Monday, June 2, 2008

A spectacular weekend camping at Scrag. The weather perhaps wasn't ideal in the forecast but, so what, once you're under the canopy it makes little difference unless it's pouring down. During the weekend I was thrilled to see the male barn owl out hunting in the early evening around 18.30 or so. The wet and windy weather over the last few days has meant that he probably needed to get out as early as possible. In honesty, I have grown increasingly concerned recently that the box had been deserted as I had not seen either male or female and there appeared to be no tell-tale signs around the box itself. Admittedly, I have been a little preoccupied with badgers of late and have maybe not given the owls the attention they deserve but that may have worked favourably giving them some time free of disturbance in their crucial first breeding season. So, it was a great relief to see the owl quartering the long grass and regularly diving down to catch prey and as it grew darker screeching the eerie call that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. On Sunday morning I got up at 4.20am to check out the owl activity and got another 3 reasonable views as the owl carried prey back to the nest box. I don't know what breeding stage they are at now; I'm hoping that the female is either still sitting on eggs or they now have young. The amount of food going back does not appear that great, so I suspect the former. I would be happy with either just so long as they are breeding!
I had reasonably successful badger watching night on Saturday night. The dominant sow came out feeding and then 2 cubs. The wind, however, was very changeable and they kept catching whiffs of scent. I don't risk disturbing them unnecessarily, so we pulled out and left them to feed in peace. Annoyingly, on the path to the badger area, a branch has been neatly sawn and removed. This branch was blocking the path but acted as a deterrent to trespassers to this very sensitive area. The question is who did it? There is no public access to the area and it means that someone is probably regularly visiting this area which certainly is not to the benefit of the badgers or to any projects I have with them. Grrrrr!

I am indebted to my old school friend Jason and his girlfriend Terri who really attacked the bracken in New Meadow yesterday, we covered a huge area and have hopefully dealt with it for another year. This will guarantee more and more grasses and wild flowers in this area next spring and summer. This is the second season of bashing and apparently it will only be one more to effectively control it. As an incentive, a large skipper butterfly settled on a leaf in front of us as we worked. The little vibrant flash of orange reinforced what we were doing and spurred me on, certainly for another hour or so!


Claire said...

Well done Jason and Terri on the bracken bashing... I could tell that you were enjoying it though! Told you it turns into an OCD!!!

Ali said...

Camping... nice one!

Funnily enough I thought of Scrag and it's bracken yesterday while walking on Ashdown Forest. I'd suddenly realised how quickly it had shot up over the last week and wondered if you'd been 'bashing'. It certainly sounds if it was a productive weekend.

I hope you solve the mystery of the branch removal. It must be a concern to think that someone could be using the area and potentially causing a disturbance.