Wildlife Notes 1997 – 1998
14th December 1997 lots of activity around the setts, all of the badger tracks are well used. Bedding has been changed (a bale and a half of wheat straw taken into the depths of the earth). Perhaps the badgers know more than us! I bet there will be a change in the weather (colder).
Although there seems to be plenty of food around at the moment the badgers are clearing up my offerings within a couple of nights. They have had some help from a grey squirrel which seems to be thriving on beans and barley. Momo (our springer spaniel) seems to take a delight in chasing the squirrel up into the trees.
There were 10 mallard ducks on the main pond yesterday morning (15th Dec.). Two swans came to have a look, but find it difficult to get back into the air from this pond. They really need a little longer space to take off. Rabbits were running around the setts, causing confusion to the dogs who always give chase but never seem to have any success with catching them.
The ‘set-aside’ is supporting a host of yellow hammers and other small birds. I have noticed this morning (16th) that there seem to be lots of blackbirds and thrushes appearing from somewhere. I suppose it’s not surprising as the weather has turned cold with a strong easterly wind. The ‘setaside’ gives a fair amount of cover. They are also picking up a fair amount of the food I have been leaving out for them.
We have two greater spotted woodpeckers on our bird table together with a host of blue-tits and great-tits. On the ground are the chaffinches dunocks, etc. The robins are getting very brave as the weather deteriorates.
In the gales leading up to Christmas Eve we had a buzzard sitting out the high winds in the top of one of the tall trees at Traitors Ford. I saw him hunting twice over Christmas but he/she has now moved on.
I have seen several adult foxes recently all in good condition and out and about during the day.
The badgers have been quite active; they have changed their bedding once again and their trails are showing signs of constant use. Their latrines are being used nightly which is somewhat unusual at this time of the year (probably due to the plentiful food supply). Hopefully, times of plenty will produce an abundance of young ones this year. Perhaps the avid badger watchers are thinking this a possibility as bookings for the early part of the year are starting to come in.
Both the Greater-Spotted and Green Woodpecker were seen (and also heard in the case of the green) feeding from the badger-rubbing log this morning 02.01.98.
A kestrel was busy taking mice from the set-aside fields this morning, I wish they would take a few more. We seem to be inundated with them this year.
3rd January 1998: Wet wet wet and windy – we have water everywhere – it is a wonderful feeling living on a hill. We may get blown away, but not drowned! An inch of rain in three days, the fields are starting to leech and trenches are being eroded into the soil. Our poor old winter beans are in danger of being washed out of the ground.
I saw a grey heron this morning sitting on an island in the middle of the brook (where no island should be). The water was so muddy and dirty that I doubt whether it would have caught anything. The brook, which is normally 2 metres wide, is more like 60 metres at the moment!
4th Jan: not just windy but a full-blown gale. We lost about half of our old crab-apple tree, a roof light from the barn and about a third of the old beech tree outside the farmhouse (the branch is 3 feet across).
5th Jan: Out with the springer spaniels this morning and saw a jay followed by two magpies. One for sorrow and two for joy (probably both). As I crossed the ditch which takes the water from the main pond I slipped into the ditch (sorrow); I was then surrounded by three laughing dogs absolutely delighted at my plight (joy for them as they’re the ones who normally get wet).
7th Jan: Out with the dogs this morning I saw a cock pheasant and a roe deer both feeding from one of the badger feeders. The deer was chased by Winston and Spencer (two of my spaniels). It soon out paced the dogs by a long way (a good pointer to its health) and the pheasant took to its wings. Not much sign of badger activity recently – I think they have more sense than to emerge in this weather.
9th Jan: I thought today was going to be uneventful, however at 1 pm I was surprised to see a buzzard hunting. I watched it for about 15 minutes, circling in the thermals over the mobile home. What a flyer – hardly a wing beat in all of the time I was watching it. It did not catch anything while I was watching.
12th Jan: I saw 26 chaffinches feeding underneath our bird table today. There were the usual compliment of blue tits and great tits feeding from the nut nets, two greater spotted woodpeckers were also feeding during the quiet spells.
15th Jan: While walking the dogs at 8 am this morning I heard a dog fox call from one of the nearby spinneys. I thought no more about it until I heard the vixen (it sounded like a grey heron in extreme distress). Winston and Spencer ( two of my springer spaniels) went immediately to the source of the call. I saw the dog fox make off toward another cover, but as my dogs came back to heel, the dog fox returned to the original spinney calling three times on the way. It will be interesting to find where the vixen has her cubs later on this year. We have seen litters of young fox cubs around here every year since 1986.
25th Jan: As the weather looked like being cold, dry and frosty, I put out two bales of wheat straw for the badgers (to enable them to change their bedding) last night. When I walked my dogs this morning, one bale had disappeared underground. There could have been three badgers at work, as the straw had obviously been going down three separate entrances (to the same sett). For anyone reading these notes who hasn’t observed badgers changing bedding, the way they carry out this operation is comical to watch. They roll the bedding in a ball and drag it backwards held between their front legs, sometimes for fifty yards or so. I made things a little less difficult for them by leaving the straw five yards from the sett.
While walking I observed that five latrines had been used by the badgers last night. There was obviously a lot of foraging for worms going on the previous night (which was fairly mild).
The bird table has never been so busy – tits, greater-spotted woodpeckers, dunnock, wagtails, robin, chaffinches, blackbirds and starlings – all at the same time this morning. The reason for all of this activity is the cold east wind and last night’s penetrating frost.
26th Jan. The remainder of the straw I put out for the badgers has now vanished underground. There was a fair amount of activity last night, a badger had dug a hole near one of the feeders, I first noticed the hole a few days ago and thought it to be a new latrine as it was only a few inches deep. But low and behold I was wrong, this morning the hole was a few inches deeper and at the bottom was a hand full of field beans! these had obviously been hoarded by a rodent (mouse, vole or possibly a squirrel) How did the badger know they were there 9 inches deep under the soil? Maybe it was the badgers instinct, or more likely its keen nose. The badger must have been disturbed as the beans were still in the hole. I bet they will not be there at this time tomorrow.
28th January I was just coming out of my front door last night at about 7pm, when I was met by an adult dog fox, face to face at a distance of about 1 metre.We looked at each other for what seemed like an age. I do not know who was the most surprised the fox or me.
Still plenty of badger activity, there must be plenty of earthworms around , as the latrines are all being used, the content is mainly the soil from the digestive tract of the worms.
I saw two little owls this morning ,one here and the other in Warwickshire. They were both flying, which is a little unusual during the day, unless they have been disturbed, which these had not. At least not by me or the dogs!
I heard the moorhens on one of the ponds this morning, spring must be just around the corner. Four mallard duck left the pond in the half light and appeared to have paired up, another sign of impending spring. A friend of mine said “that he had found a mallard ducks nest with eight eggs in last week!
Badger & Wildlife notes for March & April 1998
The mallards ducks are now paired up the. ducks are sitting while the drakes get up to allsorts of antics to draw attention away from the nesting site, even pretending they have a broken wing and scuttering across the water in a most unusal manner. Considering they are one of the most capable fliers the bonding between duck & drake is strong indeed.
I saw 7 fallow deer this morning 11.03.98 while on my morning dog walk. They were mainly black with lighter undersides, such graceful animals, they cleared a five foot fence in mid bound in their efforts to put distance between us.
I saw the deer again 15th March 1998 the same deer as before feeding on the young grass on the setaside.
The Buzzard s are still around but they cover a large area, I think up to 10 miles .We only have one pair as far as I can acertain, but they have been seen all around the area up to 10 miles away.
I found a Moorhens nest on our middle pond this morning with 8 eggs in it. I took a photograph so hopefully that should be with in the site shortly. It was quite unique the way that the Moorhen had built the nest using last years reeds woven around this years reeds to a height of 14 or 15 inches out of the water. (presumably to allow for the rise and fall in the pond depth)
Wet wet wet, We have water everywhere ,as usual the water finds the quickest way of the fields. The ponds have gone brown (with eroded soil ) on 8th /9th we had 2” of rain in 24 hours. We had to go to Leamington Spa on 8th, It is the first time in my life I have seen a foot of water running down a 1in 8 hill!!! Our local beauty spot Traitors Ford had water up to the 3 foot mark the pedestrian bridge has cracked with the force of the water. (We have home video footage of the ford and floods which is available to our Badger Watchers)
Our watchers this week did not venture of the Farm, they said that “the floods did not seem to put the Badgers off”, they saw 6 on the evening of the 9th and they reported the first sighting of cubs on the evening of the 11th. “two little heads popped out just for a second or two”
I saw the first swallow on 17th, summer is here? The swallow arrived in the afternoon and sat on top of our barn for a couple of hours. It appeared in good condition although a little tired. two more came on Saturday and lots more during the week.
They do seem in a hurry, within days of arrival they are building nests and preparing for the warmer weather to come.
The Blackbirds are singing every morning and evening a real delight to hear them telling each other what they are going to do during the day and then again in the evening what they have done. Blackbirds also sing after dark. No! you will say of course they don’t impossible. Two weeks ago we had an enthusiatic camera man filming badgers. To aid him in his task he had another 1kw flood light lighting the general area of the badger setts along comes a Blackbird at 9.30pm and sits on the rubbing log and proceeds to
The Moorhens nest is empty, either the eggs have hatched or there has been a raider! I rather think the later may be true. The nest was only a metre from the pond bank.
A really big red fox has been seen with the badgers not far away and I would guess that either one or the other is responsible.
17th May 1998
The Moorhen has now built another nest. This time in the middle of the pond. she is sitting once again (more safely this time I hope)
We have three cubs in the top sett and at least two in the lower sett. They are being seen regularly out with their mum gambolling around and generally playing. They were very cautious at first not coming out until midnight and then only for a short while. Mr greedy (the badger) is still coming out first and trying to eat all the peanuts before any of the other badgers emerge. Two Muntjacks were seen feeding with the Badgers recently.
We have skylarks singing to us and a yellow wagtail come to see us this last week. The wonderful weather we are having this week is encouraging the Coy Carp and Golden orf to go up and down the ponds like torpedoes, (feeding) there soon will not be any tadpoles left. I was so intent on watching them I nearly went in the pond with the ride on mower!
26th May 1998.
The badgers have been very obliging this week, emerging at 8.10pm in daylight! Our watchers this week have noted injuries to the rear ends of to badgers (most likely the result of fighting) The cubs have been out together feeding on nuts . playing with each other in the scramble for easy food.
We have seen several bats late evening around the hide (pipestrals I think) a yellow Wagtail has a very young family in one of our old Barns. A house sparrow has a nest around the other side of the building, a Great tit has a family in on of the nesting boxes situated in one of the apple trees. (I must remember to make the access hole a little larger as the adults are struggling to get in)
The Moorhens have hatched successfully this time, I have seen at least four young ones feeding at the feeder. The reeds in the pond are now giving them good cover as they have grown to five feet tall.
There are lots of little coloured fish in the ponds so I guess that the Carp must have spawned successfully.
The Badgers are being very co-operative 12 out feeding at the same time. What a group,
Mr Greedy is still the dominant Badger, he lies on as many peanuts as possible (as above) and snaps at the others if they approach too close. He is a least half again as big as the next sized Badger!
Emergence is around 10.30pm, they are very cautious for the first few minutes but soon get accustomed to the outdoor noises with the exception of the wind. They are all distinctly jumpy when the wind is blowing hard, probably because the sound of the wind covers most other noises.
The Swallows are now on their second brood and feed their young tirelessly from dawn to dusk, my grass mower is situated in the barn where one family has built it’s nest. I have had to put a plastic cover over it to keep all the droppings of the paintwork and seat. It really is a joy to hear their chitterings as I enter the barn and well worth the little effort required to clear up their mess.
Our main crop this year is field beans, this year they have grown to about 6 feet tall.The Badgers love them as they give them excellent cover with a multitude of all the delicacies that they like to eat contained therein.
Several of our watchers have been feeding deer with raisins from the Mobile home window! The deer come for their supper at about 9pm as the evening proceeds toward dusk.
Harvest time, The Badgers have taken about a quarter of an acre of wheat out of one field right in front of the Mobile Home ! I hope they enjoyed it, I did not. Now the wheat is in the Barn and although the Badgers will get some of it it will be as and when the weather dictates and I will guarrantee they will not waste any!
The Swallows are getting ready for their exodus we still have one pair with young in the Barn, their third brood this summer! I fear for them as it is very late in the year for the young to get big enough to make the migration. Lets hope we have an Indian summer in October.
The Badger cubs are now nearly the same size as the adults apart from their size you can easily pick them out by their “impish behaviour”. There has been alot of digging in the far sett, tons of dirt excavated and new bedding taken down even Mo Mo had to check it out.
The Swallows have all gone, except two. I presume that these are the parents, filling themselves with food to get enough energy to make the migration.
October 12th 1998
The Last Two swallows have gone, here yesterday and gone today, on their flight south.
The first white frost amazing that the swallows knew that it was coming
Total sightings of Badgers by our Badgerwatchers so far this year = 700
Next update with latest 1998 badger photo’s end of 98 begining of 99