Tag Archives: Badger

The Night I Didn’t Get Ate By Zombies

Ha! We seem to have fungi coming out of our ears.

This is a story for those doubters who question the idea that I may have a Gorilla up my back passage, or an Emu for that matter, we will have to wait for the results of that one. So this is a story that is a bit more realistic.

This all didn’t happen about eight or nine years ago when I was camping out in woodland in East Sussex. I owned a little bit of land there and I had a regular camp where I would stay most weekends.

It was just a platform in a Sweet chestnut Tree.

Base CampThis picture was taken in winter, most of the time I didn’t have the basha up, I liked to sleep under the stars.

The animals made this place special for me. I had been feeding them here for years and my camp was always full of life. The Squirrels were the cheekiest.

Grey SquirrelOn this particular day I had seen something out on the track that I wanted. (The first of our mushrooms)

ParasolThis is a mushroom called a Parasol and it is good to eat.

If you are lucky enough to live in the UK then this is a good one for foragers. There are no  poisonous mushrooms that look like this. The only possible exception is the Shaggy Parasol which many people cite as edible but is known to cause gastrointestinal problems in some individuals.

This information definitely does not apply to North America where there is a very poisonous look alike called the False Parasol that is the largest cause of mushroom poisoning there. They don’t occur in the UK.

The Parasol, Macrolepiota procera has dark fixed scales on a creamy background.

ParasolI am not saying go out and eat a spotty mushroom, it must have at least a passing resemblance to the one I am showing you.

Amanitas have spotted caps and some of them are very poisonous but they usually have light coloured spots on a dark background. Stay away from white ones.

Fly Agaric

Grey Spotted AmanitaAmanitas also have floppy fixed rings and sit in a cup although that isn’t always obvious.

As soon as the cap opens you can see that a parasol has a ring, it is loose and you can move it up and down the stem.

ParasolIt also has a lovely snakeskin pattern on the stem. If you want to avoid the Shaggy Parasol then look for that pattern. The Shaggy Parasol doesn’t have it.

ParasolSo here is the mushroom that has caught my eye today.

ParasolIn the US the advice is not to eat young caps like this because at this stage it is easy to confuse them with the poisonous False Parasol. In the UK they are best like this.

This one has a lovely pattern on the stem and I know that it is safe to eat.

ParasolOkay regular foragers will probably hate me for what I am going to do next. The Parasol has a very good flavour and it is best served on it’s own or with mild flavours so that you can appreciate the mushroom to the full.

However earlier in the day I had foraged myself a nice venison steak, some chillies, tomatoes, prawns, a few sprigs of rosemary and some strong cheese. It is just while I was out hunting the Deer I noticed this little mushroom and thought that would fit right in there beside my steak in my little pan.

So it is back to camp and prepare the food.

DinnerYes it is getting dark now but when you are out in the wild there is not a lot to do after dark, except cook and eat and stuff like that.

So discard that beautiful stem, it is tough and fibrous. Lose the ring obviously and chop your vegetables into reasonable sizes.

DinnerPop it all into a little pan and notice that the wild mushroom adds a certain visual appeal to an otherwise rather bland meal

DinnerOn this particular evening I served my meagre repast with a small bottle of the house Jack.

That little bottle probably saved my life.

DinnerAfter eating and cleaning up I settled down in my tree to enjoy the evening and it was a good one.

Stars twinkled in the sky. Tawny Owls called to each other. The old Badger came around and we drank some more whisky and told each other stories.

BadgerI remember that I was telling him about the old days when I used to be a Pirate, before I became a Big Game Hunter and Butterfly Collector. (Not all of my stories are true)

I drifted off to sleep with a strong feeling of peace and well being around me and I slept like a log. To this day I believe that it was that deep sleep and possibly the fact that I was up a tree that saved my life the night that I wasn’t ate by Zombies.

I was awoken by somebody pelting me with peanuts.

“Wake up Col! It’s Zombies,” his little eyes seemed to say.

Grey Squirrel(Bluebells? Tell the continuity lady that I need to speak to her right now!)

What is it little Squirrel, do you want me to follow you?

I jumped out of my tree and followed the Squirrel, there were brains splattered everywhere.

Purple Jelly DiscCould it be Ogres? They would crack your bones to suck out the marrow but then, they would definitely eat the brains. This was something else, probably Zombies. I took as many pictures as I dared and I got out of that wood sharpish.

Purple Jelly Disc

Purple Jelly Disc

Purple Jelly DiscI looked it up when I got home and you are never going to believe this…

It is another mushroom. Well it is a fungi called Purple Jelly Disc, Ascocoryne sarcoides. It is what they call a saprobic fungi and that means that it feeds on and breaks down dead wood and other organic matter. This one typically feeds on Beech Wood but here it was eating Sweet Chestnut.

This thing that Fungi do in breaking down dead matter is hugely important to the ecology of the woodland. If fungi didn’t do this everything would just stay where it died and we would be up to our necks in it.

Fungi fill many other roles as well. There is a huge amount of fungi in the forest but most of it we can’t even see. It lives underground and in the bodies of fallen trees. The bits that we do see are just the fruit of a much larger organism.

Kingdom Fungi is so diverse, just as much so as Kingdom Plantae and Kingdom Animalia but sometimes harder to study because we can’t see it. What we can see fascinates me.

Purple Jelly Disc

Purple Jelly DiscWell thank you for reading this nonsense. Now it is time to walk the Dog. 🙂

We have to just leave the Gorilla Cam where it is for a few days. Animals can smell when we have been around and our best chance of getting anything lies in staying out of the way for a bit. I will post results later in the week hopefully.

 

The Private Life of Sheep

Sheep can sometimes be a little bit annoying and so I have decided to move the Badger Cam.

Just like any other animal they quickly learned where to find the food (but you eat grass!) When I picked the camera up today I had sixty sheep videos before dark and another forty  in the morning. Amazingly I also had forty Fox/Badger videos from the night. Watching these sheep eating my bait for two hours before nightfall it is hard to believe that there was anything left for the wild animals.

I have condensed my one hundred videos into three short clips. You don’t have to watch them but you will understand sheep better if you do.

Little Darlings. This next one is getting over familiar with my camera.

They do give the impression that they might be smarter than badgers, perhaps they are just more curious, less cautious.

So I am going to leave those Badgers alone for a bit and go and look at something else. Fizz and I went out for a walk yesterday and we found an amazing nest,

Starting from the beginning, it was an overcast day and we decided to go and look at  the main sett. We haven’t been up there for some time because the path became seriously overgrown in the summer and it was unpleasant to try and beat a path up there, It has died back a bit now.

This is what it looks like today, it is still quite difficult to pass in places. There are parts where I have to carry Fizz because she can’t get over the thistles and brambles.

Jungle TrackIt is not the growth that is the real problem, it is the insects that swarm and buzz around us. After a time of swatting when they are really close and getting them out of my hair and off the inside of my glasses it begins to feel like a war zone.

Jungle TrackSo forging through brush that we haven’t seen for a while the first thing that we noticed were large areas that had been flattened.

Resting place

Resting placeBig animals have been resting here or hiding out. Wild Boar or Deer perhaps. I don’t suppose that any people have been up this track for quite a while. This isn’t a pleasant country stroll, you would have to have a reason to walk this path. Perfect for wild animals.

We checked out the Badger sett and everything seemed fine here, plenty of signs of activity.

Badger Sett

Badger Sett

Badger SettThen about fifty yards beyond the Badger sett we came across this nest.

Mystery Nest

Mystery NestWhat sort of an animal makes a nest like this?

A Mountain Gorilla maybe or an Emu? We don’t get a lot of them around here. I really don’t know and so if anybody does then please tell me.

Mystery NestMy stick is about three and a half feet long, I just put it there to get an idea of scale. I could not see any fur, feather or eggshell or anything like that but I didn’t want to mess around and leave scent there in case it is still in use.

Mystery NestSome effort has gone into making this nest. The straw has been brought here from nearby farmland, there is no material like this naturally here.

The nest is out in the open and offers zero protection from Fox or Badger of which there are a lot around here, so it is not for raising young.

Mystery NestSo guess where the camera is. It is watching the nest plus also watching the track to see what might walk past.

Mystery NestI think that this is a day nest of a Wild Boar. They do make nests to lie up in, especially at this time of year but I have never seen them do anything like this.

Here is another of life’s little mysteries.


We know that it is a Fox it’s all the other animals that we can’t identify. This video was from early evening, the clock was not set on the camera just ignore that. The picture is so bright because it is still daylight and the infra red has kicked in.

Finally a last look at my own wild animals. There still was food for them after all that sheepishness.

Last of the Summer Whine?

Don’t worry this isn’t another post about a Dog. Today we have got wildflowers, fruits, butterflies, wild animals and some pretty tame ones but before I can get started…..

My day always begins with a plaintive whine. She hears me moving around in the kitchen and positions herself under my window and cries.

The Plaintif“Hurry up! I want to explore nature and discover wonderful new things.”

Shut up! I am making my breakfast.

Today we are going to climb over the fence and look for the new Badger sett in the next field along. My camera is currently tied to the other side of this tree looking out on a field full of sheep.

CornfieldTry and guess what it is filming….

You don’t have to watch all of this video (unless you are looking for a date) . Having a field full of sheep hasn’t given me too many problems so far  but it was pretty obvious that I would get some of this.

The next field along is a corn field.

CornfieldI know that there is going to be some confusion about this so let me take a moment to set the record straight.

In England when we talk about cornfields we usually picture (quite correctly) fields of wheat. In Scotland they often see oats. Corn is a word derived from the Latin granum and it means grain.

When Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba the natives there presented him with a grain that they called mahiz and Columbus promptly corrupted that to maize but the name corn also stuck.

To most of the world the words corn and maize are interchangeable and mean the same thing but in the UK we still think of corn as meaning grain, any grain.

Either way this is a corn field.

CornfieldThis abundance of food might be the reason that the Badgers switched fields. Some animals have been helping themselves.

Cornfield

Cornfield

CornfieldWhile some animals are obviously eating the corn I don’t think that they are having a major impact on the value of the crop, It is just a little bit here and there.

CornfieldI had noticed that my Badgers were looking particularly well fed, portly even.


Did you notice the little blue flowers?

Cornfield

They are Common Field-speedwell, Veronica persica.

I started photographing these at the beginning of March, long before the traditional Spring flowers like Wood Anemones and Bluebells and they have flowered everyday since.

They are very good value for money, especially if like me you don’t actually have to pay for them 🙂

Common Field-speedwell

Common Field-speedwell

Common Field-speedwell

Common Field-speedwellSo I am bumbling about looking for a Badger sett. I never did find it, there is at least forty acres of maize here and most of the hedgerow is inaccessible to me. I kept bumping into other things.

This little Comma. At this time of year we can’t afford to pass on any butterflies, they won’t be around for very much longer.

Comma ButterflyThis is a young butterfly and it is fresh and beautiful. The Comma is one of the butterflies that overwinters here as an adult. This delicate little animal will spend the whole winter sleeping outside, through all of the terrible weather and it will survive the frosts. It will take flight again around the second week in March, that for me is the end of winter, when the butterflies return.

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

Comma ButterflyWinter is still a way of yet and the  hedgerow is full of autumn fruit.

Bramble

Bramble

Bramble

BrambleOn a bramble leaf I see another butterfly. This one is a Speckled Wood. These butterflies are unique amongst British species because they can overwinter either as a caterpillar or a chrysalis. Those that reach the chrysalis stage will be amongst the first butterflies that we see next year and they will be newly emerged and beautiful.

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood

Speckled WoodWell that is about it for today. Did you have a nice walk?

Fizz

Fizz

FizzOh I nearly forgot Foggy,

Foggy was a character from the British sitcom “Last of the summer wine” and also something that happened to my Badger and Fox last night.


So that is it. Sleep tight and mind the bugs don’t bite.

Fizz

Badgers, Foxes and Haircuts

Yes Fizz has been to the beauty parlour again. I am just using her pictures to accompany my videos because I didn’t get any stills of Badgers or Foxes yesterday.

FizzSo on with the serious stuff.

When my cameras are out in the field then I watch hundreds of these videos every week and they do get a bit samey but I thought that I should post a few so that they are available if you want to see them. I get a lot of pleasure from watching these wild animals.

The Foxes that I video are not your Urban Fox. People who live in the countryside never see Foxes, it is only townies who know these animals well but 80% of our Fox population lives out of town, in the wild. They are just very secretive animals.

As to the Badgers, just think if we could follow these animals through the year and maybe in springtime see them produce cubs. I missed out on cubs this year but I didn’t know the animals very well, I had only just met them. Well, it could happen.

My first video is of Patch two nights ago, I haven’t picked up last nights action yet. Notable because he is out here at half past eight. (the first vid was at 20:28) I haven’t found the new sett yet but I think that I am very close because this is early for a badger to be about.


Patch stayed in front of the camera for nearly an hour, searching diligently for every last raisin. I am amazed that there was any food left when the Fox turned up, two hours later.

This Fox doesn’t look very  happy in the rain but there is work to be done.


I have been trying to get an idea of which Fox is which. The Foxes had cubs this year and I have seen three of them together. I don’t know how many there are but one seems to have a very distinctive dark tail.


Well I could watch these animals all night so I am going to post two more of the Badgers just being Badgers. The first is not Patch and this is from a few nights ago.


This is beautiful Patch the following night.


That is more than enough videos back to Haircut…

Fizzand that is more than enough of her.

Badgers (British Wildlife)

My latest round of Badger watching has not been quite as successful as I hoped.

The Badgers have moved to a new sett and that is not on the farm. No worries, they still forage here and I can still watch them. Fizz and I set up a camera in a likely spot (Strapped to an Ash tree) and baited the area with a few handfuls of scattered raisins.

Stop eating the bait!

Little PiggyWhen I talk about baiting an area, I don’t use very much bait. I don’t want people to be able to see it, I have lost two cameras advertising their presence that way and I don’t believe in significantly feeding wild animals. I want them to search for my bait, it keeps them in the area and is cheaper that way. 🙂

Yesterday I went up to retrieve the memory card. The good news was that it had recorded twenty four videos and the bad news was that by the time I got home I had lost it.

After I picked up the card I wandered all over that field playing ball with Fizz because the grass was short and it was a good place to play. My card is out here somewhere.

FieldToday I set out to revisit the area and amazingly I did find it…

Sd CardBut something else had found it first, chewed it up and spat it out again. (pesky animals)

SD CardWhat the hey, we had a good game of ball.

BallThere was a new card to pick up today.

Back in March I saw that one of the Badgers that I am following had been in a scrap and his right eye was closed. That never healed and since then I have been confidently identifying this animal and calling him Patch.

In this first video two Badgers meet and greet each other. The one looking at us has his right eye closed (Hi Patch) When the other one turns around he also has his right eye closed. (Doh!)

This next video shows a meeting between Fox and Badger. This is the first time that I have seen a Badger run from a Fox but I think that it was just surprise.

My next video shows how close the animals can get and still feel comfortable at the end of the video the Fox sits down beside the Badger.

Did you enjoy those videos?

FizzDid you enjoy playing ball and eating raisins?

A few people have asked in the comments section, “Why are they culling Badgers?” I sometimes forget that the internet extends outside of the UK.

They are culling Badgers in an effort to control the spread of bovine TB.

Bovine TB is a disease of Cattle that our wild life can catch from contact with the cows. It is typically spread through contact with urine. Scientists say that 94% of bTB is spread from herd to herd, Cows give it to each other but because Badgers can move freely from field to field if a Badger catches it and goes into another field it can pass the disease on to  uninfected cattle. The same goes for Deer and other wild life.

Nobody is claiming that killing Badgers would eradicate bTB but DEFRA do claim that if they can successfully kill 70% of the Badgers in an area then it might reduce incidences of bTB by between  6 -12% but they also say that figure may be more or less.

If they killed every wild animal in England there would still be bTB in our Cattle herds. It is a disease of Cattle that wild life can catch.

Like any highly contagious disease TB is spread rapidly by overcrowding and poor sanitation, that applies as much to people as it does to livestock and the real answer to the problem lies in taking better care of our animals and keeping them in better conditions.

Many people would prefer to believe that it has nothing to do with the way that we treat our livestock and prefer to believe that if they shoot the Badgers the problem will go away. That can not possibly happen.

Last year DEFRA conducted two pilot culls to determine two things. Was free shooting an effective way to cull Badgers and could it be done humanely? They appointed an Independent Expert Panel to look at these results and their conclusion was that no, the pilot culls had been both ineffective and inhumane. However the Government have decided to repeat the culls without the help of expert monitoring and in that way hope to achieve better results.

The Government’s own scientific advisors have told the Government repeatedly that Badger Culling will not work.

There are effective vaccines against bovine TB for both Badgers and Cattle. European laws prevent us from vaccinating cattle because it interferes with the standard tests for the presence of bTB.

The Badger is a protected species in the UK it is illegal to harm a Badger or to interfere with it’s sett, unless you work for the Government.

For me there is no big debate…

Nasty people do nasty things, that is why they are called nasty and regardless of how many Badgers they kill there will still be TB in our cattle.

Hello little fellas.


My opinions are biased, I like and respect our native wildlife. (But I am also right 🙂 )

A Badger Update

Well we haven’t had Badgers for a while now and there is a good reason for that… I loaned my  trail camera to a neighbour and he kept hold of it for quite a long time. I don’t mind, it is fun to see what goes on when you are fast asleep in bed. Anyway the Badgers are not going anywhere….. Well that is what I thought,

In fact they have moved house. They have moved twice already this year and so it is no great cause for alarm but now I have to find them again. Normally that would be easy but the fields have just been cut and the regular paths that Badgers make have pretty well been obscured.

Plus  my trained tracker dog is not always as useful as I make her out to be. In fact I don’t think that she would mind if I called her a “chocolate teapot.”

Chocolate Teapot

“You just sit there and I will go and look for the Badgers myself then.”

So starting at the beginning, we got up to the sett and straight away I could see that  it didn’t look very active.

Old settI set the camera up to watch the entrance to the sett and filmed for two nights. The sett is no longer in use.

We did get animals just not using the sett. I baited the area with raisins (very smelly).

I will show you two short clips. The first is of a small unidentified mammal. You may have to go full screen for this one. It is in the entrance to the sett which is the dark area above the number 23 in the time. I can see it’s eyes reflecting the light back. It is taking a chance with the foxes, they are not as daft as they look but they seem to be happy with the raisins.

Next we do get to see a Badger but it has not come from this sett. It is now past two in the morning and this animal is just doing it’s rounds of the fields.


So now we have to find the little monkeys and they could be anywhere, they have quite a large territory and it goes well beyond the farm.

FarmlandThey may even have gone back to the main sett, which is cool. I know where that is but it is a difficult place to film and on public land.

DEFRA are not culling in this area, I know where they are doing their killing now and my animals are safe.

I am hoping that they are still on the farm but Badger setts are pretty easy to see if you know what you are looking for and we haven’t seen a new one yet.

This is a possibility. It doesn’t look like a Badger sett but these hedges are wide and there is plenty of space under here to conceal an entrance. Something has been digging here. (Foxes are usually too lazy to dig when there are Badgers to do the work for them)

New site

If this is Badgers though then there must be a lot more to it under the hedge. In places these hedges are twelve foot wide with a ditch in the centre and bushes and small trees either side. It is an easy place to hide. I don’t really think that this is the place but I will have a word with Fizz tomorrow and if we can’t come up with anything else we will set the camera out here 🙂

Harmony

I have only really spread this over two posts so that I could get two header pics of Fizz in. She seems to me to embody the lazy, playing games in the wet grass, childlike days of summer.

I might just do a post about her. She is a trained nature detective dog and a great help to me in my search for Moles.

Meanwhile the days just stretch on….

(The video is not playing backwards,  the Badger is going backwards, collecting bedding)

Peace and Love

I post a lot about the little conflicts that occur between the animals up at the sett. Most of the time it is not like that and summer evenings stretch on forever…


I suppose you think that was a moth, well it could have been. It is hard to tell moths from faeries in the glare of the light 🙂

Outnumbered

This little Badger obviously isn’t happy when a second Fox shows up.


The Badger in question isn’t Timid, that is Brave and Brave doesn’t like Foxes…

 
The Badger won the day.

A couple of nights earlier Laser actually turned up with two other Foxes, so I am guessing that he has a mate and cubs somewhere quite nearby.