Monday, 21 December 2009

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Winter Coats with Ermine Trim...

The local lanes were flooded. I had to take a long winded route to get to see the fox cubs and was running rather late. He waited watching for the car door to open...
... but it was all taking much too long. Impatiently he jumped up on the bonnet peeking in to see what the delay was.

Scampering back and forth, he first stared at what I was doing, then leant round to see if the door was opening yet.

Then it was the cute 'feed me' face that he has perfected so well. The hunting hasn't been so easy with the fields so flooded and a little bit of extra food seemed to go down rather nicely.

I still call them cubs, but really they are all grown up. They are getting their winter coats, thicker with silver flanks, and their brush is really full (the perfect duvet and pillow to curl up with).

Homeward bound took me along a dark lane where suicidal rabbits play 'chicken' with the car, so I kept my eyes peeled for any potential jay walkers. In the distance, one particular rabbit stood out from the rest, fluorescing in the spotlights.

As I got closer, the peculiar running style looked more like that of a Stoat. Brilliant white, I first thought it must be an Ermine (a Stoat with its white winter coat), but it wasn't cold enough and all the local Stoats are still in their dark summer fur.

It was clear as I got out of the car that this wasn't a wild animal. It was an albino Ferret. It wasn't afraid of humans and allowed me to get quite close. As soon as I attempted to corner it , it would play 'hide and seek' down the numerous rabbit burrows.

I placed some food down a rabbit hole, and left. The next day I went back with a box and some thick leather motorcycle gloves, but it was gone. Lets hope it keeps itself out of trouble, there are plenty of foxes and owls that would find the poorly camouflaged chappess an easy snack, and it's not used to the wicked ways of the wild...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Stuck in a Rut...

This is the time of year that the Fallow Deer rut. Determined not to miss out on the spectacle, I headed off into the woods. Beyond the old military shooting butts the forest is thick and dark. The steep slopes are favoured by the deer and few people stray from the paths into the trees.

Of course that might be something to do with the hundreds of disused mine shafts. Dug over the centuries, many of these shafts were never mapped or filled in. Over the years some have collapsed in on themselves, while others remain hidden beneath the bracken. Unfortunately this is the best place to view the rutting stands, so I'd have to take my chances.

I wandered high and low. The Bucks were bellowing loudly. I'd head off in the direction of the noise, only for it to stop moments before I'd located the 'stand' and another one would start in the distance. It was frustrating, so I hung up the hammock and stopped for a spot of tiffin.
I took a photo of my picnic spot, viewed the picture, and switched my camera off. At the same moment I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. A young Stag! It had crept up on me. I lifted the camera... Aaah! It was switched off... fumble, fumble. He was gone. They were playing games with me.

Eventually I discovered a stand. The ground was muddied from days of pounding, and the lower branches cleared from the trees by sweeping antlers. I ducked down below a steep slope to get my other camera from my rucksack. There was a deep bellow and the ground rumbled as two young Bucks leapt passed my head and on down the impossible incline...
I'd missed them I thought, but no. As I stood up there was a huge Buck like a black shadow in the forest.

I was soon spotted, but whether it was indecision or curiosity that delayed them, it gave me enough time to grab some video footage.

For a moment the Stag stared me in the eye, and I was worried that he was going to come crashing through the trees at me.

Luckily he had 'lurve' on the mind. They disappeared into the collage of trees with admirable stealth.

It was starting to get dark. The moon hid behind the clouds. The car was parked a long way away, over by a tree. Suddenly there seemed to be a lot of trees that all looked alike.

Still, it was no problem, it would turn up. Must be careful not to fall down any mine shafts...

I'll use the camera flash to see where I am... Oooh more trees... and eyes in the woods!
Nevermind, I have a cunning plan...

Monday, 5 October 2009

Deer Summer, please visit again soon...

As the summer fades to a fond memory, I make sure I find time to embrace any remaining sunny days.
The sand quarries on the hills are a favourite haunt. Small lakes, pioneering rough scrub, and Gorsy slopes, are framed by mature woodland in a sea of green fields dotted with church topped villages.
Of course my romantic eye chooses to ignore the semi industrial elements, but not the signs warning me of impending doom. The silt pools ARE dangerous, and you really have to watch what you're doing. There's something a little concerning about a 6 foot sign warning you of quicksand that has sunk up to its neck.

It's these pools and the new growth on the silt that brings the deer to graze. I often see Muntjac, but there is also a herd of Fallow deer. I'm impressed how such a large animal in good number remain unseen throughout the day. I can spend hours following the tracks trough the woods and across the sands, it's fun to see what they've been up to.

This is the wallow hole that they visit almost daily. In its base is the perfect imprint of a large deer that has been lying on its side. The forest floor when disturbed sends up clouds of mosquitoes, and a coating of mud helps prevent bites. I was tempted to try it, but instead opted for higher mozzy free ground...

Up on the hill I settled for a while to watch over the surrounding land, hoping to spot some wildlife. The Buzzard screeching a warning overhead, combined with my lack of patience, meant I had no luck.

I knew the deer were out there somewhere in the mist comforted trees. Maybe it wasn't a lack of patience but more my rumbling tummy that sent me on my way.

Down in the mature woodland I managed to forage some Sweet Chestnuts while I was waiting for the water to boil for my coffee.

A quick simmer and they hit the spot for a yummy snack.

Hedgerow Hazelnuts provided some perambulant picnicking...

... as I headed homeward through the picture postcard scenery.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Don't 'owl... whistle!

As the fox cubs have become older, their territories have widened. Often when I go to visit them they are not around, they're off in the fields doing what Foxes do. Instead of shouting like a loony in the dead of night, a couple of short blasts on a 'silent' dog whistle (ultra-sonic whistle) would let them know that I was there. Sometimes owls would turn up too. At first I thought they were reacting to the foxes, or simply curious to find out what all the kerfuffle was, but soon I realised that it was the whistle that they were responding to.
(I know it isn't very clear... but there is an owl on the telephone lines... see?)
After some experimentation I discovered that a two tone silent whistle worked best. That is, a whistle that as well as an ultra-sonic note, also had an audible element. Most of these whistles are tune able to some degree. If you completely remove the locknut then it is possible to raise the audible note to a really high pitch just on the edge of your hearing. It is this combination of very high , and ultra-sonic that owls seem to like.

Trying to emulate the sounds of squeaking prey such as mice, voles etc would only bring the owls so far.

They would look around somewhat confused as to where the sound was coming from.

Luckily they didn't view me as prey even when I hid in the long grass or wore my furry hat.

I tuned the whistle down a tiny bit and copied a Tawny owl call.... Bingo!!!

Suddenly we were friends and the owl came flying over to me for a closer look.

The chap was quite happy for me to take photos and seemed interested in the raisins I had in my hand to feed the foxes. I wasn't sure if owls should eat raisins and although I checked my pockets, I hadn't got any mice on me.
I'll have to study the calls of Barn owls and see if they respond as well. Maybe Little Owls would be fun too as they come out in the day and so would be easier to photograph.
Must remember to put some Voles in my pocket for next time...
If you like your owls really big, then click on the picture and they will embiggen.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

The Thing in the Woods... cont'd

I went back in broad daylight curious to find out more about the thing in the woods. It was clear that someone had visited the site, as the twigs I'd carefully laid down were trodden and broken. The camouflaged log thing had been stood upright against a tree trunk. Eager to know more, I once again lifted the hatch, this time from the other side. After a bit of firking about I felt something further down in the hole, I pulled it up. It was a laminated label. "ECO-VIEWER MK3 RECEIVER AND DIGITAL RECORDER"
So it is a covert camera system.
On studying the now upright camo' log, the lens was obvious. Last time I visited it was slumped up against the tree, the lens hidden by the trunk. It must have fallen out of position and the operator has been back to rectify it. Not wanting to appear on CCTV I had to bend over backwards in a comical ballet position in order to take the somewhat blurry photo. Lets hope that there is only one hidden camera or else there is some great footage of me making a pleb out of myself!

It seems likely that this is a covert camera system left by the council in order to catch fly-tippers. I'm no fan of CCTV, and to find out that even in the countryside where I thought I was safe from prying eyes, I am still been spied upon, frankly pisses me off. People (if you can call them that) that dump crap in the countryside (or anywhere) piss me off even more, so I will tolerate this little intrusion.
From the looks of the case etc, I reckon this system is similar to the one below.

I don't suppose that these systems come cheap, and apparently the council have had a few of these stolen (Hint... hide it better, and/or lock it to a tree?) ... Not by me of course, what possible use or adventures would I find for one of these?!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Thing in the Woods...

It is a wood I know well, out in the countryside, not particularly near anywhere. Something was different. A branch out of place. Foliage that did not belong. A footprint where there shouldn't be. A tweak in the wire of the fence.
I looked closer and saw this. At first I thought it was a homeless persons stash.

A closer inspection revealed a wire, disguised with camouflaged tape. The wire led down into the leaf cover.

I followed the wire through the leaf litter along the floor of the woods...

It disappeared into what looked like a hatch.

I cleared away a little of the debris, and tentatively peeked under the edge.

Carefully I lifted up the lid. Beneath was a Peli case and two large camouflaged battereis.

I didn't attempt to open the case. I don't know what this equipment does. Maybe it's some sort of E.T. contraption 'phoning home'... (I didn't see any BMX tracks). Someone has gone to a lot of effort to conceal it. I reckon that it's got to be some sort of surveillance apparatus. The local council use spy tactics to catch people illegally dumping, and there was that incident where a postal van was set on fire here after a raid with the driver still tied up inside (he got out luckily), so it could be the police. I couldn't find any sort of a camera attached. I suppose there could be a remote camera. It's mystery, and that's why I'm going back tonight. I'll be sure to take a scanner to try and find a signal of any kind, as well as a video camera to pick up any infra red from a low light camera...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Don't bee silly...

One of the little guys has been a bit silly. It's a steep learning curve when you're young, trying to figure out what's good to eat and what's not. This weeks lesson... don't eat bees!
Although he's got a bit of a lump, it certainly doesn't stop him from enjoying a more palatable meal. I know that the rabbit is in a Sainsburys bag, but sorry to disappoint you, they haven't extended their 'Taste the Difference' range. For those of you that like to store their rabbits under a wiper blade for safe transportation, it is always prudent to remember not to operate said wiper. You may be surprised at just how high you can throw a rabbit simply by switching on your wipers at 60mph...