A badger and a fox

It is not often that I get both a badger and a fox together, mostly they will avoid each other and the fox will only appear once the badgers have left for the fields.

During the day I often find the fox asleep or resting near or actually on top of the badger sett.

Smee is one of my local Badgers, who has a bad right eye. He ( I think it’s a he) doesn’t stray very far from the sett and is the Badger that can always be found hanging around the sett long after all the others have gone out in to the field.

The other night my trail camera picked up a bit of interaction between Smee and a fox. I had put down a very small handful of peanuts and I think the fox was keen on having a fair share but Smee was having none of it.

Posted in Badgers, Blogging, mammals, nature, outdoors, Oxfordshire, trail camera, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State of Nature in Oxfordshire 2017

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to be asked to do a presentation at the Launch Event of The State of Nature in Oxfordshire 2017.

We decided that rather than doing a presentation on the day that I would make a film in advance, that way I could put in some film clips of wildlife that I had taken on my local patch to show people how wonderful Oxfordshire’s wildlife is and also I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to take the afternoon off school.

The launch took place on 21st March at Blenheim Palace, with the first speaker being Professor David MacDonald, Director of WildCRU. Professor MacDonald spoke about how research in to wildlife is only the beginning, it is the partnerships between the researchers, landowners, farmers, volunteers and conservation management that will make a positive outcome for nature.

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It was interesting to hear that a lot of Oxfordshire’s countryside is farmland and we have little actual ‘wild’ spaces.

The next speaker was Graham Scholey, technical adviser for the Environment agency. Then followed the film I had made for the event. Big thanks to my sister for filming me.

The next two speakers were Martin Layer, the Planning and Estates Manager for Smiths Bletchington and Dr Judy Webb. Both spoke about nature reserves that I knew little or nothing about. Which made me think that if someone like me who regularly visits local nature reserves and seeks out wildlife hadn’t heard of these reserves then how do we promote nature reserves to the general public.

Perhaps that is an idea for future blogs – to visit all the nature reserves in Oxfordshire and blog about them.

Emma Marsh, regional directer for the RSPB, spoke last and summed up the general gist of the report.

The report not only outlines the loses and the gains in Oxfordshire’s biodiversity but also a call to action plan that involves the following key points

  • Urgently create larger and more connected high quality habitats
  • Find financially viable ways to help farmers manage land to benefit nature.
  • Improve practical support for communities
  • Ensure better planning for blue and green infrastructure
  • Put sustainable development that invests in nature at the heart of local decision-making
  • Increase access to green space and volunteering
  • Develop more collaborations within our strong and diverse sector
  • Continue to improve the methodology for monitoring the state of nature.

The few points that I picked up on during the event was that Nature, Politics and Money are all interlinked, fragmentation is a huge problem and sadly, like other conferences I have been to, the under 25’s are under represented.

It was a real privilege to be involved in the launch and my final words from the film are:

I would like to see much more education on nature in schools. How can we care about something we know nothing about and therefore have no connection to?

I would like to see all MP’s of every party pledge for the Environment and overall no matter whether you are an individual or head of a multi million pound company, an MP or a planning officer I would like to ask you to have a little more consideration for nature.

We only get one chance at this; hopefully it is not too late to change the State of Nature to a positive.

You can read the full report at http://www.wildoxfordshire.org.uk/stateofnature/

Posted in Blogging, Citizen science, Hedgehogs, nature, Nature reserve, outdoors, Oxfordshire, RSPB, Rural life, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox, the time when the hours of day and night are equal and in the Northern hemisphere it marks the first day of the astronomical Spring. Although with todays wind and rain, together with the forecast of colder weather to come, it doesn’t feel like it.

Close up Roe deer

This week I have been learning about time, who came up with the idea of hours, weeks and months? Why are there 60 minutes in an hour and 7 days in a week? So it fits in with a blog post about the Spring Equinox, one of the first ways of marking the passing of time.

Out in the woods and fields Spring is definitely here. Spring flowers are now everywhere. The brambles, the hawthorn and the elder have new leaves appearing by the day. While the Blackthorn blossom is falling in the wind, the Hawthorn blossom is just coming out.

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The Roe deer have been making the most of the new shoots, buds and leaves.

Over the weekend I sat and watched a Ground beetle while it climbed to the top of a stick over and over again.

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Ground beetle

Ground beetle

My local badgers have been extremely busy, changing bedding and opening up 11 entrances over one week. These are old holes that had collapsed or got blocked with leaves over the past year.

Posted in Blogging, mammals, nature, outdoors, Oxfordshire, photography, Uncategorized, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My local patch Mid March

Out walking over the weekend I came across a herd of Fallow deer, I only catch sight of them once or twice a year but it is always a special sight when I do.

There are two Fallow deers that seem to stay fairly local to my house, staying with the Roe deer rather than their own kind. I also came across them over the weekend.

It seems that now the warmer weather and a bit of sunshine has arrived a lot more creatures are out and about. I’ve seen a number of different bees and butterflies, including Brimstones and a Small Tortoiseshell making that most of the Blackthorn blossom.

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I have just started writing a monthly column called ‘If you go down to the woods today’ for my village website about the different wildlife that might be found in my local woods each month.

If you go down to the woods today…March 2017

If you go down to the woods today you will find signs of Spring everywhere. Buds are appearing on the trees and the ground is turning green with Bluebell shoots, Lords and ladies and Dog’s Mercury.

Listen carefully and you will hear the Great Spotted woodpecker as it drums out its territory.

While the trees are still without leaves, tiny birds such as the Goldcrest and Long tailed tits are still easier to spot, hopping around on the ends of branches.

Deer footprints mixed in with wellington prints can be seen dotting the muddy paths.

Posted in Blogging, insects, mammals, nature, outdoors, Oxfordshire, photography, Rural life, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Wildlife photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

BBOWT – Dry Sandford Pit

As the landscape opens up across fenland, shallow ponds and sandy cliff faces, I’m stood where there was once a warm, shallow sea full of coral, in an area that would have had a temperature similar to the Caribbean.

Dry Sandford Pit was a working quarry up until late 1950’s, being excavated for its sand. The steep cliffs of sand, full of fossils, are now home to hundreds and hundreds of tiny holes made by solitary bees and wasps.

The deepest parts of excavation are now flooded making marshy habitats and large, shallow ponds, which on the day I visited was only occupied by Mallard ducks, but I imagine in the summer months it will be home to butterflies, dragonflies and other insects.

Spring flowers are just appearing, as we left the car park a large patch of Primroses are tucked under small trees and Violets grow at the base of the cliffs.

A Buzzard passed overhead arguing with a gang of rooks, and two Red Kites circled high on the rising late afternoon thermals.

As we walked around the edge of the reserve we found signs of Badgers, foxes and deers. A Muntjac crept through the reeds trying to avoid us and as we wandered along the top edge we startled two hares that ran and disappeared under a patch of brambles.

Before we left we sat on a bench for a while opposite one of the cliff faces watching rabbits hopping in and out of their sandy burrows while a squirrel leapt from tree to tree above our heads.

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Posted in Animals, Blogging, mammals, nature, Nature reserve, outdoors, Oxfordshire, photography, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Wildlife photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Owls and Arrow the Badger

Over the weekend I heard that a Short-eared owl had been seen on my local patch so early evening on Saturday I went to see if I could find it.

The field where it had been spotted is perfect for birds of prey, pretty much undisturbed, wide areas of rough grass suitable for quartering in search of small mammals and quiet a few posts to watch from.

I watched as the Red Kites, Buzzards and a single Kestrel finished off their hunting for the day and started to perch in the trees around the edge of the field.

Shortly after, I spotted a solitary white bird gliding backwards and forwards across the field, a few centimetres above the tips of the grass. I forgot about the Short-eared owl for a while as I watched the Barn owl hunting. Every so often it would sharply turn, dive and disappear in to the grass.

Voles make up 90% of a Short-eared owls diet and 45% of a Barn owls.

Right at the back of the field I noticed a larger brown bird moving in a similar way to the Barn owl, it was the Short-eared owl. Unfortunately it stayed right over the other side and as the field is private property I had no way of getting closer.

I’ll visit again soon and hope that the SE owl is hunting closer next time.

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I have had the trail camera out over at the nursery sett recently trying to find out what has happened to last years Badger cubs.

Arrow, one of the females, is spending time there and if you look closely it looks like she has been suckling cubs.

Posted in Badgers, birds, Blogging, mammals, outdoors, Oxfordshire, photography, trail camera, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Wildlife photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Days Of March

The first of March is the beginning of the meteorological Spring, in the shelter from the wind and with the sunshine this afternoon, the air held the promise of warmer days to come.

Across my local patch, the farmers are busy ploughing.  The sky is full of gulls, their white wings in contrast with the dark earth of the newly ploughed fields. More and more poured through the sky and across the fields, I wonder how they let each other know that there is plough going on and therefore an easy meal.

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The local rooks and Red kites also take advantage. At one stage I counted 8 Red Kites, many more than my local patch normally holds. Do the Red Kites follow the gulls in or do they use the thermals to rise to great heights enabling them to see many miles in all directions?

I watch as the group of Gulls rotate, landing behind the tractor and picking food off the ground. As the tractor moves on the next group lands, then the next, then the next and by this time the first group has taken to the skies to catch up with the tractor for their next turn at feeding.

As the tractor turns at the end of the field, all the gulls gather in the sky like a mini murmuration before falling in behind the tractor as it begins on its next furrow.

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While the gulls create a mass frenzy of wings and screams, the more majestic Red Kites strut and hop along the last furrow in a much more control manner. A couple of times I was worried that a particular  Red Kite was leaving it so late to get out of the way of the approaching tractor that it would disappear under the huge wheels.

Amongst the gulls and rooks were a few Lapwings, standing out with their distinctive call.

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Over in the next field, sat quietly away from the activity was the  female Roe deer  with her young from last year.

I slowly started to creep towards them counting ten steps then taking a group of photos, careful not to disturb their resting.

After about fifty steps the young male stood up, so I slowly got on to my knees until they relaxed again. This allowed me to take a few more photos before I left them in peace.

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Posted in birds, Blogging, mammals, nature, outdoors, Oxfordshire, photography, Rural life, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Wildlife photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments