Wildlife Notes 2002
29th September 2002
Five weasels ran across the top of our drive while I was talking to some visitors today, they were so quick that one moment they were there and the next they were in the cover of our roadside hedge. Talk about living life at a pace, one could not have gone faster than them.
Twenty pheasants took flight from our new plantation on Monday 7th October 2002 our Springer spaniels could not believe their luck, they had a really grand time for 5 minutes putting them all to flight. All of the birds were in good condition with the cock birds having absolutely brilliant colours. We currently have about 30 wild mallard duck coming in on the evening flight to our ponds to feed try as the badgers and foxes may they do not seem to be able to catch any of them even though frequent loud splashes have been heard.
WE have had NO appreciable rain for 7 weeks, without rain the badgers struggle to find worms as the worms retreat down into the topsoil where it is still moist. They are still finding crane flies and plenty of fruit. Damsons are one of their favourites followed by ripe pears.
Since I wrote the above paragraph in October we have has rain virtually every day! Inches and inches of rain. We also had a 90mph wind which took large branches from some of the trees and a hundred tiles off our garage complex. Our badger watchers had an uncomfortable night as various wind borne articles brushed the Mobile Home during the night. The main outlet to our largest pond got blocked (and then broke of when I tried to clear it) where it exits the pond! The pond then emptied itself overnight! I managed to repair the outlet the next morning and installed a much larger filter.
The swans that were here last winter flew in during early November and have added a wonderful presence to our conservation area. They are not here all of the time but return I guess when an empty tummy needs filling. Thankfully this appears to be quite often.
I have also seen a herd of 7 fallow deer in the Traitors Ford cover they are elusive and very easily spooked. 6 of then are mainly very dark coloured but one is virtually white which makes the whereabouts of the herd much easier to pinpoint. I have also seen a pair of Roe deer coming out of the same cover at dusk for their evening forage.
Monday 23rd September 2002
After what can only be called a wonderful summer (even though it was wet at times) The plantation is showing tremendous growth with some of the oak trees growing three feet this year!! I have had to apply two applications of weed killer around the base of the trees and while doing so realise how important it was to plant the tree in tubes. if they had been in wraps or within a rabbit and deer proof fence it would have been virtually impossible to keep the weeds in check, as the weed killer would have killed as many trees as weeds. While spraying the weed killer I was really pleased to note the amount of various types of mice and voles running around the base of the trees. It is no wonder that we have at least one pair of resident kestrels.
THE MIDNIGHT RUMBLE
I was awakened at 12-45am by the west midlands earthquake. (4.8 on the Richter scale) The amazing thing was the total absence of any reaction by our Springer Spaniels, I looked out in almost daylight conditions as the moon was full and the dogs just dozed on.
We have had lots of positive comments and words of praise this year from our badger watchers and have already booked half of the available badger watching weeks for 2003.
The badgers seem to be enjoying their new play ground and have stripped most of the bark from two of the tree trunks. Four new sett entrances have been excavated during the year with several tons of soil being moved. I think that the area covered by the setts has doubled but the amount of badgers in the group seems to stay about the same. During the current dry spell there has been lots of badger diggings around the damper shady areas where the earth worms are still rising to the surface, the badgers are also taking lots of ripe fruit with damsons being favourite. There is also lots of evidence around the farm of foxes having eaten blackberries.
Wildlife diary for June 2002
Badgers, badgers everywhere, three badger hooligans are coming out early evening when it is still daylight, bouncing off the tree guards in their mad rush to expend their rush of youthful energy, while in full flight they are snarling, biting and playing with each other. On one evening A. J. had just laid a trail of peanuts down at about 9-30pm, when the hooligans came rushing past him at some great speed completely oblivious of the fact he was there.
Marmalade and peanuts are attracting the badgers on to the top of the log playground which is now higher and bigger than it was before. One or two badgers are not quite so proficient at climbing as the others and have fallen off the logs on to their backs. They have remained cast on their backs for a few minutes with four waving legs being apparent. One young female badger did something similar when she was changing her bedding. In this case it was more serious as she got wedged in the sett entrance when she fell backwards. She was stuck there upside down covered in the dry grass that she was collecting for 20 minutes or so until she finally wriggled free. Our visiting watchers certainly had a different view of badgers.
I have seen some wonderful sightings of at least two different types of bats from the top hide, the aerobatics they perform to catch a meal is something to behold. I have never seen anything that flies at that speed do a ninety degree turn and catch a moth/bug in flight.
Owl sightings are becoming a little less common, but our three regulars are seen on occasions (barn, tawny & little owls) a tawny was observed for 20 minutes on the raptor feeder consuming part of a rabbit. A pair of kestrels and several buzzards are daily visitors to the recently planted trees where they seem to enjoy catching mice and rabbits. We have a pair of skylarks nesting in one of the set a side fields this year. 30 years ago the skylarks were common here, as were sparrows, now it is unusual to see either of them They are however back and hopefully we will be able to make life a little easier for them and maybe they will reward us by increasing their numbers.
Wildlife diary for early April 2002
Our first swallow was seen 18th April
Lovely weather, sunny during the day, light frost at night
The first flying fish at College Barn Farm was seen last week! I can assure you we are not going mad the event was witnessed by our visitors Kieran thought he was about to be eaten by a gregarious carp that leaped out of and flew across our middle pond straight toward him. The fish obviously thought that Kieran was just too big for supper and landed back in the pond a few feet away.
The badger watching has been excellent this week with the badgers emerging around 8-30pm a major fight developed between two badgers on Sunday evening no blood was drawn and baldy put the opponent to flight. baldy becomes old baldy this month as the badger is now over 10 years old. Three foxes have been seen going off hunting every evening around 8-30pm and a dog fox has often been seen slinking off during the afternoon at about 3-30pm.
Wildlife diary for the last week of March 2002
Carrot juggling badgers?
Fiona Castle aged 7 years from Ottawa , Canada saw badgers juggling carrots on her first badger watching expedition! I believe her! as I once saw traffic lights on red in the middle of the Nullabor desert in Australia. (after driving a truck for 17 hours with out a break)
Great sightings of badgers this week, 8 badgers out feeding together on one evening accompanied by three foxes from the top badger sett (which incidentally now becomes a fox earth) We had thought that there were two foxes in the earth but there are now at least three. I guess that there will not know be any fox cubs as the old saying goes ‘two’s company but three is a crowd’
Once again there is lots of earth moving, two of the badgers have acquired the names of JCB1 and JCB2 as they seem to have dug and moved tons and tons of soil up to Thursday evening when all construction work stopped. The badgers seemed to sense a change in the weather and started changing bedding (all in a big hurry ) they are so comical in the way that they carry out this task it really is a sight to behold. The grass is collected into a ball as far as 30-40 metres away from the sett. The ball of grass is kept behind the badgers front legs with the badger going backwards all the way back to and down the sett. The rain came on Friday evening! How did the badgers know it was going to rain? This will be one of natures mysteries I suppose.
Baldy badger Butt is still around after 8 years! and still aggressive with fresh bite marks evident on the neck.
Tawny owl’s have been seen using the tree tubes as hunting perch’s on several evenings this week, a roe deer came along to see who had been putting sultanas out on the grass. Once the deer had decided that there was no catch the sultanas were devoured with relish just before the first badger got to them!
I have also seen two barn owls in a barn two or three fields away, I am hopeful that they will breed as I have seen them there on two consecutive nights.
Wildlife diary for mid March 2002
A pair of foxes have taken up residence in part of the top badger sett.
I guess that there will be very small fox cubs surfacing early evening shortly.
The College Barn Farm badgers have been digging in the lawns for leather jackets! They do make a real mess, I spent at least two hours this week putting back the turf that they had excavated.
The swans that had been on the ponds for the past months left on Monday and have not been seen since. I hope that they have gone off to breed on a river or bigger lake they obviously decided that my man made floating island was not for them.
I watched three buzzards this morning flying in the face of an approaching rain storm, for a while they were just managing to stay in front of the rain. Eventually the rain caught up with them and they had to retire to the top of a near by tree to avoid getting water logged.
Wildlife diary for late February/March 2002
After the high wind and rain (80mph) on Tuesday evening, I thought there would be little left standing and anything that was standing would be flooded. Not so, very little damage to the infrastructure although there were a couple of fir trees that lost branches. No floods although the local brook (The Sib) was running 4/5inches higher than normal. If the high wind had come in the summer when the leaves are on the trees it would have been a different story.
Thursday was a fine day with long sunny periods, at 10-30am I noticed two buzzards starting to soar in a thermal. By the time they had attained 500 feet they had been joined by another pair of buzzards. They followed each other around the thermal, the second pair being 500 feet lower than the first pair. By the time the first pair had reached an altitude of 1000 feet, there was yet another pair of buzzards entering the base of the thermal. I watched them all for about 15 minutes, the late comers gradually soared up to the original pair of buzzards where they continued their ‘air dance’ until they drifted with the thermal out of my sight.
I have noticed that the bird song every morning is ever increasing in volume. I get exasperated looks from my Springer’s as I stop my walk to listen to the individual birds. My Springer’s of course are anxious to get on with their investigation of all the scent that has been left overnight.
Lots of smaller birds are arriving here by the day, I have noticed a significant increase in the yellow hammer, linnets, sparrows (hedge and house), wagtails etc.
Our resident flock of stock doves has shot up from 20 to to 38. They are here most of the morning clearing up the field bean tailings that I put out for them.
I found a dead plover (pewit) in one of our ponds yesterday. I have seen them flying over the farm on occasions, but I have never seen one on the ground here. How it came to be in the pond will probably remain one of life’s mysteries.
The badgers were out in force last week end, at one time during Saturday evening there were three badgers, two foxes and several rabbits all out in a close proximity in front of the hides. They seem almost oblivious of each other and carry on their activities until one gets just to close to another. That happened on Saturday night when one of last years badger cubs decided that the fox was just a little to close for comfort and disappeared down the nearest sett entrance. Unfortunately the welcome from the resident badger was not friendly and quite vocal. The young adult was seen to rapidly depart the sett with a tail well down between it’s legs. (I wonder if the resident badger is a female with cubs to protect?)
Wildlife diary for late February 02
Nine sightings of badgers last week end, one came really close to the running water hide aperture steadily munching peanuts amidst the swirling fog. I saw the first kingfisher of the year on our top pond during the week. The kingfisher looked all the more colourfull against the drab winter background. I have also seen buzzards, kestrels and sparrow hawk on a regular basis this week . The flock of linnets on our set-aside seem to have doubled in numbers this year, while the yellow hammers are not as abundant as last year. I am hearing bird song every morning now, is spring just around the corner?
The swans had been away from our ponds for three days, but have now returned and resumed their reign over the other water fowl. At 7am this morning they both appeared asleep with their heads tucked well under their wings. (They were lying in the lea of the pond bank to protect themselves from the blustery wind) They only woke up when 10 mallard took noisily off the pond with a tremendous whirr of their wings.
Wildlife diary for mid February 02
Dad and I went on a long dog walk yesterday with our first visitors of the year. While walking in the afternoon sun we saw lots of interesting birds – buzzards, a kestrel, sparrow-hawk, skylark and lots of others, not forgetting the little brown birds which none of us could identify. The swans were very gracefully swimming round the pond, they were amazing! They have been here for several weeks now. We returned back from our walk just in time to lay the trail of peanuts for the badgers. (Henry Butt, aged 9)
Wildlife diary for early February 02
Spring bird song, I heard a mistle thrush on the morning of last Thursday! I stopped in my tracks in the pouring rain outside one of our local shops in Hook Norton to listen to it. What a wonderful song it sang it was well worth the soaking, but I fear that the birds have been fooled into thinking that spring is here by the recent prolonged spell of mild wet weather. I have noticed blackbirds early morning claiming their territory along the hedgerows. I watched a pair of buzzards last evening and again this morning hunting while soaring in the stiff breeze that crossed our new wood.
I have been putting straw out for badger bedding as all of the nearby dead grasses have long since been taken under ground all of the badger trails are being used nightly with fresh spoor being evident every morning. I am also noticing more musk being left than usual. I guess that this is a territorial warning from males with newly born cubs in the family.
The two swans that have taken up part time residency on our ponds are still adding that little extra to the ambience of area. I am considering how to make a SAFE platform for them to nest on. Unfortunately our ponds are not big enough to accommodate an Island which would be the ideal nesting site.
Wildlife diary for January 02
While standing against a leylandi tree by our old barn the other evening waiting for the duck to come in on their evening flight. I saw a blue tit land on the barn wall and disappear into the tiniest of holes in the stonework. I guess that was the roost for the night! I could also hear foxes calling to each other around the covers at traitors ford, a little late for mating as that normally happens during December. (Maybe it was too cold during December!)
The change to mild weather has brought the Swans back to our ponds I also saw three buzzards hunting today (14th Jan 02) they obviously find it much easier to fly when there is a stiff breeze as I hardly noticed a wing beat during the ten minutes that I was watching them.
The badgers are finding food easier to find and there is plenty of evidence of their rooting out amongst the dead and rotting timbers. They have also started digging out new chambers possibly for the arrival of theiung