Worcestershire Record No. 22 April 2007 pp. 23-24

MORE NEWS FROM THE WILDLIFE CCTV CAMERAS!

Rosemary Winnall

We have continued to use our wildlife cameras in around the garden at Willow Bank near Bewdley, and gained more insight into what is happening there during the daytime and at night.

During the heavy snowfalls we had in February, I was able to use the wireless CCTV camera by placing it inside a box so that it didnít get damaged by snow. It was interesting to observe the birds that came to feed during that time and playback the recording in slow motion to watch their behaviour and interactions. We had a Fieldfare that came to feed on apples but it was regularly driven off by the smaller Blackbirds (see picture). It is usually the other way round when the birds feed on the windfalls.

Blackbird driving off Fieldfare in the snow Redwings feeding on Guelder Rose

The Guelder Rose bushes were covered in snow-covered berries at this time. I wired the camera into the bush and waited in the warmth of the house for the birds to come. We donít often see any birds eating these berries, but when food is short, they obviously provide a useful supply. On one snowy day we watched a succession of Redwings (see pictures above), a Fieldfare, Blackbirds and a Mistle Thrush flying in to eat the berries, (not quite as impressive as the 66 Waxwings in the bushes in March 2005 though!)

In March we watched the antics of the breeding frogs at close quarters, and continued to feed badgers and foxes at night. The foxes are becoming much more confident and will spend 20 minutes eating the peanuts carefully, chewing up each one (see picture below). I can also see where they have subsequently walked by spotting bits of peanut in the droppings!

Fox eating peanuts Moorhen eating bird seed

During March we had a surprise visitor to the bird feeding area just outside the front door. A Moorhen arrived and before long was feeding daily on High-energy, No-mess CJ Wildbird Foods seed mixture (see picture above). In between this and swimming around on our small garden pond, it would retreat into the nearby Holly tree and climb up about 10feet where it would preen and snooze before flying down to feed again. I was intrigued about how the Moorhen with its very large feet could climb, and so I set the camera up inside the tree and recorded the action. It was surprisingly adept at climbing and never used its wings to balance. I know that we can get close views of Moorhen behaviour by visiting Slimbridge, but we have not had this bird just outside our lounge window before!

As usual in the spring, I put out a variety of potential nesting material for the birds and it was fun to watch live on the TV screen, and at close quarters, what came along and how the material was collected. We had great Tits and Blue Tits, House Sparrows and Robins. The Dunnocks visited regularly and the male (or one of them!) watched the female gathering huge beaks full of human hair brought home from my hairdresser (see picture below), before taking it off to her nest in the juniper bush! I didnít check to see if they preferred black, blond or auburn!

I wanted to check that our chimney nest box was being used by the Tawny Owl again this year, and with a bit of ingenuity and a long step ladder, I fixed the camera up the tree above the box. We all gathered round the TV screen and as darkness approached a Grey Squirrel clambered past the box on its way back to its drey. Then the owl suddenly appeared up out of the box! Unfortunately it flew off in haste before I had time to push the record button, but at least I knew that it was using the box.

Dunnock collecting hair Blue tits feeding young

Now we are watching another Blue Tit nest in the bird box with the camera built in. They have started to lay and I am reminded of the interest we had last year as the young hatched and we were able to follow the progress of the young (see picture above).

We have had such a lot of fun with these cameras over the last couple of years, but now my interest is turning to another type of camera which will take pictures and digital movie footage remotely. This is the Stealth Camera which has a built in motion and heat sensor. You can see details on the following website www.gardenature.co.uk. The advantage is that these cameras record still and short movie images onto a memory card that can be read by the computer, so it should be much easier to edit. I shall have to start saving!

Captions

Blackbird driving off Fieldfare in the snow
Redwings feeding on Guelder Rose berries
Fox eating peanuts
Moorhen eating bird seed
Dunnock collecting hair
Blue Tits feeding young

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