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30 Nights Wild 2017

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This year, as my contribution to The Wildlife Trust's "30 Days Wild" campaign, I plan to bring you "30 Nights Wild". I'll be reporting all the action from my local badger sett in Yorkshire, throughout the month of June.

I'll be following this small clan as they go about their evening activities of foraging, grooming, collecting bedding and cleaning out the sett. Will the badgers turn up every night? They never do on Springwatch!


I've been watching this sett for the last eight years and every year is different, largely depending on the number of cubs they produce. Last year they had two cubs and there were six badgers in residence by autumn. Now there are just three adults and one new cub.

Badger identification can be tricky. Mature males are more heavily built than females, but in younger males the differences are not that obvious. At this sett, the dominant sow Theresa has a distinctive torn left ear. The tail on a male badger is generally th…

Volunteering at North Newbald Becksies

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30 Days Wild, day 30: Today's conservation volunteering day was at YWT North Newbald Becksies nature reserve. It's a superb wet meadow, fed by springs which drain into a clear chalk stream. At this time of year, it is a botanists' paradise.

Our first task today was to remove garden mint which was dumped by a local gardener on the boundary several years ago and has spread into the reserve, competing with the native plants. This year we found much less than in previous years, so we may at last be close to eradicating it.

Pulling out willowherb
The next task was to reduce the greater willowherb which, although native, is also invasive and is taking over areas of the meadow. Where it is the dominant plant, it can be brushcut, but in other areas where it is more thinly distributed, it is best pulled out to avoid damaging other vegetation.

Mullein moth caterpillar
 Yellow rattle
 Marsh orchid
 Common Twayblade, an unobtrusive orchid
 Ragged robin
 http://www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/n…

Stock Doves in a Box

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30 Days Wild, day 29: A month ago I discovered that two eggs had been laid in the tawny owl box on the pine tree at the bottom of my garden. At first I suspected woodpigeons, but then discovered that they don't use boxes or holes to nest in, so these had to be stock doves. The stock dove is easily overlooked, as it's a similar bird to the rock dove (or feral pigeon), with an iridescent green band at the back of the neck.

 Stock dove (centre) with woodpigeons
The tawny owl box
Adult bird returns (29/05/2016)
They always lay two eggs, which are incubated for 21-23 days. On June 16 I checked the box camera to find that, at last, a chick had hatched. The parent birds had shown great dedication over the incubation, but then left the chick on its own for many hours. I was considering intervening, and the possibility of hand-rearing the chick, when thankfully both parent birds returned and started feeding it.

First view of the chick (16/06/2016)
Feeding the chick (20/06/2016)
Pigeons…

Taking a Friend Badger Watching

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30 Days Wild, day 28: I'm never really sure just how aware the badgers are of me when I'm watching them and to what degree they are accepting my presence, so it's interesting to take a friend along occasionally, so see how the badgers react. I installed my friend in a canvas dome hide, which had been in place for the previous two nights so the badgers would get used to it, and then went up my ladder as I normally do. I had my camera on and he had a connected monitor, so he got the view that I had as well as what was in front of him. He'd never seen badgers before, apart from a brief glimpse of one crossing the road.

 The cubs like honey on their peanuts
There was a light westerly breeze, which worked in our favour, but in spite of that the badger cubs knew immediately that something was going on. They emerged about 10 minutes after we arrived, but just would not come out to the food I'd put down for them. Maybe they'd got a whiff of his insect repellent, which …

Allerthorpe Archive Photos

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30 Days Wild, day 27: Back in April, I borrowed and scanned some photos of Allerthorpe Common nature reserve, taken between 1998 and 2000, that had been found in the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust archives. Some had exact dates on them and the same shots had been taken in successive years, at the same time of year. I thought it would be interesting to repeat the exercise, to see how those views of the reserve have changed in the last 16 years. It was difficult to find the exact spot that the original photos had been taken in, but here are my results:

June 1999
June 2016
June 2000
June 2016
June 1998
June 2016
June 2000
June 2016
June 1999
June 2016
June 2000
June 2016
June 2000
June 2016
June 2000
June 2016

Stillingfleet Lodge Wildlife Day

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30 Days Wild, day 26: Today I've been to the annual wildlife day at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens. The gardens are divided into a series of separate areas, each with its own theme. It is all beautifully maintained, while retaining a wild 'cottage garden' feel to the flower beds.

 The Avenue
My trip started with a 'Wildlife Garden Tour' with Vanessa, the garden's owner. She showed us the log piles for beetles, the 'bug hotel' for bees and spiders, the wildlife pond and the wildflower meadow they have created. Many of the wild flowers have not been planted, but have just appeared when the right conditions were provided.

 Thyme bench attracts insects
 Wildlife pond
 Great diving beetle
After a look at some of the exhibition stands, I went on a bumblebee identification walk with Alison Reboul of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Ten species of bumblebees have been recorded in this garden and we found most of them.

Giant tansy beetle on the Buglife stand
Exami…

Badger Watching

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30 Days Wild, day 25: Today is the start of 'National Badger Week', so naturally I went badger watching. There are two cubs at the sett this year, one slightly bigger than the other. At first they were closely supervised by two adult females, so I assumed they were cousins, rather than twins. Over the last few weeks, I've only seen one female, but she's keeping a close watch on both cubs.

 A snack before dinner
Tonight, big cub appeared at about 9:30 and cautiously approached the peanuts I'd put out for them. Little cub was soon watching from the sett entrance and then joined big cub, anxious not to miss out on anything. Mother was watching, initially from the sett entrance, but then she moved around to my left, so she was downwind of me, and sniffed the air suspiciously. If she's not happy, she'll make a barely audible grunt and the cubs will run flat out back to the sett, without hesitation. This time she was satisfied that it was safe, joined the cubs an…