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Showing posts from October, 2015

Autumn Task Days

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I had some tansy plants left over, which have occupied my patio all summer, so I decided it was time to get them planted out. In August, I planted 600 on some 'waste ground' at Acomb Landing (in York), which had been covered with Himalayan balsam, but is potentially excellent tansy beetle habitat. So this week I've cleared some more ground and planted out the last 500 of the plants I'd grown over the summer. On Wednesday heavy rain was forecast, so it was a race against time to get the last plants in before the deluge started. At least they got watered in well.

New growth on the August crop
 One new clump planted and ground prepared for the second
On Thursday I went to a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust task day at North Cave Wetlands. I hadn't been there since June and of course things were looking very different. Huge flocks of geese are arriving for the winter. We cut back the willows growing along the banks of one of the lakes and used the cut whips to build a rustic …

End of an Era for YWT Volunteers

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At the end of this week, John Wollaston retires. He's been Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's East Yorkshire Field Officer for the last 10 years. He's managed most of the volunteer work days I've been on since I retired seven years ago. If ever there was an 'unsung hero' of conservation, it's John.

 John Wollaston (photo: Paul Robinson)
As well as having the huge range of practical skills required for his job, he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of natural history, being a skilled birder, botanist and entomologist. He's equally able to guide parties of academics around Askham Bog nature reserve, or inspire groups of primary school children at Kiplingcotes.

Mowing brambles at North Cliffe Wood, so next year's bluebells will be the best ever
There was always a relaxed and friendly atmosphere on his volunteer work days, masking the fact that many required meticulous planning. He'd arrive with a trailer loaded with just the right materials to build a section …

The Secret Life of Badgers

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Last night I went to a fascinating lecture given by Mike Noonan, a DPhil student with the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCru). This was organised by Yorkshire Mammal Group. WildCru have been studying badgers at Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire for the last 25 years.

The main focus of the talk was the development of new tracking devices for monitoring badger movements above and below ground. They are now collecting a vast amount of data, which is challenging many of the previous assumptions about badger society.

Every movement is being tracked
The new collars have three components that measure how a badger is moving and where it's moving to, above or below ground. A 'tri-axial accelerometer' records the pitch, yaw and roll of badgers (!) giving a good idea of what the badger is actually doing at a given time. Radio tracking only works well above ground, so they are using magneto-inductive devices to track badger movement below ground. Previous coll…

Autumn Update from the Badger Sett

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The badgers I watch had no cubs this year, so it's been very quiet around the sett. During the summer they lost interest in peanuts. I saw them coming out and setting off across the wood or into the fields, but they stopped coming to the food I was putting out. I hoped this was because natural foods were in good supply and they had no need of my supplementary feeding. Next morning of course, the food was gone, but they'd taken it at two or three in the morning, long after I'd given up watching.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been putting food out again and now they're showing more interest, coming to it as soon as they emerge in the evening. At this time of year it's almost totally dark by the time they emerge, so really all I can see is the flip-out screen on my camcorder, with its infrared light illuminating the badgers.

A message from the badgers for National Badger Day
I had a simple idea for a short film for National Badger Day. Badgers are never …