2008 Notes

Wildlife Notes 2008

14th December 2008

I found a large (about 17lbs) dead mirror carp floating in our biggest pond yesterday, it looked as if it had been dead for some time. There were no obvious signs as to what caused it’s demise, it was not tremendously old as far as carp go. (17years old) It was a trifle smelly, even my two dogs would not come near it! I managed to retrive it from the pond with the help of my gaff. I was in two minds whether to bury the fish or leave it out for the badgers. It then started to rain so I took the easy option and left it covered up on a tree stump for the badgers. The next morning there was nothing left apart from a few scales

12th December 2008

It started raining at 6-30pm today and did not stop until 11am Saturday morning about an inch and a half of rain fell causing widespread disruption and floods. I checked all of our badger setts for signs of water logging and cave in, but apart from muddy entrances the badger engineers seem to have done a proficient job with the site of their setts and the structure that they have dug into.

I watched a family of 5 long tailed tits on one of our bird feeders from about a metre distance yesterday for about 15 minutes. (before the great tits retook control of the feeder) I often see them going to roost in the trees near our ponds without ever being able to see their colouring or features. I felt privileged with the 15 minute show that they gave me as they are infrequent visitors to our feeder.
28th November 2008
I remonstrated with a grey heron this morning as it wrestled with a half pound goldfish (I nick named him Randy Gordon) on the edge of our top pond. The heron had unfortunately killed the fish before I arrived, I was just too late, so RG as I called him will no longer be chasing all the females around the pond in early spring. He has however remained useful even in death, as a badger ate him for supper the same evening that he was killed.
23rd November 2008
My early morning dog walk
I walked my Springer spaniels at 6-45 this morning while it is still dark. Molly always stays very close waiting for a biscuit while Bandit laps the field that in about 60 seconds. The next field we enter is planted with a wild bird mix containing sweet clover. The two hectares of sweet clover has grown over 2 metres in height and is very dense to the point of being inpenatrable, it makes perfect cover for deer and badgers at night and pheasants and other small birds during the day. The thick cover really slows Bandit down. As I walk around the outside I can hear him crashing through the foliage. I know he is not going to find muchwildlife to chase in the dark as the deer are still out browsing in the fields and the wild birds are still at roost. I see the occasional rabbit sprinting for its bury, it knows that there is no need to hurry as it can get through the dense foliage twice as fast as Bandit due to its size. Molly and I walk on around the field to our tree plantation. No sooner than I had started to walk along the pathway through the trees when I see a barn owl return to its box (in the gloom of dawn) and disappear inside for the day. The crows are now awake by this time (7am) and although it is still semi dark they are starting to flight from tree to tree talking to each other as they go. I pass our smaller pond and one of the other owl boxes which has been taken over by a kestrel. I can see the kestrel sat in the entrance to the box this morning, it just blinks at me and watches me walk by, I guess that it is still too dark for it to fly safely. I approach the MacMillan Way just in Warwickshire and can  hear the Canada geese calling to each other on a local lake as they prepare to take off on their morning flight to their feeding ground. By 7-20am it is light and I am back at home with both dogs looking for breakfast.

21st  November 2008
I have started planting trees today. It is the tenth consecutive year that I have planted trees. I planted 11 oaks and 16 scented poplar trees today. (These will replace the trees damaged by deer during the year) I have two plum trees on order from a plant nursery and hope that within 5 years the excess fruit from them will be being consumed by the College Barn Farm badgers. Next year I hope to plant two more pear trees which should reach maturity as my existing pear trees start to fail. Badgers like most soft fruit as long as it is ripe. They eat Apples (mine have now all gone) pears, plums , damsons, blackberries, mangoes, peaches, bananas and grapes to name but a few.

1st November 2008
The last residential badger-watch of 2008

Badger emergence 1745 hrs
The weather is cold and frosty, snow fell and lay over night on 29th October 2008
A buzzard landed on a worm in one of our barley fields at 6-30hrs (just before dawn) this morning it is the earliest I have ever seen one hunting. Later on in the day two roe deer bucks came to see us (at 1600hrs) maybe they were looking for the does that were around the previous evening.

A barn owl emerged from the owl box last night at 17-45 just as I was showing our visitors how to work the hide flood lights it flew around the plantation for a while before landing back at the entrance to the owl box, where it stayed for some considerable time just watching and waiting for a mouse or vole.

A pipistrelle bat also put in a brief appearance again. As the evening progressed the amount of badgers in view increased to 10, they climbed all of the logs, visited the orchard and dug up the last remaining orchard turf in their hunt for leather jackets.

Thursday 28th October 2008

Badger emergence 1800hrs

I had my first evenings badger & wildlife watch for some months on Friday 24th October. The evening was quiet, windless and frosty cold. I was in the top hide from 18 15hrs just keeping and eye on several rabbits that were playing in the departing evening sunshine when two roe deer put in an appearance. They appeared to be a doe and its yearling fawn, they browsed around the badger setts for 10 minutes or so before being joined by another roe deer that arrived from the opposite direction. After some time I illuminated the area via our floodlight which did not appear to concern the deer at all as they continued browsing for some considerable time.

I then saw what I thought to be an unusual leaf falling from the sycamore tree, (the sycamore is situated by the top hide) I was amazed to see the leaf start going backup toward the tree! it was of course a pipistrelle bat. I was quite surprised to see it as I thought with the weather being cold it would be in hibernation in the bat box (that was very kindly given by Dave and Margaret Goodhew on their 11th yearly visit here this year)

The badgers started to emerge at 18-40 hrs youngest badgers first, (probably all this years female cubs) I did not see them emerge from the sett entrances as they arrived from out in the tree plantation where they have dug concealed entrances. Adult badgers emerged around 1915 hrs from the sett entrances directly in front of the hides and proceeded to associate with each other before settling down to their nightly task of looking for food. I am pleased to report that all the badgers I saw looked in first class healthy condition their current diet appears to be leather jackets, worms, apples and the last of the blackberries. (info gained from the badgers latrines) I had to leave the hide by 8pm. I saw a total of 7 badgers out together at one time just before I left.

Thursday 23rd October 2008

Badger emergence 1830 hrs 7-8 badgers out together, a fox and two roe deer have also been seen with in the floodlit area. A very brave lone swallow was seen in Sibford yesterday, I just hope it starts migrating soon as we have already had three mild night frosts. We have many smaller varities of birds in our wild bird mix. (which is mainly sweet clover and is now over head height) I stood just inside the cover and watched the yellow hammers linnets etc as they moved from plant to plant for around 20 minutes, while bandit our young springer spaniel proceeded to flush all the pheasants from the 4 acres of wild bird mix.

Our orchard now resembles a ploughed field as the badgers (very aptley named ‘hedge sows’) have turned over most of the turf while looking for leather jackets. (daddy long legs to you and I) Such is the badgers respect for our visitors they have dug deep into the mobile home footings and used the hole made as a latrine! I can only think that this behaviour is caused by badgers eating the fermenting apples and becoming enebriated and lowering their usual high standards of cleanliness.

Tuesday 30th September 2008

Badger emergence 19-00hrs 10-11 badgers out together for 3 hours good sightings during a very wet month of badgers, deer (roe,fallowand muntjac deerand fawns) The barn owl chick finally fledged during the first week of September with major tantrums, judging by the sound that it emitted as it took to the air. The wet weather is useful to the badger as earthworms come up to the top of the turf during the night when it is wet. Badgers then take full advantage by eating their fill of them. They also find it very easy to dig for leather jackets, the lawned area around our Mobile Home will testify to this fact.

Our wild bird cover has grown to around 8ft in height and has numerous feathered and furry ocupants

Sunday 17th August 2008

On Friday 15th at 1615 hrs 1.5 inches of rain fell in 20 minutes. The water cascaded of the roof without touching the gutters. Then the sun came out and by 1800 hrs one of our visitors met a badger ambling along one of our mown path ways. They also had the first sighting of a young barn owl looking to fledge.(see below)

Many thanks to Lucy & Andy for providing the above image of the young barn owl

On the 10th August a large fallow deer stag was seen around the lower hide with “antlers like christmas trees”

Monday 11th August 2008 windy and wet for the past 3 days with more to come

Badger emergence 20-00-1100 hrs (emergence being delayed by strong winds)

Good sightings of badgers close up during the last week, with bed changing and digging out the setts going on until the early hours on the fine nights. Roe and muntjac deer also put in appearances as did the barn owl.

I was entertained most of Sunday evening by two (young) green woodpeckers that spent two hours from 1800 hrs feeding off the ants in our lawn. The woodpeckers eventually flew off to roost and were replaced by a kestrel that proceeded to feed off various beetles and other crawly type creatures that were exiting our privet hedge. The kestrel knows exactly what time to arrive. (Which is normally at the start of dusk)  The kestrel looks much more graceful flying than it does moving around the lawn where its movements look ungain. As the dusk deepened the kestrel was joined by a (‘scruffy’) little owl who also found a meal exiting the privet hedge. Unfortunately the little owl arrives in near dark and within 10 minutes it was too dark for me to see it, the kestrel had already flown off to roost. My attention was then drawn to the bats flying in the lea of the wind inches from the side of our house. They were also feeding off the flying residents of our privet hedge (and others) that had escaped the kestrel and the little owl. I was treated to three hours of wildlife activity that occurs most evenings but rarely as progressive as Sunday evening.

Friday 1st August 2008 sunny breezy with heavy intermittent rain showers

Badger emergence 18-30-1100 hrs

The kestrel spent 6 more days in the nest box before trying to fly again. On the seventh day I found several essential flight feathers on the grass under the nest box so fear the worst for the young kestrel as it is NO longer in the nesting box.

On a brighter note there were a covey of 4 French partridges in our garden at 6-30am this morning.( two adults and two fully grown youngsters) I have also seen two separate broods of pheasants with combined families totaling 15 chicks.

The badgers are very active with up to 11 badgers regularly being seen out together, the emergence is spread between 6-30pm to 9pm with the older badgers being last up! (with humans it seems the opposite is true) roe deer are putting in an appearance every evening, one with a youngster with it. I have been seeing them most mornings browsing the hedges.

The barn owls are still going back and forth to the barn owl box if the owlets do not soon fledge they will be too big to exit their nesting box!

Photograph of College Barn Farm badgers kindly provided by Darin Smith 2008

The grounded Kestrel photographed by Richard 2008

Sunday 13th July Lovely sunny day light breeze

Saturday’s afternoon rain shower was a lucky 13th for the fledgling Kestrel!
A heavy rain shower last Saturday afternoon prevented me from completing the mowing with about 15 minutes of around the trees path mowing to complete. Sunday was a much better day, out came the sun at 6am, a lovely sunny day with a gentle breeze ensued and mowing commenced again in the afternoon. On the unmown path I spotted two young Kestrels (about 100 metres from the Kestrel box ) I thought that they would fly off when I mowed up to within 5 metres of them, They did not, there was obviously something seriously amiss. I decided that the odds were that one or both of them had fledged too early and once on the ground did not have the wing strength to get airborne again. I turned the mower around and drove back to my farm buildings where I picked up my camera a ladder and my youngest son Henry (he was delighted to take the break from blackcurrant picking) and returned to where I had seen the kestrels. One of them was still there on the path and was no trouble to catch. I managed to take photographs of the Kestrel before returning this wonderful young bird to the safety of its nesting box. It was still there this morning at 7am sitting in the entrance of the box sunning itself and waiting for mum to bring more breakfast. The other  fledgling Kestrel could fly as I saw it make what I would describe as a successful crash landing in the tree where the nesting box was situated.
Saturday 12th July 2008 badger emergence 8-15pm rain showers

On Saturday evening 11 badgers were seen out together, while the barn owls made numerous visits to the owl box.

On Friday 11thJuly 2008

15 badgers were seen out together, two muntjac deer put in a brief appearance with a roe deer arriving later on. Often the badgers take no notice of the deer but on Friday evening for some reason (unknown to me) the badgers scattered when the roe deer arrived. The badger cubs have been chasing pheasants around the trees often ending up where they started from! This performance while amusing did not happen years ago as the badgers did not emerge until either just on dark/dusk and the pheasants were then at roost. The pheasants have however been fairly quick to find that there is a free meal of peanuts to be had on the last 2 hours of the day 8-10pm and take full advantage.

Photo of the 2 fledgling kestrels by Vikki Web 11.07.08

11th July 2008 Warm windy and WET (at times very wet it rained all day on 9th July)

On the 5th July I reported the Swifts congregating at Alderminster

I went to Stratford again yesterday and the Swifts were in the same place between The Ettington Park Hotel and Alderminster, but there were even more of them at a guess 5000 Swifts all swooping circling and looking to be generally having a very good time most of them were flying from ground level to 50 metres high. They also saved me £60.00 and three points on my driver’s license! as I was cogitating on how many Swifts that I thought there were, while driving through Alderminster  (by dividing the sky up into blocks and attempting to count the Swifts in one box and then multiply by the amount of boxes) at about 30mph when I noticed a hidden speed trap! GOOD OLD SWIFTS without the swifts display slowing me down I am sure I would have inadvertantly exceeded the 30mph restriction.

8th July 2008 Warm windy and WET (at times very wet)

I am very pleased to have a report from our current visitors (Martin and Karen) who have told me that there are 7 badgers cubs (probably from 2 different mothers. (as two lactating sows have been seen) Apparently one of the cubs being much smaller then the rest last year we also had one that was half the size of the others and he survived. Roe and Muntjac deer are still in the area (I see them most mornings and some evenings) the barn owls are still busy going to and fro from their owl box. The wet weather is actually beneficial to the badgers as they are near water proof and the soil when wet is softer and is easier for them to turn over while looking for leather jackets. Worms prefer to surface in wet weather and at night, the badger therefore takes full advantage to eat his fill during the early part of the night.

I found a fledgling pied wagtail on Sunday lunchtime, cold and wet and not able to fly but it could run quite well! I managed to capture it before my dogs arrived and placed it in a high sided box. (After drying it off and warming it up) I then took cover in my barn with a good all around viewing point to see if I could see its parents visiting the nest. (Where ever that may have been) Sure enough within five minutes a parent flew into a hole in the roof of our barn with food for the other young wagtails. I waited for about half an hour and then moved the wagtail in to a much smaller box and left it within about two feet of the nest. The parents obviously found it later on as it had  flown the next time I looked in the box an hour later.

We have a kestrel feeding what we think are two chicks in a box situated half way up an ash tree on our farm boundary. (They used the same box last year) I often see the kestrel just on dusk (9-48 pm) on our lawn running around catching beetles for the chick’s last meal of the day.

On the way back from Stratford upon Avon three days ago I noticed thousands and I mean thousands of swifts flying together over the woods around Ettington Park. I guess they were feeding on a particular fly and would welcome any suggestions to what the fly or food source was.

26th June 2008 +16c day = 13c night, partly overcast with sunny periods,windy gusting+16-20 mph

A fine evening last evening with 5 badger cubs and 11 adults seen out together,the barn owl was observed going to and from the owl box (but no reports on the owlets, maybe they have fledged) A moorhen on our middle pond has two chicks and makes enough warning noises to frighten off a herd of elephants. The first brood of swallows fledged on 23rd June along with the second brood of robins. I saw the swallow fledglings all lined up (4 of them) on our stable door, all looking picture perfect. The adult swallows are already busy again with the female having layed eggs for her second brood. The green woodpecker and the greater spotted wood peckers have successfully reared 2 young each.

14th June 2008 +17c day 8c night, fine weather but cool nights.

Gareth & Lorraine hiked here last week from Kingham Station (26 miles ) and enjoyed a Cotswold walk followed by an evenings badger-watch as they rightly put it “This is the real world”

I watched about 65 swallows feeding on flies about 3 inches off the ground in a recently harvested silage field for about 10 minutes this evening, while high above 6 swifts were catching the higher flying flies.
We have at least 6 badger cubs which have been seen out with their mum recently. The badger cubs are quite small, which suggests to me that they were born about 4-6 weeks later than normal. There are always several adult badgers in fairly close proximity when the cubs are above ground. The adults have been seen to put any animals encroaching on the badger cubs territory to flight, Including a muntjac deer.
While removing weeds from my vegetable garden I was given a hair cut by a pair of low flying swallows! After they had attracted my attention they proceeded to put on the most magnificent flying display that I have ever seen. They flew about a foot apart at high speed in perfect synchronisation at heights that varied from zero feet to about 300 feet; It was an absolute privilege to watch. (I guess they were about ready to mate for their second brood) We currently have a nest with five young swallows within it, they are almost ready to fledge and I am looking forward to the day before they leave when they line up on an internal roof beam just before they start to fly.

June 7th 2008

10 adult badgers and five cubs were seen out together last night, a muntjac also put in an apearance only to be warned off with a badger grunt/bark when it got too close to one of the cubs. I was given a bat box by this weeks visitors (Dave and Margaret ) and have installed it about three metres up a large tree, in an area where bats are known to thrive a big thank you to Dave and Margaret.I will be keeping an eye open for any residents.

Peter and Lesley Scoefield sent me two unusual photographs of the more unusal animals that they saw here during their recent stay here (shown below)

The wood mouse

Can you spot the Toad?

June 4th 2008
An inch of rain fell during most of yesterday! Flash floods all around this area (but not here, we are on a hill) today however is a lovely summers day and all the bird wildlife that seemed to be having a rest yesterday is working twice as hard today singing and feeding their young ones.
I walked up to within three feet of a roe deer on my 6-30am morning walk today, before it turned and made slowly off, considering I had two dogs with me it seemed very unconcerned.
Last Saturday night 5 badger cubs (quite small ones) were seen out playing around and in the very low branches of one of our walnut tree’s that is situated close to their sett.
The badger cubs were born at least 6 weeks later than last year. Hopefully there may be more cubs as at least two lactating sows have been seen.

The barn owls have been seen every night busily feeding their young in the owl box . There must be at least two owlets in the box as the amount of noise (screeches and scratches) emanating from the owl box when a parent arrives with food could not possibly be made by one owlet.

27th March 2008 The weather+16c daytime + 6c at night

Badger emergence 1820 hrs amount of badgers seen together last night 6 the night before 10

The weather has now warmed up there are badgers, birds and deer everywhere! I have seen 19 fallow deer and 3 roe deer on the farm over the last three days, I have seen a barn owl (and so did our visitors they also saw a fox which I did not see) buzzards, kestrels, sparrow hawk, little owl, partridge (a pair) cock pheasants, blackbirds, many types of tit (including a pair that were sizing up one of the new nesting boxes) yellow hammer,greater spotted wood pecker (2) green woodpecker, grey heron, canada geese, wren and lots of smaller bird that are indistinguishable with out binoculars.

20th March 2008 The weather+10c daytime + 2c at night, Overcast with a bracing north wind makes it feel colder than it is. The blackbirds and thrushes are still singing early morning so I guess spring is here.

Yesterday morning at 7-30am I was delighted to see 12 fallow deer including an albino and a sizable stag, the previous evening there were five badgers out in front of the hides for most of the evening and a barn owl flew in to use the raptor feeder as a perch for half an hour, giving our visiting badger-watchers an amazing view of this superb bird.

I saw 9 more fallow deer during the day in a neighbouring field of oats. They were a different herd from the herd of 12 that I saw earlier, 7 of the deer were black and tan and the other two (smaller deer probably last years fawns) were mainly tan.

14th March 2008 +9c daytime + 4c at night

The birds were singing to me on my morning walk at 7am. (well I thought they were singing to me)

The weather here has been a little hairy to say the least over the past 4 days, with wind speeds gusting to 70mph. Thankfully we do not appear to have suffered any material damage. The weather did not stop the badgers from emerging and they appeared (a little skitish) at 6-35pm. I have also been seeing single fallow and roe deer which have obviously separated from the main herd. I guess that they will be producing fawns shortly.

3rd March 2008 +6c daytime +2c at night

9 badgers emerged on Saturady night at 6-30 and two of them changed their bedding, an obvious sign of a change in the weather to come this week! Increased bird song, hazel trees are just coming into leaf, Is Spring here?

27th February 2008 +8c daytime -1c night time. The wind has now dropped!

The badger emergence started at 18.30hrs (6.30pm) four males of differing sizes emerged in a howling wind. They were very skittish at first, but were soon all over the logs looking for peanuts! a fox appeared at 7pm and seemed very interested in one particular badger sett entrance, spending nearly 10 minutyes trying to summon up enough courage to enter, but eventually thought the better of it and decided there may be easier prey else where. (The fox was almost certainly looking to take a badger cub if possible)

Lots of morning bird song and the hawthorn is in leaf (both at least 3 weeks too early)

22nd February 2008 windy overcast +8 C

The badgers did indeed roam for their food over the last two nights and by the look of their latrines found a considerable amount of earth worms to eat.

20th February 2008 overnight fog no frost +3c

A late boar badger was up and around at 8am this morning! completely unconcerned at my or Molly my Springer Spaniel’s presence. Tonight the badgers will be able to roam for their food as usual with a fair chance of finding earth worm and leather jackets as there seems to be a frost free period.

19th February 2008 Hoar frost and fog -2c but feels like -15c

The badgers are still managing to lift the turf for leather jackets and all our grassed areas are looking a little brown! Due to the current permanent frost which keeps the earthworm underground I have been collecting road kills for the badgers, three squirrels and four large rabbits, all have been devoured by the badgers over the last three nights!

My fourth hollow log nest box was put into place last evening in the light of a beautiful setting sun (see below)

17th February 2008

Sunny Sunny Sunny by day -9.5c at night, no wind clear moonlit nights

The two fallow deer stags brougt five of their friends here with them last night, all of them treated me to an agility display as they jumped a 2 metre high thorn hedge without touching it!! Lots and lots of smaller birds around all very busy trying to find food in the frozen landscape. A grey heron was searching our only unfrozen pond this morning and was not to happy (well thats what it sounded like) about being put to flight. I noticed (from the smell) that badger musk had been left at various strategic points around the farm this morning. It is not often that I can smell it that clearly.

15th February 2008

weather overcast+4c east wind and feels COLD

The badgers are very actively digging the lawns and grassed areas up looking for leather jackets! I just wish they put the turf back when they have finished.

As I completed my dog walk this evening in the plantation area I came across three black and tan fallow deer that I had not seen before, including two stags both with fine antlers. The more senior stag’s antlers were a foot longer than the other stag. (very impressive)

I now have two willow tit boxes in place and two more under construction.

Our resident barn owl is working longer shifts, I saw it last night hunting in daylight and often see it on the morning dog walk.

A group of 5 long tailed tits visited one of my bird feeders today, just as the light was starting to fade. A truly magnificent sight as they were only about a metre away from me. I watched them for 30 minutes their work rate was amazing as was their delicate features and unusual colouring. I have seen them before but only at a distance and in flight and never realised what a beautiful litle bird they are.

12th February 2008

badger emergence 1805hrs (or just after 6pm ) =15c daytime temp sunny sunny sunny and -3c at night.

What a sunset this evening

The badgers entertained our first visitors of the season last weekend from 6am until 1-30am along with the barn owls and a pair of little owls. During daylight hours a pair of roe deer put in an appearance along with many of my feathered friends.

I have just made and put in place my first willow tit nesting box (it is not really a box it is a hollowed out log filled with wood shavings as the willow tit is fussy where it makes its nest) the nesting box takes quite a lot of time to make, the first job is to cut off the top and then endeavour to remove the middle of the log with a drill! then fill the box with shavings and refix the top (about 4 hours). I intend making three more IF I get the time.

7th February 2008 weather mild but damp + 8.5c

I saw 13 fallow deer early last saturday morning in two groups about 200 metres apart one group of 7 including an albino and the other group of six included an albino and her yearling fawn. The Albino seemed to be the leader and when she saw me about 20 metres away she barked at me before they moved away through the plantation in single file about 15 metres apart.

Lots of badger activity with setts being renovated and my lawns being dug over. I have also noticed two adult badger road deaths locally. (College Barn Farm badgers were not involved)

I saw the barn owl out hunting this morning at 7-30am and actually saw it make a successful strike.

31st January 2008

Very windy but mild +10c

Buzzard, barn owl and muntjac were all to be seen at 7-15am yesterday morning on a still frosty morning.

I found a dead carp in our largest pond on 27th January it weighed 8 kg! There was no sign of it being predated and no other dead fish in the pond so I guess it died from natural causes even though it was only 15 years old. I left it out for the badgers to eat at 6pm hidden under a large lump of wood on top of a big tree stump, by 10 pm the carp had arrived outside our back door minus 4 inches of its tail! Molly was the culprit!! The carp was duly returned to the tree stump the next morning and was taken by a badger in the evening.

23rd January 2008

Mild, wet and windy +11c

I saw a buzzard hunting in the dark again this morning at 7-20am! at least it was not being mobbed by rooks and crows as it was still too dark for them to fly. Yesterday the rooks were really giving the buzzard a hard time, completely surrounding it in flight and making the buzzard take a lot of evasive action. I then walked past the lower badger hide and nearly jumped out of my skin when there was a very loud screech from a barn owl which completely caught me unawares. The barn owl had caught a rodent and was flying past the barn owl box with it in its talons, I guess it was trying to tempt (with success) the female that was at roost inside, to come outside. I heard the rustle of the female’s feathers against the inside of the box and she came to the entrance of the box, had a good look around and flew off after the male.

We have been losing fish from our top pond over the last few days and this morning Molly our Springer Spaniel caught what I imagine to be the culprit. (see below) it was a Male MINK.

17th January 2008

-2c last night at 9pm +5c this morning and once again WET

I walked Molly (our springer spaniel) at 7-15am this morning and was quite suprised to see a buzzard flying/hunting in near dark conditions.

On 16th January ( a lovely sunny day) I saw 8 fallow deer, 6 were black and tan, the albino and her last years fawn (which is off white) at 7-15am while on my dog walk.I also saw a little owl at 12-30 and many many smaller birds in and around the wild bird feeding covers.

The 15th January 1 inch of rain fell today raising the level of the SIB (brook) to FULL,this in turn pushed any bank or river feeding birds on to quieter waters. As a direct result of the rain I was delighted to see a kingfisher on our smallest pond.

14th January 2008

A very strong wind from the south with lots of rain over the last three days with the temp fluctuating between -1c and +8c

I have been seeing 4 roe deer regularly during the day in our wild bird cover, they do not seem to be at all afraid of me while they are in the cover, I have walked by within a few yards of them with no concern being shown by them, just a long unblinking look. I also saw 8 fallow deer just outside our top hide last week at 9pm! They all appeared to be very dark coloured almost black on top and tan underneath. They were not as obliging as the roe deer and disappeared within a minute! I entered the top  hide and stayed for an hour and had glimpses of three badgers probably all females coming back to their sett and going straight down! I was obviously too early for the main emergence as by 7am the next morning the tit bits I had hidden for them had all disappeared some time during the night.

I saw my old friend the albino fallow deer (she has been around for at least 4 years) along with several others making for the Traitors Ford cover in a hurry yesterday morning.

2nd January 2008

A cold east wind has blown me indoors -1c feels like -20c I am having to refill all of our bird feeders daily as the bird population seems to have suddenly increased, the biting wind seems to have increased their appetite! I have never seen so many blue tits and great tits on the feeders with chaffinches picking up morsels that fall to the floor, the first visitor to the feeders in the morning are a pair of greater spotted woodpeckers who are accompanied by four moorhens.

I am putting more straw out for the badgers to use for bedding as their cubs are generally born toward the end of January and it is important that the badgers and cubs have dry bedding

2007 INPUTS OF BADGER-WATCH NEWS (written by Richard Butt)

A little owl box and a tawny owl box are under construction and hopefully will be in situe by 14th Jan 08 NOW BOTH CONSTRUCTED AND IN their elevated POSITIONS (AS OF 31st December 2007)

December 31st 2007

The final badger-watch of 2007, last night I was entertained by 7 adult badgers on a still, mild evening with intemittent light rain. The badgers all looked clean and in good condition. I also saw a fallow and two roe deer.

December 26th 2007 (sunny and mild with a gentle breeze)

Mild with heavy overnight rain on the 24th December, 25th dark wet and dismal until the 4-30pm dog walk when the sky cleared and the setting sun was visible for 15 minutes.

The little owl box is now in situe 12 feet up a mature ask tree and the tawny owl box is under construction.

December 22nd 2007

The badgers were right it rained this afternoon !

temp night before last-7 C

I saw a pair of peewits (plovers) on my morning walk! It is very unusual to see them here on the ground. I also shared my walk with a very dark coloured fox that was so busy stalking a pheasant that he failed to notice me until I was within feet of him. The wild bird covers are begining to look rather bare but still hold many varieties of wild birds, from wrens to thrushes. (in size) All of the raptors (buzzard, kestrel and sparrow hawk) are busy and easier to see as they appear much braver when hungry.

December 19th 2007

temp last night-1 C

It is going to rain? the badgers were out last night and changed their bedding, two bales of straw went underground last night and they always use the change in the weather to change bedding. The badgers also found the grapes and bananas that were past their sell by date that I left out for them last night concealed under a large tree stump.

On my early morning walk 7am I saw a snipe,mallard duck, moorhen, coot,magpie,two fighting robins and lots more. (It was a delight to be outside and watch the countryside wake up and be relatively wind free)

December 13th 2007

Cold and frosty for the last four nights with clear sunny days.

I saw a barn owl this morning at 7-30 am as it returned to roost in the barn owl box which is situated 14 feet up a fairly large ash tree in the midst of the badger setts. I have been seeing a buzzard and a kestrel sitting in adjacent trees soaking up the sun while on the look out for prey. From my observations they were both feeding of the ground their prey being either insects or worms.

The badgers have now taken both bales of straw that I left out for them under ground and will be receiving another two bales very shortly.

December 5th 2007

We had a month travelling aorund the southern hemisphere and my overiding impression was how much more wild life we have per acre in the uk compared to anywhere else that we travelled. I have come back suitably refreshed and keen to put more wildlife habitat and food sources in place.

The weather is wet and windy but mild.

I have put straw bales out for the badgers to change their bedding this week and have started constructing tawny and little owl boxes which will be placed around the farm in suitable positions.

November 1st 2007

The weather was warm, still and almost balmy.

The first badger was out at 5pm followed by two more ten minutes later, a barn owl appeared from the owl box and was joined by two more from parts unknown. One of this years owlets was obviously learning to shriek but unfortunately it sounded more like a warbled hiss! A fox walked by the hide about 5 meteres away without a look at the hide or it having any suspicion that I was in there. I also glimpsed a little owl that perched close by and I listened to it pip for several minutes.

After an hour the light faded and I retired to the top hide and was entertained by 4 badgers a bat and lots of flying insects I finished my badger watch at 1910hrs (far to early) to go and pack my case!

The next update will be December 4th 2007 (hopefully)

October 29th 2007

The weather has been wet and windy over the week end but today the sun is out with a clear view of 19 miles to Broadway Tower.

On Thursday morning two fawns were seen just outside the Mobile Home eating the fallen Damsons while a fallow deer stag looked on from within the cover of a wild bird crop (currently 3 metres high) grunting his displeasure to all of those prepared to listen. This years badger-watch is now drawing to a close and we will be spending December to February replacing trees that the deer have destroyed and adding 5 or 6 fruit trees including a Warwickshire Drooper, a St Julien A, (both plum trees) an Ingrid St Julien A (Almond ) an Uvedals’s St Germain (pear) and two damson (late fruiting) trees. We have also been given fir, chesnut, beech, scented poplar.and pussy willow trees that will be planted at the same time as the fruit trees. Two large ash trees that were blown down in last years storms will be brought here and incorporated into our badger playground, hopefully for next years badger-watch.

October 20th 2007

Three sunny days since 16th with overnight frost

14 badgers out at once last night, 2 roe deer hinds with a fawn and a roe stag entered the badger arena sending the badgers back to their setts for a minute or two, once the badgers had asessed the situation the badgers came back out and put the deer to flight! An adult barn owl was seen hunting prey.The previous evening (19th Oct) 3 of this years barn owl fledglings gave a flying display for half an hour that would have competed with the Red Arrows aerobatic team.

The College Barn Farm badgers have been busy, to all of those that say badgers are a pest ! quite the opposite is true, below is a photograph of a large wasp nest that the badgers dug up yesterday for the grubs it contained. The 500mm nest ended up being completely destroyed.

The badgers involved would not have got away unscathed as the wasps within although drowsy would not have given up without a fight and I am sure many stings would have been inflicted around the badgers mouth.

October 16th 2007

Overnight rain with more rain to come

While on my 7-30 am dog walk I was delighted to see a white fallow deer with its fawn exiting our wild bird cover ( The wild bird cover is 3 metres high) the fawn still retained its spotted upper coat and would be I guess 9-10 months old.

October 14th 2007

The weather is overcast, mild and still

I saw a Jay this morning along with 7 pheasants, 19 pied wagtails and numerous rooks crows and jackdaws all enjoying breakfast of a recently ploughed field. I also saw a buzzard sparrow hawk and kestrel looking on with interest!

October 10th 2007

Weather is fine after one days rain, The weasel has been seen this week as well as a comorant (tucking into the fish on one of the ponds) The badgers have been seen everywhere and have dug along the side of the concrete path one meter from the Mobile Home (while the occupants were asleep)

Three barn owls have been seen regularly, so it is likely that the last brood consisted of one surviving owlet

October 4th 2007

The weather is calm with very light winds and a heavy over night dew

18 badgers (out together), four deer (two roe deer and two fallow deer, one with antlers that looked like christmas trees!!!) and the barn owls were seen on the evening of 2nd October. There has been lots of leather jacket hunting being carried out over the past few nights by badgers who are very adept at removing the turf to find the leather jackets, but useless at putting the turf back again!!

September 24th 2007

Wet and windy followed by lots of showers but still mild

Steve Sargent has managed to take this amazing photograph of the barn owl about to feed owlets on 20th September 2007. Many thanks to Steve for sharing the experience with us!