Saturday, 18 March 2017

Badgers

It has been a long time since my last post. This has been due to a sudden increase in work, my Masters coursework has kicked in and I am also doing some research for the County Council.

Nevertheless I have still been collecting and analysing my camera trap data. This year the badgers seem to be more active than last year and again my theory seems to be holding up that there is a peak in active when the cubs are born underground in January/February.

Below is a short clip which exemplifies the badgers sense of smell. Badgers have very poor eyesight and rely on hearing and smell. In previous videos I have indicated the way the badgers forage through the undergrowth, in this case you can see the badger raising its head to catch scents on the air.


video

The graphs below show the change in patterns of prescence and absence over nearly three years.

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

Sunday, 22 January 2017

River Cam make a short but auspicious start

Following repeated failures with Otter Cam I decided that for 2017 I would focus less on the target and more upon the place, so was born River cam.

I have managed to find a suitable tree upon which to place the camera, it has a view of a quiet part of the river close to a used entry/exit point. I have tried to aim it so that it picks up the near bank and the river. Since it was set up at the start of the year I have worked on the angle of view and so far captured little except a fox and some inquisitive fishermen who stopped to say hello.

This week something interesting was captured just a few seconds of a grey heron.

video


On the main camera the number of Fox sightings has increased I am still seeing the limping fox but the uninjured one is becoming much more regularly sighted.
An interesting clip invloves the Badgers though. It shows something obviously spooking a Badger and it high-tailing it out of there. Badgers have poor eyesight but excellent smell and hearing. You can see the Badger mark the territory and then detect something. It raises its head to get a better sense of what was out there before turning and running. It runs in the opposite direction of the sett.

video


As today was a nice frosty sunny morning there were quite a lot birds about. There were flocks of Black Headed Gulls and Redwings on the fields and there were plenty of small Tits in the trees.

A male Kestrel was out hunting which was nice and I managed to get a few shots.




As I was preparing to leave I saw my recent holy grail a lone male Teal. I managed to get some shots off at a long distance, but as always when I moved down the bank side nearer it disappeared into the reeds. Even so they are handsome birds and a pleasure to see.



Sunday, 1 January 2017

Camera Trapping - A review of the year.

My camera trap year runs from April to April but I thought people might be interested in some data from the last 12 calendar months.

In the past 365 my camera has been in place and recording for 335 days (92% of the year). It was activated a total of 3588 times of which 1052 were activation only's, errors or failures (29.3%).

This number of activations equates to 107,640 seconds worth of footage, that's 29.9 hours of clips to watch.

335 days equals 8040 hours and an activation by something recordable occurred 21.13 hours worth of time meaning that along the hedgerow there was an animal or me present 0.26% of the time!

The very first animal recorded in 2016 was a Wood Mouse and the very last a muntjac and fawn. They were recorded at 23.58 on the 31st December. This goes to prove that Muntjac will breed throughout the year.

video

Aside from myself over the past, 12 months's the camera recorded:

Wood Mice - 255 activations
Muntjac - 233 activations
Badgers - 246 activations
Foxes - 133 activations
Grey Squirrels - 312 activations
Rabbits
Brown Rats
A Domestic Cat

Wood Pigeon
Blackbirds
Song Thrush
Robin
Dunnock
Great Tit
Wren
Magpie
Pheasant
Moorhen
Jay
Redwing



The pie chart shows that the occurrence of the main species is fairly even although Grey Squirrel just edge the most populous and the Red Fox is the least.

Over the year I have caught some interesting behaviour such as identifying the badgers regular sprainting and how they forage. The squirrels have been very feisty and squabbling a lot and the fox has been quite elusive.

On the unusual side has been the few sightings of Rabbit. Rabbits used to be prolific on the site but never recorded on the camera using the hedgerow but this time over a few days individuals were sighted, possibly bucks seeking new territories.

Heres to another 12 months. I will have completed 3 years worth of data and so look out for graphs of each of the main species then.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Saxon Mill - A year in review

Another year has passed and I have collected another 12 months of data on the fauna of the Saxon Mill.

This year I officially recorded:

53 species of Bird
2 species of Mammal
11 species of Butterfly
6 species of Dragonfly and Damselfly
1 species of Reptile

Of the birds, the graphic below shows the division by species.

This graphic shows species count over time showing a slight spring peak but being steady across the year indicating populations augmented by nearly as many winter visitors as summer ones.


2016 was a good year for Wrens and Kestrel and still dreadful for the Greenfinch with a single bird being recorded in February.

A new bird species was added this year - the Sedge Warbler bringing the total bird species count for the site to 92.

Banded Agrions showed well again this year with a narrow burst of active during their standard flight period.


I will continue to analyse the information and update the blog as I finish each part.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Badgers and Teal

For the past two weeks I have had some difficulty with my trail cameras. When the batteries run low, they no longer have the power to illuminate the IR LEDS at night and record a clip and so for some time I ve only had recordings of daytime passages, mostly Grey Squirrels.

Despite it not being too cold there has been much squabbling among the Grey Squirrels, with prolonged bouts of chasing.

video

Last week I managed to replace the batteries and so had evening footage for the last 7 days. This had included Wood Mice, Muntjac and of course Badgers. They seem particularly active this year and making the most of the foraging potential on my bit of land.

From the following few clips you can really see the Badger doing what it does best. Just off shot in one clip one Badger used its strong claws to dig out quite a deep hole. I m not sure what it was after, it could have been a bulb. The clips below show a nice demonstration of the eating machine a badger is. You can see the Badger using its powerful sense of smell to root through the leaf litter followed by little lunges forward and snapping of jaws to snuffle up the various invertebrates. Under the leaves the Badger will be hunting for worms, woodlice and earwigs. As you can see the badger is almost like a hoover moving around chasing these small invertebrates to get a meal.

video

The following night I captured another first, that was two badgers passing. It is common for there to be two or even three badgers together but they are always moving together in the same direction. In this case they are travelling in opposite directions and you get a nice piece of behaviour where the two individuals, obviously from the same sett, greet each other, check who they are before moving along.


video


Lastly I would like to conclude this post with a poor photo.For several years I have been attempting to photograph Teal on the river. I have great trouble as Teal are very nervous wildfowl and always see me well before I see them and either hide or take flight.

Today I was lucky enough to see three small duck fly down on to the mill pond. I was some distance away and the lighting was terribly dull and so the image below is the best I could get, but it shows a male teal. I have the shot in the bag, now I just need to improve it and get a better clearer one!!


Sunday, 27 November 2016

A marginally better view

Whilst I haven't posted much of late I have still been undertaking my usual round of birdwatching and camera trapping. Nothing terribly exciting has occurred lately although I have got a little footage of a pair of Grey Squirrels tussling and some of a badger foraging.

I have set my newer camera up on the same tree as the main camera and have it pointing down at right angles to the view of the other, this is to look at how many move away from the path and to catch and behaviour.

Obviously, at this time of the year, the entirety of the clips are of Grey Squirrels, although this week I did get a Badgers rear end and a Muntjac. More excitingly is the grainy few of the behind of a bird species I have only ever seen very briefly as I flush it from the undergrowth, a Woodcock. The footage isn't great, it's short and it never turns enough to show its longer beak, there is also over exposure from the IR bulbs, but you can see diagnostic black patches on the rear of the head and neck as well as patternation on the wings.

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To end with we have the squabbling squirrels


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Sunday, 13 November 2016

Why Ecology?

It’s been awhile since I have posted and that is due to how incredibly busy I have become over the last few weeks. I decided last year to top up my skills and take a second Masters course. After some searching, I found an interesting course run by Ulster University in Environmental Management with GIS. This course started in September and coincided with two other short courses I was taking via Coursera – Capstone projects in GIS and Biodiversity (Theories, Measures and Data Sampling measures).

I find all this studying, which some might find laborious endlessly fascinating. In fact, I would say that studying is my second favourite thing after being outside in nature. It got me thinking about why I love the subject of ecology so much.



I have always been interested in natural history from a very early age. My parents would take me and my sister for walks in the country and my Aunt got me into birdwatching. The more I saw the more I wanted to see and the more I wanted to know. The amazing thing about ecology is its complexity. Every piece of behaviour and distribution of a species is a result of hundreds of variables, climate, altitude, shelter, food, and predation and so on.
  
Last week Attenborough’s sequel to Planet Earth started. I have seen thousands of hours of wildlife footage and read reams on animal behaviour and yet every time the BBC finds something new to enthral me. In particular, I became transfixed by the baby Marine Iguanas and the Racing Snakes of the Galapagos. The footage was incredible and the story riveting but as I watched I could feel the ecologist stirring in me, questions began to form. The snakes seemed to by laying traps, was this collaborative behaviour with reasoned thoughts or was their positioning purely luck as a result of failed chases.


Like all of science, ecology offers more questions to every solution and that is perhaps this depth that attracts me.