Well, it took six nights but in the end we did get results from the trail camera.
I have lots of beautiful animals to show you tonight. (Deer Hunter Fizz)
But it is a beautiful day and we are not in a hurry to get to the woods.
Dog worn out, now we can get on 🙂
Here is some of the stuff that we found in the wood.
As soon as we found the camera I could see that we had a result. I can tell what animal has been at the bait. The ground was very disrupted and all of the bait had been taken (Peanuts, Raisins and Sheep Feed) except the bread. So no Boar but I guessed Deer. I was gutted that I couldn’t leave the camera out there but I had run out of batteries. The camera had died, it told me there were 189 videos but the last 50 of those were dud due to low battery power. No matter we got some good stuff.
Don’t despise the little Fox. I would be pretty fed up if I had found 189 videos of him but I didn’t. This is a beautiful wild animal that we rarely get a chance to watch.
There is actually a stack of food there that the Fox can eat, he is just being fussy. This video was from the night before the Deer turned up and there was plenty left for them. That is bread that he is playing with in the video, I put out quite a bit but I hid it under leaves.
The Bluebells are coming up. They are not early, they won’t flower until they are supposed to in April but they always make an appearance around about now. I love the way that they pierce the leaf litter.
We found a bulb that had been rooted up (we replanted it) I was surprised by how big it was.
I have heard it said that Boar uproot and eat Bluebells. I spent a long time looking for evidence of this in my Bluebell wood in East Sussex and I never saw any evidence of Boar eating Bluebells. They had ample opportunity and so I conclude it is an untrue slur on the Boar.
This next leaf is Variegated Yellow Archangel. It is one that I want to write about for Easy Wildflowers (probably next) so I won’t say too much about it. The leaves are about now and are easy to recognise, they actually remain all winter.
This is another one that will not flower until April, when it does it will look like this.
Now for something that will flower in January (I hope). This is Lesser Celandine. My first pictures last year were February 24th.
Look, flower buds. These could easily open this month.
Okay, beautiful wild animals now. Plenty of video, just watch what you like. I could watch them all night.
Fizz has been having a few problems with the livestock today, I’ll tell you about that in a minute. The day starts with feeding the animals.
It’s probably best not to mention what Fizz had for breakfast, that might have been what started her off.
Even before Fizz gets fed and before it gets light, the early bird gets the worm.
The Robin tried to land on my arm last night but it was getting dark and I didn’t see her coming, so suddenly there was a lot of fluttering as she tried to perch on my arm and taken by surprise, I moved my head quickly and I think that I said, “Hello” and I scared her off. This morning we were friends again.
There have been a couple of notable birds on the feeder this week. Long-tailed Tits have been here for the last few days. They don’t visit very often so it is nice to see them.
They arrive in small flocks and feed together. I have counted eight of them on the peanut feeder at the same time and you can hardly see the feeder for feathers. A very beautiful little bird.
There was also a Woodpecker on the feeder today. I haven’t seen a woodpecker since the little ones fledged last summer so I am hoping that she will start visiting regularly again.
Goldfinches are back in their charms. They disappeared late in the summer when the thistle seed appeared but they will stay here now.
Then it was time to feed the Sheep. They have really taken to this idea of being fed and when they see me they come running, it doesn’t matter if I have got food or not, I might just be taking the Dog for a walk.
This is a rubbish, short video but you will get the picture.
I cut the video so short because the camera was shaking, I wasn’t scared, just common sense really.
They are eating pellets, well it says “Sheep Food” on the sack that I get them from.
They are all enjoying their food except for that white one at the front, that one is always focused on me. I think that this must be the Bull Sheep (if there is such a thing). It is the one that I observed in my last post and it is always in front and always the first to approach me.
As Fizz would say, “Remember this face.”
It says she is number 00127 on the green tag but I just call her “The Bull.”
So I went back and fed the birds some more and played with Fizz in the garden. Then I was cold so I went and got some breakfast and coffee.
Then it was time to walk the Dog.
Remember that I said it doesn’t matter if I have got food or not, they come running when they see me.
Oh! That army. Col! They’ve got an army.
You can stop that.
The Bull is interested in my Dog as well as me.
Well, I rescued Fizz from the Sheep and we had a nice walk and a game of ball, on the way to the woods to check the trail camera.
Now I would like to have some kind of reference to nature in my blog posts. There is not going to be a wildflower bit at the end of this post because I have been having major problems with my new operating system. It is fixed now but it took me all day yesterday and I am behind.
One little nature observation though…
Wild Arum, Arum maculatum is coming into leaf everywhere. We won’t see the spathe until April, it spends a long time as a leaf but it is still nice to see another little sign of spring.
Things are not going well up in the woods. The camera has been out for four nights and all we have seen are Foxes.
This is a very nice Fox but I have watched 150 videos of Foxes and I wouldn’t mind seeing something else.
That was just one video that I more or less picked at random. It has a nice atmospheric sound track.
As we walked back to the farm we could see them all waiting for us.
It was time to run the gauntlet once again.
There were familiar faces in the crowd.
I think that I better lock the door tonight when I go to bed 🙂
That is what it said on the BBC’s weather page this morning, “The MET office have issued a Yellow Snow Warning for Gloucestershire.”
Don’t eat Yellow Snow!
We had a little bit of English snow last night, it nearly hid the grass and by eight o’clock this morning it was drip, drip, dripping, everywhere. It was still enough to put the Sheep into a tizzy and you can guess what we were up to this morning.
This stupid animal just kept going deeper and deeper into the bramble as I tried to cut a way to her.
I ended up pulling her gently out by a bramble as I just couldn’t get near to her.
It looks cruel but then I am cruel and I would not shy from starting a snowball fight with a little defenceless puppy either.
Heh heh! You need hands to make snowballs 🙂
Unfortunately Fizz didn’t understand the first rule of fight club: You can’t throw snowballs back, you might hit the camera.
Most of the pictures that I took today turned out to be ruined due to me having a snowy and wet camera.
Then we found another Sheep in distress.
This one was so badly tangled it was walking on three legs.
That was all that we needed, the Sheep have to be brought in. So they have been, they are all cleaned up and tucked away in the orchard.
They will stay there now until the end of next week because the farmer is going on holiday and I don’t want the Sheep out while he is away. Next week I am in charge.
Yes. I am in charge of you too.
I put the trail camera out last night.
I had to alter my plans slightly, I don’t want to draw attention to the animals on public land and I didn’t know how much snow we were going to get.
No matter how well I conceal my bait, if it snows the animals will leave an obviously turned over area and tracks all around.
So I decided just to put the camera out on the farm and see if I could catch anything there.
This first video is of a Fox who is disturbed by a U.F.O.
Foxes and Aliens are predictable fodder for a Gloucestershire farm, on a winter’s night.
I didn’t expect this next one. One o’clock in the morning when they should be tucked up in their little woolly blankets, fast asleep. What on earth are these sheep doing?
As far as I can tell a group of them are creating a diversion whilst one of them removes the batteries from my camera and changes the SD card.
What do they want with batteries and what was on that SD card that they didn’t want me to see?
Well that is enough blarney for today.
Some friends of mine have been having dreams and sometimes these dreams have been coming true, not always in a good way.
Now this is the honest truth, last night I dreamt that I was writing about Geum urbanum, in my dream I carefully chose the pictures that I would use (One of them I remember was of a silver Ford Transit van) and I chose the words.
I woke up and I wrote this. It is not quite the same as in my dream (No vans)
Geum urbanum, The Wood Avens
Geum urbanum, Wood Avens is also widely known as Herb Bennet. A member of the Rose family the genus Geum is commonly known as Avens, it is very closely related to the Potentilla (Barren Strawberries) and the Fragaria (Strawberries) a relationship reflected in the shape of the flower.
The species name urbanum just means urban (of the town or city). It is a species closely associated with man as it grows well on disturbed ground but also the burrs that carry the seeds tend to stick to men and their livestock and so follow them around.
Locally Wood Avens is a plant of woodland edge and hedgerow.
I am going to look at how the small strawberry like flower develops into the hooked burr that is the seed head but first we should have a quick look at the calyx.
The calyx is made up of five sepals. Between each of the large sepals is a small bract called an episepal and they form an additional structure called the epicalyx. The sepals that form the calyx are there to enclose and protect the flower as it develops. The epicalyx just seems to add extra protection.
The flower bud.
The flower has five yellow petals, they are widely spaced like those of the Barren Strawberry. A ring of yellow stamens enclose the green, multiple styles that will become the burr.
As the flower matures the styles turn from green to brown.
The petals drop off, Seeds are developing at the base of the styles and the styles are becoming kinked and hooked at the tips.
All that remains of the flower is the burr which will attach itself to a passing animal and so disperse.
The whole of the plant is slightly hairy. The leaves are quite variable. At the base of the plant the leaves are quite rounded with toothed edges. They are trefoil, having a large leaf with two smaller leaves set at right angles at the base of the leaf stem.
As you move up the plant the trefoil aspect of the main leaf becomes more obvious.
At the top of the plant the trefoil nature of the main leaf seems to be abandoned and we are left with a single, toothed, lance shaped leaf with the two smaller leaves still at the base of the stem.
The name Herb Bennet comes from an older name Herba benedicta which simply means Blessed Herb. The root of the plant was once worn as an amulet to protect from evil. It was believed that if you kept the root in your house then Satan could not enter and that a man wearing such an amulet was immune to the poison of beasts.
The roots were also widely used in medicine, dried and powdered they were used to prevent stomach ills and to cure poisoning and when boiled with wine a cordial was made to protect against plague.
Species: Geum urbanum
Wildflowers in winter.
Nights spent dreaming of wildflowers are good nights.
Smell Fox is another name for the Wood Anemone and we will have more of them later, also a smelly Fox. First let me show you Fizz’s latest masterpiece.
She called this, “The Sky in his Pyjamas” and it was taken at dawn yesterday.
This is a video of a smelly Fox.
We have finished our Wild Boar hunt having got what we went after.
We picked up the camera yesterday with seventy five videos on the card and I really expected seventy five videos of a Fox eating until it popped but no…
We had about fifteen videos of the Fallow Deer.
Then we got this.
Let me just tell you what you are going to see, it is not very clear. If you are very quick you may see two Deer running in front of the Boar and triggering the camera, they are only in shot for about a second, then three female Boar walk through the wood in front of the camera. They don’t come into the light unfortunately but it is clear to me that they are Boar.
Why stop there? Well we haven’t exactly stopped, there is good reason to go back and I will tell you about that in a minute, we are just taking a break.
These animals are not safe!
I won’t endanger an animal for the sake of a photograph. There are not a lot of Wild Boar around here, they are being shot and that shooting is causing them to disperse and try and find safe places to live but it is a precarious existence.
Boar meat fetches about £6.50 a kilo (unbutchered) and about 70% of a Boar is meat. The average weight of a female is between 80 -120 kilos. To a shooter a little one (50 kg) is worth about £200. Some people are very, very keen to learn the locations of these animals.
There are no laws to protect these animals. With the landowners permission and the relevant gun licence anyone can shoot any boar at any time with anything they can lay their hands on. They are not safe.
We will go back because these animals will give birth in the spring, between them they could have twenty hoglets. They will live in a group called a sounder and the mothers can suckle each others young. If anything happens to one mother the others will take care of her hoglets. Infant mortality is about 50% in the first month so many of the little ones won’t make it but those that do will stay with the group for at least four months maybe the whole year. Despite any garbage that you may read to the contrary, Wild Boar have just one litter a year.
It would be nice to see some of this, don’t you think?
Enough Boar hunting for now, what about the pesky Sheep.
The Sheep are back in the fields but I don’t know for how long. We found two stuck in the hedge this morning.
Fizz found herself stuck in the hedge while I went to free the sheep…
and the sheep took off carrying half of the hedge with them.
We are going to have to go and catch this Sheep and clean it up a bit, it looks camouflaged.
After a couple of hours of chasing Sheep around the field, I remembered that I had stuck Fizz in the hedge and I went back and got her. She was none the worse for it.
So, Smell Fox, the Wood Anemone flower doesn’t have any noticeable scent but the leaves smell musty, like a Fox.
Anemone nemorosa, The Wood Anemone
Greek legend has it that Anemos (The God of Wind) sent Anemones in the springtime to tell of his coming. An old name for this flower is Windflower, Pliny the Elder (Roman author of Naturalis Historia) wrote that “The flowers do not open unless the wind blows.” He was wrong. The flowers do not open unless the sun shines.
The Wood Anemone is an early spring flower. It usually flowers in March and lasts until the Bluebells are ready to flower in April.
The little wood that I used to own was both a Bluebell wood and an Anemone wood. The flowers grew through each other and in March the forest floor was white with little to show of the Bluebell display that was soon to follow.
The Wood Anemone is an animated flower, it closes at night.
It opens in the morning when it feels the warmth and then it twists and turns throughout the day to follow the sun. It is a wonderful thing to spend a day in such a wood watching the movement of the flowers.
The flower has no petals, it generally has six or seven, white sepals but sometimes as many as ten. It has multiple stamens.
The leaves are divided into three deeply lobed and toothed leaflets.
Nectar: You will read on a lot of web sites that the Wood Anemone does not produce nectar when in fact it does. The reason for this confusion is simply because it was only proven in 2013 when scientists published a paper in the Journal, “Organisms Diversity and Evolution” (September 2013) They observed the Large Bee Fly (Bombylius major) nectaring on Anemone nemorosa and discovered that the flower does indeed have nectaries deep within the corolla. The large Bee Fly has a very long tongue.
Many websites will not have updated that information and so confusion reigns on the internet, as always. Anyway nothing has changed if you have a short tongue.
Pollination and seed production are not essential to the Wood Anemone, in fact, I read that most of the seed produced is sterile. The plant spreads from it’s roots (rhizomes). Unlike the Bluebell it can spread very rapidly to colonise a wood.
We are just back from another day of Boar hunting We had seventy three videos on the card. Seventy two of them were of the same Fox.
It is not that I don’t like foxes, especially the shy and secretive country fox. You can’t get away from them if you live in town but eighty per cent of the UK foxes live in the countryside and nobody ever sees them.
It is just that I was hoping to see a Unicorn 😦
It was a nice bright day today but very blowy and we played “The Hat Game” all the way up to the wood.
The wood was nice but then….
I spotted these leaves.
They are the first leaves of the Lesser Celandine.
Last year I spotted leaves like this in the middle of February and then within a week they were in flower.
When I came to write about Lesser Celandine for EW I read that there is a very short time between the first leaves appearing and the first flowers and as I thought that I had witnessed and photographed that I put it in my post.
Now I will have to rewrite that bit because what I think really happened was the leaves appeared in early January (and I didn’t notice them) and six weeks later the flowers came.
I could be wrong, maybe these will be in flower next week and I will eat my hat 🙂
On the way back from the woods we stopped to photograph the Aspen trees.
You know Aspen trees don’t you? If not then watch this video that I made last summer. The Oak that I turn to look at half way through was just behind me, I put it in to show that it wasn’t a windy day. Aspen live in a world of their own and they are beautiful.
Well, that’s about it except for the flowers….
But wait I have one more thing to show you. The seventy third video. It was actually the very first video on the card but the only one not to feature a Fox.
Wait for the second animal, it’s the next best thing to a Unicorn.
Cardamine species, The Bittercress (Hairy and Wavy)
There are two closely related species of Bittercress. They look superficially very similar and share the same properties. There is not a great deal of difference between the two species and many people will be content to know them simply as Bittercress.
They are both members of the Mustard family, they are both edible and generally they are both regarded as a weed by gardeners.
Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta) is a small winter annual, the leaves are green during the winter months and it flowers in early spring.
The flowers are small (2-4 mm across) with four white petals.
The plant is characterised by the seed capsules that emerge from the centre of the flowers.
Reddish at first they turn green as they ripen. The seeds are arranged inside like peas in a pod and the pods burst explosively throwing the seeds far from the plant. The seeds germinate in the autumn and winter as green leaves.
It is characteristic of the Hairy Bittercress that the seed pods often rise well above the flowers.
The stem of Hairy Bittercress is smooth and not hairy.
Stem leaves are long and thin. There are not many of them.
Most of the leaves are around the base of the plant and these are rounder than the stem leaves.
The definitive difference between Hairy and Wavy Bittercress is the stamen count.
Hairy Bittercress has four stamens.
Wavy Bittercress, (Cardamine flexuosa) has six stamens, a small difference but it is indicative of species.
Wavy Bittercress is a biennial or perennial. It has the same characteristic seed capsules as it’s relative but they tend to be less conspicuous and seldom grow above the topmost flowers.
It has fewer basal leaves.
Unlike it’s “Hairy” relative the stem of Wavy Bittercress is hairy.
These differences can be quite subtle, the only real way to be sure of the species is to count the stamens.
These two species of Bittercress are both native to the UK and they can hybridize, making any distinction very difficult. They can also hybridize with another close relative, the beautiful Cardamine pratensis. (I would call that “getting lucky”)
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.
It 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.
So forging through brush that we haven’t seen for a while the first thing that we noticed were large areas that had been flattened.
Big 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.
Then about fifty yards beyond the Badger sett we came across this nest.
What 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.
My 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.
Some 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.
So guess where the camera is. It is watching the nest plus also watching the track to see what might walk past.
I 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.
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.
So 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.
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.”
“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.
I 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.
They 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)
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 🙂