collection of people with a shared interest has co-erced into something called Marden Wildlife. As it is not too many miles away from the Farleighs there are many similarities between the two. Both have a Kent Wildlife Trust nature reserve - Quarry Wood and Marden Meadow. Orchards and arable farming (and hops) have been dominant in the past, and both areas are under pressure from new housing and increased traffic. But as we have discovered, when you start to look, especially on land where nature isn't pressured by the relentless drive to exploit the land for other purposes, there is still much wildlife - pants and animals - to be discovered and enjoyed. It is also worth noting that recording what we have found has helped resist some of the pressure to exploit the land it is on.

 

So what have we discovered that we could equally well find in the Farleighs? At this time of year, both areas are enjoying the nightly chorus of tawny owls; February's Lifeline enlarges a little on their calling and the importance of the subtle changes in birds' feathers at this time of year. It's likely that areas of rough grassland along the Medway will also support barn owls. I've not been aware of them in recent years, so can anyone update me on their presence? If the right habitat exists locally it's likely they will be as there are plenty along the Beult.

 

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A barn owl chick from a nest box. It will be weighed, measured

(its feather length can be used to age it) then fitted with a

uniquely numbered ring before being returned to its box.

 

There are many boxes around Marden for them to nest in, and we know most are occupied each year by owls - although they also host stock doves, squirrels and Mandarin ducks. A number of duck species nest in holes in trees, sometimes up to a kilometre away from the nearest water!

 

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A male Mandarin duck approaching its nest in an owl box.

 

Mandarin ducks are an introduced species, but they are becoming a common sight, so worth looking out for on a stroll along the river.

 

Another species we are studying with local farmers - some not very far from the Farleighs - is the yellowhammer. A scarce farmland bird that has suffered massive declines since 1970, there is still a reasonably healthy population in the Low Weald, so only a mile or so distant from the Greensand Ridge on which we are located. In very cold weather in late winter, when their naturally occuring food has all but disappeared from the countryside, they will visit gardens to feed on seeds put out by householders. In November and December we fitted coloured rings to 175 yellowhammers so that we can track their movements around the local area - and that could be as far as the Farleighs.

 

So please let me know if one turns up in your garden!

 

 

If you'd like to know more, visit the Marden Wildlife Facebook page, or email us at mardenwildlife@gmail.com 

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