The day after Bonfire Night.
(Click on image to enlarge)
6th November 2011: It has been warm and sunny on the marsh today. The air was full of gnats. A small number of other flying insects were busy drawing out the last of the nectar from the few remaining blooms.
A big old tawny owl fell out of a tree in front of me, as I walked into the wood alongside Hoo Brook this morning. At least, I think it fell. I just happened to be looking up into the trees when I noticed something keel over on a branch. It fell two or three feet, head first, before it opened its wings. It swooped down to around six feet from the wood floor, silently flapped its wings and flew steeply up through the trees and away. This is the first time I had witnessed an owl do this. I have seen owls swoop from branches before, but they have always launched themselves properly.
Whilst on the subject of owls: I have various animal calls recorded on my mobile phone: bird calls, wounded rabbit, munjack barking – things like this. I was sitting in the dark, in a bush, in a secluded part of the Hoo Wood yesterday evening, just listening to the sound of the night wildlife. I heard a male tawny owl call in the distance. I played my recorded “to wit”” call of a female tawny, and within minutes I had three male tawnies replying “to wit to woo” from trees very close to the bush I was sitting in. Dr. Doolittle, or what?
First thing this morning, I walked along the twin water pipe-line that skirts the swamp. There had been a serious amount of badger digging in the soil between the pipes last night. The soil is drier between the pipes than it is on either side. I rarely see evidence of badger digging at this location, so I have to ask myself why this should have occurred during last night. As I mentioned in my previous post, the water level on the marsh has risen substantially during the past week. I have a feeling that the badgers are now finding it difficult to locate sufficient worms on the marsh. I wouldn’t mind betting that they will increase their feeding activity in the drier and higher Hoo Wood, as a direct result of the increasing water level on the marsh.
Not far away from the pipes, a rotten tree stump had been torn apart. This is likely to be the work of a badger, too: searching for grubs I expect. A badger won’t mess about if it senses food. In a feeding frenzy, it will use its large powerful claws to wrench a rotting tree asunder.
I find it interesting latching onto the marsh animal behavioural changes, and then working out why the changes have occurred.
Further along the pipes the squirrels were up early gathering their nuts and burying them at the base of hawthorn trees and bushes alongside the pipes. They are eating a lot of berries, which turn their droppings into something reminiscent of little pink and crimson coloured fudgy sweets.
On a north pasture gate post this morning, something had left what looked like a pile of blood and guts full of red berries. Could this have been left there by a buzzard? Was this all that was left of a squirrel, or some other small animal that had feasted on berries? Was it buzzard vomit? I don’t know! I am not good at identifying gizzards.
Below are some of the things I photographed today: