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Showing posts from February, 2014

Hazel Coppicing

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Today I expected to be mowing and raking the reed bed at Pulfin Nature Reserve near Beverley, but the ground was too wet to get the mower in, so our work day was redirected to a nearby patch of hazel woodland at Meaux (pronounced ‘mewss’ as in juice). There is very little of this type of woodland in East Yorkshire and it provides a particular open habitat which supports a diverse range of species. It’s been coppiced in the traditional way for hundreds of years. Nowadays, the farmer gets stewardship payments to encourage him to preserve it and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are carrying out the maintenance in return for the cuttings which can be bundled and used to prevent riverbank erosion elsewhere. It also makes a nice day out for volunteers!

It was a bright sunny day and the birds were singing. The woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells which are just coming up. A woodpecker drummed on a tree, before being drowned out by the roar of chainsaws.

We started by constructing a simple frame o…

Flamborough Beach Clean

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I went to a beach clean at Flamborough Head this afternoon, organised by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Centre. It’s the first clean up there since the tidal surge in December. We started off by recording every item found on the first 100 metres of beach, for the ongoing Marine Conservation Society Beachwatch survey, then just collected up the debris on the remainder of the beach.

We found the usual assortment of rubbish – plastic bottles and bags, pieces of polystyrene, fishing line, lengths of rope and bits of lobster pot. Twenty people collected 23 bags of rubbish, plus a pile of larger items. We also found two catshark egg cases, clusters of whelk eggs, a guillemot skull and fossils in the rocks.

Volunteers at work
Another load for the bin men

Winter Badger Watch

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I usually start watching badgers in the spring, when the weather warms up a bit. Cubs are born in January or February and they first emerge from the sett at the end of April, or early May. It’s been so mild today that I decided to get down to Badger Wood and see what’s going on.

There was a chilly wind so I was glad I’d put on warm clothing. I’d only been in my seat for five minutes when the first striped face appeared from a hole right in front of me. The badger had a good sniff and look around, then went back down again. They always do that – I knew they’d be out once it got a bit darker.

While I waited, the rooks came in to roost noisily, geese honked, tawny owls hooted and a fox trotted past, unaware of my presence. Eventually a badger came out and went cautiously to the peanuts I’d left out for them. When he’d had enough he returned to the sett and I thought that might be all I was going to see. However, shortly afterwards, two badgers emerged and started, erm, making love, the mal…

On the Trail of an Otter

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This week I’ve made a determined effort to get a decent photo of the otter I’ve been camera trapping for a few weeks now. On Tuesday I left my best SLR camera on the river bank, connected to a trail monitor. The otter managed to avoid it completely, using another path which I had camera trapped. I discovered that there are at least two otters and twice in the last few days they’ve come out of the river at about 4:30pm. On Wednesday I decided to stay late in the hope of actually seeing an otter and taking photos with a long lens. Of course, they didn’t show up and I had a long walk back to the car in fading light, with no pictures. It’s a remote spot and not a good place to be wandering around after dark (unless you’re an otter). I’ve set up my second SLR camera with the trail monitor and will give it a few more days. This time it’s further back from the otters’ path, so I’m hoping they won’t notice it!

Two otters! The 4:30 otter passing the camera trap A heron dropped in to pose for the …

Heathland Maintenance

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Today I led a volunteer work day in a privately owned area of heathland, which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. We are clearing birch and pine seedlings that are threatening to turn the heath into woodland. After all the wind and rain we’ve been having, it was nice to have a calm sunny day and we got a lot done. As we walked into the heathland, a woodcock exploded out of the heather. Two greylag geese took off from the pond as I wandered past at lunchtime and two buzzards came over in the afternoon.

Birch seedlings are taking over The seedlings are cut and burned... ...and the stumps are treated with glyphosate

Tree Felling

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Last night’s storm has abated and it’s been a bright and breezy day. There are lots of trees down in the area and a few telegraph poles too. I went to a conservation volunteering work day with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at Skerne Wetlands. It’s a brand new nature reserve, not yet open to the public. It has the potential to be a superb wetland site, but it will take a lot of work. Today we’ve been thinning out a line of trees along the edge of the reedbed and burning the brash. The bonfire was pretty hot by lunchtime – just right for baked potatoes! In the afternoon we found a stunningly vivid red fungus called Scarlet elfcup, growing on a rotting log.

The log piles will make good beetle habitat Scarlet Elfcup fungus

Otter Pictures

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I’ve been camera trapping an otter at an old fish farm and getting some rather blurry photos. In an effort to get better picture quality, I’ve been trying out an active infrared trail monitor, connected to my old EOS 350D SLR camera. It’s rather more difficult to set up than the passive infrared camera traps, but it’s triggering is more precise. I’d planned to leave it for a few more days, but today the weather forecast was dreadful, with high winds and heavy rain expected, so I thought I’d better play safe and retrieve my camera. It was monitoring a track connecting a pond to the river, which I’ve already discovered is regularly used by the otter. Sure enough, the otter has been along and taken some photos. The results aren’t perfect, but an improvement on the infrared pictures I had of it before. It’s good to see that the otter is not disturbed by flash, unlike the badgers I try to photograph, which clearly don’t like it.

The camera (well wrapped up) and IR receiver Otter going out fo…

An Introduction

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I started this blog on January 1st, but as from today I’m blogging as a “Local Patch Reporter” for BBC Wildlife magazine. I’ll be documenting my wildlife sightings throughout the year, in my local patch which is in East Yorkshire. I’m based on the flat Plain of York, in a small village to the east of the city. It’s an area of intensive arable farming – East Yorkshire is one of the least wooded counties in England. In spite of this, it’s full of wildlife if you know where to look. I hope to be watching badgers and foxes, brown hares, water voles and maybe even an otter in the coming months.

I regularly take part in, and sometimes lead, conservation volunteering work days for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. They are a great opportunity to spend a day in a nature reserve, amongst people with a common interest. We help to maintain these reserves and keep them great for wildlife. We cut back scrub, clear invasive plants, plant trees and repair fences and boardwalks. It’s very rewarding to see you…

Raking and Burning

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I had another conservation work day at Pulfin Bog near Beverley today, clearing an area of sweet-grass (Glyceria) in the reedbed. It was too wet to take the mower in this time, but enough was cut the last time for us to spend the day just raking up and burning it. As always, the place was teeming with wildlife. Along the path to the reedbed there were clear roe deer tracks and on a mound in the reedbed we found a fox scat. Flocks of curlews and lapwings came over during the day. On the lake there was a flock of wigeon and a dozen goldeneye. We saw mute swans flying in, cormorants, an oystercatcher, redshank, a great crested grebe and a little grebe.

Piles of damp reeds can smoulder for many hours The lake at dusk

Camera Traps

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Yesterday I completed the wiring for the tawny owl box at the bottom of my garden, with a little help from a neighbour with an 18mm drill bit. It’s a really neat job and I can now watch what goes on from the comfort of my living room. All I need now is an owl, or two.

I went to the old fish farm to check my camera traps. It was a bright and breezy morning, but the forecast was for strong wind and heavy rain later in the day, so I made an early start. The camera under the bridge had recorded a mink, a brown rat and a kingfisher which seems to have a regular perch under there. After a couple of days, sightings of the kingfisher stopped. It had found a better perch on top of the camera trap, which was covered in poo!

The other camera, overlooking a track leading from a pool to the river, had lots of otter video on it. Otters are still very rare in this part of the country, so it’s great to find one in residence here, moving from river to pool and back every day. As expected, it’s most acti…