Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Of Badgers, Foxes and Woodpeckers

I spent a pleasant evening this week badger watching.  I can usually predict the times of emergence having been watching them now for a number of years so this means I can do a spot of deer 'stalking' with camera before settling into place to watch the badgers with just a little time to spare.

Roe buck

The first badger emerged just ten minutes after I had settled down and almost immediately disappeared up and over an embankment only to return dragging some fresh bedding back to the sett.  This was repeated four times until a second badger emerged and together they began a spot of social grooming.  A little while later the first cub appeared and this was soon joined by another and a playful bout of rough and tumble followed.  Two other cubs were to join in the games and it was hard to keep track of each of them as they chased, pounced and nipped each other.

Mother badger (facing) with four cubs
Mid week I checked one of the dens where foxes usually rear their cubs.  An earlier check had revealed trampled vegetation around the entrance holes so I was sure cubs were present.  I was lucky on this occasion to spot two cubs as they briefly appeared at one of the holes so I decided to set up a remote camera to record any activity.  Footage revealed five cubs to be present which were, like the badger cubs, at a very playful age with bouts of pouncing, tumbling and fighting.  Sadly two of the cubs were later found dead outside the main entrance hole with no obvious marks to suggest the cause of death.

The great tits at the stables have now hatched their eggs and are busy feeding the six hungry chicks with good views of them transmitted via the installed camera.  A group of visitors had a shock while watching the live footage when wood chips began showering down onto the nest and young.  A little while later a woodpecker's head appeared inside the box and snatched one of the young chicks from the nest.

Great spotted woodpecker
Woodpeckers can be voracious predators of both eggs and young birds and no doubt this one wood have returned to take the rest of the brood so we covered the nest-box with a cage of wire netting.  The netting was of a size that prevented the woodpecker from gaining entry to the box but the parent birds were able to slip through the mesh and so still feed their young,  It has certainly been an eventful week.

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