The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben

BOOK REVIEW

Book

Through stories and science ‘The Inner Life of Animals’ allows you to creep in to the day-to-day goings on of wild, domesticated and farm animals.

Peter Wohlleben’s book starts off with an anecdote of an exhausted squirrel and her battle to save its young. Straight away we are made to think whether this is motherly love or a pre-programmed behaviour to protect the next generation.

The rest of the books follows a similar pattern, taking the reader through numerous emotions and interactions including pain, gratitude, grief, joy, deception, regret, shame and happiness.

Are these feeling exclusive to the human race?

As each page turns, through scientific research, popular YouTube videos to Peter’s own personal accounts, we discover that there are many examples of where animals show feelings that were once thought only possible for species that are self- aware and have a conscious knowledge of their own feelings.

It is hard enough for a person to explain to another the depth of their pain, or why something makes them happy or why some people feel remorse and others don’t, let alone understand how species that lead different lives from us behave and feel.

This book looks at Crows who forward plan, Bees who remember people who have harmed them and Great tits who cry wolf.

My favourite examples were of slime mould that could memorise a maze and squirrels that stole and deceive each other.

The book left me wanting to learn more and sometimes the tiny pockets of information just weren’t enough.

So, if our evolutionary biological make up is the same, why can’t our feelings and behaviours be similar?

The last chapter touches lightly on politics, the farming industry and our fear as humans that we could lose our place at the top, as a reason for denial.

In the end, whether proven or not, through anecdotes or scientific evidence there is a lot about animals we still have no idea about.

The goal is not to make animals seem like us, but to help us understand them better’.

It is exciting to think we are on the edge of finding out more about the behaviour of the animals that we share our local patches with and it will certainly make me think more deeply about the animals I take photos of and blog about.

The Inner Life of Animals – Published 19th October 2017

 

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Badger trails

The crops have been harvested and the wild flower meadow cut leaving telltale signs of the badgers foraging paths from over the summer.

Badgers will use the same paths for generations.

It is not just badgers that weave their way through the woods and fields. I put my trail camera out just to the side of one path, it proved to be a busy path linking the fields to the wood.

 

Many of the animals in the wood use the stream for drinking water, there are always plenty of tracks around the banks of the stream. Most of these are deers, but sometimes I can spot the odd badger footprint.

It is good to see that Stick the badger is still around. I haven’t seen that many of the usual badgers recently, no Pirate, no Smee, only one of the twins and no Bog for a few weeks.

Although I haven’t seen them, they have been very busy, digging out new holes, changing bedding, and making latrines, which show that the badgers have been making the most of the blackberries and have been coming up to the orchard or our allotment for plums.

Since the wild flower meadow has been cut, H3 and her mate, a couple of Red Kites and a Kestrel have been spending more time here.

H3 overlooking cut meadow

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Pond and other stuff

Over the summer holidays my family built a pond in the corner of the front garden. After replacing a wall with a hazel hedge together with a few hawthorn and honeysuckle last year, we hoped that this would encourage more wildlife to the garden.

I know we already have the occasional badger, fox, roe and muntjac deer visit, as well as hedgehogs, many types of birds and small mammals.

I really wanted to encourage dragonflies, butterflies and some amphibians. The under water species will give me a chance to use my mums underwater camera.

Since putting in the pond there have been a few visitors and hopefully my trail camera will show which creatures visit during the night.

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Snail eggs

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Young wood pigeonGrey wagtail

H3 has been back around the wood a lot recently after disappearing over the Spring. In the next few weeks she will move up on to the main road out of the village when the Fieldfares and Redwings arrive.

In the photo below H3 is sat with another Buzzard that I have seen her with frequently, this buzzard calls constantly, both while perched and while flying. I was wondering whether it would be one of this years young.

H3 and mate

H3 at the bottom (green ring)

This is H3’s mate. They have been together at least a couple of years. I have photos of them together from 2015.

Common buzzard

H3’s mate

Found this beetle walking across our garden. I think it’s a Nicrophorus vespillo.

BeetleJust

Just after walking in the door from school, I noticed a bird flying over garden which wasn’t the normal crow or pigeon shape, so I grabbed my  camera, it was a peregrine!

Peregrine over the garden

 

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Trail camera, badgers and darker evenings

It’s getting darker earlier and earlier each evening and it won’t be long before the clocks go back meaning it will be dark not long after I get home from school.

I’ll miss seeing the badgers in daylight, but look forward to making more of an effort to put the trail camera out.

Over last night my trail camera picked up one particular badger pottering backwards and forward around part of the sett. It has part of its right ear missing and quite a kink in its tail. It has probably been in a fight with another badger.

Looking back at some old footage and photos, I think it may be one of the twins. Now that it has a missing part of its ear, it will be much easier to recognise.

Arrow strolls through at 5am.

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Folklore and fungi

While walking through the wood yesterday I came across a Fairy ring. The ring of fungi is caused by the mycelium which moves outwards from the centre. After using up the nutrients, the centre dies and a ring of mushrooms is formed each year.

There are many folklores about fairy rings, some say they are good luck, other say they are bad omens. Some stories speak of fairies dancing around the fairy rings on a full moon, while other stories are of the fairy rings being a portal from our world to the fairy realm.

Most fungi have a common, colloquial or local name for them, normally based on the way they look. Some of the fungi I can find on my local patch have names such as Witches butter, Jelly ear, Deadman’s fingers, Elfcups, Earthballs, as well as Chicken of the wood, Plums and Custard, Beefsteak and Jack O lanterns.

There are many fantastic names of fungi that I have yet to have come across such as Snaketongue Truffleclub, Pink Disco or Barometer Earthstar.

Some fungi have whole myths or stories based around them.

Fly Agaric is probably the most well known and most easily recognised.

Fly AgaricFly agaric toadstool

Many stories are centred around the ability of being able to fly after ingesting Fly Agaric. This poisonous fungi can have hallucinogenic effects, inhibit fear and the startle reflex. People think they can fly, or witches use it to fly and this may even be where the story of Santa’s flying reindeer came from as reindeer as known for eating Fly Agaric.

Crampballs were carried to protect or cure you from cramps. They are locally known as King Alfred’s cakes after the King allegedly took shelter in a peasant woman’s house, he distracted her so much she burnt the loaves of bread she was baking.

King Alfred's cakes

Stories of whole towns or villages being affected by madness or witchcraft, such as 16th Century, Salem are now thought to have been caused by Ergot fungi poisoning, while Stinkhorn’s have been blamed for outbreaks of cholera and madness.

Many plays, books and films have references to fungi and their myths or their medicinal use.  In Alice in Wonderland, Alice eats one side of a mushroom to make herself bigger and one side to make herself smaller. In Harry Potter, fungi is a well used ingredient in potion making. Even video games such as Mario use mushrooms or Toadstools to enable you to gain an ability.

 

 

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BBOWT – Hitchcopse Pit

BBOWT’s Nature Reserve, Hitchcopse Pit, like Dry Sandford Pit was once a quarry.

I visited Dry Sandford Pit in March and had planned to go back in the autumn but we ended up at Hitchcopse pit instead.

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Hitchcopse Pit can be a bit hit and miss with wildlife. It is very popular with dog walkers and not all of them keep their dogs on the leads.

Luckily Sunday morning was quiet and the dogs we did see were under control and well behaved.

In the morning sunshine, plenty of butterflies were gently flying around the brambles at the back end of the pit, while a few dragonflies hunted over the pond or rested on the sand.

Small birds including Bullfinches, Blue tits and Chiffchaff’s chased each other around the reeds and bushes that edge the pond, while overhead Buzzards, Red Kites and a Raven circled.

While I was taking photos of fungi, a Heron flew past, almost hovering for a second over the pond before landing in one of the trees that grow on top of the sandy fossil filled cliffs. It balanced there looking like a prehistoric creature before deciding there was nothing worth fishing for and flying away.

At the moment the pond is the smallest I have ever seen it. A couple of years ago it spread at least 4 times bigger than it was today.

As we left, the temperature was rising and it seemed like the whole of the sandy floor of the old quarry pit was teeming with small bees, flying a few centimetres over the moss and lichen. Many of the Evening Primrose flowers were now full of flies, bees and a couple of Hornets.

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Small fungi

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Grey day at Farmoor reservoir

The sky was overcast with smirr –  thanks to Robert Macfarlane and his ‘word of the day’ on Twitter for this word.

Smirr is fine, drifting rain, so light as to seem mist- or smoke-like, but which coats evenly & drenches quickly, and that is exactly what the weather was doing as we head down to Farmoor.

As we drove down to the reservoir there wasn’t much rain on the windscreen but it was as if the clouds were reaching down to the ground.

We even pulled up in the car park, sat in the car deciding whether we should just go home. In the end we thought we would walk around for a while seeing how we were there anyway.

It was definitely wetter than we thought, so after a quick walk up the Causeway we sat in the hide for half an hour watching 20 plus House Martins patrol up and down, sometimes coming so close I thought they would fly straight in through the hide window.

We didn’t come across the Little Stint or the Grey Phalarope but did see a leucistic coot.

Back home by late afternoon the sun had come out and so did the dragonflies

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