Wildlife Notes 2009

Countryfile program on North Oxfordshire badgers Sunday 16th August 2009

As the producers thought that there would not be enough “airtime” to show my views on Bovine TB within their program I thought that those interested in my BTB views should be able to read them on our web site..

My thoughts on Bovine TB

I do not what the answer is to BTB, I am not a scientist or specialist on the matter. I do know however that the disease causes many problems for farmers who have cattle infected with BTB. Consequently BTB causes problems for the UK badger population.
The badger takes the blame for spreading the disease to cattle, but is it vice versa? Or is it rats, foxes, deer, or a combination of all four that are spreading it? Or are they all picking it up from the cattle?
I know a Devon Dairy farmer who has been shut with BTB for 2 years and has not had a badger on his farm for the past 10 years.
There appear to be seven carriers of BTB other than cattle, moles, foxes, mink, deer, ferrets,rats and badgers all of who can spread the disease. Commonsense tells me that ferrets and mink are unlikely to be vast spreaders of the disease as there are not too many around. Moles spend most of their time underground so are also unlikely to be spreading BTB. Foxes I am not sure how long it takes BTB to manifest itself within a fox, but the foxes around here don’t seem to live long enough to have a problem with BTB. That leaves badgers, deer, rats and cattle.
There is estimated to be a badger population in the uk of 288,000 badgers. There is estimated to be  80 -100 million rats (and rising)  in uk. More than 277 times as many RATS as badgers, of which according to the statistics (Institute for animal Health) 1.2% are infected with BTB therefore at least 960,000 rats are infected. My reckoning is therefore that rats are 3.42 times as likely to be spreading BTB among cattle within their winter quarters as badgers.  Bear in mind that badgers do not have access to cattle during the winter months as the cattle are nearly all over wintered in buildings and yards from Oct –May.  Rats however come in from the fields to farm buildings during this period. Is it possible that the rats are picking up BTB from the cattle?
The deer population has dramatically increased in the uk (we hardly ever saw Roe or Fallow deer here 10 years ago) now we see herds of 45 fallow deer (winter time) and roe deer on a daily basis. The deer unlike badgers that are territorial travel miles, If they are carrying BTB the spread could be fast and over a wide area although the infection rate in deer is a quarter of that in badgers 1% against 4% in badgers. They also do not have access to overwintered cattle. The deer however could be picking up BTB from grazing in the same fields as cattle during the summer as could badgers.
There is no easy answer to BTB or a quick fix.

IMO trying to kill/cull Badgers and deer is not the answer to the BTB problem.(culling badgers to fix the BTB problem has been tried before and failed)

I do think however that the following  actions can only help:
A more reliable faster cattle test for BTB.
Compulsory pre-movement testing for cattle that are being traded or moved to a different farm.
Constant control of the rat population nationwide.
Bring on the forth coming oral vaccine for the main BTB carriers and cattle with all speed and ASAP

You may be interested to hear that our visitors who allowed the BBC to interrupt their holiday and film our wildlife project told me that the BBC production team made so much noise with their continual coming and goings within and outside the hides that the badgers stayed at a safe distance until 30 minutes after the production team had left!!

NEW FOR 2010

Hopefully we will be able to construct a new badger climbing frame which will keep the badgers and visitors amused for awhile and also provide the badgers with a short cut over one of our ponds (Now in progress)

Lincoln moving the old badger climbing frame

The tree that bridges the pond

The work completed a big thank you to Lincoln Rogers

I also have to replace the roof covering on our top hide (it has been keeping our visitors dry for 20 years) and is now showing signs of degradation. I intend putting a set of stairs up on to the roof and constructing a “fine weather” sitting/viewing area. Now completed.

1st January 2010 a Happy New Year -3c last evening, no wind, slight snow showers encountered on my 4pm dog walk yesterday but a lovely sunny day today.

Our badgers emerged once again but much less active than usual with a definite change in behaviour almost as if they were expecting an event.
As I checked my ponds yesterday I could see a large dead fish on the bottom of our largest pond (a ghost coy carp around 18lbs) whether the pond being frozen over helped in the fishes demise I don’t know ,but when it drifts closer to the bank the badgers will get a fish supper.( the fish was 18 years old)
I could not understand why there were no visitors to our small bird feeder yesterday morning  until I spotted the kestrel sitting on a branch about 10 metres from the feeder. The kestrel moved on to easier hunting  grounds after and hour and the tits resumed their frenzied feeding.

The last of the summer sun photographed by Mark Quinney on his way from our Mobile Home to the hide for an evenings badger watching.

Fallow deer fawn (born here this year)

photograph by Bob & Elizabeth Caines

Thursday 27th December 2009 light wind clear and sunny (+6c day time) +2c night time.

I put a bale and a half of straw out for the badgers last night and it nearly all went down the sett.

The straw trail down the badger sett

Thursday 24th December 2009 light covering of snow (-1c day time) -10c night time.
The badgers were around last night in the middle of a short snow storm that lasted half an hour depositing an inch of snow onto frozen surfaces. It did not stop the badgers from climbing the logs in search of their rewards of peanuts.
I saw a greater spotted wood pecker and a buzzard at the same time in the half light at 7am this morning. They were obviously both around early looking for food.

The overnight snow that started to thaw later froze into a solid sheet of ice everywhere. Walking on roads and paved paths is at best difficult, I have the bruises to prove it. Walking across the fields is much easier; I found the enforced silence of lying snow and ice a little eerie with no sound of passing aircraft or vehicles.
We seem to have four resident roe deer and a muntjac on our farm , I am pleased to see their white rear ends disappearing into cover or leaping over the kale in the wild bird cover daily.

Friday 18th December 2009 light snow showers, (-1c day time) -4c night time

The College Barn Farm badgers are not hibernating, they are still emerging although the emergence time is varied.They have recently been bed changing with the straw that I have put out for them with the evidence lieing inthe enrtances of two setts. The badgers are also starting to dig up turf in their endeavours to find food in particular the leather jacket.

I picked and ate my last gala apple (that had been hiding down the protective plastic tree trunk cover) yesterday,while in the orchard it was obvious that the fallen cooking apples were disappearing nightly. I have inspected the badgers latrines and it is now obvious where the apples have been going.

I have been seeing fallow and roe deer along with the occaisional muntjac but no sika deer yet this year. Our wild bird cover seems to be holding many different varieties of smaller birds while our peanut feeders are keeping blue, coal and great tits happy along with a jay,green woodpecker,greater spotted woodpecker with finches picking up the dropped bits off the lawn.

Wednesday 2nd December 2009 light rain showers, (7c)

An overnight frost of -4c on 30th November

Badgers are still emerging around 10pm

I have seen a buzzard at 6.45am out hunting/soaring in the dark on two mornings this week.

I also saw our first woodcock depart in rather a hurry from a wetish patch within the confines of the tree plantation.

Sunday 25th October 2009 windy with showers, warm for the time of year (14c)

The badger emergence last night commenced at 1930hrs.

The badgers were skittish in the windy conditions last evening, they were constantly testing the air with nose and ears but appeared to be looking for something that was not there, as their eye sight is abysmal the apparent confusion for the badgers had to be the wind affecting their hearing and sense of smell.

The falling rain did not affect their emergence; in fact it probably encouraged them to emerge earlier as worms come to the soil surface in wet conditions. (a fact that the badgers are well aware of)

The wind velocitydropped at 2am and the badger’s behaviour returned to normal which is why I have concluded that their skitishness is all to do with the wind velocity.
Just before 5.30am the badgers were seen entering their setts for the day, by 7.30 am the sun was appearing over the horizon, our Belgian visitors decided that they would follow the badger’s example and retired to bed.
I walked my dogs at 7.30 am the first wild life species I saw was a Grey Heron which took to flight from the middle of one of our stubble fields. Bandit our Springer spaniel managed to find several pheasants in the same field which he put to “noisy” flight.
I caught a brief glimpse of the albino fallow deer with her fawn (the fawn is light tan in colour) the doe was nibbling and eating ripe damsons, as soon as she saw me she and her fawn disappeared into the badgers wood.

I continued on my walk serenaded by 175 (approx) Canada geese which were in several scanes, all of them were on their way to a lake near Hook Norton.

I then saw a snipe take off from our lower pond flying fast; darting left then right through the trees before disappearing from my sight.
A few steps further a muntjac was meandering through the undergrowth in the badger wood, fortunately bandit did not pick up its scent. I felt privileged that on my 40minute walk I had been treated to the appearance/departure of so much wildlife.

I have however not mentioned all the common birds that we see on a daily basis (woodpeckers, linnets, yellow hammers, blackbirds, finches, tits, buzzard, crow, raven, pigeons, kestrel etc etc

Friday 16th October 2009 temp14.5c daytime 8c night time, no/little wind, sunny spellsbadger emergence approx 1845 hrs

Two or three barn owls have been seen in and around the barn owl box every evening of this week. The badgers were out early last night but appeared ‘skittish’ for no apparent reason. One badger appeared to be blind in one eye as the aye had a film on it. One ear (photographed by Guido) has not put in an appearance for weeks. Maybe he has formed another sett elsewhere.

I saw a dipper on the mud surrounding our smallest pond at 7am yesterday morning. The dipper took flight and led my eye to the rear end of a muntjac disappearing into the plantation. I have seen three roe deer every day of this week.

Sunday 11th October 2009 temp13.5c daytime 8c night time, no wind, low cloud, drizzlebadger emergence approx 1845 hrs

The badgers are emerging in daylight in the still ‘warmish’ conditions with around 10 badgers emerged and in sight at one time. All the plums from the trees I planted (for the badgers ) have now been eaten by badgers, damsons next followed by the last of the apples in early December. Most of the apple ‘fallers’ are eaten by the badgers when over ripe. I have recently had a competition with the badgers to see who can get to the ripe fallen apples first. I have picked up all the apples I need and now made my cider for 2010 so the competition has now ceased, the badgers are now welcome to the fruit that is left. (plenty this year)

Friday 19th September temp 22c daytime 16c night time, no wind, very high thin cloud,badger emergence approx 1925 hrs
Due to a last minute cancellation by our intended visitors I achieved my first badger-watch for months. The first badger was already out at 1930hrs (when I arrived at the hide) by 2000 hrs there were 8 badgers emerged spread fairly evenly around the setts. I watched an adult male badger climb on to the tree climbing frame, after much sniffing and searching he managed to dislodge a small log that covered a cache of peanuts, the log dropped on to a badger 3 feet below who promptly leapt a foot into the air and made off at great speed to the sett, followed by six other badgers who obviously took fright at the sudden commotion.
Ten minutes later all the badgers had recovered from their shock/fright and re-emerged from their setts. No sooner had they emerged and started to go about their nightly tasks when a barn owl flew into the ash tree. (The tree that hosts the barn owl box) My attention was drawn to it by the almighty shriek that emitted from the owl before it reached the tree. The badgers were completely unfazed by the shrieking owl but it certainly made me jump. The tawny owls in Traitors Ford were busy communicating with each other (hooting) all the time I was in the hide it seemed by all the noise that there were 20 of them, but I guess the total would be nearer three pairs.
I also heard a muntjac bark fairly close by but was then distracted by a large hornet that kept flying into the floodlight before entering the aperture of the hide and buzzing around my head! The resulting noise that I made dealing with the hornet once again sent the badgers fleeing to their setts and the muntjac safely in deep cover.
Another busy days work 6am-7pm and drooping eyelids ensured an early night so my badger-watch concluded at 2130 hours. I noticed on Saturday morning that all the wind fall apples, damsons, and plums had been cleared/eaten from under the trees by the badgers.

30th August 2009 15.5c day time 9c night time badger emergence 2045 hrs

Last Saturday 28th August our visitors told me that the previuos evening was the best of the week with 9 badgers out together all over the climbing frame picking up rewards and thenbed changing. The Barn owls were out in force (three of them) the young owls were seen going in and out of the owl box several times. A female muntjac ambled through the badger-watch arena followed a few minutes later by a male muntjac. Fallow deer also put in an appearance with three of them seen wlking through the arena on their way to the field of wild bird mix. They were also seen again on saturday morning (just their heads) in the wild bid mix in front of our mobile home. Sun flowers are smiling all day from our wild bird mix while the game maize is still trying to grow to the heavens (currently about 1.75 metres tall)

14th August 2009 22c day time 15c night time badger emergence 2030 hrs

At long last the weather has settled into “harvest mode” gentle breezes and warm days with the occasional cloud. The barn owls are still feeding their owlets in the owl box although the owlets are quite capable of flying and have been seen doing so.

This year’s four badger cubs are the first to emergfrom their setts followed by seven –ten adults.

The green woodpecker has two very noisy fledglings who are in constant competition to see who can make the most noise.

4th August 2009
Rain one day fine the next, the result is a garden full of produce and exceptional growth on most of our trees.
The two barn owlets fledged during the last week of July. The owlets are still around learning, how to catch prey and give those looks that only an owl can give. Their parents have been bringing them food every few minutes during the early part of the night.
The badger emergence has been fairly consistent at 7-45pm with lots of activity up to 12 badgers out together. I have been given many wonderful photographs from our 2009 visitors to upload to our website. They will be on a separate page (to make them more accessible) and hopefully the technical side will be completed within the next two weeks.

14th July 2009
The daytime temperature has varied over the past three weeks from 14c to 27.5c Rain has fallen on most days for the last two weeks.
Badger activity has been busy to say the least with 19 badgers seen out together on one occasion. Four badger cubs have been seen from two females, one with three cubs and one with a singleton which is markedly smaller cub than the rest of them. The small cub is also the most aggressive by far.
I had reports of a roe deer having a fawn close by our ‘summer hide’ about two weeks ago, our visitor managed to take a photograph of the fawn in the long grass but when printed out was indistinguishable from the background so good was the fawns camouflage. I have deliberately avoided going anywhere near our summer hide on my dog walks for fear of disturbing them.
This morning’s dog walk proved the report, when out in the middle of our wild bird mix field I saw a roe buck accompanied by a hind and fawn. They watched me walk by within 20 metres of them without moving an eye lid. I kept my dogs close to my heel (although the dogs had no idea that the deer were so close) and quietly walked by.

29th June 2009

24c warm thermal weather with occasional heavy showers truly summer at last.

Over the past 10 evenings up to 18 badgers emerged and were in view at any one time, including 4 cubs. Roe and fallow deer have been seen every evening with a muntjac making a daytime appearance. The barn owls have been working overtime feeding their owlets, mainly on smaller rodents but also with the occasional rat. It is interesting to note that the parent lands in a nearby tree and swaps the prey from its talons to its beak before entering the owl box, smaller prey is taken inside and larger prey dropped through the entrance.   I would appreciate any information on how the owlets know that their parents are about to arrive with food. They hiss and scratch the box seconds before the arrival of the parent who is not heard to make any audible signal to them.

A greater spotted woodpecker joined one of our visitors in the mobile home recently (see below)

The greater spotted woodpecker photgraph by Dave Swinden

18th June 2009 overcast after light overnight rain 16c

15 Badgers competing for honey last night the sweetest moment was when a roebuck appeared in daylight (shown below)

photograph by Jim & Val Earl

17th June 2009 21c A warm day on 16th June 2009 followed by a lovely clear night with views to Broadway Tower until 10pm. Heavy dew had fallen by 6am this morning 17th June 2009. I find it a privilege to be living in this environment long may it continue.

Too many badgers were out at once to count last night, probably 15 or more,a roe buck put in an appearance, the owls were also busy, but too fast to photograph (photo by Jim & Val Earl of the roe buckto be added to out web site soon)

14th June 2009 18c sunshine ever day this weekend just a light breeze which ceases at night.

10 badgers + 3 cubs out at one time emerging in daylight 2030 hours. The barn owls are busy bringing mainly rodents (including a half grown rat) to their owlets in the owl box at 15 minute intervals. Our swallows did not return this year. I presume that they expired on their migration. It has been a weekend of flying displays on Friday I saw a Vulcan bomber fly over our farm, on Saturday morning I saw a Lancaster Bomber fly over on its way to the trooping of the colour. the best display of all was when I watched 10 swifts for 15 minutes feeding at 15 metres height over a wheat field on Saturday evening, a truly spectacular flying display.

The suspicious badger photgraph taken by Eric Woods 2009

9th June 2009 16c daytime overcast

Saturday it rained all day but cleared at night, our visitor had good observations of the barn owl carrying mice into the owl box. The owls visit was precluded by lots of hissing and scratching by the occupying owlets who could obviously hear the parent coming sometime before it arrived. There were 6 badgers emerged at one time all occupying them selves with different activities, from digging the setts deeper to chasing each other around the path ways.

Sunday mornings dawn was followed by high winds and an inch of rain! by 10.30am the sun was out and so was a weasel, it was seen near our largest pond carrying a mouse which seemd to be about half the weasels size. I had had a reportlast weekthat four somethings had been seen (but not identified) running through the long grass making high pitched squeals I guess it was a female weasel with three youngsters. There must be lots of mice as the kestrel,buzzard,owls and weasel are all catching them regularly.

27th May a wonderful bank holiday weekend dawn to dusk sunshine on Sunday and Monday
Tuesday heavy overnight rain arrived and the rain continued most of Wednesday morning.
Our wild bird cover which consists of
2.00 kg white millet
1.00 kg sweet clover
2.00 kg sunflower
2.50 kg game maize
1.50 kg buckwheat
0.25 kg kale
0.25 kg rape
0.50 kg mustard
Was sown at the above rate per hectare about 7 days ago, The seed has started to grow already. (Helped by the rain)
The badgers have been digging in the loose soil looking for the maize but I guess they will be lucky if they find it all.
I saw two robins fighting on Sunday; they were so involved in their fight that they completely ignored my presence. For such attractive small birds that let me know peacefully where they are all year round as I am walking around our farm they do seem to have a hidden aggressive streak that is presumably due to territory infringement by another robin. I have heard that they fight to the death ,so I made my presence known to them by shouting (I am sure they thought I was mad) they eventually flew off in different directions, I bet they both think that they won the fight!

We have two tits nesting in an apple tree very close to our mobile home. In the nesting box is a great tit feeding young, just below the nesting box in a hole that goes right through the trunk a blue tit has made a nest.  The blue tit enters from the one side with food and exits from the rear after having fed the young in the nest. I am quite surprised that they nest within 300mm of each other when I have provided several other sites for them in the locality.
11 badgers emerged at one time last night and they managed to find our visitors big bag of peanuts that they had left on a gate while they were laying a trail of peanuts for them to follow! I would never call a badger a “dumb” animal would you?

25th May 2009 overcast but warm 22c
Yesterday 24th May was wall to wall sunshine, 11 adult badgers emerged at one time. Three badger cubs came out of their sett to play, while overhead a barn owl showed off its flying skills to the bats that seemed to be everywhere all at once.
While I write this update at 8am (after my early morning walk) I can see a herd of fallow deer sitting in a crop of wheat several fields away, the albino doe is with them. (It is her colour that drew my attention to the herd) In the foreground (on our lawn) a female yellow hammer is busy finding food for its young; it is obviously a very busy time of year for wildlife.
I have been treated to a fairly loud unusual bird song every morning this week.I listened to the song on my early morning dog walk through our trees. The song begins with an animated warble and finishes with a rattle and is being emitted by a fairly small bird that is shy as the bird flies from tree to tree always keeping at least 20 metres away from me, I was eventually treated to a close sighting by standing still while my spaniels meandered through the trees which sent the little bird back inmy direction (with the help of a bird book) I identified it as a whitethroat and probably the lesser whitethroat.
The cuckoo has been singing all day everyday and I noted a slight change in its song yesterday in June they do sing another tune before they fly away.
I saw a pied wagtail feeding one of its young on or lawn yesterday, I hope there were more elsewhere, but I only saw one young one.
It is interesting to note that this year the oak trees are at least two weeks in front of the ash trees with the emergence of their leaves. (The sign of a warm dry summer?)

18th May 2009 morning sunshine with intermittent heavy rain showers temp +15c daytime +6 c night
11 badgers emerged and were all in front of the hides throwing big rocks down the bank in their attempts to find rewards; the badgers took a road kill pigeon from its near final resting place on one of the tree stumps before our visitors even entered the hide to start their badger-watch.  Three badger cubs from the top sett put in a brief appearance and seem to delight in playing with each other on and around the lower branches of a walnut tree (the tree was given to me to plant 10 years ago by one of our visitors).
I watched a buzzard gain height flying into a stiff breeze this morning, this superb flying creature did not flap a wing in the 5 minutes I was watching it. The crow that was trying to gain enough height to mob the buzzard, struggled with wings flapping hard to even get close to it, so much so that it gave up after a couple of minutes. The next time I saw the crow was when it landed on one of our hedges with the obvious intent of nest robbing from smaller varieties of birds!! (Eggs and chicks)  The crow was too late to interfere with the family of great tits that I saw sitting in a silver birch tree (at 6.35am this morning) both the parents and 6 fledglings are safe from the crow once the great tits have fledged, but not safe from the sparrow hawk or kestrel.
I am seeing swifts and house martins a plenty, but I am not seeing so many swallows this year, I just hope that they are late arriving! (fingers crossed)
I saw my first red fox of 2009 this morning at 6am. I was downwind from it and watched it hunting along the bank of the brook for 10 minutes or so before it disappeared out of my sight. I am pleased to report that the fox looked in super condition.

15th May 2009 overcast after heavy overnight rain (about 25mm )temp 10.5c -16c

10 badgers were emerged at one time last night including ‘one ear’.  The 3 badger cubs from our top badger sett seem to be having great fun playing with the lower branches of our walnut tree and have ventured as far from their sett  as our ground level hide. All the badger bedding got changed the night before last. (2.5 hrs work)The badgers knew it was going to rain, how they knew I don’t know but I guess that their ears are sensitive to the change in air pressure.
I was entertained by a grey wagtail yesterday as it picked its way around most of the tiles on our roof looking for food (bugs) along with a pied wagtail. While I was watching the wagtails wagging their tails a green woodpecker, mistle thrush, magpie, blackbirds, and a yellow hammer visited our lawn.
There were three fallow deer in front of the top hide at 6am this morning and two roe deer yesterday morning. Now leaves are covering most of the trees they seem a lot less fearful of humans  I was able to walk past all of the deer on both mornings within 20 metres of them.

28th April 2009 10.5c overcast with showers 1.5c night time.

8 Badgers and a badger cub all-out together at 8pm with a barn owl giving a magnificent flying display overhead.
Last evening at 7-30pm I heard my first cuckoo I am so pleased it was prepared to let me know it was here again this year.
I was watching a female green woodpecker picking ants out of our lawn at 6-20pm last night when the male woodpecker arrived. He landed on the grass about 15 metres away and hopped a little closer to the female who was intent on getting her supper out of the ants nest when she had her beak well down into the ants nest he hopped onto her back and in 5 seconds had mated with her! He then hoped off to another ants nest nearby to obtain his supper.
Our visitors saw 5 fallow deer including the albino last night around 3.30pm, I also saw them retreating to traitors Ford cover at 6.30am this morning. They must have been on a long night out (grazing) The albino looked rather large around the middle so could well be expecting a fawn.

23rd April 2009 14.5c Super sunny weather with windless evenings 2.5c nightime.
Kate and Alex saw (briefly)the first two College Barn Farm badgers cubs emerge on Tuesday 21st April at about 8.55pm, one of which was yelling for its mum.

21st April 2009+14c daytime -1c night time, bright sunny days and cool nights

Super sunny weather with windless evenings and overnight frosts.

An excellent badger emergence occured around 8pm. We are still waiting for the first badger cubs to show themselves above ground.
Between 7-30 and  8am yesterday I was entertained by goldfinches, wagtails, yellow hammers, a green woodpecker, a dunock, a robin, several black birds, a chaffinch and several rooks all visiting our lawn for an early morning feed. As I write at 10.30am a kestrel is hovering over our wild bird cover looking for prey.

16th April 2009+12c daytime +4c night time, early morning drizzle followed by showers but yesterday 15th April at 7-30am it seemed the world was about to end! There was an eye blinding flash of lightning followed by an almighty crash of thunder that made me and my dogs nearly jump out of our skins. There was only one and it was heard as far apart as Aylesbury to Evesham and Stratford upon Avon.
This morning I was delighted to see a red kite at 7.15am It was out hunting across local arable fields. (it is the first red kite I have seen in 2009) I also saw a roe deer close up (for about 5 seconds) it then leapt the intervening hedge (which is 6 feet high) and made off toward Traitors Ford cover. I saw a herd of fallow deer (about 19 of them including the albino female) in the cover as I walked by yesterday afternoon.
10 badgers were out at any one time from 2000 hours, they changed their bedding  last Monday night while the weather was dry.

10th April 2009+12c daytime +3c night time, early morning rain followed by showers

Summer is here I saw the first swallow at 7am this morning it was however just passing through. I also saw four roe deer in our plantation at 7-15am

8th April 2009+12c daytime +2c night time bright mornings & bright sunny afternoons stiff breeze after over night rain

5 badgers were seen out together in the rain last night and 11 the previous night

a badger takes a road kill pheasant (below) photograph by Karen and Martin Blackman March 2009

A barn owl hunting in front of the Mobile Home photograph by Karen and Martin Blackman March 2009

A tawny owl? photograph by Karen and Martin Blackman March 2009

An earless badger (below) photograped at College Barn Farm in February 2009 by Guido Wauters

(Guido was visting the Uk from Belgium to photograph badgers)

3rd April 2009+10c daytime +2c night time foggy mornings & bright sunny afternoons no/little wind

I saw three fallow deer two days ago at the entrance to our drive, two of them with massive antlers appeared to be fighting over a female. (so it happens in the animal world as well)
I have had reports of red deer being seen on the Stratford side of Tysoe and that they have been breeding in the locality.
The silly season for badgers is upon us once again, the result is the carnage that I witness on my school run (and happens all over the uk), I see road killed badgers on a daily basis. The reasons for the badgers being more active on the road side at this time of year are somewhat complex but have much to do with the hierarchy of badger life with part of it being last year’s remaining cubs and older dominant boars being forced /asked to leave their existing sett to make room for the new family and a younger male. The displaced badgers then have to find a new territory and either dig a new sett or takeover one that is not in use.
On a brighter note I heard the dawn chorus start while on my enforced morning dog walk this morning at 5-45am, by 6.15am the participants of the chorus had increased by a factor of 4
We had two of the neighbours ponies visiting us unannounced at 5-30am which resulted in complete pandemonium with our dogs barking the ponies knocking over our post box and galloping around our lawn  chased by two very much awake Springer spaniels. By the time I had returned the ponies to a neighbour’s field it was not worth going back to bed so our Spaniels had an early walk!

22nd March 2009+12c daytime -1c night time bright sunny days no/little wind
I saw 15 fallow deer on my early morning dog walk at about 7-30am this morning, they were being led by the other (older) albino, they seemed extremely nervous, particularly when the noise of metal horse hooves on a road reached them. Their heads all turned toward the aggresive noise their ears flicked up and they bolted for one of the local covers, clearing hedges that barred their way in one bound.

I watched two rooks in a courting display yesterday, the rooks carried on with their touching of beaks and pirouettes with wings outstretched for about 10 minutes.
10 badgers were seen emerged at one time last night, the barn owl has been seen to be busy hunting and 6 fallow deer put in an appearance led by the albino all on the evening of 21st March

13th March 2009 +11c daytime +4c night time overcast foggy, no wind

The smaller varieties of wild birds have seemingly grown in number by about 3 times, I am seeing  yellow hammers, chaffinches, most of the tit family,blackbirds and wagtails all in healthy numbers, the mistle thrush is singing most of the day, rooks are clearing out their nests (and being very noisy about it)SPRING MUST BE HERE!
I am still seeing fallow and roe deer on a daily basis. Our visitors saw barn owls, badger,s deer and afox last Friday evening. The weather changed on Saturday with a howling gale and torrential rain which kept the barn owls in there box and made the badgers very cautious.

27th February 2009 +12c daytime +4c night time light breeze partly overcast with the sun out at 7-15am
Our first visitors from Belgium arrived today after a fairly long drive and ferry crossing. A good start to the afternoon was the appearance of a Roe deer from our wild bird/sweet clover field followed by a sighting of many pheasants and 5 fallow deer in the Traitors Ford cover. I have this morning been treated to a  45 minute flying display by the barn owl hunting over our  wood and wild bird cover.

26th February 2009 +10c daytime +3c night time breezy and feeling cooler than it really is.
The badgers emerged at 7pm and the dominant boar proceeded to mate with several females.  Female badgers not involved proceeded to change bedding. The barn owl put in an early flying display before sitting in a tree for an hour. I also saw the owl this morning at 7am hunting the wild bird cover; I find it an absolute delight to watch. I saw 4 roe deer last evening at about 5pm they appeared very skittish and were soon leaping across my neighbour’s field while my two dogs were still several hundred metres away, what spooked them I am not sure.
This morning at 8.10am I saw 6 fallow deer including the albino browsing on the other side of the valley just before they took refuge in a cover for the day.

I also saw a herd of 40 fallow deer on Monday just outside Whichford Wood 4 KM’s from here.

21st February 2009 +10c daytime -1c night time
The badgers emerged at 7pm just after the barn owl had given a flying display to its mate who was peeking of the owl box entrance. A total of 7 badgers were seen out at once.
I have left two more bales of straw under water proof straw dispensers for them as it is more than likely that badger cubs have now been born and need keeping warm and dry. The badgers did not use any of it last night, but maybe they will tonight.
A roe deer also put in a brief appearance within the badger watching area.
I have been seeing numerous deer over the past week including my old friend the fallow albino who must now be at least 5 years old. She looked alert and in good condition but heavily pregnant.
The sun is out today! All day!Hurrah. A mistle thrush sang to me on my morning dog walk, while other smaller varieties of bird also joined in. Could spring be here once again? Last evening I watched from my office window a very busy partridge feeding on the run maybe it was making up for the lack of food during the past two weeks of lying snow.

17th February 2009 +6c daytime +2c night time
The snow that has lain here for two weeks has now all but gone. It was however interesting to note that in the snow badgers appear to wipe their feet when they leave the sett not upon entering it. (Judging by all the trails of dirty feet marks in the snow)
While the sun was setting yesterday I saw four raptors out hunting : buzzard, sparrow hawk, kestrel and barn owl. I have been seeing a barn owl out hunting early evening and mornings. I think that It would have stayed at roost while the snow cover was present as it would not have been able to find any prey. The owl has therefore had to start hunting earlier to assuage its hunger.
Today is  grey and overcast with no wind.

11th February  2009
-5c last night +5c daytime
I saw a barn owl out hunting around the badger setts at 4pm in bright sunlight this afternoon. I sat and watched it for about 10minutes before it disappeared over the trees. There was much more badger activity around the badger setts and further a field last night, I know know why they are called “hedge Sows”
6th February  2009
-4c last night + 1c daytime
A further 12 inches of snow fell, badgers were reluctant to emerge but lots of muddy foot prints were seen from sett entrances to other sett entrances.  I saw a pair of partridge around our house today turning over all the moss etc that was between our house and the path (about 0.5 of an inch) they must have been desperate for food. I also saw a robin on our bird feeder for the first time.

5th February 2009
-2c  over night +4c daytime, six inches of snow fell over night
There was a limited badger emergence last evening judging by the foot prints left by them in the snow. Most of the foot prints appeared to be from one sett entrance to another although two or three badgers braved the snowy conditions and left foot prints all over the logs up past our Mobile Home and along the hedge to our house, stopping occasionally to scent mark and dig for food.

2nd February 2009

-4c overnight 0c daytime a chilly easterly wind and snowing heavily as I write.
An overnight frost preceded by a dusting of snow. The badger emergence was around 7pm, the snow did not stop them from scaling the logs. The badgers have no crampons or ropes but very long front claws and their fearless attitude to natures obstacles enables them to perform tremendous feats. I gave them a task last night by putting peanuts under a massive stone that I could just about lift, the stone was moved and the peanuts were gone by 7am this morning.

Tonight may be a different story and I intend seeing what happens around the badger setts with our first heavy fall of snow that has lain on the ground for 12 years.

It was interesting on this morning’s dog walk to try and identify all of the spoor marks in the snow. I identified muntjac, fox, badger, rabbit (lots) roe deer and moorhen (the moorhen must have been up early this morning)
I was planting trees yesterday in a 25 mph freezing east wind, when I had the feeling that I was being watched, I looked around and saw a cheeky roe deer peering at me from behind some fairly dense undergrowth, it flicked its ears and rolled its head and seemed bemused by my work. (The irony of the situation is that the trees that I was planting were scented poplars, the roe and fallow deer’s favourites for head rubbing and in the case of the fallow deer they just destroy them with their antlers)

17th January 2009
Overnight 60mph winds and 30mm of rain the badgers were 2.5 metres up on the logs at the height of the storm.
I watched two cormorants circle my neighbour’s lake at least 4 times before one of them attempted to make a landing. Fortunately it obviously saw something that it did not like and the pair of them flew off to another nearby lake. I have never seen a bird eat so many fish in such a short space of time as a cormorant. The cormorant do however need a fairly long uninterrupted take off area across water particularly with a crop full of fish. I have only ever seen one on my largest pond and it really struggled to get airborne.

14th January 2009
+9.5c daytime -4c last night badgers emerged at 6pm
My 6-45AM walk was Moonlit this morning with the frost crunching under my feet my two dogs were disappearing in and out of the hedgerows. (looking for pheasants that were still at roost) The countryside was eerily quiet I could just see a band of mist rising off the brook in the light of the three quarter moon. It was past 7am when I heard and saw the first crow.
As I walked by our smallest pond I noted that the kestrel was still in its nesting box. (the previous two mornings it had been sitting on the landing platform looking for an early breakfast). As I walked alongside the Oxfordshire /Warwickshire County boundary I could hear the smaller birds that were still at roost in our oversized blackthorn hedge.(they must have had a cold night) I turned for home and spotted a muntjac deer hotly pursued by bandit our youngest Springer Spaniel.
I had a report of a swarm of honey bees being seen locally maybe it is the temp +9.5c that brought the queen bee out.( I have seen two queen wasps recently)

12th January 2009
Badgers  emerging again +3c
11th January 2009

No Badger emergence on the evening of 11th January probable reason a change in the weather from -10c to +3c with wind and rain
A big thank you to all of our visitors who came to watch the College Barn Farm badgers and wildlife in 2008 and to those of you who have booked for 2009. Without you our wildlife conservation project would be slowed considerably.
8th January 2009

+4c murky and damp
I saw a black fallow deer and a muntjac browsing through our trees today I also saw a very unfortunate blackbird taken by a sparrow hawk at lunch time today.

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