Sunday, 10 January 2016

New Year, Same Patch, more badgers

Due to some illness and bad weather today was the first day I was able to get down to my patch and do the first proper survey of the new year. Thankfully it was sunny and although there has been a lot of rain in the week the fields weren't too flooded.

The fieldfare and redwings have arrived in greater number perhaps heralding colder weather approaching. Overall I recorded 22 species of bird and a grey squirrel. This is more than the same time last year when I only recorded 16 species.

There were small flocks of both Chaffinch and Pied Wagtail which are usually on seen in small numbers intermittently. Two kestrels were about and one remained to hunt across the meadow as I made my circuit.

Last blog post I showed some graphs from the Bird Journal and here are some more, ones that I have produced in excel. These two graphs explore the relationship of mean monthly temperature with the number of species and individuals.

This first graph reinforces something that is apparent in the raw species data. The number of species is temperature independent. This makes sense as although several species migrate as a result of temperature (season) this exchange of species seems to be equal between summer and winter visitors so much so that the number of species on the site hardly fluctuates.

The second graph like the first reinforces observations. The graph shows that there are fewer total numbers of bird when it is warm and more when it is cooler. This can be explained by the dynamics of bird behaviour, When it is warm, this is usually in the summer or late spring when birds are breeding, many species are territorial and so species number becomes a function of space and territory size. In the winter when colder temperatures are recorded several of the resident species and most of the winter visitors all form flocks of large numbers (Gulls, Thrushes and Finches.)

Lastly I had two weeks of camera data to plough through. One particular clip stood out. This was on the 7th January. The clip showed 3 badgers in the one 30 seconds. This is very rare, all previous sightings except for ones with cubs are solitary individuals. In this case there is some interesting interactions between the individuals.

Last year I hypothesized that a spike in badger activity and behaviour was linked to the excitement of cubs being born in the sett. Could this be similar evidence? There is nothing to support this or refute it. Early January is early for cub birth but as we all know it has been exceptionally mild. What is more likely however is the high water and flooded field. The flood waters aren't very high this month despite the rain, the level this morning was just 5 cm above ground level however this maybe enough to alter foraging patterns. 

I believe that the track on which the camera is situated is used by dominant boars and adults to reach the edge of the territory to mark. The rest of the meadow and woodland are riddled with badger paths but with this area under water, individuals that would usually forage along these tracks have been forced on to the track being monitored. Either way its nice to see the interaction of the three badgers.