Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I have been absent from Scrag for the last 3 weeks, mainly because the van was written-off, so I have had no transport.  It always feels strange walking in after a break as if things have moved on a little without me, which I'm sure they have and do so anyway, whether I am there or not. 
It was very quiet; the birdsong is all but silent apart from the occasional wren starting up from the depths of some bramble.  Otherwise there were no song birds at all.  There was, however, the mewing of buzzards overhead as well as some spectacular views as they circled just above gaps in the canopy; sometimes the light just catches them and instead of a dark silhouette of a raptor, you get the deep russet across the wings.
There was also the repeated squeaking of sparrowhawk young, apparently still in the nest; they must be ready to fledge soon.
The bracken area is impassable as usual at this time of year and I had difficulty getting anywhere near any blackthorn in sunlight so I could search for brown hairstreak butterflies.  I have never seen these at Scrag but know they are in adjoining areas so I'm keen to get a record.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Yesterday evening was the final Sussex Wildlife Trust badger watch of the season.  My 2011 100% success rate was maintained with up to 5 badgers out for well over an hour.  They gave a lovely show too; mutual grooming, play-fighting, collecting bedding; it was one of the smoothest and most relaxed I have done.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Emperor Strikes Back!

Two purple emperors came down yesterday to the baiting areas for the Purple Emperors & Woodland Butterflies photographic workshop; a great success and just overwhelming for me to see these magnificent and elusive insects again.
There were also silver-washed fritillaries galore, the woodland glades resembling a scene from the tropics!
The Badger Biology course I ran for Sussex Wildlife Trust yesterday ended in a badger watch with badgers for 2 hours 45 minutes; I think the longest yet and still maintaining a 100% success rate this year.
10 glow-worms on the way out too!

Friday, July 1, 2011

I know its been a long time but it has certainly been the usual busy season at this time of year.  The past month has consisted of badger watching several times each week which has been hugely successful; there are now only 2 Sussex Wildlife Trust watches to go and the pressure is on to maintain the 100% record so far this year!
The cub is now looking quite robust, especially as he is now weaned and feeding quite well for himself, especially now the wood is wetter after all the rain; I think this individual will do well.  He is now pretty much the same dimensions as the adults, but his behaviour is still very cub-like as bounces around the set, with his tail sticking up like a loo-brush.
I also set up a project on a treecreeper nest site which was lovely despite the birds being tricky to capture on camera; they would often land and then be in their nest within a nano-second.  At one stage I had 6 tripods occupied with some piece of kit or other trying to trigger infra-red beams or flash units to get some kind of natural looking shot.  It was good experience, however, and a pure pleasure just being in the hide for hours on end.  The birds fledged last week, leaving just one dead chick behind, which was being crawled over by beetles the last time I checked; all part of the cycle.
It is now woodland butterfly season and I am trying to spot purple emperors again; it's the usual story, laying out stinky stuff and getting a crick in the neck staring up at the canopy, hoping to get a view of their magnificent flight, but especially hopeful that they come down onto the stinking bait.  My first white admiral this year was on the 9th of June, which is the earliest one I have ever seen; due to the weather, probably, I not seen many since!
Finally, it has been nice to see on the way out of the badger watches, up to 3 glow-worms next to the track.  This is about the most I've seen here, so possibly they are increasing, although I am aware that their population can vary from year to year.  A good sign though.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I took this image of one of the badgers a couple of nights ago.  I was surprised as the first badger came out at 6.40pm and I was totally unprepared; they occasionally do this at this time of year.  However, I managed to get all the flashes mounted and turned on without causing any disturbance.  It still took a further 2 hours for her to move into the correct spot to get the shot!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I have spent a couple of afternoons in the fox hide waiting for Mr Fox over the last week; annoyingly, after some very regular and bold appearances, he now seems to have become more shy.  Luckily, there is a great tit nest in the base of an old hornbeam just a metre or so from where I am sitting. So, to pass the time, I have been recording the time interval between visits from each of the adult birds. I am waiting to amass more times to get a more accurate amperage but one thing I have noticed is that when there is a long time gap of 5 minutes or so between a visit, the second bird comes in within a couple of seconds of the first, suggesting, maybe, that the pair of birds forage together, at least when they travel further afield.  This may confer an advantage, as far as predator detection is concerned, with two pairs of eyes rather than just one.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sadly, the woodpecker nest hole I have been keeping under observation for the past few weeks has met with disastrous results - the tree fell down!  That'll teach the pair who chose the easy option of chiselling out a rotten birch as they often do.  Woodpecker, however, excavate several alternative holes, so they have, hopefully occupied another site.
I built a makeshift hide to photograph the fox on Tuesday, however, clever Mr Fox circled around the back and rumbled me; I did say the hide was makeshift!  I have now erected a better, well camouflaged and light-tight hide which may prove better.
Two foxes came in to the badger watch last night but were quickly chased off by the badgers.  In all, there were possibly 4 adult badgers plus the cub.  There was a good display of behaviour including bedding collection, mating and play.