Slow down for badgers

For those of you that have followed my blog for a while you will have probably heard of Cookie.

Cookie was one of my local badgers who died after being hit by a car, in April 2016, just up the road from my house.

https://appletonwildlifediary.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/the-story-of-cookie/

Since Cookie died she has become the mascot for Oxfordshire Badger Group

Yesterday at the Oxford Vegan Fair a new ‘Cookie’ mug and Christmas card was launched.

The money raised by Oxfordshire Badger Group goes to help protect badgers in Oxfordshire by:
Increasing public awareness
Advising on badger problems
Protecting badgers and setts
Rescuing injured badgers

If you live or travel through Oxfordshire you can report badger sightings or badger road traffic accidents using this link

https://www.oxonbadgergroup.org.uk/report/sightings-setts/

IMG_3266IMG_3215-001

The Badger Trust run the ‘Give Badgers A Brake‘ campaign, to try and make Britain’s roads safer for all wildlife.

You can help too by:

SLOWING DOWN – Wildlife can run out in front of a car at anytime. At this time of year badgers are beginning to forage further afield and are more likely to cross roads in search of food.

REPORTING – If you do come across a dead badger on the side of the road, please report it to Oxfordshire Badger Group (if in Oxfordshire), The Badger Trust or an organisation like Project Splatter. All the data goes to help find out high risk areas for wildlife and in turn help campaign for signs, bridges or tunnels.

Posted in Badgers, mammals, nature, outdoors, Oxfordshire, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Secrets of sound

 

Shotover wood

Recently I was invited up to Shotover wood, on the edge of Oxford, by Stuart Mabbutt wildmaninspires.co.uk to learn about sound.

When you watch a wildlife documentary, how much attention do you pay to the backing sound track?

Do you prefer music or the sounds of nature? Does the music add to the film or distract?

These are some of the things we talked about.

Upon arrival at the wood, we made our way down to an area that was sort of a bowl shape, quite open, no brambles and sloping sides surrounded by trees. Stuart talked about how the carpet of leaves can absorb sound and how the bird song can bounce off the tree trunks.

As it was raining we didn’t get chance to get any of the recording equipment out, but we did stand and listen for a few moments to the sounds and where they came from and where it sounded like they came from.

Back indoors I learnt that silence is actually quite noisy and the importance of using headphones when recording sounds.

We listened to various sounds indoors and thought about how much difference having walls makes, as opposed to being out in the woods.

Then came some physics, not my favourite subject, but on paper we looked at a drawing of sound waves and how they work.

Next came equipment and programs or apps. We looked at shotgun microphones for single species and XY microphones for soundscapes, talked about preamps and parabolic dishes. I got to have a go with a XY microphone which can record up to 4 tracks, which lead to learning about layering sound.

Stuart and I did a short interview which then gave me chance to learn how to edit it on the computer. Stuart’s voice was much louder than mine so we went through the interview and edited mine to match.

It was interesting to learn about different peoples speech patterns as sound waves, and how people pause when talking. If you cut out the pauses it can start sounding wrong as the pattern doesn’t flow.

Stuart runs an audio blog and has a particular theme tune, I learnt how to layer the theme tune over the top of the interview.

Here’s the link to the interview we did. Apologises if it isn’t up to Stuart’s normal standard of editing and he was kind enough to let it go live with my editing attempts.

http://soundcloud.com/user-482705861/november-11th-2017-cowley

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Young wildlife ambassadors panel

I spent last weekend up in Preston at this years Badger Trust conference.

It was a great chance to meet up with people from other Badger Groups from around the country and listen to some interesting speakers.

Over two days we heard from Professor Christianne Glossop, the chief veterinary officer for Wales, Dr Steven P. McCulloch, Mark Johns from Born Free, Tom Langton, Das & Boom, Jorge Gutierrez, along with Crispin and Roseanna Agnew, each speaking about Badgers, the badger cull, bTB, badger protection, vaccinations, threats to badgers from development, recognising active badger setts and the law surrounding badgers.

Most of it was really useful information, but I must admit some of it was a bit in depth for me.

One of the badger groups spoke about how they monitored their badger setts along the River Clyde. I really enjoyed finding out how another small group runs, how they look for setts and the issues their badgers have to deal with.

If anyone wants to find out more about badgers in their local area the best way is to get involved with your local group. You can report badger activity, badger setts, learn about badgers and even go badger watching.

https://www.oxonbadgergroup.org.uk/

Pauline Kidner up dated us on what was happening at Secret World Wildlife Rescue, somewhere I try to get to each year as it’s a really special place that does fantastic work.

https://www.secretworld.org/

The Hunt Investigation Team did a talk on the investigation of the Moscar Estate which I found very uncomfortable to watch, but I was amazed at the bravery and tenacity of the investigators.

Ashley Cooper talked about and showed some images from his book “Images from a warming planet’ http://www.imagesfromawarmingplanet.net/ . The images were very powerful, full of the awful way we treat this planet but mixed with images showing hope for the future. I was very surprised and grateful to receive a sign copy of this book from Ashley.

On Sunday it was my turn to take to the stage with Georgia Locock, James Miller and Jasmine Somerville, on the Young Wildlife ambassadors panel.

We had each been given a few questions prior to the conference and given the choice of how we wanted to present ourselves. I chose to do a short film, James, Georgia and Jasmine did power points.

Dominic Dyer’s introduction is followed by a short clip of each of us.

 

The questions and answers are on my YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buDoIfYiWTw&t=6s

 

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Comparing trail cameras – Night time

As the days get shorter I rely on my trail camera more and more to find out what is going on around my local patch.

I often get asked which is the best trail camera to use. It is a hard question to answer as it depends on how much money you want to spend, what you are hoping to film and what you want the footage for.

I did a review nearly two years ago of a Little Acorn versus a Nature View Bushnell. Now I thought I’d look at it a bit deeper, adding a couple more models in. I think the footage speaks for itself.

I placed 4 different models of trail cameras out in the same part of the wood over one night, as the best way to compare models is to compare the film footage they take.

All 4 trail cameras

Of course, it isn’t just about putting a trail camera out and hoping for the best, it is about knowing what animal you want to film, where that animal is likely to appear, and knowing where to point the camera.

All 4 cameras take still and film, they all can record sound, as well as time and date stamp the footage. Each camera can film in colour during the day, and at night in black and white using infrared. All the cameras use PIR sensors and each camera is programmable to film particular lengths and have set gaps before it starts filming again.

I secure each camera using an elasticated luggage strap and a chain and padlock.IMG_3137

I’ve made a short film with each camera to show the difference in quality.

The first camera is The Little Acorn 5210A. Little Acorn

I placed this camera on a well used deer path on the top of a bank by a stream. I’ve seen foxes, deers, badgers and a polecat use this path.

  • Retails around £110
  • Takes 4 AA batteries
  • Photo size 12MP
  • Film size 640 x 480
  • IR flash up to 20m
  • PIR sensing distance 20m
  • Trigger time is 0.8 seconds

I really like this camera, it’s easy to set up, films really well at night, it is small and light enough to fit in a coat pocket.

Downside is the LED IR flash shines red which the animals notice, the battery cover is quite flimsy and breaks easily. When I padlock the Little Acorn, the front could still be stolen as it is completely detachable.

The second camera is the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Model 119676

Bushnell trophyThis camera was placed in an open patch behind the badger sett. I’m not sure who is the first badger, the second one is Pirate, notice the damaged left eye. This is the first time I’ve seen Pirate in months. The fox, I think is one of the cubs and is really not sure about the two Roe deer.

  • Retails around £230
  • Takes 8 AA batteries
  • Photo size 5MP, 8MP
  • Film size 1280 x 720
  • IR flash up to 18M
  • PIR sensing distance 18M
  • Trigger time is 0.2 seconds

This camera has a no glow black LED’s, it is a very sturdy camera. The closing lock is very robust.

The actual film is a lot more grainy than the Little Acorn, although it has black LED’s you can hear a slight humming while it is filming, which close up the badgers and foxes can also hear.

The third camera is the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD wireless Model 119598 Bushnell trophy wireless

I placed this camera at the other side of the badger sett. The badger is the one I filmed a couple of weeks ago with the broken tail and damaged right ear. The two foxes are possibly two of this years cubs. Again one of the foxes with one of the deers.

  • Retails around £320
  • Takes 12 AA batteries
  • Photo size 5MP, 8PM
  • Film size 1920 x 1080
  • IR flash up to 18M
  • PIR sensing distance 18M
  • Tigger time is 0.6 seconds

Very similar to the last camera except slightly bigger. Again no glow LED’s but with this one there is no humming. The picture is marginally better.

This camera is wireless but I have not yet used this facility.

The last camera is The Bushnell Nature View HD model 119740 Bushnell Nature View HD

Unfortunately I put this camera in the least busiest spot on this particular night, but straight away you can see the quality of the footage.

  • Retails at £350.
  • Takes 12 AA batteries
  • Photo size 14MP
  • Film size 1920 x 1080
  • IR flash up to 18M
  • PIR sensing distance 18M
  • Tigger time 0.2 seconds.
  • Size 15cm x 11cm x 6 cm

This trail camera comes with different lenses to focus at different lengths, it also comes with a view finder. The quality of the film is so much better, in my clip you can really see the difference to the previous 3 clips. Look at the detail of the nettles.

Although this camera doesn’t make a sound and has no glow LED as you can see in the film the fox knows it is there. I’m not sure whether it can smell it or perhaps the fox can hear it.

This is my favourite trail camera but I do worry about it when I leave it out incase it gets stolen, and it is large and heavy.

My second favourite is the Little Acorn, for a reasonably small and cheap trail camera it does work really well. I’ve had it around 5 years now and it is still filming some great footage.

For the four trail cameras I have reviewed the prices can vary.

There are now lots of other makes of trail cameras on the market which I have no experience of and would love to hear about if anyone reading this uses other makes/models.

These are just my personal views based on my experiences using my four different cameras. I’m always pleased when any of my cameras show up a new animal, new behaviour or particularly a badger I haven’t seen for a while.

I will soon do another blog comparing the same trail cameras filming in day light.

Update

A few people have mentioned batteries, and which ones are the best for trail cameras and why don’t they last very long.

I only use my camera for short periods of time, for a few hours or over night, rather than leaving them out for days or weeks in the same place, so I can’t comment on how well the batteries do in that situation.

I also don’t take much notice of the length of time the batteries last against how many hours they have been operating for. Perhaps I should do a study in to it over the winter.

Some of the things I have noticed.

• The trail cameras use up alkaline batteries even when it isn’t operating. When my cameras are just sitting on the shelf and I’ve got alkaline batteries in them, I pull one of the batteries out.

• Night time filming uses the batteries up quicker as it has to power the LED’s as well.

• Lithium batteries are more expensive but last much longer

• If I do use alkaline or lithium batteries and they stop working in the trail camera, they will still work perfectly well in something like a Xbox remote control for another few months.

•  I switch between alkaline, lithium and rechargeable batteries, but don’t really have much success with rechargeable batteries.

This article seems to have covered most of the pros and cons of the different batteries. After reading it I think I might save up for a decent set of rechargeable batteries.

https://www.trailcampro.com/pages/game-camera-battery-information

Posted in Badgers, Blogging, fox, mammals, nature, trail camera, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Ivy at the end of October

As I look out of the window today, a blanket of grey cloud covers the sky and it has drizzled with rain non stop since I got up this morning. Totally different from yesterday.

Yesterday the sun shone all day and the wall of ivy in our garden was alive with the sound of buzzing insects.

Some of the insects I spotted were Noon fly, Hornet, wasp. honey bee, hoverfly and green bottle, as well as a red admiral and a small tortoiseshell butterfly.

Ivy is very important this time of year for many insects, the small yellow flowers provide valuable nectar for a great number of species.

As the Autumn turns to Winter the dark berries will provide food for many birds, such as blackbirds and thrushes, while the evergreen leaves provide shelter for small mammals and birds.

HornetHornet and Red admiralSmall TortoiseshellFlies on ivyIncoming wasp

It’s good to be back on my local patch, from my front garden I spotted the Little owl in its normal place and a Kestrel calling from the telegraph pole.

P1070439P1070438

Posted in birds, Butterfly, garden, insects, nature, Oxfordshire, photography, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Wildlife photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

York and a Peregrine falcon

Over the half term I visited York for a few days.

I was lucky enough to visit Wildlife artist Robert Fuller, who was really kind to give up a morning to show my family around his workshop and garden.

I now have so many ideas on encouraging more wildlife into my garden I don’t know where to begin.

Robert is an exceptionally talented artist, but also amazing at getting photographs and film of the wildlife that visits the area around his studio.

You can see some of his work and webcams on his website.

https://www.robertefuller.com/

Back in York town centre I managed to catch a glimpse of York Minster’s resident Peregrine falcon. It was quite hard to spot and right at the end reach of my camera lens.

There are two Peregrines at York Minister, but I only managed to see one of them.

It spent most of the time grooming and stretching, totally unfazed by the building work going on nearby.

It was just as interesting to watch all the people walking past completely unaware that there was a Peregrine falcon above their heads.

P1070427

P1070392Peregrine on York Minister

 

Posted in birds, nature, Uk nature, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Wildlife photography | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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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