Worcestershire Record No. 21 April 2007 p. 14-15

MORE NEWS FROM THE WILDLIFE CCTV CAMERAS!

Rosemary Winnall

You may remember that I use CCTV cameras for recording wildlife in my garden (Worcestershire Record number 20, April 2006). This year, in addition to the black and white infra-red camera and the wireless colour camera, we were able to use a camera in a nest box. During the spring we were delighted to watch a pair of Blue Tits nesting. We have probably all seen much film footage of birds in a nestbox feeding young, but somehow when they are your own garden birds it is much more interesting! From the house we could also watch the parent birdís behaviour outside the box. We were able to watch the adults nest prospecting and building the nest too. I had no idea that the birds go to so much trouble to check that the nesting hole is suitable. It is fascinating to watch the adult sorting the nesting material and shaping the nest cup. With the microphone that is part of the camera system, it is possible to pick up the different calls made by the parents and young and listen to their interactions. We were able to watch what happens in the nest at night too as our camera uses infra-red light in the dark.

You might remember that I had this nestbox customised in the hope that I might be able to film breeding mice. We continued to watch during the summer, and indeed the box was visited by mice occasionally, but they did not breed. This might have been because I removed the Blue Titís nest when the young had fledged and cleaned the box. Next year I shall leave the nest material in place because mice bred in two other garden nest boxes, each containing recently vacated tit nests.

We have continued to feed badgers and foxes throughout the year, gradually moving the food up the garden to a more convenient spot. I have gradually got the animals used to a 500 watt light so we can now sit on the steps (from where the animals cannot scent us so readily), just 8 feet away and watch the action by the light of the spotlight (see picture)! The extra light is useful for focussing a still camera too

As in all wildlife watching, one can learn so much about behaviour. We have two badgers that regularly come together Ė we call them Buddy and Holly. One is larger and paler than the other and has a different size and shape of white stripe on the head. I think this is the male after checking his anatomy on the DVD recordings when he sits back to scratch! The tails vary too. But it is their difference in behaviour that is most marked. The large one is so relaxed that he lies down to feed and hardly looks up when I accidentally drop the torch close by. The smaller one is frisky, nervous and often does not stay to finish the food. In the very hot weather, when natural food would have been in short supply, there was a lot of pushing and shoving when both badgers arrived together.

Fox and Badger feeding together 
11/4/2006

The food I put out nightly is dried dogfood for the fox and badger food purchased from CJWildbird Foods, which is made up of peanuts, locust beans and flaked maize. Our badgers seem to prefer the peanuts, often leaving the beans and maize and never taking the dogfood. Only once have I seen a fox and a badger feeding close together at the same time (see picture). Usually the fox keeps in the background until the badger has finished eating.

Whilst reading up about badgers I was intrigued to see a reference to the fact that someone had found 250 golf balls inside one sett! (Collins Field Guide Mammals of Britain and Europe by David MacDonald and Priscilla Barrett). We decided to experiment and put out a golf ball and a henís egg near the badger food, and indeed the badger, after it had finished eating the badger food, always took the golf ball away in its mouth in preference to the egg (see picture). The henís egg would be carried away when the golf ball was absent (see picture). We experimented with table tennis balls, tennis balls and plums, but these were always ignored! We realised that the badger would disappear off with the egg and sometimes return a couple of minutes later. By changing the camera angle we captured this on DVD on one occasion. The badger had the egg in its mouth it paused and looked around for a while as if thinking where to go, and then disappeared off under the bracken about 3 metres away. It emerged minus the egg about two minutes later and continued to feed on the peanuts. Did the badger leave it there until it had finished eating and then collect it to take it back to the sett, or did he bury it? I examined the area the following morning but found no evidence of the egg! After that I started marking eggs and golf balls with the date in case we find them in the future! Nothing has turned up so far!

Badger taking golf ball 29/6/2006

Badger taking hen's egg 16/6/2006

You may remember that we have also filmed Buzzards feeding on meat scraps. For some years we have had Ravens flying over regularly, presumably from their breeding areas close by in the Wyre Forest. The first time that we saw one land to feed was when we had put out a rabbit road kill. Since then we have seen Ravens occasionally fly down to feed on the meat scraps, although they are much more wary than the buzzards (see picture). We havenít had a Red KiteÖÖÖ. yet!!

Raven arriving to feed 21/3/2006 Rosemary and the cat badger-watching! See tennis ball in foreground which was ignored.

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