Wildlife Notes 2004

December 5th 2004

I have been seeing a pair of barn owls at 7am every morning this week hunting through the new wood.

The 2004 badger-watch

What a year 2004 has been for watching badgers and other wildlife. While we have had a predominantly wet summer, most of the rain fell very conveniently early morning and did not affect our badgers or badger watchers. Up to 16 badgers were being seen at one time! Barn, Tawny & Little owls all being seen regularly on the turn of the evening light along with the Sparrow Hawk and Kestrel. The local Buzzards produced one chick and reared it to adulthood. We have two Roe deer in residence in the new wood, Fallow deer and Muntjac pass through our young wood on a regular basis.

I will be updating our web site (with many photographs of birds, butterflies, creepy crawlies, fungi, sunsets and the latest badger photographs over the next two or three months.

Butterfly summer 2004

Sunset over College Barn Farm autumn 2004

15th April 2004

The first swallow and the first badger cub were seen today

19th April 2004

Our badger watchers last week espied two fallow deer, 6 badgers (together) two foxes and various owls all in front of the elevated hide while they were here.

I spotted our first swallow on 15th April during what turned out to be a pleasant warm week. Today it has rained all day and the swallow may have regretted coming so soon (last year the first swallow appeared on 22nd April)

On our dog walk last week we spotted two cock pheasants fighting for all they were worth. I guess there was little physical damage done, The dance they enacted was truly spectacular with both birds rising to meet head on 6 feet above the ground over and over again.

I spotted the first badger cub for this year (17th April) in a cover on a nearby farm The cub was about 12inches long and quite vocal, as it was about 7pm when I found it (well before badger emergence time), I would guess the cub had not found its way home on the preceding night. I had no option but to leave the cub where it was and hope that his mum would find him later that night. I guess that is what must have happened as he was gone the next morning.

21st March 2004

I was prompted to write this spring badger watch update by a male blackbird sat three quarters of the way up a very large beech tree singing his heart out at 7-45am this morning.

I am sure you will all be pleased to hear that there are badgers in all of the College Barn badger setts! Our badger watching started early this year with many interesting sightings of badgers and some unusual behaviour. I personally saw two badgers mating on 15th February 2004 at about 7pm. I also saw a female badger protecting her sett from a visiting male badger. I am sure that if you could convert the vocals she was using into English the language she was using would have been extremely unpleasant.

There are ten sett entrances being used regularly in front of the hides and another two setts with five entrances across the farm that are in regular use. From the amount of bedding and digging that has been going on the prospect of badger cubs looks promising. (More about badger cubs in the next newsletter.

All of our watchers have seen at least 7 badgers out at once with the occasional visit from a tawny owl visiting the raptor feeder. Seven fallow deer were also seen in the next field on a number of occasions.

A vixen passed by our house at 6-30am on Saturday of last week carrying a dead rabbit I watched her make her way across two fields but then lost sight of her. She will have cubs somewhere fairly close by. (as the cubs grow they will be come more apparent)

I saw two buzzards hunting yesterday morning and again this morning they seem to really enjoy flying in a stiff breeze. I also saw a barn owl out hunting late evening, while walking my dogs. I did not see it catch anything but I enjoyed seeing how it flew and where it was looking (ten yards out from the hedgerow) presumably looking for mice and voles.

The local rabbit population seems to have made a very quick recovery from the mixi. I have seen lots of little rabbits running around with no sign of them having been infected with the mixi, they do however make easy prey for the buzzards.

As the daffodils come into bloom and the buds start to open on the trees (the elder is already in leaf) I have noticed that the small bird population seems to have trebled while the rooks are sitting on eggs while the mallard duck are building nests. Lets just hope we do not get any more hard frosts which could potentially do more damage to the early eggs than the carrions.

24th January 2004

We have today made two more bales of straw available for the badgers to change their bedding as the birth of their cubs is imminent.  The cubs will have a much better chance of survival if they are warm and dry.

17th January 2004

I am pleased to report that we had a white Christmas! On Christmas eve two mute swans flew into one of our ponds and had an early Christmas dinner.  I was absolutely delighted that they had come back again.  I have not seen them on our ponds since late last winter.

I have made a few alterations to our badger-watching facilities which should ensure even better and more comfortable badger-watching.  The improvements include the replacement of the heavy viewing aperture (in the top hide) with a see-through perspex flap that opens inwards.  Both hides have replacement electric heaters.

We are hopeful that our resident badgers are going to have a successful breeding season and produce several cubs again this year.  The signs are all positive, two bales of straw have disappeared underground recently and the weather has been wet and mild which will be a great help to the badgers as they are still able to find plenty of food.  I have noticed that our set-aside fields have two or three badger muzzle imprints every square yard all over 10 acres (the badgers push into the soft ground with their noses to extract grubs and worms from the soil).  That is a tremendous amount of work for the badgers and they wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t get a reward, i.e. a worm or grub.

I have seen a herd of 12 fallow deer run across the farm on at least three occasions over the last two weeks.  Most of them are black or very dark brown in colour but at least one is albino.

I saw three buzzards flying at 3pm this afternoon.  I guess they would not have to hunt for long as the rabbits have “mixy” and are therefore easy to catch.

June 15th 2003

Badger watching has been excellent so far this year, with 9 badger cubs rolling, bowling and generally creating mayhem around the designated play area every evening just after dark. 12 badgers including cubs are regularly being seen out in front of the floodlight at the same time. The badger play area is also getting regular visits from a vixen that has her three cubs in  the ruins of an old building in the next  field below our badger setts. Tawny, Little and Barn owls are also frequenting the area often arguing with each other over the contents of the raptor feeder. The Kestrel successfully reared two youngsters which have also been seen in front of the floodlight catching moths!

This last week has seen a new type of alarm clock being introduced  for the residents of our mobile home. A French partridge has been strutting up and down the road outside the mobile home at 5-30 am letting the whole world and the sleepy residents of the mobile home know that the area is his by constantly calling and ruffling his feathers.

I am really pleased to see two pairs of swallow nesting in one of our barns this year. (they have been absent for two years) The greater spotted wood pecker has reared two youngsters in a hole in our oldest crab apple tree. The youngsters have also been taught by their parents where to find a supply of peanuts and have proceeded to completely destroy the plastic peanut feeder with their beaks!

Either the cuckoo is not making so much noise this year or their are not so many around. I have only heard the cuckoo’s call a few times this year (many of our visitors have also said that there appear to be less cuckoo’s in the area’s they live in)



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