2001 Notes

Wildlife Notes 2001

This weeks diary to 17th December 2000

A start has made on the new hide, if only the weather would improve! I have had to replace half of one roof on the barn and replace several tiles on the house roof after last weeks gales.

I saw the buzzard yesterday sitting in a tree with it’s feathers all fluffed up. I guess that this was due to the early morning frost.

During the week I heard several blackbirds singing. They obviously think it is spring! I just hope that they do not think that it is spring!

I have put dry straw out for the badgers this morning, and also a little food. I bet the straw will be under ground within hours and the food in tums even quicker. (more on this next week)

This weeks diary to 26th January 2001

I have been really busy trying to complete the new hide for our first watchers on 9th February. I have now finished the hide with the exception of the wiring which will be fitted this week. I have already had Badgers taking peanuts from just outside the ground level viewing aperture!

While constructing the hide I have observed 5 black fallow deer on the other side of the valley. Three stags and two does. I just hope they do not come and browse on my newly planted trees and shrubs. I also saw two Buzzards yesterday taking full advantage of the wind and updrafts for an hour or so of free flight.

The new hide (called running water) has the benefit of two Volvo seats fully adjustable, giving the occupants panoramic views of the ponds, Badger setts and local countryside, while giving the feeling of being semi immersed in a river.

While working late one evening I lingered in the elevated hide until 7-45 pm when three Badgers emerged to devour a few peanuts that I had left for them. They were quite shy but I was very pleased to see that they were unmarked (no battle damage) and in really good condition. I watched them scavenging for half an hour in the frost before cold feet got the better of me and I left for a warmer place.

The light from the floodlight gave the impression of a thousand eyes looking back at me. It was of course only reflections of the ice crystals but still a wonderful sight. I was also interested to see that there are still flying insects around even though the temperature was below freezing.

This weeks diary to 10th February 2001

The new hide (called running water) is now complete. badgers have been taking peanuts within two feet of the photography flap!

I saw 15 fallow deer on Thursday 13 black deer and two beige. None of them had antlers so they were a different herd to those  I saw a month ago. It is a joy to see them in the wild. I just wish they would eat the grass and leave the trees alone.

I showed our first watchers the hide at 6-15 pm last night (they were a little late arriving) there were already two badgers emerged. There has been a lot of badger activity around the Farm this last two weeks, fresh musk at all the usual points and lots of scrapes some over a foot deep. I wonder if cubs are imminent?

This weeks diary to 17th February 2001

I managed to have an hour observing the badger sett’s last night (Friday 16th Feb.) I arrived at hide panorama at 8-20pm. The evening was still and cold every creak of the seat sounded horrendously loud. I turned the flood lamp on and there was nothing moving around the sett’s at all. After about 15 minutes a rabbit emerged then another and another!

The rabbit’s suddenly disappeared under ground, a Vixen appeared in front of the hide in the full glare of the flood light less than 10 metres away. She toured all around the rabbit holes for a few minutes and then exited the field through a gap in the hedge.

The stillness of the night became apparent again, broken only by a large moth which appeared in the light. I spotted a movement at the bottom of the field on the outer limits of the light, a sow badger came trundling along, back to the bottom sett.

She inspected about three entrances before coming on up the field (along the well defined track) she raised her nose and took a last scent of the air before going under ground. Within two minutes another sow badger followed the same route, did exactly the same procedure before going underground at the bottom sett.

A few moments went by and then a boar badger emerged from the top sett. He had a quick sniff at the night air and trundled up to the running water hide to see if there were any peanuts. He showed his disappointment at not finding any, by digging up some of the grass seeds before departing for parts unknown.

The above behavior of the sow badgers is a little unusual. They had obviously emerged at about 6-6-30pm gone for a drink and used their latrine before hurriedly returning to the sett. Have they got young cubs I say to myself?

he badger emergence has been early every evening this week.(6pm) I guess that they know the worms will have gone deeper into the soil as the frost develops during the late evening. Good sightings all week with five out at one time. Bare bottom is still around and looking in reasonable shape she must have been here for 5 years (see the photo taken.

Photographed by Mrs Sixsmith

I have seen three buzzards regularly this week. Every morning at about 8-30 am they have been hunting the rabbits off the badger setts.

This weeks diary to 24th February 2001

I have now finished modifications to the panorama hide enabling easier access to the seating arrangements. Three of the seats are recliners and probably too comfortable! My sons are on half term this week and have had two successful nights badger watching with their friends. They saw bedding changed and several badgers eating peanuts.

The buzzards have not been around this week

This weeks diary to 4th March 2001

Brilliant results from the new hide last Friday

Bev and her three 11 years olds arrived here at 5-50pm. (after driving for three hours through blizzards and traffic jams) I managed to quickly explain the rudiments of badger watching to them while Geese were flying overhead and ducks were flighting in to the pond for their evening feed.

I  advised them to get some warm clothing on, as the outside temp was already -5c and falling rapidly, while I put some peanuts out for the badgers.

We were in the running water hide by 6-05pm and the first badger (Mr. Greedy) emerged a minute later. Five minutes later three other badgers emerged followed by another badger a few minutes later. Within ten minutes three badgers were looking in at us through the viewing aperture. They were so close the girls could smell them. I was know trapped in the hide (if I had left the badgers would have rapidly gone underground) I therefore stopped and enjoyed all that was going on for an hour an a half including the watching the ducks using the “duck hut” on the pond. (my evening meal was over cooked but the events of the evening really made up for it) -12c overnight “Brrrrrr”

This weeks diary to 24th March 2001

5 inches of snow fell yesterday, but it has all gone today and the sun is now out and the birds are singing. Is spring finally here?

Good results for the last two weeks. I saw five badgers out at one time, but lot’s of comings and goings from several sett entrances. The badger activity was interrupted by the dance of the field mice. The mice keep darting out from the shadows and  taking peanuts. (they are a sight to behold, I have never seen anything move so fast)

This week’s watchers have had good results also. They have managed to photograph badgers from a distance of 18 inches. They have also seen numerous wild birds (coal tit, blue tit, great tit, green and spotted wood peckers, yellow hammers, finches wagtail, partridge pheasant, rooks, crows and many more including a buzzard taking a small rabbit

This weeks diary to 7th April 2001

A wonderful wonderful week: A pair of Swans called in to the ponds last week. They have remained on the ponds ever since. I am quite surprised that they have stayed as the ponds are too small for them to live on without me supplementing their diet.

Are they going to breed? watch this space. (I am of course still feeding the ponds and the smaller birds)

A Barn Owl visited the badgers rubbing log during the week. The Owl was probably after the Field Mice (who fortunately failed to make an appearance)

I saw three Kestrels displaying to each other last Tuesday, I had not seen this unique flying display before. I watched their aerial feats for 15 minutes before they all flew out of sight.

I spent two evenings “badger-watching” only an hour on each occasion and from different hides. I purposely did not tempt the Badgers with peanuts to see if there would be any difference in their behavior.

The weather was awful, pouring rain and windy on both nights. The first Badger  emerged at 8-30 checked to see if there were any nuts and then departed rapidly toward the cover at Traitors Ford. This procedure was followed by three other Badgers. Two of the Badgers returned within 20 minutes and spent some time checking out sett entrances etc before re-entering a sett. On the second evening I saw a very wet looking fox take a rabbit from the field close to the Badger setts.

The buzzards have been around all week. They seem to spend a fair amount of time contemplating the country side from advantage points set in their favourite trees. I guess that they are watching for young rabbits (which are abundant)

This weeks diary to 14th April 2001

Lot’s of activity this week, the Swans left last Sunday but came back again on Thursday lunch time. It was lunchtime for them too! they cleared the ponds of all the wheat by tea time!

The Swans were chased off the pond’s last night by a four legged raider who stole all the eggs from a mallard ducks nest. (the stupid duck had made it’s nest right on the side of the pond inviting interference)

Our badger watchers said that “there were four badgers out last night coming right up to the new hide close enough to smell them!”

This weeks diary to 22nd April 2001

What a week! Lots of badger activity, they have been changing bedding digging out and also eating lots of pea nuts. The emergence has been varied from about 8-30pm to midnight.

I spotted our first swallow on the 18th April and our first hen harrier on 16th April. Fortunately on both occasions I was in the company of our badger watchers. (the hen harrier is not resident just passing through)

A greater spotted woodpecker has been visiting the cherry tree feeder along with coal tits, blue tits and great tits. Underneath the feeder chaffinches, yellow hammers, house sparrows etc pick up the dropped nuts. (the feeder is situated just outside the mobile home)

The swans left on Friday afternoon. I wondered how they managed to get air borne from the ponds as their take off run is not long enough. There is also a high hedge and trees that make it virtually impossible for them to get off the water with out having a major accident. All was revealed on Friday! The swans exit the ponds via the bank and walk up to the top of the field. A few quick steps and a flurry of wings and they take off down the field (which slopes away) to the south east or west

If we have a strong north wind they are confined to the pond until the wind changes as they need to take off into the wind.

The weather has been dry but cold with overnight frost on most mornings

This weeks diary to 28th April 2001

I left two bales of straw out for the badgers yesterday afternoon (Friday) This morning (Sat) most of the straw had disappeared underground between 11-30pm and 5-30am a truly tremendous feat.

I have been sent some tremendous “up close” badger photographs by “The Regan” family and a cracking photo of a very colourfull bird (click on the links to view them)

This weeks diary to 19th May 2001

Plenty of Badgers not many Swallows! I hope that there are a few more Swallows to come in an breed. It seems as if there are only half the normal amount flying in and out of our old barns at the moment.

We have had good sightings of Badgers all this week although some evenings are better then others. I have had a good photograph sent to me from one of our watchers. The photograph was taken by Craig Thompson (wildlife consultant) from our new hide.

I wonder why all of our watchers call them "Hoover Henry & Dyson"?

This weeks diary to 4th May 2001

I have had three reports of missing terriers over the past six weeks, I told the enquirers  that I have seen two of the missing dogs around and in a badger sett (shown below)

I believe that all of the missing dogs (as they have not yet been found) met their end down in the tunnels of this massive sett. Almost certainly there will be young badgers with their mums in this sett and also one of the biggest dominant boar badgers that I have ever seen. The dominant boar would be more than a match for the dogs underground. The moral to this report is : If you own a terrier make sure that you know where it is at all times. It is in the terriers nature to hunt and as they are fearless they are likely to come to grief in the badgers home!

On a brighter note, we have had good sightings of badgers all week, two bales of straw were taken into the “bottom sett” in one night! The swans keep coming and going from our ponds. I am sure that they only bring their elegance to us for the food we put out for them. The swallows are building their nests in several locations as in previous years. While hoeing the garlic, shallots and onions this morning I was treated to a 20 minute song from a thrush situated in one of the tall ash trees situated by one of the ponds As I was being entertained by the thrush there was a cacophony of background sound from the rookery at Traitor’s Ford.  Many of the smaller birds were also telling me how good it is to be alive.

The fish in the ponds have come up to see the sun, I guessed they were on the surface of the ponds as the grey heron put in a short appearance

This weeks diary to 26th May 2001

Elsie Lewis one of our watchers this week told me that she had seen thousands of Swallows in Italy earlier this year. The Swallow must have heard that the Italians have brought in some stringent new laws regarding the shooting of migratory birds

Apart from seeing plenty of Badgers, Elsie saw three Owls, A little Owl, Barn Owl and a Tawny Owl. The Tawny apparently alighted on to one of the tree trunks that surround our “top sett”. Unfortunately for the Owl there were pea nut butter sandwiches arranged on the trunks for the Badgers evening repast. One of the Badgers took exception to the suspected sandwich thief and tried to take a bite out of the Owl. The Owl then flew up into an old ash tree where he waited for the chance to take his revenge. After a few minutes and without warning to the Badger, the Owl swooped out of the tree and dug his claws into the back of the Badgers head. The wise old owl with his ire abated flew off to continue it’s hunt in quieter territory. Leaving the Badger suitably perplexed as to what had happened in the preceding two or three seconds.

This weeks diary to 3rd June 2001

“Wonderful watching in the pouring rain” said Richard Marriott. (That was Saturday evening 2nd June)  He saw three badgers within inches of him from the new hide, “so close you could hear them breathe” he said. Also there were a Tawny Owl and a Little Owl sitting on the badgers log, alighting within minutes of each other. Earlier in the evening a Tufty duck and a Grey Heron were amongst the incoming flight to the main ponds.

I introduced two large coloured carp to our isolation pool this week. They fortunately survived an evening trip, in a dustbin full of water, from Stratford upon Avon. It was a mission of mercy for the carp. I would not normally move fish (particularly BIG fish) at this time of the year as they do suffer shock. They were beginning to flounder in an overcrowded pool, They now seem much happier swimming around in their new surroundings.

This weeks diary to 16th June 2001

Rosie & Arthur Jones said “The badger watching is even better than last year” apart from the usual species they have seen Kingfishers (two adults and two young) Grass snake, Yellow Bunting and a Little Owl. All of these species they captured on video.  Arthur has agreed to  edit the footage to a VHS video tape for the use of future visitors. Thank you Arthur, I look forward to seeing it. (we already have one brilliant VHS Badger tape in the mobile home from Arthur)

There were seven badgers emerged from the top sett all out feeding together with visitors from other setts coming and going to about 12-30 am. On two nights a shy Fox visited the feeding area and picked out all the sultanas from the peanuts. Arthur also saw the Little Owl plucking one of the young Kingfishers on the pond bank. How the Kingfisher met it’s end is not known but it is presumed that the Owl caught it. Lots of digging and bed changing going on this week.

Fighting Badgers have been heard every evening this week, some fights apparently sounding more severe than others. It is “the silly season” for Badgers. I have seen three adult badgers within a mile or so of here that have been killed by vehicles this week.

I watched an Adult Kingfisher fishing for half an hour on Wednesday evening. It was a rare sight which I thoroughly enjoyed. Such a small bird with such a big beak with an instantly recognisable flight.  I guess that the reason the Kingfishers have come to our ponds is the shortage of water in the local brook.

This weeks diary to 23rd June 2001

CUBS at last  David C.  spotted a badger cub late on Wednesday night, It is about 14 weeks old and very distinctly marked. Lots of brown fur around it’s neck, thin tail and a bar across it’s forehead. Hopefully a photograph will be forthcoming shortly. David also managed to photograph the Kingfisher from the rear aperture of our panoramic hide. A photograph of the kingfisher will be added to the web site shortly.  The sighting of the Yellow Bunting last week has not been confirmed. It is more likely to have been a vividly coloured Yellow Hammer. I await Arthur’s video footage for confirmation!

This weeks diary to 30th June 2001

Two more cubs have been seen this week.

Close up sightings of three cubs this week along with two adults. The cubs appear to be coming up from our bottom sett.

The Barn Owl and little Owl have been seen working the set-aside most evenings this week.

I had to apologise to the dogs this morning, I put the blame for two big holes dug in our new lawn last week squarely on their shoulders ( or feet). The holes were inside a wire fence very close to our house.

Last night I met a very large Badger in very close proximity to the holes in the lawn while both dogs were fast asleep in their kennels a few feet away. Upon reflection I think that the Badger was the more likely culprit.

A warm wind has been blowing ,sometimes gusting all week. Large cracks are appearing in the soil as the wind takes all the moisture out. As the moisture disappears the earth worms retreat to a greater depth in the soil and do not come to the surface at all. The Badgers have then lost their main source of food, there are still cockchafers and beetles but compared to worms they take along time to catch.  Now is the time that the Badgers start feeding on  standing wheat, vegetable gardens (carrots etc), and wet lawns.

If you suffer some damage, just remember the Badgers are doing it out of hunger not bloody mindedness.

This weeks diary to 25th July 2001

Below are the reasons I have not been able to update this web site for the last month:

Biggles our 9 week old Springer bitch

Photographed by Leigh Warr

Molly our other 9 week old Springer bitch

Photographed by Leigh Warr

Badgers Badgers everywhere! in my wheat, in the garden, around the Mobile Home. They are all busy, eating and putting on fat for the forth coming winter. (shame about my wheat though)

I have seen three Buzzards this week, This morning (8am) they started their climb into a thermal just over my garden, calling to each other constantly, a truly spectacular sight as they were only 30 feet away from me for a while, they circled gaining height very quickly  to 2000 or so feet. I had a welcome rest from the hoe for five minutes while I watched them until they drifted out of sight.

Deer, Foxes, a Barn Owl, numerous rabbits, many different sized Moorhens and our usual complement of bird life have been seen regularly over the past week or so.

This weeks diary to 4th August 2001

Ten badgers were seen last night (03/08/01) together with a close up of a vividly coloured fox. The Badger observations have been good all week with a consistent five being in the viewing area at one time. The emergence is earlier at about 8pm (still daylight)

This weeks diary to 18th August 2001

Good sightings of badgers all week, They have been coming right up to the aperture of the running water hide. I noticed what appeared to be two Sparrow Hawks hunting the covers at Traitors Ford last Saturday evening. I thought it odd that they were behaving in such an unusual manner for Sparrow Hawks. They were climbing to around 500 feet and diving very fast indeed through the trees, as if trying to flush small birds. On Sunday morning all was revealed when I met our badger watchers, they told me that they had seen a pair of Hobby Hawks the previous evening! They have been hunting around here all week lets just hope that they stay in the area.

Winston (our springer spaniel) has brought me three rabbits on three consecutive mornings this week. He tried to make me believe that he had caught them, but they were already cold when I took them off him. I think that there is a Stoat in our bean field and it is catching rabbits regularly. Two of the Rabbits were bitten once through the side of the head otherwise they were unmarked. Winston had the other Rabbit for to long to see what had happened to it.

This weeks diary to 22nd September 2001

Wet and windy this week, but the badgers have been coming right up to the aperture of the hide for the over ripe plums and peanuts. (five or six of them at a time) Owls have been heard but not seen, bats are still catching the plentiful supply of moths in the flood light.

I have noticed that the swallows are in the middle of their autumn feeding frenzy swooping close to the ground to catch flies then resting on one side of our roof in the lea of the wind.

This weeks diary to 15th September 2001

I was out with a hand held light last evening (11thSept) at about 9-45 pm. The weather was overcast, still  mild and with a moon behind the clouds. I met up with a fox not far from the house (no wonder there were no rabbits about) The fox made a very quick exit into the wind. I then looked in several fields and met badgers in most of them. I ended up seeing six different badgers in various fields , they had already cleared up all of the fallen plums. I also saw about a dozen bats around big hedges and large trees. I was really pleased to see where the bats were, it had not occurred to me that they need cover to hunt. I am know positive that the trees I intend to plant this year will also help propagate the bat population.

This weeks diary to 1st September 2001

The badgers have been keen peanut feeders in the dry spell, but since we have had rain over the last two days they have become selective feeders. A constant 6 out feeding with others coming and going most evenings. Their latrines show that they are finding loads of earth worms( probably off the recently cultivated land) No one has sighted  a fox for over a week!

Our harvest has now been completed, the yields are down on last year by at least 15% and the costs of production have increased by 5%. I will not bore you with the woes of farming.

Apart from the numerous rabbits rapidly exiting the fields in front of the combine, I saw a fox run out of the last strip to be combined in front of our house. I have not seen many foxes here recently ,though I have seen plenty of evidence that they have been around. As there are so many rabbits around here, I think  that the foxes do not have to go very far before they catch a good meal

Ever present Buzzards are now having a field day picking off the rabbits that no longer have our crops for cover (5 Buzzards were seen here on Thursday). I saw a Kestrel take a Wood pidgeon off the electricity wires yesterday evening.

All that was left of the pidgeon this morning was a few feathers on the ground.

I saw a Kingfisher on our top pond early on Wednesday morning, I guess that it was visiting us for our food supply, as the water level in all of the local brooks is very low making it difficult for the Kingfisher to fish.

I was filling my water cans (for the tomatoes in the green house) out of the same pond one morning this week, when just as I was bent over at the critical point of balance, I received a firm push in the back. I very nearly went headlong into the pond, I turned around to see who the culprit was, only to find Molly our springer puppy grinning all over her little face. Two mornings later she tried the same trick, only to find that this time I heard her coming and moved out of the way just in time and she had her first swimming lesson!

This weeks diary to 14th October 2001

The weather has been unusually warm this week. A sign of warm weather at this time of year is a profusion of fungi. I have found plenty of field mushrooms every morning on my early dog walk. The swallows obviously do not believe that it is going to stay warm for much longer as they have departed on their migration south. The wildlife watching has been badgers barn owl’s and bats this week, with very good sightings of all of them all. I have at last got a wonderful photograph of “the peanut thief” Ailsa Brookes sent it to me after her visit here last week. In fact Ailsa also sent me some excellent photographs of badgers as well. I thought that as the photographs were so good I would make them available for all to see.

"the peanut thief" (taken by Ailsa Brookes)

This weeks diary to 17th November 2001

What a month! From fireworks to marauding mink, Our wildlife seem to have come through unscathed. The moorhens are still on the ponds, so the mink did not get that far. (the mink was caught in our grain store by our spaniels) There is no evidence that the mink managed to get at the various fish in the three ponds. The fireworks were a nuisance and made the badgers very nervous on several evenings the emergence was delayed by hours. It would suit the wildlife better to have all the fireworks let off on one evening instead of spread over two weeks!

I have received a photograph of a bat (see below) from Gill Moss. This bat joined her in the lower hide during a badger watching session earlier this year.

photograph taken by Gill Moss

I saw 6 buzzards soaring in a thermal over our house last Saturday. They seemed to come from all directions and soared from about 200 feet to 2000 feet in a few minutes. They then split up and flew off in different directions. I guess they were just enjoying the free lift.

This weeks diary to 23rd November 2001

We have not seen quite so many badgers emerging from the setts together recently, they have been emerging in one’s and two’s and at any time between 6pm and 3am the following morning. I saw 5 adult fallow deer in a field near Traitors Ford yesterday morning at 7am, One of the deer was a white stag another was mostly black and the others were brown. By 8-30am they had retreated to the Traitors Ford cover for the day.

We have lots of mallard duck (about 50) flying into our ponds on their evening flight. I am really impressed with their flying skills when it is windy. They have to fly to the ponds into the wind at a very steep angle of descent. Several times I have seen a duck abort it’s landing and fly round again to get the correct angle of descent. The landing more often than not appears to be a controlled crash with a resounding splash followed by a series of loud quacks. The duck always leave the ponds before the dawn breaks and fly to a local lake where they rest up during the day.

This weeks diary to 1st December 2001

Where does all the wildlife go when it is wet and windy? Well, I guess that most of the wildlife takes shelter.  I never seem to see too much in the way of wildlife when the weather conditions are abhorrent. The last two days Sat 1st and Sunday 2nd December have been fine and sunny with a white frost over night. The wildlife seems to appear as if by magic in the sunshine. I saw two buzzards late yesterday afternoon circling low over our set-a-side before landing in their favourite trees to await the rabbit emergence. While on my evening dog walk two French partridge presented them selves to me in a whirr of wings as they sped away to a neighbouring grass field. I then saw about 40 Mallard duck come into our ponds for their evening feed. (I normally hear the duck talking to each other before I see them coming in to land as it is normally dark by the time they arrive) A green woodpecker was tapping away in it’s usual tree at 7-45am this morning while field fares where foraging in our orchard (a brief stop for the field fares on their migration)

The smell of badger musk was evident in all the fields that I walked around this morning. Much more so than normal, this was probably due to the fact that we had a frosty night and the musk smell was not washed away by a heavy dew or rain.