Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Missing Season

It almost seems that we have jumped straight from Autumn into Spring. Apart from a couple of frosty starts and the lightest dusting of snow that soon vanished as temperatures quickly reached around 14ÂșC, it has predominantly been wet and mild.

Many plants and animals have been fooled into acting like it’s spring in these mild conditions, but there is still time for a proper cold snap to put this right and reset the calendar so to speak.

The fields are again full of ewes heavy in lamb, and we will soon be hearing their plaintive bleats, another event that signifies the onset of spring in my mind. This mild weather has done wonders for the grass, so the lactating ewes with have plenty of nutritional grazing. The other side of that coin is, I’m not sure my old lawnmower will manage the first cut of the year in the back garden. I wonder if I could borrow a sheep?

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This weekend finds me full of cold and suffering like only a man can. I came home from work on Friday after valiantly struggling through the day and slumped on the settee feeling pretty sorry for myself. At around 8pm, I still hadn’t moved when I receive a phone call from my daughter to inform me of a road causality Badger she had spotted that looked like it was still moving. She was concerned but unable to stop on the busy road. That was enough to drag me off the settee and I followed her directions to the badger.

The road was unlit, fast, and the badger was on a blind bend. I drove past it and turned the car around. I managed to pull up close to it with my hazards on, but felt very exposed on the blind bend. I’m glad my daughter had more sense than to put herself in the position I was now in! I quickly checked the badger, it had not survived the collision, I then got myself out of the situation. I really didn’t fancy meeting a similar fate.

              Unfortunately, this is the only time most people get to see a Badger.

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I had my trail camera and a few peanuts in the boot of the car, the cool evening rain and air had eased my headache and my breathing, so I decided to stay out a little longer. With badgers on my mind, I headed to my favorite little sett. I have mentioned this sett before, it is the one that was badly damaged last year. I didn’t see any badgers for a couple of months, but eventually, there were signs that at least one badger had returned.


It was raining heavily by the time i reached the sett, I placed the camera in a suitable spot, scattered a few peanuts about, then headed for home. I have only seen one badger since the sett was damaged. There were three in this small sett. I’m hoping the trail camera will reveal that there is more than just a solitary badger resident.

I had a terrible night, sleep just eluded me. Unable to breath, sneezing, coughing, I gave it up as a bad job and got up for a coffee about 4.00am. I read for a while and then at around 5.30am, headed off to check the camera out and see what activity there had been. I arrived at around 6.10am, I didn't encounter anything of mention on the walk down in the dark. I quickly flicked on my head torch and was disappointed to see the peanuts were still where I had spread them. I took the memory card out of the camera and again headed for home.

I was suprised to find on the memory card a badger picture!


If you look at the time recorded on the photo, it’s 6.02am. Just one badger and it probably encountered the peanuts on its return journey to the sett after a nights forging. I arrived here about 8 mins after this picture was captured. No doubt it heard me coughing and spluttering across the fields well before I got anywhere near and vacated the area. 

I do hope this badger isn’t the only inhabitant of this sett, I will keep an eye on things over the next few months.


Saturday morning and Pete and I visited Middleton RSPB for a wander about; we haven’t been for a while and it made a refreshing change. We had hoped that the Drake Smew reported on Friday was still about, but we didn’t locate it; we did however have our first Redpoll, Oystercatcher and Goldeneye of the year. As always, a great place to visit.

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Sunday, 17 January 2016

At last, some winter weather

I’m not a big fan of snow, but it makes a change from the incessant warm, wet weather we have been experiencing. Only a dusting in the night, but I must admit before it thaws and turns into a muddy, slushy mess, it looks quite scenic.

Little Egret and a male Sparrowhawk were the highlights of this mornings walk.






Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Here we go again

Another year starts and I am looking forward to seeing if I can photograph some Badgers from local Setts I have been watching. They have proved to be very elusive of late and although I have seen signs of their activity, I have not yet clapped eyes on a badger about its business in 2016. Mind you, we are only 10 days into the new year as I write this, but I have already been badger watching a couple of times with no success.

Yesterday’s birding threw up a few treats. Managing Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge and plenty of Skylarks, so I was pleased with that.

My thoughts though are with badgers at the moment, so later that day I went to check out another badger sett I keep an eye on. Activity here is really ramping up and although it isn’t as local to me as the sett I frequently visit, I feel it may house a bigger colony of Meles meles and allow for more successful observation. 


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I intend spending more of my free time watching and attempting to photograph badgers this year, and my free time in January will be spent just watching and attempting to learn the best times to arrive to maximise my chances of a successful encounter. If I can try to ascertain the routines of the badgers in these setts I could save myself a lot of siting around and cut down on waiting time. I may try to use a trail camera to record the comings and goings of these setts where possible and see if there is noticeable pattern in the times these badgers emerge to begin an evenings foraging and the times they return.

It isn’t unfortunately as easy as just placing a trail camera on site and collecting it again a week or so later; these setts are not in remote areas and an unconcealed trail camera will soon disappear.

I only own one trail camera at the moment, but I think i may add another one or two to my collection of equipment this year. It will all depend on finding suitable sites to install and leave them to do their thing while being relatively confident that someone won’t find and pocket it a couple of days later.

I ended up digging out the trail camera and setting it up at this location. It was difficult to conceal and i spent a bit of time camouflaging it so it didn’t easily stand out. I have seen the odd badger at this location when our paths have unexpectedly crossed, but it is the first time I have set a trail camera here. It’s been a while since I used the trail camera and rookie mistake, i forget to check how I had it set to capture pictures. Unfortunately, I had it set to leave 10 mins between each activation; great for leaving somewhere for month, but not ideal for a few days when you would like to capture a lot of activity.

Forty eight hours later, most of it being accompanied by torrential rain, I decided to check on the camera. Rainy, misty nights aren’t great for any type of photography. It was after work, dark and still raining. It was difficult to get to the sett as I needed to walk up quite a steep hill. The mud was very slippy due to the ground being ripped up by fools on scrambling bikes prior to the rain. It really was a case of two steps forward and slide back one. On reaching the area, I noticed the rain had caused some subsidence and someone had cordoned the area off. If the area was going to be getting some attention, I decided I would remove the camera.

It was once at home when checking the SD card I realized I had not had the camera set on the best settings, nevertheless, I had captured a few shots of a couple of the sett’s residents.


So, my badger picture account for 2016 is open with pictures of some badgers I have never camera trapped before. I will resume my interest in this area as the weather improves.

I am more interested in my very local sett and its residents (or maybe resident) at the moment. Activity suggest there is more than a solitary badger in this sett, but my last sightings of 2015 after the sett was damaged was of the same solitary boar. Hopefully, this group will reassemble? I will keep my eye on it.