Wildlife Notes 2000

This weeks diary to 4thNovember 2000

A really, really wet week rain fell most days, Badger activity is unchanged. Lots of badgers doing their own thing. Visiting there marking points, latrines, tree stumps etc.

There was a fox around most of the week. Three nights running it was seen taking sandwiches put down for the badgers.

I have spotted the single buzzard hunting late evening (almost in the dark) it seems to get some peace from the crows at this time of the day. I have not seen the buzzard fly in the rain.  A kingfisher has been fishing every morning this week. It is a very shy bird, when I appear it is gone in a flash of turquoise.

This weeks diary to 22nd October 2000

The swallows have all flown off to warmer climates, I saw 70 (approx) chaffinches on the electricity wires  this morning. I guess they are fed up with all the wet weather. We had an inch of rain here over night!

There were 50 plus Canada geese on the wheat stubble the night before last. They were making a lot of noise with all their constant calling to each other. I see them most evenings just on or just after dusk flying out to feed.

A herd of fallow deer were spotted this week in Traitors Ford cover. There were about a dozen of them in various colours from brown to off white and black.

This weeks diary to 14th October 2000

Quite a momentous week

Swedish badger watchers and a participant of a popular television animal rescue program were here watching badgers and foxes this week.

The weather continues to be wet and windy.

In a way this is good weather for the badgers as it brings earthworms to the surface, a ready made meal for the taking.

OUR FIRST SWEDISH BADGER WATCHERS

Erik Pilroth and Albin Nilsson from Vedum in Sweden were watching our badgers on 10th October, while on a school visit to our local primary school. They took many photographs (hopefully they will all come out ) Unfortunately they had to be back at school by 9-15pm so they only had just over an hour in the hide. Four badgers were seen in the pouring rain.Both Erik and Albin were brilliant ambassadors for both their school and their country. They were polite, bright, good mannered, witty and  spoke reasonable English and understood even more. Very good indeed for 10-11 year olds.I saw the kingfisher again on Monday afternoon, it looked diminutive against the 6lb yellow coloured Coi Carp that it was sitting over the top of. (I wonder who was thinking of eating who?)

This weeks diary to 7th October 2000

A wet wet week

Lots of badger activity this week, digging out changing bedding (early part of the week) The badgers are reluctant to stay long feeding on peanuts (and honey sandwiches) three or four badgers at a time with the odd one going off and being replaced by another different badger. The wind at the early part of the week made them very “jumpy”

There are about 60 -70 wild Mallard duck coming in to the ponds each evening. (amazing how a bucket of wheat encourages them) The baby Moorhen is now nearly fully grown the only thing that distinguishes it from its parents is it’s downy feathers.

I saw three very wet Weasels, a Fox, 8 cock Pheasants and a grey Heron all in the space of half an hour on Saturday morning. I am amazed at the speed of the weasels! Their little legs move so fast that they appear to be just a blur.

This weeks diary to 30th September 2000

An interesting week

I saw a brief glimpse of a kingfisher flying over one of the ponds on Tuesday morning, the first live kingfisher that I have seen this year.

Phil Roberts spotted a wryneck amongst the crevices on our old barn wall a pity he did not manage to obtain a photograph of it. He did however manage to get two very interesting photographs.

On Wednesday evening I  watched a buzzard (from the hide ) eating a pidgeon. I did not see how the buzzard managed to catch the  pidgeon but there were only feathers left the next morning.

An adult fox was out feeding with the badgers on Monday evening, quite an unusual sight this year as the foxes have not had to “brave the floodlight”  The abundance of rabbits has satisfied their appetite  without them having to take any risks whatsoever.

This weeks diary to 23rd September 2000

I spotted a young moorhen about a week old on one of the pond’s this week. The moorhens have been more prolific this year than at any other year since we have been here. I think that foxes are taking most of the young before they get to adulthood.

A fallow deer was tracked through the Farm on Monday evening. The deer was fully grown and unusually by itself.

The badgers have been making the most of the light wet nights, food is very easy to find at the moment, so they are busy changing bedding and digging out.

I bet they had a shock at 5.20am this morning when the EARTH TREMOR went through Oxfordshire.

I was thrown out of bed by the tremor!! It was a very strange feeling to be fast asleep one second and in another second to be wide awake on the floor of the bedroom with a low vibration passing through the whole building. Funnily enough it only disturbed Sandra and I, the dogs and the children were not affected.

This weeks diary to 16th September 2000

The badger emergence has been good this week 8pm to 8.30pm consistently. The badgers are starting to eat the blackberries and damsons, as well as wheat and peanuts worms and cockchafers.

A muntjack deer was observed one evening and a very quick weasel was seen yesterday morning running between two gateposts.

NEW NEW Badger photographs

Photograph taken by Mr. & Mrs. Sixsmith during August 2000

This weeks diary to 9th September 2000

Kestrels and Buzzards abound

I saw 5 Buzzards and a Kestrel over our farm house at 11.45 am this morning. They were all in the same area at the same time but at different altitudes. One Buzzard and the Kestrel were so high that seemed as big as sparrows.

The badger emergence has been erratic this week. They have been starting to emerge at 8-20pm and continuing until 10 pm. Sows were changing bedding at the start of the week most were off foraging very quickly as there are masses of “daddy Long Legs” around at the moment.

Swallows have congregated into a flock of a hundred or more constantly feeding low over the grass fields and in and around the trees at Traitors Ford.

While walking under the trees at Traitors Ford a constant buzzing from flies can be heard. I would love to know what makes all the noise, If you have any idea what type of fly they are please email me.

WEEK commencing  28th May 2000

We have had two days this week whereby it rained all day. Two badger setts changed their bedding last night. They dragged in copious amounts of three day old grass that had been cut for silage and not collected due to the weather. At 6 am yesterday morning I looked out of my bedroom window and saw around 50 starlings on our lawn. I am not normally an avid fan of starlings, but their behavior was interesting. From a first glance the lawn looked as if it was full of feeding starlings, however on closer inspection there were definite families with mum and dad feeding six or seven young ones. The other interesting thing was that the youngsters appeared to be bigger than the parents. They cleared our lawn in about ten minutes and were gone. Only to be replaced by a green woodpecker! who proceeded to feed of ants that had been drawn up by the rising sun.

WEEK commencing  21st May 2000

The week started fine, but ended up windy and wet with heavy showers. The wind seemed to spook the badgers. They made several hurried departures down to their setts each night.

Last Sunday Dr Hutchings espied 20 badgers during the evening with 7 out at the same time. I was pleased to hear from Dr Hutchings that bare bottom (an adult female badger) is still around after four years.

While walking back along the road from our farm buildings on Friday lunch time, I noticed that the dogs were paying unprecedented attention to something in the hedge. Lots of sniffing but no finding. My eye was caught by a small grey movement on the side of the road. It was a mole above ground, a very dangerous place to be for a mole. (especially as Winston (one of our springer spaniels) hunts them when they are below ground) Before I could count to three it had dug itself underground and left me wondering whether I had seen a mole or not!

This was the first mole I have seen above ground for three years

WEEK commencing  14th May 2000

Last week was fine and warm lots of badgers emerging 20 were seen on the evening of 14th. & were out feeding at once. I found a dead stoat while out walking with the dogs and children. This was the first stoat I have seen in years. The stoat appeared in good condition. How it met it’s demise will remain a mystery. There were no obvious wounds etc.

The reconstructed pond is not taking as long as I thought it would to regain the eco system that prevailed last year. I have observed many parmate newts water boatmen etc swimming around, I am sorely tempted to reintroduce some of the fish that I caught when I emptied it.

The swallows are being as busy as usual picking up mud from the new pond and building their nests with it. A pair of European wagtails were seen by the ponds last week  I espied the grey heron on one of the ponds several mornings running. A mallard duck hatched out 7 ducklings on Wednesday 11th May. A fox was seen taking one of the ducklings the same evening just after dusk.

I am seeing lots of bats this year I have not positively identified them as yet. They do seem bigger than Pipestral’s if they would keep still for a second, it would be much easier to positively identify them.

The Buzzards are back this morning, or at least one is. I watched it for ten minutes hunting over a 100 acres of ‘setaside’. I did not see it flap it’s wings once. The Buzzard gained height fairly quickly on the power of a gentle easterly wind.

While I was out walking with the dogs this morning I thought to my self that there was not much wildlife around! At the conclusion of my walk I recounted the species that I had seen in twenty minutes: Two Pheasants, Buzzard, Blackbirds, Wood Pidgeon, Collar Dove, Blue Rock Dove,  Yellow Hammer, Wagtail, various members of the tit family, Dunock, Loads of Rooks (feeding young) various members of the finch family.

I also noted that there is a substantial amount of frog and toad spawn in one of the ponds.

Week to 3rd March

Another bale goes down under!

I guess that there must be young cubs in our “bottom sett” as mum has taken another whole bale of straw (over the last week) down into the depths of the sett. I have found a couple of dead badgers on the roadside this week. They had obviously been hit by vehicles. (the badgers were not from our setts)

We have another new sett started this week. Mountains of soil have been excavated out of what used to be a rabbit hole.  I guess that this sett will have been started as the result of a ‘family fall out’ I will how ever be keeping a close watch on this sett and will report further developments.

The Buzzards have been around all week until the wind blew yesterday. I miss their constant cries and look forward to them returning when the wind drops. There are lots of birds migrating in. The amount of Blackbirds, Yellowhammers Finches, and various members of the tit family that have arrived have doubled in the last few days is more than noticeable.

While walking the dogs on last Wednesday morning I noticed an adult Muntjack heading home for the day. (to the thick cover at Traitors Ford) The Muntjack used every little bit of possible cover that it could to stop it being seen, it was definitely very shy, walking quickly then stopping, (by a fence post or tree) sniffing then  looking all around before repeating the procedure.

Week to 12th February

The laughing Fox!! The local fox hunt went past our farm on Wednesday, “in full cry.”  Ten minutes later I saw a Fox sat in the middle of one of our fields (right where the hounds had just been) laughing and  lazily scratching himself. I watched him for about ten minutes. I was more than amused to see such a careless attitude.

The buzzards have been around most days of this week (every day that the wind was less than 20 mph) unlike the Kestrel and the Sparrow Hawk they constantly call to each other.

Week to 30th January 2000

We have completed the refurbishment of our middle pond this week.

Over the last three years all of our visiting badger watchers have had their ears bent with the need for this project. (and the likely cost) The weather over the last three winters has been too wet to get the machines anywhere near the pond without making a tremendous mess.

Bryan at his best! putting the finishing touches to the pond.

The finished pond full of water

This last week the weather has been kind to us, a frost every night and dry and sunny during the day. A phone call to my earth moving contractor (Bryan Coleman) and 1,500 ton’s of earth reeds and sludge were moved in three days, without disturbing the badgers. (as they live in close proximity to the pond)

Bryan and I spent at least four hours catching the fish as the water level dropped. We transferred four big common carp (6-8lbs) and numerous smaller roach and perch to our main pond. (a total transfer of 60 fish) (The large carp were introduced to our pond 10 years ago and were 5-6lbs then)

The pond is now refilling with water will be 4 feet deeper and several yards wider than before, We intend restocking with various fish next year (when plant life has resumed) we also

intend installing a floating island for the water birds ASAP.

The badgers have been moving tons of earth again, every night during the last week the heaps of soil outside three of the setts have grown significantly. I will be putting another bale of straw out for them early next week when the digging stops.

To 22nd January 2000

We have lots of finches feeding on the food I put out for them every morning around one of

our ponds. I saw a Jay feeding at one of the feeding points yesterday. All the food is cleared by mid afternoon. (If it is not I put less down the following day as I do not want to encourage rats)

I walked the dogs to Traitor’s Ford on the 10th Jan. I observed two Buzzards flying in endless circles (which was a pleasure to see) I also found two fully grown (dead)  brown trout on the bank of the brook. I would guess, that as they both had one single puncture mark through the body, That the Heron was responsible. The fish were obviously too big for the heron to swallow.

The badgers took a whole bale of straw down their sett  on the 9th Jan. I delayed leaving the

straw purposely until the beginning of January so that the changing of their bedding would be closer to the date when their young are born.

To 27th December 1999

I saw a pair of firecrest’s on the 21st December between Fulready and Whatcote just over the Oxfordshire border in Warwickshire. (a delightful little bird) I also saw a jay two muntjack and a  fallow deer on our “setaside” 22nd December. I was spotted by two Partridge yesterday just as I exited my office. Needless to say they made a hurried departure with a whirr of wings.

I have lost two fairly big fir trees in the “week of gales” one broke off half way up the trunk the other parted company with its roots.  One of our springs is running at the rate of 2 gallons a second! I am having to check the outlets on the ponds morning and night. (to prevent an overflow over the bank)

The ice prevented the Mallard ducks from accessing the food I put in the pond for them. I broke the ice and fed the pond anyway. When the ice melted the ducks cleared three days worth of food in a single night. (they must have been really hungry.

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