Showing posts from June, 2014

Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Today I’ve been to a ‘Wildlife Day’ at Stillingfleet Lodge gardens, held as part of National Insect Week. All the local wildlife organisations had stands there and events were organised throughout the day. I started with a mini-bug safari led by Dr Roger Key. It was aimed mainly at the children, but was just as interesting to us adults who missed out on that sort of thing when we were children. We were equipped with sweep nets and pooters and told to see what we could find. I came back with a Tortrix moth, froghoppers and a selection of plant bugs.

Bug safari equipment
Plant bug in the net
The next event was a demonstration of bird-ringing with the BTO. A line of wriggling bags on the tent wall was opened and a variety of small birds produced for ringing and measuring. Each bird was then carefully passed to one of the audience for them to release. Most shot away at speed, but a reluctant dunnock sat in a lady’s hand for a full minute before being persuaded to take flight.

The reluctant du…

Filming Badgers in Daylight

The badger cubs are a serious lot. I’m still not seeing as much play as I’d expect from them - they are more interested in food and are growing up fast. I sometimes hear whickering noises coming from the brambles, so maybe their play goes on unobserved. I’d decided that the six were made up of a pair of twins and a family of four, but now I’m not so sure. They all move around independently much of the time and now I think it more likely that they’re two sets of triplets.

Two cubs find an easy snack
Most of my badger watching is done in total darkness, using an old camcorder with a ‘nightshot’ switch that allows it to see infrared and gives me grainy green and white video. Currently the badger cubs are coming out at about 8:30, so there’s plenty of daylight left and it’s a great opportunity to get some colour video.

Filming badger cubs (in the brambles)
I’ve been trying to film them from the ground at close range, using a remote control on my SLR camera. I’ve had the gear for a year or so,…

Update on the Swallows and Allerthorpe

Three weeks ago I was a little concerned about the swallows in my porch. They had two eggs, but didn’t seem to be spending much time at the nest. I’m pleased to report that within a few days another two eggs appeared. The birds then got down to some serious incubation and now they have four little chicks.

Four eggs on 12 June
Four chicks today
Back in January we had a conservation work day at Allerthorpe Common, brush-cutting an area of brambles and scrub in the south east corner of the reserve. It’s now all green again and full of insect life, including these lovely Four-banded Longhorn beetles, mating.

Four-banded Longhorn Beetles (Leptura quadrifasciata)
Elsewhere on the reserve, Common Spotted orchids are in flower. They used to be rare here, but now the numbers increase each year.

Common Spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia)

Another Badger Watch

I took a friend badger watching last night. I’d been down to Badger Wood in the afternoon and set up a dome hide, to minimize disturbance when we arrived. However, as we walked past the sett, on the way to the hide at the far end, we could see badger cubs amongst the brambles. Three cubs and an adult were foraging in the leaf litter. They took no notice of us as we stood and watched them.

The cubs were oblivious of our presence
Mum was slightly more cautious
Finally they moved off and we were able to get to the hide where my friend was to sit. I put out some peanuts and returned to my car to fetch the camcorder. By the time I’d got back, the cubs were already tucking in to the peanuts. I frightened them away by getting up to my high seat, but they soon returned. Two came and ate while a third smaller cub watched nervously for a while before returning to the sett. When the pair had had enough they wandered off and an adult came out cautiously, followed by the smaller cub. They ate togethe…

Pulling Ragwort

Today I’ve been to a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust conservation volunteer work day at Wheldrake Ings. It’s a stunningly beautiful place at this time of the year. The Ings that are crowded with wildfowl during the winter months are now vast areas of rich grassy meadow, filled with wild flowers. Curlews were calling overhead, which reminded me of Shetland – another beautiful wild place.

Volunteers pulling ragwort
Our task today was to remove the ragwort that grows in the meadow, which is poisonous to livestock. Once the ragwort is removed, the grass can be harvested in August, to produce hay. The alternative to manual removal of the ragwort would be to spray the grassland with herbicides which would kill off the other wildflowers as well. The flowers support insects that support birds and the rest of the natural food-chain.

Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) in the meadow
Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)
 The autumn regrowth will be grazed by sheep, before the winter wildfowl returns, but for now only …

Badgers and Foxes

The first cubs out
On Thursday night I went to watch the badgers again. I put out some peanuts and returned to my car to collect the camera. When I got back to the sett, two badger cubs were already tucking in to the peanuts. I got one photo before they realised I was there and ran off. Once I was in my high seat, they soon came out again and before long the other four cubs joined them. They have brief playful skirmishes, but food is definitely the priority at the moment. Most of their time around the sett is spent foraging amongst the brambles. When I thought they’d left the area I came down from my seat and was coiling up the cable for my infrared light when three cubs came running out again and came up to me to investigate. They nosed around the camera and one was within a metre of me before it realised I was there and all three galloped away back to the sett.

Fox enjoying some early evening sunshine
As well as the badgers, there are two fox families in Badger Wood this year. The East…

Badger Cubs

On Friday night I went down to Badger Wood, hoping to see the two badger cubs again. I sat in my high seat and waited. Before long, striped faces appeared around the hole about 20 metres from me. Two adult badgers and the two cubs were snuffling around amongst the brambles. They disappeared into the vegetation and after another half hour or so, the two cubs popped up from the hole right in front of me. They rummaged through the leaf litter for a while and eventually stumbled upon the peanuts I’d put out for them. They ate for a long time, but eventually they’d had enough and went back to the sett.

How many badger cubs?
I was about to leave when I noticed a movement in the brambles around the hole and realised they hadn’t gone down. I stayed put as I didn’t want to frighten them. I was then surprised to see them coming out and returning to the peanuts. Then I was amazed to see another two cubs appear and join the first pair. A minute later another two cubs appeared – now there were six!