Mammals

by Robin Fuller July. 10, 2020 275 views

Most mammals which use our garden are nocturnal and hard to see. We have bats flying through regularly but there is little prospect of me photographing those. Badgers frequently pass through our woodland but cannot get into the main garden because of a small but badger-proof wall dividing the two. Most badgers are present in the early hours of the morning. Using a night vision camera and a few peanuts, I found one was visiting our woodland at about 11pm, providing a photo opportunity.

 Armed with a bridge camera, using the built-in flash, I had to point and shoot over the wall at the snuffling noise as I could see nothing at all. The camera's red focus assist light helped me then to see the badger and frame the shot, something the badger ignored. Click and hope!

Armed with a bridge camera, using the built-in flash, I had to point and shoot over the wall at the snuffling noise as I could see nothing at all. The camera's red focus assist light helped me then to see the badger and frame the shot, something the badger ignored. Click and hope!

Here I am using a compact camera. The flash did not disturb the badger any more that a flash of lightning would have done. So I had another opportunity to shoot in the dark and hope for good results.

Here I am using a compact camera. The flash did not disturb the badger any more that a flash of lightning would have done. So I had another opportunity to shoot in the dark and hope for good results.

A second shot shows what a wet night it was when the photo was taken. Feasting on scattered peanuts, the badger did not seem to mind the weather. Eventually I must have made a noise and the badger crashed away through the undergrowth.

A second shot shows what a wet night it was when the photo was taken. Feasting on scattered peanuts, the badger did not seem to mind the weather. Eventually I must have made a noise and the badger crashed away through the undergrowth.

In recent years, the badgers have decided to come through the front metal railings and into the back garden. I liked the idea of having badgers in our biodiversity garden - at first. My CAMpark T45 trail camera gave me the chance to see how they were getting in and, when in, what they were up to. The following are stills from AVI movie clips. They are presented not as examples of good photos but in order to tell the story.

The gap between the railings in front of this badger is just 11cm. A badger may be 75-100cm long and weigh 8-12kg with about a 40cm girth (waist size). It just doesn't look possible for it to get through.

The gap between the railings in front of this badger is just 11cm. A badger may be 75-100cm long and weigh 8-12kg with about a 40cm girth (waist size). It just doesn't look possible for it to get through.

But even large badgers were getting through and they were queuing up to do so.

But even large badgers were getting through and they were queuing up to do so.

The badgers started digging holes all over the lawn looking for leatherjackets (the larvae of the Crane fly or Daddy longlegs fly). They also trashed our bird-proof strawberry cage to get the strawberries themselves. The problems seemed to have been exacerbated in very dry weather when the badgers' favoured food, earthworms, are forced deep underground and became inaccessible to the badgers. The garden had not been frequented by badgers for many years. It would have to stop again now! They would have to make do with the woodland thoroughfare which seemed the more appropriate habitat for them. At least, that was the idea!

 I decided to install an extra barrier across the gap in the fence. A badger susses out its options.

I decided to install an extra barrier across the gap in the fence. A badger susses out its options.

Badgers are persistent. This one has its head and one shoulder through, and is wriggling through the gap and about to climb over my makeshift barrier at the same time.

Badgers are persistent. This one has its head and one shoulder through, and is wriggling through the gap and about to climb over my makeshift barrier at the same time.

And it worked  -  half way through and with its round belly past the railings. It finally got all the way through.

And it worked - half way through and with its round belly past the railings. It finally got all the way through.

But the up and over route was not for all. So they then dug a tunnel under the bottom rail of the wrought iron fence. The excavated soil is piled behind the badger.

But the up and over route was not for all. So they then dug a tunnel under the bottom rail of the wrought iron fence. The excavated soil is piled behind the badger.

But even that route is tight. It is hard to see in this still photo but the badger is halfway through, the head out the other side but the tail is still to follow. The underpass has become the preferred route of access ever since.

But even that route is tight. It is hard to see in this still photo but the badger is halfway through, the head out the other side but the tail is still to follow. The underpass has become the preferred route of access ever since.

I have given up the fight. The badgers have won. Having wriggled under the fence, this badger boldly plods its way to another night's mayhem in our garden. They are a part of the natural biodiversity and who am I to stop them?

I have given up the fight. The badgers have won. Having wriggled under the fence, this badger boldly plods its way to another night's mayhem in our garden. They are a part of the natural biodiversity and who am I to stop them?

Urban Red foxes are common in Britain's towns but I am pleased to say we have 'proper' country foxes, living by their wits, hunting birds and mammals and gathering nuts and berries.

A fox does a circuit of the lawn to see what there might be to eat. They regularly trot round the lawn but are gone in a few seconds.

A fox does a circuit of the lawn to see what there might be to eat. They regularly trot round the lawn but are gone in a few seconds.

The same fox dozes in the early morning sunshine in the semi-natural grass area.

The same fox dozes in the early morning sunshine in the semi-natural grass area.

Probably the same fox again, prowling through the woodland, as a youngster in its first summer.

Probably the same fox again, prowling through the woodland, as a youngster in its first summer.

A fox is so much more attractive seen stalking through a woodland than turning out a food waste bin on an urban street. If in the garden they are controlling pests like rats and rabbits, that is a good thing for us.

A fox is so much more attractive seen stalking through a woodland than turning out a food waste bin on an urban street. If in the garden they are controlling pests like rats and rabbits, that is a good thing for us.

This year there was just one cub that we have seen.

This year there was just one cub that we have seen.

Small mammals, essentially rodents in our garden, underpin the food webs that support carnivorous mammals and birds of prey. Foxes are vital to control rabbits and rats in our garden. At one time, young rabbits were regularly finding their way into our rear garden from a nearby area of parkland. Rabbits seemed to develop a special taste for newly purchased garden plants, the higher the price tag, the tastier the plant.

Happily, we don't have rabbits in the garden now. Myxamatosis has reduced rabbit populations locally and foxes have controlled the expansion in numbers

Happily, we don't have rabbits in the garden now. Myxamatosis has reduced rabbit populations locally and foxes have controlled the expansion in numbers

Grey squirrels can be a delight and a thorough nuisance. Of course we would love still to have the native Red squirrel in our area but the Grey squirrel, introduced from North America, led to the demise of the Red squirrels throughout most of Britain, partly through competition for food and territory, partly by carrying and transmitting parapoxvirus which Grey squirrels resist but the Red squirrels do not.

Sqirrels can be seen through the day, almost every day, all year round. They can do 'cute' but they can be thorough pests. We never get Hazel nuts and Walnuts, thanks to squirrels which eat them long before they are ripe.

Sqirrels can be seen through the day, almost every day, all year round. They can do 'cute' but they can be thorough pests. We never get Hazel nuts and Walnuts, thanks to squirrels which eat them long before they are ripe.

They don't walk, they don't run, but travel everywhere in nimble leaps and bounds. The woodland is a natural corridor for squirrels leaping through the tree canopy, but they happily travel along our wall or, when gleaning dropped food at the bird feeders, bound across the lawn.

They don't walk, they don't run, but travel everywhere in nimble leaps and bounds. The woodland is a natural corridor for squirrels leaping through the tree canopy, but they happily travel along our wall or, when gleaning dropped food at the bird feeders, bound across the lawn.

They can empty a bird feeder in minutes. I don't mind them clearing up seeds dropped to the ground by birds. This is a squirrel-proof feeder where the weight of the squirrel pulls the outer mesh case down on its spring mounting, closing the food access points in the middle.

They can empty a bird feeder in minutes. I don't mind them clearing up seeds dropped to the ground by birds. This is a squirrel-proof feeder where the weight of the squirrel pulls the outer mesh case down on its spring mounting, closing the food access points in the middle.

Squirrel-proof cage feeders seem to work insofar as the food lasts reasonably well but I think some smaller squirrels can still gorge themselves on food intended for birds.

Squirrel-proof cage feeders seem to work insofar as the food lasts reasonably well but I think some smaller squirrels can still gorge themselves on food intended for birds.

A squirrel baffle is the best barrier I have found for our pole hung feeders. It means I can use any type of feeder hung above the baffle and squirrels cannot climb to feed. It means I can use open feeders rather than having to view birds through wire cages.

A squirrel baffle is the best barrier I have found for our pole hung feeders. It means I can use any type of feeder hung above the baffle and squirrels cannot climb to feed. It means I can use open feeders rather than having to view birds through wire cages.

Rats sometimes come to bird feeder sites to find dropped sunflower seeds. These two are youngsters, searching for dropped bird feed.

Rats sometimes come to bird feeder sites to find dropped sunflower seeds. These two are youngsters, searching for dropped bird feed.

Rats are unwelcome guests. Thankfully, we rarely see them. It seems that foxes, cats, maybe badgers and probably Tawny owls have controlled their numbers.

Rats are unwelcome guests. Thankfully, we rarely see them. It seems that foxes, cats, maybe badgers and probably Tawny owls have controlled their numbers.

The Yellow-necked wood mouse is a species of countryside unlike its unwelcome relative, the House mouse, which thankfully we don't have around our property.

The Yellow-necked wood mouse is a species of countryside unlike its unwelcome relative, the House mouse, which thankfully we don't have around our property.

A Long tailed field vole is a common species of the countryside and larger gardens. Rather unfortunately for the vole, it is a favoured food of carnivorous mammals and birds of prey. This one runs the length of the side flower border to reach food dropped by birds at the feeders.

A Long tailed field vole is a common species of the countryside and larger gardens. Rather unfortunately for the vole, it is a favoured food of carnivorous mammals and birds of prey. This one runs the length of the side flower border to reach food dropped by birds at the feeders.

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Andy Truscott 9 months, 2 weeks ago

smile

9 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
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