Monday, 12 March 2018

Proof That Badgers Don't Hibernate In Snow & That Woodcock Like Peanuts

I put the wildlife camera out during the recent snow and promptly forgot about it. Today I've been out to retrieve it. Quite pleased with the results. The woodcock is a first for me on any camera. I'd never have got the shot without a remote motion-activated one attached to a tree. The nearest I normally get to woodcock is when they explode at my feet, utterly hidden thanks to their cryptic camo until I nearly tread on them and they shoot up into the air. He is a bit gorgeous, don't you think?

The temperature reading on the camera for that pictures shows -5. There is an accompanying video which rather delightfully shows him probing through the snow for the peanuts in shells I'd put out for the badgers, which lie buried under about 4 inches of the white stuff. Just shows how hard it is for birds in those conditions.

The other two photos are of the bodgers. Also out in very low (minus) temperatures and ferreting about in the snow for the peanuts. If anyone insists on telling you that badgers hibernate through winter you can put them right (with photographic evidence) now :o)

BTW, ignore the date on the bottom pics, I'd put new batteries in the camera and forgot to reset it, and the time is also wrong for the same reason!

Hope you're all well,

CT :o)

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Bees, Toads, Dogs & Cross-Country Racing

So, another busy week closes. Summer 'is a cumen in' (as the old song has it)- I had my first bumble bee rescue of the year on Thursday. On my way into town I discovered a large bumble snoozing on the car. I couldn't leave her there so I picked her up (ignoring the leg lifted in warning telling me how ferocious she was) and transplanted her onto the daphne, where she hung for ages feeding. Tired and hungry and a little chilly after a winter hibernating underground, no doubt. The last thing a bumble wants to do is sting you; they go through an elaborate warning routine to put you off picking them up which involves lifting a leg or two then showing you their sting, but as long as you're careful they are fine being gently picked up and placed somewhere more safe.

The toads have also come out of hibernation. A few nights ago I woke and heard a tawny owl calling softly outside the window. In the pauses between his 'whooos', the toads could be heard, also singing They make a soft, cooing noise a little like a bullfinch's call. It's a lovely, quiet song that I look forward to hearing every spring. I have lost count of the number of times I've been serenaded back to sleep by a toad.

On Friday the dogs had their hair cut. They smell nice and look neater. Ted is all ears though and Poppy all eyes. 

Yesterday, we were up early and off to Wiltshire for White Star Races' Larmer Tree Half with friend Sue. I wasn't running (too slippy hilly for the knee just yet) so contented myself with cheering instead. Apparently, it was a cracking course, a little over 14 miles with a couple of big hills and a thigh-high snow drift thrown in. M and Sue had a fab race and there were lots of people dressed as peacocks.

Last night we went into Winchester to see The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Theatre Royal. One of my favourite plays at one of my favourite venues. It was a treat from M and we had box seats where we had hot chocolate (me), and beer (M) and salted caramel ice cream (both). The play was excellent, very funny and perfectly performed. I didn't fidget once, which is very unlike me, and found myself laughing out loud (If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.” And: "To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution."). Algernon was particularly good.

This morning, we've been into the New Forest for a CC6 race with fellow club runners. 5 miles along forest tracks, through mud, up a few tidy hills. I really enjoyed it, ran a steady pace with my knee newly strapped using a fancy strapping technique done for me on Friday by Angela, and all was well. It was bloomin' freezing out on the plain though, a really cold, strong wind that had everyone shivering and reluctant to peel off the layers at the start. Once we got into the trees it warmed up and I rather regretted my layers. A cup of tea and some lovely homemade cake at the end were just the job and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. A good way to end the week. Now it's onwards to the Grizzly Cub. Happy Days :o)

Hope you are all well?

CT :o)

Monday, 5 March 2018

The Third Rescue

The snow has more or less gone and life has returned to normal. L is back at college, M is back at work, the dogs and I enjoyed a peaceful hour walking round the fields this morning and now I have a pile of work to settle quietly to. Which is no bad thing as Pop and I ran 11.5 miles yesterday and I'm feeling it today, both in my muscles and my energy. We popped over to the Heath Robinson exhibition which is currently on at Mottisfont (brilliant and well worth visiting if you can) after the run, and half way round I was struck down with the most monumental, sudden and desperate hunger, so we high-tailed it to the tearooms where we refuelled on Victoria sponge and hot chocolate. It was just the job. Poppy is showing absolutely no signs of either tiredness or extra hunger today, but then she does have Super-Dog powers so I'm not really surprised (plus she had a special bone made of dried fish when we got back from the run which she wolfed down. Her version of vicky sponge).

They say things come in threes, right? And after the buzzard and the girl in the car we were all joking about me maybe staying indoors for a while. But rescues have a habit of seeking me out.

A few days ago, in the middle of the coldest and snowiest of the ice days, L and I were walking down the lane together when I noticed a redwing sitting in the stream.

Near her were two wrens, a grey wagtail and a snipe. The wrens and the wagtail live in and around the stream feeding off small invertebrates in the water, and the snipe, a passing visitor brought closer to people by the snows, is a water bird so these were all normal things to see in the stream. Redwing, however, (members of the thrush family who visit our shores for winter and fly back to their native Scandinavian homelands in springtime), are not water birds. We continued with our walk to see whether she would move but ten minutes later she was still there. I climbed down the bank into the stream. The snipe was long gone, they don't like being anywhere near people. The wagtail fluttered off and the two wrens hopped onto a low branch where they sat, watching me intently. The redwing didn't move. She didn't even move when I reached down to pick her up.

She was so cold and the water she'd been sitting in was freezing and I hoped it was just the cold and lack of food and that warmth would revive her, so I put her inside my coat and we walked home. When we got back and I could check her over properly I realised there was a wound on her back. I suspect it was a cat attack.

Not knowing how bad the injury was and aware of the amazing restorative powers of warmth to overcome shock, I decided I would sit with her on the sofa and read and see what happened. She seemed content to be snuggled between my coat and my shoulder and after a few minutes I thought she was rallying- she opened her eyes, hopped closer to me and then tucked her beak under her wing and slept.

But it wasn't enough. Whatever injury she had sustained was too great and she died a couple of hours after we found her. I know the majority of wildlife rescues don't end well. By the time a wild animal is sick enough to allow a human to get near it it's usually too poorly to recover. I know this- I've been doing this for years, yet I still mourn every single small soul that passes despite our best attempts to save it. Over the years we have had successes- a fledgling swallow when I was ten who survived to migrate in the autumn, joining all the others gathering on the telegraph wires before flying to Africa; a baby blackbird more recently who for a while would fly out of the nearest tree and come to me when I whistled for her; a nestling sparrow who survived against all the odds; Bop, the baby tawny owl who we found injured on the side of the road when he was a few weeks old and who came back here, a few months later, to successfully fledge out into the wild. It is these successes that make me continue, despite the fact that I know most of our attempts to help don't succeed.

So that's the third. I had a feeling there would be one.

Hope you're all well? I've a busy week ahead so may be back to one post a week without the excitement of the snow to keep me house bound!


Saturday, 3 March 2018

Snow Westie

What do you do if you're fifty and at a loose end on a snowy Saturday afternoon? Why, you make a snow Westie in the garden, of course!

We think it looks very like Ted, what do you think? I'm not sure he knows what to make of it :o)

Yesterday, L ventured into the outernet. Good luck, fresh air, with getting past those teenage defences...

M and I walked the dogs across snowy fields this morning....

And then cleared snow from the drive so we could get the car out....

We can get out into civilisation now, although if it freezes tonight the lanes will become skating rinks. The half mara tomorrow has been cancelled. A sensible move, I feel. I've had my two days of snow, now I'd like it to go so I can get back to normal, please.

Hope all are well,

CT :o)

Friday, 2 March 2018

Snowed In!

We're snowed in! Which is to say, if we tried really hard we could probably get out. But we live on a hill, the roads at either end are ice rinks on top of compacted snow and we can all work comfortably from home so why would we risk it?

We've about four inches on the ground so far with more forecast today. There was a major incident on the A31 (the main route from here through the New Forest) last night when cars blocked both carriageways and people were stuck there for hours and hours. One of our friends was coming back from Heathrow, it took him several hours to get home. Other people have talked of half hour journeys taking four hours yesterday. M got back from Winchester mid afternoon before the snow really set in so there was no need to run. Phew :o)

The dogs and I went out for an hour along the lane and through the woods through the snow yesterday afternoon. I was getting cabin fever from having been in all day. It was all very beautiful and very cold, but I'd forgotten how much more tiring it is walking through snow. 

L went sledging down the lane....

Up in the woods the wind was whistling and the snow was blowing up into the air in great billowing clouds climbing up the trees.

Snow Dog
Pop and I had the obligatory game of snow footie when we got back which we both enjoyed, making furrows in the snow with the ball. She did some impressive leaps and tackles :o)

For all her toughness, she gets cold quickly and can go into quite a sharp decline as a result. Unlike Ted, who tells the world how he is feeling, she doesn't, so you have to watch her carefully. L noticed that she was sitting very still after the walk and the footie with her tail under her bottom. I went to check and she was freezing. I forget how close to the ground she is and that, compared to Ted whose coat is nice and thick, hers isn't and she also doesn't have much fur on her tummy. Feeling awful that I hadn't noticed, I dried her off with a towel (using a fish square as a bribe or she'd have been off) and then put her uber warm, padded coat on, and then lit the fire. Ten minutes later she'd recovered, was warm as toast and back to her usual cheerful little self.

It was still bitterly cold last night so I decided the best warming food I could think of for the human members of the family was chocolate and cinnamon cake with a thick fudge topping....

While I made it, I watched the birds who were coming to the feeders in droves to stock up before night fell...

The snow had turned to sleet by the time we went to bed, so this morning there is a sharp crust of ice on it.

I was up and out before seven walking up the lane, noticing the deer slots and the places where a fox had meandered on his nighttime hunting foray. I went to check on the badgers but the peanuts were all buried beneath several inches of snow and no badgers had been that way by night. The fieldfare was walking across the frozen lake and a buzzard floated down out of the sky to land on a branch and watch me as I passed beneath. He reminded me so much of Grace, the beautiful buzzard we helped (perfectly named by Parsnip). 

There is snow as far as the eye can see, and more still forecast today. They're saying up to 20 cm. I can't remember the last time we had that much. Hampshire usually escapes it because of the warming effect of the solent and the shelter of the Isle of Wight. It's hard to imagine that all this will clear in time for Sunday's half marathon. I have my doubts that it will go ahead. Getting there safely and being happy to run on icy snow is only part of it, the bigger part is the health of the marshals who could be out in a cold forest standing around for up to  four hours on a half marathon course. I'm expecting it to be cancelled unless there is a major warm/ wet shift in the weather.

In the mean time, all sensible people are lying together on their beds with their blankets, snoozing under the radiator...

Happy Days.

I'm off to wake up L now and go sledging :o)

Hope you're all warm, safe and well.

CT x