Sunshine, winter otters and nosey badgers

What a brilliant Sunday. It started cold but sunny, so I made my mind up to go in search of otters on our local river. I’d forgotten that the river would be so swollen (after a whole day of rain yesterday), but luckily I had my welllies and managed to slosh my way through the floods, admiring the redwings that were sunbathing at the tops of the trees.

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It wasn’t long before I bumped into my friend Stuart (doing a bit of otter watching too) so we went off in search together along the river bank. We soon heard the tell-tale high pitched, repeated squeak of an otter cub, and sure enough, on the opposite bank there they were – Mum and youngster.

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It’s always a treat to see them out of the water, and I even managed a tiny bit of video footage in the water, as the cub tried to keep up with Mum, squeaking all the way, then met up and dived together. Sorry… I couldn’t help saying “lovely” at the end 🙂

It was also a bumper day (or night) for badgers. Although badgers don’t hibernate, they do sometimes have nights in the winter when they don’t visit the garden. However, last night wasn’t one of them – far from it! Between 1pm to 5pm they must have been having a blimin party out there as I videoed them on the trail camera no less than twenty-two times. It seems like the youngsters were out in force (maybe sent out by Mum to fill their bellies before the frosts arrived) as these particular badgers were very cheeky and inquisitive – as this footage shows. I’ve never looked up a badgers nostrils before!

They are also incredibly determined and strong. I only ever put a handful of sunflower hearts under some bricks (to encourage them to work a bit for their tiny treat, and to stop the foxes from eating it), but when this badger arrived at 2.42am most of the seeds had already been eaten by his relatives. That didn’t stop him, oh no, not a single stone was left unturned, or unpushed!

Dusk walk – the day after mid-summer’s day

8.30pm. Friday. 2012. Breezy, dry but not warm. There’s a pink haze lying over the valley as I walk down the hill. No sound, just a few birds singing and horses tearing at grass but otherwise silent.

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The growth is so thick I can’t see the badger hole in the bank of Knapweed meadow. Maybe I can put my camera there one night to watch. My hunch is it’s a maternity sett but I can’t be sure.

The stream is running fast after the torrential rain. It’s the highest I’ve seen it at this time of year. No signs of otter spraint on the stone.

The tall hedges are smothered in sweet smelling honeysuckle.

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As I reach Stable oak there’s no sign of the little owls. Maybe they’ve decamped to Adam’s Oak on the hill where there’s more cover and food?

A song thrush is singing from a telephone line near the Mission, while a female gathers worms from a nearby field and swallows dive low over the lane.

Walking back down the lane bats take advantage of the knats. Several fly just over my head. Pipistrelles I think.

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The stream that runs between the fields is overflowing onto the footpath and road. I’ve only seen it do this in the winter. It’s usually a dribble by now.

Reaching Knapweed meadow I spot a roe deer. There are no horses in the field at the moment, so the grass has grown long. Watching her with my binoculars I spot a fawn, then another. Twins… obviously not very old but steady enough on their feet.

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The Mystery of the Badger Sett is Solved

I spent most of Friday trying to find out what was happening about the baited badger sett in my previous post.  I “badgered” the police and the council and I eventually got Natural England involved and sent them one of my photos.

They found out that the bait has been put down by a local Ecological Consultant trying to work out if the artificial sett was being used. The blue pellet that I picked up and crushed must have been a very old “plastic” pellet. They have been baiting the sett for many, many months and the pellets eventually degrade and crumble (which makes sense as you wouldn’t want plastic pellets all over the place).  They are thinking of building another artificial sett on the other side of the road…. as someone is having problems with badgers digging in their garden.

So thank goodness it wasn’t poison. I’m really, really pleased. Apparently the consultant shouldn’t have been using blue pellets (he should have used green or yellow) because blue are so easy to confuse with slug pellets! Apparently I even had the Natural England experts confused and the guy I spoke to said it had been a good learning exercise for all of them. No one had realised that the plastic pellets degrade quite so well! I can relax now.