This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 17 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk
One bird I love seeing on my local patch is the Peregrine falcon. It’s not often I get a glimpse of any, but last week there was one being bothered by a Buzzard.
Pigeons make up the main part of a peregrine falcon’s diet, something there is plenty of on my local patch. Although I’m hoping the pair of wood pigeons nesting in the tree outside my window stay safe.
Today it’s finally been raining a decent amount. Not great for taking photos which I was hoping to do as I’ve spotted three hares that are spending time close to me, but great for the wildlife.
When it’s been dry for a while we get a couple of badgers visiting to take a drink. This one always seems to chatter to itself.
With the important aim of inspiring the younger generation to look more closely and appreciate the fascinating world of insects this book is packed full of insect poems edited by Fran Long and Isabel Galleymore.
I met Fran (Mrs Long) back when her son, who is the same age as me, was writing a blog about insects. Through other mutual connections we have shared a few wildlife safaris including a day photographing water voles.
At this time I was interviewed by Fran and got to help out at one of her summer school classes
I couldn’t think of a better person to be putting together a poem collection about insects.
The Bee is Not Afraid of Me is not just about the poems which vary from those that meander their way across the pages to informative ones to funny ones and those that give us in insight to an insect’s life, the book is more than just the poems. Each page has drawings and fascinating insect facts, like ants can lift 6000 times their body weight or butterfly wings were the inspiration behind anti-glare mobile phone screens.
On top of this there is an interview with an entomologist, a guide to writing your own insect poem, project ideas and lots of links to interesting websites.
The Bee is Not Afraid of Me was launch online on Friday 5th March with readings from some of the poets involved. What was great about the launch was getting to hear the poems read out loud especially the two by Anneliese Emmans Dean
A week or so ago a few signs appeared locally that indicated an otter had been visiting.
On the river bank there were a couple of piles of fish scales and on a branch that overhung the river was a pile of spraint.
Otter spraint (poo) contains fish scales, bones and other undigested food. It apparently smells of Jasmin tea but also quite fishy.
As otters are protected as a European protected species (EPS) and are also protected under sections 9 and 11 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to capture, kill, disturb or injure otters (on purpose or by not taking enough care), or to damage or destroy a breeding or resting place (deliberately or by not taking enough care) I thought the best way to confirm the presence of an otter was to use a trail camera.
Otters can have territories or ranges that can vary between 2km and 20 km depending on the availability of food so it was fingers crossed that the otter was going to appear on camera.
After a couple of tries I was really pleased to find the trail camera caught an otter passing by.
You can find out more about my photography and my local patch in Get Your Boots On
It was a great surprise to see a clip of a Polecat on my trail camera this morning. I’ve only seen them twice before on my local patch.
Once in March 2017 and again in February 2019. This morning’s polecat was seen in exactly the same place that it showed up two years ago.
The screenshots taken from the trail camera clip.
Polecats are members of the Mustelid family just like badgers and weasels. They are around the same size as a ferret and live roughly 5 years in the wild.
Polecats eat rabbits and are often found near rabbit burrows, rats, frogs and sometimes birds and worms.
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. The polecat has recently (2007) been added to the list of UK BAP mammals, protected as species of principal importance for the conservation of biological diversity in England under Section 74 of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000. (Ref Mammal Society)
Being protected polecats are not so much at risk of the persecution they once faced, but they are vulnerable both to being killed on the road and to secondary rodenticide poisoning. They can also get caught in traps set for animals such as squirrels and weasels.
Polecats were called a ‘foul marten’ because they produce a strong smell to mark their territory or when they feel threatened. The Latin putorius translates to “stench” or “stink”.
I’ve been searching the internet looking for something nice to say about Polecats to finish off, perhaps something in folklore but they are always portrayed as negative.
There is a certain change in the air. Although the weather is still cold and overcast it is now past 4pm when it starts to get dark.
In the garden the Snowdrops are starting to appear and down in the woods the very first tips of green shoots, which will eventually become Bluebells, are pushing their way through the brown carpet of leaves and mud.
Back in the garden the noise level has noticeably increased. After being relatively quiet all winter the birds have started to practice their songs.
The Sparrows chattering to each other, the contact calls of the Long tailed tits as they move through the gardens and the distant drumming of a Great spotted woodpecker can be heard along the street.
I recently got a window feeder from Happy Beaks so I can really see up close any visitors. So far only a Robin and a Blue tit have been brave enough to try it.
It takes a selection of foods to attract different birds in to the garden, the wider the variety of food you can supply, the wider the variety of birds that will come. I’ve tried supplying peanuts, different seeds, sunflower hearts and fatballs in different areas and in different feeders around the garden to attract as many birds as possible.
Habitat also makes a difference, unlike the visiting Jackdaws, Wood pigeons and Collard doves, many birds are shy and prefer plenty of cover. A few years ago we replaced a wall with a hedge and that’s when we saw the return of the sparrows. The hedge isn’t thick enough yet for birds to nest in, but if offers cover and protection from any passing cats and sparrowhawks.
Each year the RSPB runs a citizen science project where everyone can record the number and species of birds that visit their garden or local area. This year the RSPB’s Great Garden Bird Watch takes place 29th to 31st January.
Recently I wrote a guest blog for The Badger Trust on badger bedding.
How often does a badger change its bed? A Badger Trust guest article by Alex White
Badgers have fascinated me since I saw my first one at the age of three. The more I learn about them, the more I realise that I don’t really know that much about their lifestyle, especially what goes on underground. Most people unfortunately only ever get to see a badger dead on the side of the road, but some lucky people have badgers visiting their gardens or, like me, know of a sett where they can watch them go about their day-to-day life.
I’ve been lucky enough to see badgers close up on numerous occasions through volunteering with my local badger group for badger vaccination and rescue. The obvious highlight is watching a rehabilitated badger released back into the wild.
Through the many hours I’ve spent watching badgers at my local sett I’ve come to respect their intelligence and ingenuity.
“One of the acts that never ceases to bring a smile to my face is watching a badger working its way backwards with a roll of hay being dragged between its front paws. ”
One of the amazing things about writing a blog is the connections it makes. I’m not talking about networking or writing to gain anything, I’m talking about the feedback and comments that come back from around the world.
As I said in a previous post, I haven’t been taking many photos recently or blogging much, but I have still been using my Birdsy camera in the garden and checking out other people’s social media and blogs.
A few weeks ago I was contacted by a class from Upstate NY. They had been discussing nature activities that kids and adults can enjoy and had come across my blog. One of the children sent me a link to a website that he thought I might be interested so I’m going to share it with you.
Thank you Noah!
As his teacher explained to me, we are all experiencing difficult times at the moment, with many, including myself, at home learning online.
This was the message from that teacher “I want to show the increasingly large group of students that they can accomplish things if they aren’t afraid to come out of their shells and simply ask, especially while being in so much isolation these days!”
Over the few years I have been blogging I’ve had some brilliant letters and questions from young people which I’ve really enjoyed connecting with.
One person who does an amazing amount of work with nature blogging is Kate.
Kate has recently set up The Wildlife Blogger Crowd, a space for wildlife & nature bloggers to share posts, join discussions & support others.