Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Badger and Fox Videos

I thought you might like to see what I've been up to the past few nights. Each video is only 10 seconds long, but hopefully enough to give you a flavour of these wonderful creatures in their natural environment.

Badgers, I am learning, are very characterful. It is impossible not to fall in love with them when you spend time watching them regularly at close quarters as I have been doing. Over time you get to know them and you begin to learn their differences in behaviour even if you haven't yet been able to distinguish them by their markings (those stripey faces are different, believe it or not). There is one (not pictured here) who likes to sit down while eating the peanuts; another who always retreats to a safe distance, peanut in mouth, to eat it, and another who must be the dominant boar because everyone else defers to him. I think he is the one in the video pushing the other badger off the nuts and telling him off in no uncertain terms. The Badger who's been pushed off then scent marks the dominant one on the bottom. This is submissive behaviour in this context rather than dominant. They are very territorial and have strong family bonds so everyone smelling the same is an important tool in defending the patch from interlopers. Similarly, they scent mark the extents of their territories and finding a badger latrine will often tell you you've reached the border of one group's territory.

Last night, the camera picked up a fox and a badger eating beside each other, no fuss, no bother, no arguing. I was amazed. And last night's shots contained more fox than badger. I saw a fox in daylight last Friday. He was running on three legs. He went straight past me only a few metres away and didn't notice me frozen by a tree. They are fantastic creatures. It's years since I've seen one so close in the wild and I haven't stopped smiling since.

It's the time of year when fox cubs start to emerge from the den. I was reading that they are vulnerable to predation from cats at this stage, because the vixen will now leave them for short periods of time to hunt. So if you see a cat being chased by a fox during April and May it may not be the fox being aggressive. Similarly, now is the time baby badgers also venture forth from the sett. By June they will have learnt the extent of their family's territory - I will be ecstatic if I manage to photograph young badgers :o)

So, apart from telling you that I watched three male cuckoos displaying for territory this morning (amazing and I wished I'd had the camera with me) and that the sharp decline in cuckoo numbers in the South is thought to be connected to the decrease in moths - the young cuckoos feed on moth and flutter caterpillars - so there's even more reason to create a patch in your garden to support all life stages of moths and flutters (and that usually means allowing plants we consider to be weeds- willowherb, nettles, docks, thistles etc - to grow for the larvae), and to let you know that the Canada geese on the lake have hatched 6 goslings this morning, that's it from here. Oh, and Ted wants you all to know that he's been to see Mrs Danning today and is as shiny as a new pin and several pounds lighter for lack of hair as a result, and also that Poppy has done two poos and one wee in the house this week AND escaped through a hole she'd dug under the hedge that she was pretending the hedgehog had made....

I'll leave you with the badgers and the fox and wish you all a pleasant evening (or day, depending on where you are).

CT :o)


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The First Cuckoo Of Spring

A very quick post to say I heard our first Cuckoo on April 11th, one day earlier than last year. Have you heard any where you are? It used to be thought that Cuckoos turned into Sparrowhawks before hibernating in mud for the winter. Edward Jenner, who produced the first successful Smallbox vaccine, was one of the first people to postulate on migration to account for their absence over winter instead. 

Swallows have been seen a few miles from here too and we are tripping over Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Is it just me or is the migration getting earlier and earlier?

We're tripping over Hairy-Footed Flower Bees here at the moment too. They visit the Lithodora daily so if you don't have one I highly recommend it. HFFB's are small black bees with yellow knees (the girls) or stripy bees (the boys). They're about the size of my thumb nail and they hover in front of flowers taking nectar. They're a Spring bee and are out now so do check your flowers for them. 

The other first this week has been a male Orange-Tip whom I spotted yesterday in the garden. Would love to know if you've seen any yet where you are (if you're UK based, obvs!). And the Small White pupae I've been nursing all winter in the greenhouse have emerged this week too. It's all go here :o). 

In other news, the break from computers is having the desired effect and the book is coming on nicely. I've been out filming badgers most nights which is a complete delight, highlights have been watching two squabble over the same peanut. One bumped the other off it, only for the other one to get revenge by scent marking the bumper on the bottom!  I've also been watching the newts slip into their mating finery in the pond and yesterday discovered a freshly shedded dragonfly nymph case floating on the surface. 

Happy Days. 

T and P are well and send you all love. I hope you're all well too. 

CT :o)