Friday, May 30, 2008

Despite the wet weather, another badger watch for a Sussex Wildlife Trust group was very productive. Initially, there were no badgers appearing and as usual I feared the worse. However, at 20.11hrs the dominant sow appeared on her own and proceeded to slowly and methodically eat the nuts and peanut butter I left for them. After a few minutes all 4 cubs appeared pushing each other out of the way to emerge. There appears to be quite a lot of difference in the cubs size from the biggest nearly at the size of a yearling to the smallest being very obviously a small cub even in its habits. At one stage there were probably 6-7 badgers out feeding for nearly an hour before they all departed presumably for the fields to get some good worms inside them.
One amusing observation was to see what I assume was a yearling start digging vigorously on top of the sett and within a minute or so fall head first down the hole just dug. It appears that he'd dug straight down into one of the chambers of the sett. All that was left visible were his hind legs as he hung in a limbo for a few seconds. They are very, very endearing creatures, but a bit stupid!

Another neighbouring wood for sale!

Another woodland close to Scrag Copse is now for sale. This is a reluctant sale on behalf of the owner, my friend Molly, but she is very keen that the woodland goes to a very sympathetic (to woodlands and wildlife) buyer. In her own words 'one part is full of bluebells, with oak, hornbeam, ash, birch, field maple, hazel, holly and one Wild Service tree. I have planted three more Wild Service and they are doing quite well. The other part I call the 'wild wood'; ash, oak round the boundary, birch, field maple, goat willow, masses of ferns and bluebells round the edge. It is full of birds and the deer tend to congregate there...'
This wood occupies the corner of Prestwood Lane and The Mount and really is a lovely 11 acres - price around £49,000. Yesterday, as I passed by Molly's wood on the road two fox cubs poked their heads out and let me photograph them. They were so stupid that I had to stop the traffic to prevent them getting run over!
If you are interested in this area of woodland please email me directly at and I can put you in touch with the seller.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rain, rain, rain!!

Oh well, it didn't seem to stop raining all day in the wood but work needed to be done. I cleared up all the debris around the badger area as there is another group coming tomorrow evening for Sussex Wildlife Trust and also added a couple of safety rails on the platform.
The rain has thankfully filled the stream and ponds and has soaked the ground which is great news for the badgers as it means that the earthworms will come to the surface. With 4 cubs just weaned readily available food is important and indeed dry periods can kill badgers.
I have also checked the nestboxes for breeding birds. It appears that 7 out of 9 of the regular boxes are occupied mainly with great tits, but also one box with blue tits and the open box with a blackbird pair who have already fledged their brood. Interestingly, 2 out of 3 tawny owl boxes are occupied with jackdaws with very noisy young.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Badger Viewing Improved

The badger viewing platform, which I may have kept quiet until now is up and in use. The platform is designed to hold up to 8, humans that is, and means easy comfortable viewing around 2.5 metres above the ground. This results in less risk of disturbance to the badgers. The construction of the platform has been carried out very, very slowly and away from the badger area wherever possible. I have not risked any disturbance at all and have masked any of my activity by laying out reasonable quantities of nuts in any of the trodden areas. I also feel that this has helped familiarise the badgers to my scent to some degree which may help my activities in the future.
I carried out a badger watch last night and had all 4 cubs out from 19.31hrs, which is the earliest I've recorded. Over the next hour out came the dominant sow and boar who promptly sat on one of the cubs, which is amusing but in reality is just a means of establishing dominance via scent. Being above the area on the platform also meant I could observe a very clean looking adult come in from an outlier sett and enter one of the sett holes. His behaviour was very shy but determined, if that is possible. This animal was probably an adult that has been pushed out by the main boar and sow but still attached to the clan and still interacts with the adults at the main sett.
If you are interested in viewing the badgers at Scrag either privately or as part of a Sussex Wildlife Trust group, now is the time to do it; the badgers are coming out in good light and the viewing platform makes it easy to watch them with no risk of disturbance to the badgers. Please go via the website to organise.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Neighbouring Wood for Sale

If you like the blog and would like your own area to manage then Great Brandy Wood, nearly 7 acres and just to the north of Scrag Copse is for sale (£35,000). Please go to to see the details. It is a beautiful area of woodland and has a lovely shallow valley running through it and down to Scrag. It would be nice for me to have a good neighbour too!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

There has been a definite change to the woodland this week. The bluebell's once green photosynthesising leaves are now yellow and sad looking. But, other flowers are at their peak especially bugle, yellow archangel and garlic mustard on which I found several orange tip butterfly eggs which are conveniently orange and easy to find once you know where to look.
While bashing the evil spawn of bracken sprouting up I very nearly accidentally walloped a mistle thrush fledgling sitting tight on the ground. I grabbed the camera and lay down next to him and grabbed a few shots while the adults called angrily from the trees.
I've observed adult mistle thrushes respond to the alarm calls of the other birds when a raptor such as a sparrowhawk streaks through the wood, it would appear long before the thrushes could possibly see the hawk themselves. They loudly scramble like spitfires and chase off the intruder who could easily pick off their helpless fledglings. I know I've mentioned this before but just investigating the alarm calls of woodland birds can alert you to many events going on such as the presence of tawny owls or sparrowhawks and is always worth using this early warning system to look out for somewhat elusive predators or witness some interesting behaviour.
I did two badger watches this week for Sussex Wildlife Trust each with 6 people. The first night had a lovely cub coming right up to us and snuffling around just 1m away from the feet of the viewers before he got a view of some loud trainers and bristled up and ran back to the sett. On the second night we had all 4 cubs and the dominant sow on full show for a whole hour!
Although the weather this past week has been fantastic I am glad that we've had a drop of rain over the past 2 or 3 days, I could really do with a strong downpour just to fill the ponds and streams up. Oh well, the things you wish for when you have a woodland to care for!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I know it's been a while but it really is such a busy time at Scrag at the moment. Sadly, the bluebells are finished for another year, all the same, the tracks and rides are looking great at the moment with lots of thick green vegetation along the sides; garlic mustard, nettles, common dog's violet - all great larval foodplants for woodland butterflies. This spell of superb weather has brought out a lot of the butterflies which I think were badly hit with the cold, wet March and April. So, now there are plenty of orange-tips and one of my favourites the speckled wood, which are territorial, spiralling up in the woodland glades. There are also, large whites, green-veined whites and commas and it's making me excited about seeing the white admirals and silver-washed fritillaries but that will be another month or so.
The badger cubs are proving great entertainment and one even rummaged around in the bluebells just 5m from a group I was leading for Sussex Wildlife Trust. This was the 1st watch I had done for them, so I was pleased it went well. I am very slowly and quietly constructing the viewing platform over-looking the sett. This should make viewing less obtrusive and more comfortable for future groups.
The woodland birds are very active searching out the live prey they need for their young. Many are still sitting on eggs but the blackbird's have hatched young already. It is interesting to note that there are virtually no birds coming to the nut or seed feeders at the moment; they obviously seem to switch to the correct food source when required.
It is easy to spend days at Scrag at the moment and at this time of year it is very difficult to leave, I even had a 'solar' shower the other day which means I can spend even more time there with all mod-cons!!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fantastic night!

Last night I badger watched on my own. Arriving a little later than I would have liked at 8.15pm and making myself comfortable in the badger watching chair, I was rewarded just 7 minutes later with the first adult male badger emerging from the sett while it was still daylight! Within a few minutes, several more adults emerged and then as dusk took over the four cubs bounced along. I actually lost count of the total as there were badgers going in and out of holes all over the sett but I estimate a good 9 or 10 animals including the cubs! Interestingly, a fox also came in to feed off the sett probably picking up some of the dog biscuits I have left for the badgers. While in my elevated position I also had at least 2 bat species repeatedly flying around me. The screeching song of the barn owl from the fields and a calling male tawny just completed an amazing nocturnal experience.