A family of shell duck made their way noisily to the Egg this afternoon to explore the river bank here. They reputedly breed in rabbit burrows hereabout, and I have been looking without success for their nesting sites amongst the homes of the local lagomorpha. It would appear I am now too late.
The over wintering Peacock butterfly laid its eggs on the upper leaves of the stinging nettles at 50˚47’10.29″ N x 1˚24’26.60″ W and they are all now hatching. The caterpillars eat on the leaves through five stages of growth, moulting their skins with each ‘instar’ and protecting themselves from predators by weaving communal silk tents. Soon they will pupate and I shall be on the lookout for the chrysalis.
Communal silk tent of the Peacock caterpillar
Moulted skins from the Peacock caterpillar and the remains of a communal tent
The budding brambles on Blackberry Way are increasingly interwoven with the counterpoint of twisting con volvulus. Amongst this bind weed abides the white plume moth, which I observed for a few moments before releasing it into the warm evening air.
I made an eye in the bow of the Egg by drilling a three inch hole through the sandwich of red cedar and epoxy forming its shell, providing the potential for discreet observation.
Early yesterday morning five black headed gulls picked their way across the mud, with a shell duck and redshank also in attendance. Two crows prodded purslane matted with algae on the riverbank, trying for a breakfast of their own.
A young blue tit (they still have yellow cheeks) was found near the Egg by my neighbour Nick who preserved it for me in the refrigerator. Birds of many species have recently fledged but not all will make it to adulthood.
One of a collection of drawings on the verso of 31 empty packages of goods consumed in April; Bi-Narrative No14_Sinutab Spider. The boxes continue one narrative about headaches, breakfasts (cereal boxes), power consumption (battery boxes) etc. The verso drawings in Exbury oak ink reflect other daily obsessions, rituals and interests. This is one of the orb web spiders living in the egg and the subject of an earlier blog (a video making the drawing itself). I endeavour not to waste material in the Egg.
The great tits I filmed so intensively feeding their young inside a hollow concrete brick in the ruined Bofors Gun Pit, have now flown; the hatchings fledged and the nest abandoned until next year. I decided to take a look and found that the bedding of the nest was some five inches deep and seemingly built up over a number of years by subsequent generations of the bird. It is a soft warm carpet of mosses, feathers and tiny dried leaf fragments – as well as the skeletal remains of at least one tiny bird that did not make it. I carefully replaced the nest materials inside the concrete block and restored the small entrance to this tiny home.
The muddy sand of my local marsh is home to many thousands of hydrobia, a very small yet perfectly formed mollusc. This tiny snail is an average of just 4mm long and is the food of wading birds as they feed along the edge of the undulating tide. Their empty shells gather at certain points along the upper tide line and I have commemorated them with my own small Hydrobia Egg.
This afternoon I hung the window shade for the first time this year to keep out the sun’s heat and two swallows flew into the newly darkened interior. They sat on a shelf under the window for a few moments and then calmly and expertly flew out of the door (with none of the panic and clattering about of a starling or a pigeon for example).
According to the RSPB website, swallows prefer outbuildings which provide dark nooks and crannies for nesting, as these are cosy in cold weather and cool when it is hot and they must have sensed the Egg was worth a quick reconnaissance. As they can enter a building through a very small hole, my open hatch was not going to provide any difficulty.
Earlier in the week two deer approached the Egg door only for me to startle them and drive them away. I think the deer will show up on my time lapse cameras, but the swallows were too swift (and I was to mesmerised) to give any time to pick up a camera.
A pair of great tits nested in the cracked and broken concrete of the derelict bofors gun emplacement. They spent many hours, in an unending hunt for caterpillars, hover flies and other bugs to feed their clutch of eight demanding young. The gun emplacement built to protect against an airborne enemy in 1944, now provides refuge for airborne friends.