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Showing posts from August, 2014

Badger Watching

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The good thing about badger watching is that it’s different every time - there are no repeats. A few days ago I was a bit late getting down to Badger Wood and it was already getting dark when I arrived. The nights are drawing in so quickly now that it’s hard to keep up. Badger cubs were running around in the woods already, playing tag. I got to my seat as quickly and quietly as I could and before long I had two of them eating peanuts in front of me. One finished eating and wandered off, to be replaced by another cub and an adult. They finished the peanuts and went back to the sett. I was just about to pack up and leave when two cubs came rushing out of the brambles and had a scrap in the clearing in front of me. They ran off into the darkness, but a few minutes later I heard loud squealing noises coming from the other end of the wood – they were having a riot!

Badger cubs having a play fight
Two days later it was totally different. I arrived a bit earlier and got to my seat before any b…

Helping Barn Owls and Tansy Beetles

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I’m not much of a carpenter, but during the last week I’ve put together the fittings for a barn owl box, following guidelines from the Barn Owl Trust. The idea is that a wooden batten, with wooden ‘hooks’ at each end, is nailed to the tree. Another batten is fixed to the back of the box and when the box is lifted into place it fits over the hooks. It can then be secured with screws.

The Barn Owl box, ready to go
On Saturday I met up with two of the other Allerthorpe Common volunteers. Between us we had a motley collection of tools, ladders and ropes, much of it caving gear! After some debate about which tree it was to go in, we fixed the tree batten, hauled up the box and secured it in place. With a little trimming of branches to give the owls a clear flight path, the box is ready for them to move into next spring. It was funded from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s barn owl appeal, which raised over £20000 in the spring, to help reverse the decline of Yorkshire’s barn owls.

Fitting the tree b…

Rooks in Badger Wood

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The rooks have stopped coming to my garden birdfeeders at 5am. There was a gradual reduction in numbers while the fields surrounding the village were being harvested. Now they all go straight to the fields in the morning. They’ve also changed their roosting site. While I was badger watching last week, the rooks came in to Badger Wood to roost. If past form is anything to go by, they’ll continue to roost there until the spring.

Badger cubs play under the trees, while rooks come in to roost.
It had been meticulously planned, like a military operation. I would drive to the Rutland Birdfair on Friday, attend talks by Matthew Gordon (Earthflight), Simon King, Bill Oddie and Patrick Barkham (Badgerlands). I’d meet the staff on the BBC Wildlife Magazine stand and visit a few others, before going to Derby to spend the night with my brother. I’d return home to Yorkshire on Saturday morning. What actually happened was that I became ill on Thursday, visited the doctor on Friday and spent most of S…

Tansy Beetle Survey

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Yesterday I carried out my part in the annual survey of the distribution of Tansy beetles and tansy plants along the River Ouse. This is the fourth year that I’ve surveyed this stretch, to the south of York. When I started I was a little disappointed to hear that no Tansy beetle had ever been seen here, but last year I found one beetle. I came back in the spring and found seven, so had high hopes of finding more this time. I took a friend who does the stretch to the north of mine. She walks south and I head north, so we meet up in the middle.

GPS and recording form
Nice tansy clump, but no beetles here
My stretch started with a long line of tansy which had been planted by the local farmer last year. It was doing well in parts, but inevitably had become fragmented, which made for a lot of tansy patch recording. Then followed a lot of Himalayan Balsam, crowding out all the native river-bank vegetation. A wide area of ‘waste’ ground further on contained hidden clumps of tansy, amongst nettl…

Green Hay Day

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I’ve had a green hay day. When a wild-flower meadow is cut, it provides an opportunity to create a new one, by transferring the cuttings and much of the seed to another site. I’ve been helping out with a massive Higher Level Stewardship Agri-environment scheme, to create new wet grassland and fen habitats.

The tractor rolls out a bale The end of each bale had to be rolled out by hand A meadow elsewhere was cut on Monday and the bales arrived on our site near Beverley on Tuesday morning. We had to get all the bales rolled out and the hay spread as evenly as possible. A tractor was used to roll out most of each bale, but there was always a bit left over which needed rolling out by hand. A brown hare kept popping up during the afternoon, just keeping clear of us, but not so bothered as to leave the field.

Spreading out the hay
Just when the end was in sight, at about 6:30, another lorry load of bales arrived! If left in the bales overnight, the hay would heat up and kill the seed, so it had t…

Bats at Barlow Common

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On Saturday evening I went to a “Bat walk and talk” at Barlow Common Nature Reserve, near Selby. The reserve was once a refuse tip and was a dumping ground for the rubble from Hull, when it was bombed during World War II. Now, the common has been miraculously transformed into a nature reserve, managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

The evening started with an excellent talk about bats from Ann Hanson, of the Yorkshire Mammal Group. She gave us a good introduction to bat ecology and described the species most commonly found in the area. This was followed up by recordings of bat echolocation calls. We then went out with bat detectors, to see what we could find. The best sighting was of two Common pipistrelles circling around a clearing in the woods, making almost continuous echolocation calls. We also heard occasional calls from a Noctule bat, but by the time I’d tuned in my bat detector, it had gone!



On Sunday, we had our regular monthly conservation work day at Allerthorpe Common. We brus…