New Bedding

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Last Autumn, after clearing out the pond a bit, we stacked some reeds neatly on the side. But couldn’t fail to notice that somebody had been making a right mess of it!

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The badgers had been dragging it in for bedding:

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Will it be comfortable?

Interestingly, it was both the mother badger and last year’s cub doing the work – the two animals made several trips from the reed pile back to their sett, dragging the load backwards.  Some sort of communication must have gone on between them about the decision to use the reeds – they have only ever gathered grass before. How did that happen?

At some point, the dry reeds on the surface of the pile must have been used up leaving just the wetter stuff below and they switched to gathering grass, which I am sure is much softer, albeit more trouble to collect:

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It’s such a privilege to get this glimpse into the every day life of this little band of three badgers. I am hoping that there are now cubs born below ground which will make an appearance in April. Last year it was the 9th of April that the cub appeared above ground for the first time and so it is not long now to wait……

 

Oilseed Rape Seeds

We have been putting out a tray of Oilseed Rape seeds recently in the hope that it will cater for some farmland birds that we haven’t been able to attract to the feeders as yet.

The good news is that it doesn’t seem to interest the Magpies and Crows. Its hopeless trying to put out food that they want – they swamp it and devour everything as soon as you walk away.

What has been visiting are Blackbirds, Dunnocks and the occasional Wood pigeon. However it is two species of Dove that we have seen the most. I wonder if there is any chance of Turtle Dove once the return to this country? Not sure if they would ever visit a feeder like this.

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Stock Dove
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Stock Dove
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Collared Dove
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Collared Dove

Oh, and there was this as well…..

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Comedy feet.

Another Perch Success

 

On our morning perambulate around the meadows today, we saw a Kestrel perched on top of of one of the new Corsican Pines:

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She flew down into the ditch of the new Butterfly Bank for a while and then leisurely flew along to our perch and posed nicely for the camera:

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The Kestrel and the trail camera

I watched and held my breath – I knew that this camera was running low on batteries – had they lasted until this moment?

And then she was off:

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We collected the camera and uploaded the photos with great anticipation. Yes, it still had battery power but unfortunately there was dew on the lens. What a shame:

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Meanwhile, on another camera that is trained on the Oilseed Rape seeds to see what is eating them, it is continuing to be Collared Doves, Blackbirds and Dunnocks that are coming:

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But at night, this camera is getting triggered by all sorts of other animals :

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Which is really rather wonderful.

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Trail Camera Magic

For over a year now we have had a movement-activated trail camera taking videos along the top of the cliff, just where there is a hole through to the meadows.

This camera has provided a window for us onto the secret lives of the many users of the track. This morning there was this:

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A weasel carrying prey – a young rat.

This is a screenshot from a video and so the quality is not great. However, to get some idea of scale, here is a shot of a Blackbird followed by the Weasel shot before zooming in:

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The Weasel is smaller than a Blackbird.

Two minutes later, the next video taken was of the Weasel bounding back along the track away from the camera – not enough time to have eaten the rodent and so presumably it has been cached.

Fantastic stuff.

Also from last night, the young badger, that was born last year and has been delighting us ever since, seems to be particularly luxuriously furred. This shot of it last night sums it all up:

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Is this not ridiculous?

 

Photo Round Up

Here are some photos taken on the trail cameras in the last fortnight:

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Last night at the peanuts. This badger is last year’s cub.
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Last night on the perch
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We had to put the peanuts out early one day. Ten minutes after this photo, all the peanuts had gone. Never before been visited by Seagulls in numbers like this. Even the Magpie is daunted, although the Crow is not.
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A Pheasant stretching his wings.
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Time to change the sheets in the badger sett. This is the female badger.
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Always a shock to see the badgers in the daylight. This is the male badger aka Scarface. He was out and about until 8.30am.

A lovely assortment of February stuff going on here!

Resident Starlings in decline

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Recently we went to RSPB Ham Wall to watch the Starlings come in to roost. Tens of thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of Starlings streamed past us heading for the reeds to roost. So many Starlings that its hard to believe that our UK resident Starlings are Red Listed and in serious decline.

Most of the Starlings here at the moment are just spending the winter here, escaping from the more extreme conditions in Continental Europe. These birds will be returning back across the Channel to their breeding grounds in March.

In fact, on March 10th last year, we had a large group gathered here waiting to set off on their migration back:

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Part of these large Winter flocks such as we saw at Ham Wall, and looking identical to the other birds, are our UK resident Starlings. These birds stay here and breed in this country. They peel off from the rest of the group in February, pair up and try to find somewhere to set up house. These are the Starlings whose numbers have declined dramatically in recent years causing much worry.

So we are very pleased that one pair look like they have decided to nest in a Woodpecker box we have set up. Although I’m not sure what they are doing because they were tremendously busy this morning bringing stuff out of the box which is the opposite of what you might have been expecting. We thought we had cleaned out all the nest boxes – did we forget this one? Great Tits nested in it last year.

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While we were watching, a Blue Tit also checked out the box:

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We haven’t seen a Starling here before in the Summer and so this pair looking like they might hang around and bring up their young here is a first for us.

 

 

The Linnet

There are arable fields bordering the meadows and we do get farmland birds here. One of these is the Linnet. Here are some photos I took of these beautiful birds last Autumn:

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A male 

 

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A female bathing in the pond
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Gathering, waiting to come down to bathe en masse.

Although we get lots of Linnets in the Summer and Autumn, we don’t get them in the Winter – presumably because we do not have a supply of seeds for them then and they have to go elsewhere.

Even when they are around, we have never seen a Linnet at our feeders although they come to drink and bathe in the ponds.  They are seed eaters, but nothing that we offer on the feeders is of any interest to them.

In the recent series of Winterwatch, they did a piece on farmland birds. A selection of different seeds was put in trays in a field and they recorded which birds ate which seeds. Linnets very strongly favoured Oilseed Rape which is something that we have never before tried putting out. It was time to give it a go:

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We have been putting it out for a few days now. Its early days but it has been going down and so I put a camera on it to see what is eating it:

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Collared Dove
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Blackbird

When the Linnets return to the meadows this year, it will be interesting to see if they will  be tempted by our new, improved menu and if other farmland birds such as Yellowhammer will be also.