Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Badgers Galore

.A group of Friends of A Rocha UK met in Chorley to share  transport to the farm where the badger hide is situated. After parking in the farmyard, we walked up a small hill, over a short footbridge and then towards a hide. This was in a small, steep, wooded valley. Some of the group had never seen badgers before. With emotions telling our feet to rush, and our logic and age (for me at least) telling them to slow down, we made our way into the hide. It was just large enough for eight people and had large viewing windows. It also seemed to take on the atmosphere of a cathedral, with the trees resembling pillars, the leaf canopy shielding the evening sunlight, creating shadows and mysterious dark corners, and everyone whispering.

I had prepared the area in front of the hide by putting down some peanuts at the entrance to a number of holes. Suddenly some activity, but sadly only from a grey squirrel. After a short period of waiting, we saw the nose and then the head of a wood mouse. He continued to taunt us for a while. Then, with a great deal of snuffling and chomping, one, then another  badger ambled into view. As we watched, the supporting cast added to our evening show. A song thrush declared his territory to all and sundry, with great tits and wrens also making their contribution. Eventually a male tawny owl proclaimed to any passing interloper that this was his wood. The first two badgers were joined by four more, two of which got involved in a rough and tumble. We watched with a mixture of joy and awe. Here were wild badgers, completely at home, relaxed and healthy. After about an hour or so all the badgers drifted away and we took our leave of the hide. Driving away with an almost full moon visible through high wispy clouds, a little owl stood to attention, saluting us as we departed grateful for a fantastic evening

Friday, July 8, 2011

Water and woodland

Visiting a friend recently we went a walk in a nearby woodland. It was noticable that birdsong had diminished though there was still lots of activity. Most of the birds were common and juvenile. We approached a pond which had a lot of flag iris on one side but also a lot of clear water. I started looking for odonata but was initially frustrated. My friend suddenly pointed across the water at a large red damselfly. It was the opening of the floodgates with several large reds and azures patrolling the area. A few of these were in tandem and two pairs were ovipositing. I then heard the buzz of wings which turned out to be a male emperor. We enjoyed watching this energetic dragonfly as he protected his territory. Then a little closer to us was another dragonfly with what seemed to be an almost golden body. It was soon joined by its partner who had a powder blue body. It was a pair of broad-bodied chasers. The female did a lot of ovipositing near the edge of the pond. We decided to amble back home keeping our eyes open for butterflies. We were overwhelmed by the number of speckled wood butterflies.Others seen were small whites, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown and Red Admiral. I then was puzzled by a butterfly I did not recognise so I took a photo. Once home I discovered it was a ringlet - a first for me. I have not published the location of this woodland since we also saw signs of badger, and the decision should be made soon, by our greenest government ever? to start culling this lovely creature.