Sunday, 31 January 2016

Going Bump In The Night

(Note: I have been made aware that some readers are having issues viewing the videos. Sorry! Please let me know if it works or not for you!)
Before Christmas I was fortunate enough to be able to acquire a remote trail camera. (For those who haven't come across these, its similar basically to a security camera, the sort of thing they use on BBC Springwatch; a battery operated, motion activated camera with an infrared capability.) I had tested it in my garden, but then the winter weather closed in and I didn't dare leave my precious equipment out in the rain, and so it has been a couple of months since an opportunity has arisen to use it. 

Last night however, the forecast was perfect - a dry fine night after rain. I knew that the night-time activities of the local wildlife included visits to my home area by both badgers and foxes, as I had heard them fighting and calling on recent evenings, so I had high hopes! 

I strapped my camera, set up to capture video clips if triggered between 6pm & 6am, to the base of an ornamental cherry tree near to my house, in the vicinity of some well worn animal tracks and previous badger sightings. A small handful of peanuts from my stock of bird-food, scattered far and wide on the grass in front, would hopefully encourage more than a passing glimpse of any nocturnal wildlife that passed that way. 

Early this morning I dashed down to retrieve the camera and find out if it had captured any recordings - the anticipation was unbearable! 

I was thrilled to find, upon popping the memory card into my laptop, a whole collection of clips - the full story of the night's wildlife. 

The two main characters were fox and badger. Never appearing in the same shot, these two creatures nonetheless seemed to be well aware of the other's presence,  giving each other a wide berth and plenty of space as they clearly wished to avoid conflict. The first to arrive was a fox, at about half-past-eight. The fox is clearly wary, and rightly so; there are probably still people about and possibly dogs too at this time of night. If you watch this clip carefully, you can see that even when it sneaks out of the view to the left into the cover of the vegetation behind the fence, it doesn't go far and actually turns around to peer back out and watch for danger - look for the eye-shine! 

This fox looks to be in good condition with a thick brush (tail), and no cuts or chinks in the ears or other signs of injury. 

I wonder what caught the fox's attention here, something from above - an owl perhaps? 

It wasn't much later, at about nine-o'clock when the first badger appeared. This animal foraged for the peanuts too, but mostly closer to the camera than the fox, partly out of sight. However this gave a good view of how scruffy this particular individual was; its large and rotund body looked much as though it had been pushing through a hedge backwards, leaving its fur stood on end! Once it had decided it had had enough peanuts it moved off, back the way it had come, stopping for a scratch and a shake on the way. 


The fox returned repeatedly during the night, and I have been studying the footage in and attempt to ascertain if it is the same individual or not. I am fairly certain however that there were three individual badgers. The scruffy one, a large solidly built badger which scent marked as it passed through so could be the dominant boar, and third with a light patch in its fur and which appears to me to be noticeably 'fat'. Could it be possible that this third individual could be an expectant sow? As usual with nature, the more you find out the more questions it creates!

Scent-marking badger

Badger 003

More fox action, the last of the night at around four in the morning. Could this be a different animal to the first? Its behaviour is very cautious and 'investigative' and I noticed very dark and distinctive 'tear' markings on the face. A final badger passed through at nearly five o'clock, (possibly a fourth individual) but didn't stop for long, aware I expect that the human world may soon be waking up. 

I hope to put the camera out again soon and look forward to revealing more detail of these nocturnal animals' nightly activities. Will I be able to distinguish individuals? Perhaps the badgers will bring cubs past later in the summer? Watch this space!

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Hello! Thank you for viewing my blogs and profile. I am passionate about the countryside and british wildlife and I hope that this comes through in my blog. I am a nature writer and have been pursuing photography since early teenage years, whilst building a career in conservation. Helping people to reconnect with the natural world is very important to me, whether through direct hands on interaction, education or literature. Please also visit my website, for more information, my current CV, and further examples of writing and photography. You can contact me or keep up to date with new blog posts via Twitter @SophiEcoWild and/or Feedback, comments and audience participation are always welcome! Sophie May Lewis