Wednesday, December 22, 2010

For the past few days I have been in Yorkshire looking at, among other things, waxwings in temperatures as low as minus 13.  However, visiting Scrag today, the thermometer showed me a night time low of minus 9 degrees.  This is seriously low and although daytime temperatures are around 1 or 2 above since yesterday, I think there will still be a heavy toll on small bird populations.  Of course, these populations will recover as is the cycle of natural things, but spare a thought for the tiny birds, not only are they having difficulty finding sufficient food but they are having to cope with these devastating temperatures.  Although it looks beautiful, there are a lot of things dying in Scrag at the moment.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It was the Small Woodland Owners Group (SWOG) meeting on Sunday. It started at Lower Orlton Copse, hosted by the Gatwick Greenspace Project who gave us a walk around their plot before feeding us some lovely locally sourced venison and sausages cooked on an open fire. Thanks guys.
Afterwards, I led a walk around Scrag just pointing out the small things I've done to encourage wildlife or aid watching it.
Overall, it was a great day and good to catch up, and meet for the first time some of my woodland neighbours. Big thanks to Claire at Advent Wood for the Christmas tree; it's in the living room now all decorated.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


The snow still lying on the ground gives a lovely bit of light on the undersides of birds, as I think this image of a male chaffinch shows; almost looks like it was taken in Finland. It was minus 4 degrees as I got in the woodpecker hide this morning but reached a dizzying 1 degree above as I left; I almost felt like shedding my thermals...leaving the other 7 layers on of course! While waiting in vain for a sparrowhawk to perch in front of me, I was joined by 4 or 5 redpolls; 2 perched just 60 or 70 cm away in the blackthorn branches next to the hide. I have never been so close or have ever acknowledged how warm the colour of their plumage looks. It made the last hour very worthwhile. I also checked the remote cameras today; just a few images of a fox, no woodcock which is what I'm hoping for. The cameras are in place again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


At home, I have been 12 inches deep in snow for the past 3 days until it just thawed over night last night. 12 inches just gone in a few hours!
Therefore, today was the first time I could drive anywhere near Scrag. I simply missed the most spectacular scenery and today it actually just seemed a bit dreary with slushy snow and rain.
However, the primary goal today was to feed the birds in time for tomorrow's photography workshop. They really needed doing too, all the feeders were completely empty and the area devoid of birds. Even the robin near the storage shed was absent; whether she survived the last few days I don't yet know, I gave her a bowl of meal worms to stock up on anyway. It will be interesting to see how many are around tomorrow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A couple of interesting records today.
While baiting the feeding areas before a 4-hour hide session, I saw not one but two sparrowhawks, whip round the blackthorn thicket. They were separated by a couple of metres and did not appear to be chasing each other. They then both settled in an ash tree a few metres apart. After a couple of minutes, one took off into the woodland immediately followed by the other. Whether they were hunting together, I cannot say, I have certainly never seen sparrowhawks hunt together. However, they did not appear concerned by the presence of the other. In fact, hunting together could provide an advantage for the following bird who could opportune on the chaos created by the attack of the first bird. Interesting though.
Very strangely, I also heard a curlew calling overhead!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I led a hardy bunch on a Woodpeckers & Nuthatches photography workshop today; the temperature was around minus 3 degrees to start and got up to a balmy 1 degree by early afternoon. There were very good bird numbers at the feeders possibly due to the cold snap we've been having and the fact that we are now pretty much in deep winter, so there is less natural food around. I saw no evidence of the sparrowhawk today but managed to get this shot on Thursday; I spent two 3-hour sessions in the hide waiting and thankfully was well rewarded!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I have been having phenomenal views of a juvenile female sparrowhawk over the past couple of weeks. She often makes her stealth runs through the various baiting areas, scattering birds, as she goes. If her runs are unsuccessful she will often just alight and perch on one of the feeder supports or baiting logs. Yesterday, the alarm calls alerted me to her presence and I watched her jink and glide through 3 separate feeding areas until she just perched in front of me, a mere 3m away! I was not in a hide, I was standing in the open. I remained motionless and managed to watch her for 2 or 3 minutes until she just glided off again.
The image was taken last week by Brian Henham as she did exactly the same thing; he, however, was already in the hide waiting for a woodpecker to appear!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

There was a strong smell of rotting flesh around the main bird hide yesterday and it took me a while of being a little worried to remember that I'd found a stinkhorn fungus there a couple days ago. It really was pungent though!
The goldfinches are once again feeding on the teasel heads right in front of the goldfinch hide; this is a relief as they had abandoned the site for a couple of weeks due to the squirrels repeatedly chewing apart their feeders. As well as goldfinches, the other birds are coming to baiting areas in high concentrations now. The long-tailed tits do not seem bothered by my presence at all; while stocking one baiting log they would come onto the one next to me, just a metre away!
We've had some blustery SW winds, so although the leaf colour is coming to its peak, I don't think it will stay on the trees for long. The wild service tree was looking spectacular as the leaves turned their deep bronze-red, but now they are on the floor.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I have been having some nice close-encounters with sparrowhawks lately. They like to fly at super speed through the feeding areas trying grab what they can and sending the small birds screaming for the dense undergrowth. At home at the weekend, a male whisked past within inches of my face as I was digging out an old shrub; I heard and felt the rush of air! Their speed of operation is several notches above ours. At Scrag, I am actually seeing several individuals and one I saw last week had a slight chestnut tinge to his upper-side indicating a juvenile; he seems to be hunting well and its good to see that young were successfully reared this season. The two bad winters in a row have led to a decrease in small passerine numbers and this will most definitely impact on the population of apex predators that feed on them.
Great spotted woodpeckers were drumming repeatedly today as I was stocking the feeders; there seemed to be a territorial spat between 3 birds chasing each other and giving agitated calls. Great spots are generally solitary birds and can be quite belligerent with each other often chasing from tree to tree.
All niger seed feeders have been destroyed by squirrels again! Grrr! This is a real pain as it means that the goldfinches are not being fed regularly. I have just bought 3 heavy-duty feeders but they have no perches; I have emailed the manufacturers and await their response.
The first Woodland Birds' workshop is tomorrow; I am eager for it to go well.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thrashing wind and driving rain has brought down many branches over the last few days; it's the remnants of a hurricane I believe that has caused all the damage. However, there appears to be no major tree falls; always a problem when there's high wind and the trees are still in full leaf. A more extensive search will probably reveal a few birches reaching senescence on the ground but that's no real problem. Birch is an early coloniser and will regenerate in any clearings. Once they get to 70 or so years old they often just fall over which is good as it lets more light in and adds dead wood to the forest equation.
Despite the terrible weather over the past few days it was lovely today; a slight drizzle first thing gave way to weak sunshine and warm temperatures - a lovely Autumn day!
During the ongoing maintenance, I found a full wasp's nest in the goldfinch hide and sadly it will have to be removed as I can't have photographers sitting next to it. Unfortunately, I react badly to wasp stings so I'm not really looking forward to the process of removal!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I know it has been a long time; I apologise. What with work trips to Brazil and moving house, everything has been moving ahead full steam. The house move also meant that I had no internet connection for weeks which resulted in the obvious inability to update the blog.
Anyway, enough excuses; how is Scrag? Well, if I was to sum it up in one word, autumnal would do it. Although, there is no obvious golden colour yet, there is an abundance of fruit and berries from blackberries to sloes and hawthorns. There is the constant light thud as acorns hit the leaf litter. And the leaf litter is now beginning to form the yellow/brown mosaic as birch and hornbeam leaves, the first to come into leaf in the spring are also the first to turn yellow at the end of summer. The oaks are still, however, in full green leaf.
It's still very dry at throughout the woodland; I can still drive the full length of the track; my mud barometer. The stream is not even flowing, just a few muddy pools here and there. The abundance of fruits and nuts may help the badgers acquire their winter-weight but I am concerned that any cubs from this year will have great trouble getting their weight up as earthworms are still deep due to the dryness. I am thrilled that at my new house we actually have two badgers in the garden every night; a sow and what I presume is her cub from this year. The cub, named Boris (?), is worryingly small, about half the size of mum. Cubs should be much larger at this time of year if they are to survive the lean times of winter, especially if it as brutal as the last.
For me now, it's a time to prepare for the last quarter of the year; a very busy time with many woodland birds' photography workshops to run from October into December. The hides all need to be cleaned out and repaired if necessary. I have now also started to feed the birds again, this will start to get them coming in to the hides again in good numbers well before the first workshop. Anyway, it is a good time of year to work in the woodlands; that early crispness mixed with the damp smell of the leaflitter with the sound of the mewing buzzards overhead.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wild flowers are less obvious at this time of year but evident nonetheless when you look a bit harder; yellow pimpernel, wood avens, sanicle and common figwort are all now flowering. In damp areas of Scrag on of my favourite flowers is also in show; ragged robin. This flower has a torn, delicate beauty and I love finding it. In the week, I also spent some time with my wildflower key and distinguished germander speedwell from wood speedwell, both evident at Scrag. The only apparent difference is the coating of hairs around the stem.
Badgers have been out like clockwork this week and I'm proud to say that I showed 14 people badgers this week that had never seen badgers before. They have been putting on a great show with some really close views before dispersing. A couple of days ago I found a rabbit stop dug out; the occupants obviously eaten. Sorry, but badgers do this!
The tawny owls have definitely fledged 2 young in total; I have not heard a third. Their white, powdery droppings are scattered all over the undergrowth within a few hundred square metres of the nest site; they are not up to travelling far yet and just tend to squeak pathetically from branch to branch.
We should get the first purple emperor in the next week or so!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

I led a private badger watch last night and was pleased to have 3 relaxed badgers out from 8.20pm for a good 40 minutes. I say 'relaxed' because sometimes they have appeared nervous and very jumpy even for badgers. I did notice that Vincent the one-eared dominant boar wasn't present and had to ask myself, is there a link? Does Vincent make the other badgers nervous?
I was also pleased to hear a second fledged tawny owl squawking both at dusk last night and at dawn this morning!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The woodland is now in a period of transition; the soft greens of spring are now hardening into darker shades as the summer progresses. It is a slightly bitter-sweet time for me as the colours of spring are so spectacular and eagerly awaited that they seem to fade just a little too rapidly. these colours were captured fantastically last week when Scrag was featured on BBC's The One Show; it was a 4 minute slot that focussed on bluebells and woodpeckers as well as ancient woodlands in general. It was certainly a fantastic advert for Scrag and hopefully more interest and workshop bookings will result.
Many of the breeding birds' young are now fledging; yesterday I saw a trail of 5 or 6 young wrens, just whirring balls of feathers, desperately trying to keep up with their parents through the undergrowth. Many great tits have fledged and blue tits seem imminently about to depart but still squeaking manically as the parents continue to ferry food to them. It is about now that the sparrowhawk's eggs will hatch so that the adults can make the most of the fresh, easy meat available!
As I've left the badger watches this week, it has been a joy and a relief to hear the squawking of the newly fledged tawny owl chick; I even managed to get it illuminated under the red light. I'm not sure if there is just one or more young owls but it does mean that the pair have successfully reared a brood which means that they should remain loyal to the breeding site.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Again, my apologies for the long delay; I have been working solidly for the last 3 weeks, sometimes doing 5am to midnight days.
We are in the height of the badger watching season at the moment and they are proving reliable if a little later than in previous years; last night the wind was behind the group and I did something I rarely attempt by moving the whole group mid-watch. It worked. Within 15 minutes 2 stripy-headed mammals were out foraging and scratching.
Sadly, with badgers in mind it is worth commenting that a sett close to Rusper has been persecuted with 8 snares found and one area of the sett dug out!
On a brighter note, I sat in the tawny owl hide on Saturday evening and was thrilled to witness the female owl bring food in to the now squeaking owlets. As I've already reported, I knew that a pair were nesting in one of the boxes but to see feeding behaviour, and indeed hear their contact calls, is fantastic. Owl calls at close proximity have a resonance that travels through you.
2 weeks ago I had a film crew down from Icon films to film me teaching photography among the bluebells; this is to be aired on the BBC's 'One Show' on the 26th May (I hope). It was a long day with bluebells at their peak and woodpeckers coming down on-cue for the cameras some 13 or so times in an hour. Hopefully, it will look good on prime-time television. I shall issue a blog entry with a confirmation of the date.
The Scrag Copse residential weekend was a great success despite the drizzly weather; the group were stoic to the end and thankfully managed to get some great images. The woodpeckers, I have come to realise, are a life saver when bad weather comes in to play; they are so reliable, especially at this time of year.
One female great-spotted woodpecker, however, has decided to try and tear open nest box 6! This is a large box is occupied by nuthatches who have caked up the entrance hole with mud from the stream. The poor nuthatches just look on in confusion as the woodpecker hammers away at the side of the box; against some of my principles, I have scared off the woodpecker (they are not short of food at Scrag), but she keeps on returning; I think the result is a foregone conclusion; once a woodpecker knows where a food source is, they will just keep on returning.
Apart from all that the breeding season is forging ahead with virtually every nest-box occupied. Let's just hope for nothing dramatic in the weather!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It was a stunning day at Scrag yesterday; up to 18 degrees. There was also no aircraft noise due to the closure of Gatwick; I fully sympathise with anyone stranded or with ruined holiday plans but it is lovely to hear the migrant birds singing undisturbed. There is now willow warbler, another sub-Saharan migrant, joining the chiff chaffs and black caps singing from the scrubby edges. Top bird yesterday, though, would have to be the song thrush that sang solidly all afternoon; I cannot, however, find the nest site. Although you may see them regularly in gardens, at Scrag they are an ever present but elusive species!
As well as more slow worms under the refuges, I found the first grass-snake of the year; a young one from last year. Over the weekend I found several adders, not, I'm afraid at Scrag but at Ebernoe Common; I even found a freshly sloughed skin.
Last night, I carried out a solo badger shoot. It was a waste of time; I was a little too complacent and think I was too close to an entrance. Despite the wind in my face, I feel my scent was travelling down into the sett and as a result I got a brief view of a head nervously scenting the air before retreating back under ground. Must try harder!
Scrag is beautiful at any time of year but we really are entering 'special time' now!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Clear but with a bitterly cold east wind. Lots of spring flowers out including some early bluebells. Blackcaps and chiff chaffs singing along with song thrushes and robins. Several parties of swallows overhead through the afternoon yesterday.
The 2nd Sussex Wildlife Trust badger watch of the year yesterday evening. After a 30 minute wait, Vincent, the dominant boar with 1 ear was out and scratching away. Over the next hour and a half we had up to 5 adult badgers back and forth around the sett. There was also, and this is the second time in a week, a fox that I actually suspect of denning in a quiet part of the sett. The group I took in were lucky enough to have views of fox and badger together, not common at Scrag. Indeed, this is the most fox presence I've witnessed at Scrag in 3 years; is this perhaps because I prevented the Hunt's activity twice over the winter?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rain all week so far and since yesterday bitterly cold winds again.
No sign of any owls; I'm sure the females will be sitting tight on the eggs anyway.
On Monday, however, I did see the first 2 swallows over Scrag; more migrants from Africa! I also saw a peacock butterfly (in the warmer moments of the week); this would have just been roused from its hibernation, amazing to have survived the winter conditions though.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Its been a much warmer if wetter week and as well as the slow-worms there are also several chiff chaffs singing around the scrubby edges of Scrag. They are one of the first of the spring migrants to arrive from Africa and I think I commented last year how good it is to think that these birds and their repeated off-spring, generation after generation, make such an epic journey to breed...at Scrag Copse!
As if in contrast, there were also many redwings and fieldfare calling as they worked their way through the canopy; these are some of the Scandinavian birds that winter here. So, we have birds arriving from Africa crossing over with birds preparing to set off for Scandinavia; as a beautiful corner of Sussex, Scrag truly is a cosmopolitan wood!
I have still been seeing woodcock sporadically; they are such secretive birds relying on their amazingly effective cryptic camouflage, normally the only view you get is a rear-end view as it zig-zags off through the trees. I have only ever seen one on the ground feeding undisturbed. I have also noticed that the other birds call in alarm as the woodcock takes to the wing; with its colouring and bulk, do they think its an owl?
Talking of owls, the female tawny is regularly at the entrance hole to the box; I'm sure the eggs are now laid!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Today, with temperatures up to 12C and the lowest night time temperatures of around +6C since Thursday, I felt it was a good day to try for reptiles. The tins or refuges were warm to the touch and lo and behold we found 2 slow worms. The excellent image on the left was taken by Rob Baldwin, who was down for the day to photograph the woodpeckers. Sadly, the woodpeckers were not kind to him but luckily the reptiles were!
There were also several bumblebees on the wing and I caught a glimpse of a woodcock.
All in all a gorgeous spring day!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The tawny owl female was as the entrance to one of the owl boxes today. I am assuming its the female as it is normally the females that sit tight to the nest site at this time of year having laid eggs within the past couple of weeks. Today she watched me as I walked quietly down the track; I stopped to view her through binoculars but left quickly to avoid any disturbance. I'm very pleased about this.
The volume of bird song seems to have increased dramatically this week with more and more species joining in. Blackbird was very evident but no song thrush; they are elusive at Scrag!
Repeated drumming from great spotted woodpeckers and at one time I had 4 individuals down in front of one of the hides.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wow, it has nearly got to 15C at Scrag a few times this week! That combined with a few frost-free nights may mean we'll see some reptiles. I have had quick searches for adders (which I've never recorded at Scrag) but to no avail. Admittedly, the tins are still quite cold and need lengthy spells of sun to warm them up.
I haven't seen the tawny owls over the last few days; I am hoping that they have now laid and are sitting tight on eggs, which is why I can't see them. I am just going to give them their space; with young birds they'll be much more loyal to their nest-sites and less prone to disturbance.
It's also about now that I get the 1st chiff chaff, the first spring migrant to normally arrive.
So, in all its actually about not seeing things at the moment; it can't be long though!!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

A few days ago I came across some brutal behaviour while walking through Ashstead Common in Surrey. It was a commotion mainly created by carrion crows and magpies that caught my attention and although these birds are often noisy, it was something urgent about their calls that got my interest and soon jays and other birds were alarming too. I often find that this behaviour is often brought on by the discovery of an owl.
However, surveying the scene from a distance I could make nothing out other than the epicentre of the disturbance so I slowly approached; a lot of the crows by this stage were on the ground and fighting amongst themselves. They scattered as I got closer and it was a sad sight that lay on the ground; a tawny owl, dead, one eye missing, apparently mobbed to death. I couldn't help but find it sad that such a beautiful and specially adapted bird had met its end in this way, though why a predator elicits more emotion from us than if it had been one of the magpies dead is strange. It did give me the chance to examine the bird; it was incredibly light but it was the structure of the feet that impressed me most; 4 needle sharp talons 8mm long on each foot; a vole doesn't stand a chance!
On a much more positive note and as if in balance to the previous paragraphs, two of the tawny owl nestboxes at Scrag Copse are now occupied by tawny owls. This is fantastic news and I am over the moon about it. This is the first year this has happened although I suspect one of them may have been used last year but unsuccessfully. This year, it appears that there is a female in each box; one of them is now regularly sitting at the entrance and watches me with her near-closed eyes which helps maintain her cryptic camouflage. It is a great feeling that the boxes made by my father and installed by us both with great frustration and effort are now being used by the species intended (it has been jackdaws that have used them up to now).
They will, hopefully, remain and lay eggs in the next couple of weeks; the males will be hidden close by and although I have scanned and searched for them, I have not located them. Anyway, it is great news indeed and my intention is to steer clear at least until the eggs are laid in order to avoid disturbance.
The owls, especially the males, are very vocal as soon as I get into position for a badger watch. I have carried out a couple in the last month or so. The first was very cold and dark on the night of a new moon and resulted in fairly minimal badger views. It did, however, show me interesting behaviour of a single male that was just walking from one entrance hole to another and repeatedly making a grunting sound. This is a sort of rutting behaviour and he is trying to lure out the female(s) who will have just come into oestrous having just given birth. Although this was not the most eventful, or comfortable, watch I have done, it has added a piece of the jigsaw regarding their behaviour to my knowledge.
A badger watch with Mark Elliott on Tuesday night, however, was a much more active event with 5 adults including Vincent, the dominant boar (he only has one ear), who was out first and scratching well before using the latrine and then off across the field, possibly to secure his boundaries. The following 4 adults gave us a display of digging, bedding collection and mutual grooming before the wind changed direction and we had to leave. All in all though it was a great watch and seems to be marking a general increase in activity across Scrag as the Spring progresses at long last!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Again, it was bitterly cold with a strong NE wind and a number of snow flurries today. However, the birds need feeding even more in this weather, so I dropped in for a short while.
I did manage to repair the roof on one of the bird hides; its been leaking right above the nets that hang around the viewing hatches. Its a job I've been meaning to do for a few weeks now but the weather combined with not running many workshops at Scrag over the past few weeks has meant that there is always something else to do. Anyway, its done now.
Interestingly, there's been a couple of roe deer along the stream every time I've visited over the last week and an animal that surprised me, a mink! This may cause problems at the kennels as they also have chickens; a mink will often take chickens and is even more sneaky than a fox, though the fox normally gets the blame.
I also saw my first woodcock of the winter. Last year, in the winter, I would regularly see woodcock, well, a rear-end view at least as I put them up from the leaf litter. I have only very rarely watched these birds undisturbed; the normal sighting is when they make me jump out of my skin taking off right from under my feet. I think the woodcock I see at Scrag are mainly continental birds over-wintering here. I think it would be a difficult job for a ground-nester to raise a clutch in such badger-rich woodland and I never seem to find them in the summer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Apologies for the break in posts but I have been leading a tour in the Masai Mara, Kenya and only got back a few days ago. It was a fabulous trip with 70 lions, 9 cheetah, 2 leopard and 1 caracal! I was also fascinated by the hyenas and their similarity in social structure to badgers.
Anyway, it was lovely to get back to Scrag (yes, I do miss Scrag even when I'm working in other magnificent areas of the world!) last Friday. It was even Spring-like with primrose leaves looking new and fresh and even bluebells (leaves, not flowers) now piercing through the leaf-litter and the hazel catkins have changed their appearance and look ready for action. There was bird song all around from robins and an early song thrush as well as drumming from great spotted woodpecker; this drumming is a territorial call not the excavation of a nest hole. The sky was clear and the temperature was over 11 degrees; I even checked under the tins for an early adder as buzzards 'mewed' overhead. Yes, being six weeks after the winter solstice, it is definitely spring and the signs were all around me!
Today, however, it was bitterly cold with a driving east wind and it was...snowing!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I always seem to start a post with a brief synopsis of the weather; well, I think this one deserves to start with a brief mention; its been brutal! Temperatures across the UK have been in the eye watering minus 20's, though at Scrag the lowest I have recorded is minus 7.6C.
Although very beautiful, this weather has a potentially serious effect on the wildlife. Weak animals may die through starvation; birds cannot find food because the ground is covered and this will effect species from thrushes to tawny owls. Robins, often claimed to be 'tame' by gardeners are merely following us around in the hope that we'll disturb some invertebrates from the leaf litter in the same way they have followed wild boar in pre-history. During times of snow-covered ground they adopt this behaviour all the more, taking the opportunity to grab something from any footsteps that expose the ground and any tasty insect morsels. However, because I have been feeding the robins regularly on mealworms for several months, they associate me with the presence of food and fly up to me as soon as I arrive; I have to tread carefully as one even sits on the toecaps of my wellies! I must admit though, its lovely to have them around as they are so endearing, especially one who is now happy to sit on my feet or hands waiting for some food. He, or maybe she, even darts into the storage shed as soon as I open it and always seems to find a big spider within a couple of seconds; you have to marvel at their eyesight to be able to enter a very dark shed, see prey and grab it. You also have to appreciate their opportunism.
Spare a thought for other species too; all over the woodland, butterflies, like all insect species, have to survive the winter freeze in one form or another, either as egg, larva, pupa or even adult insect. So, somewhere in Scrag, near the bud tips of willows there are purple emperor caterpillars toughing it out so the regal, stunning adults can grace the canopy in late June/early July. Right now, however, that time of year feels very distant.
If the dominant sow badger was fertilised at any stage in 2009, her eggs, which go into diapause, will now, hopefully, have implanted and started to develop for a birth time of around February; the dry Autumn and cold, frozen winter may affect this though; no cubs were born in 2009.
Anyway, Scrag Copse has existed for at least 500 years or so and I'm sure it has endured tougher and colder in its history and the diverse woodland wildlife will endure.