28th January 2012: The kingfisher spotted me first again this morning; all I saw was an iridescent blue streak skimming along the surface of Hoo Book. One day I will snap him!
A pair of courting mallards swam down the brook past me. If Mr and Mrs Mallard weren’t so interested in each other, they would have flown off as soon as they set eyes on me. I think the male was trying to impress the female, because he stood his ground, looked me straight in the eyes, and began dipping his head in a threatening manner. Instead of flying away, the couple just continued to swim, nonchalantly, down to the River Stour. Now and again, they stopped and looked at me as if to say: ‘I’m not afraid of you, Mr!’
The swamp pasture is tinged with green, which means the marsh growing season has started – at last!
The squirrels are hungry; they are stripping bark from tree branches. This is not good. I know the squirrels must do what they can to survive, but stripping bark from trees annoys me. This is all due to them not hibernating and forgetting where they buried their nut hoards. The squirrels put great effort into burying their nut hoards last year – they have had plenty of time to fill their larders. I think the problem was that they spent too much time chilling in the sun and left their nut gathering until the last minute. Still, I suppose this is nature’s way. The de-barked branches will die, and will need lopping off later this year. More branches will start to grow when the sap starts to rise.
I read in our local paper today that planning permission is being sought to change the use of the Wilden Lane scrap yard to a stop-over place for travelling showmen, and a triangle of ground to the south of the scrap yard – directly next to the marsh south entrance – to a Gypsy caravan site.
27th January 2012: January is the peak month of the foxes’ mating season. There has been much fox barking and screaming during evenings on the marsh this month. Throughout last year, I have seen and photographed the marsh foxes hunting as a pair: one worked to keep their prey’s attention, whilst the other crept-up from behind and made the kill – it is a very effective strategy.
My camera traps have snapped a vixen every night this week: thirty short videos clips, but only a few stills. I think it’s a vixen, because it is a timid fox; the marsh dog fox is brash and not at all skittish. I leave a small handful of lamb flavoured rice nuts a few meters from the camera lenses. The dog fox just stands there and eats all the nuts in one go; the vixen rushes in and out, grabbing a nut or two at a time.
February is a quiet month in the fox’s world. The fights for the right to mate are over. Most of last year’s juveniles have been chased away. Some juveniles might be allowed to stay within the adult foxes’ territory, usually females who will rear and look after the cubs at night when mum is away hunting. The young females will act as aunties, also hunting food for the cubs.
Usually, only the dominant vixen is allowed to mate; she will be confined to her earth during February. This year’s cubs will be born in March.
In the slide-show shows are a few of this week’s images from my Fox Cam. It’s not only the foxes that are dining on rice nuts. The field mouse rushed in many times to grab a nut:
26th January 2012: My Wilden Marsh and Hoo Wood blog is one year old today. Happy Birthday.
24th January 2011: I set up a couple of remote cameras on Sunday: one taking stills, the other video.
I’m not a fan of recording or watching videos. However, video and stills remote cameras enable me to see the wildlife when it’s keeping a low profile, which is the situation at the moment. I am seeing very little wildlife on the marsh, or in Hoo Wood. I am hoping the remote cameras will enable me to get a wildlife fix.
Yesterday evening I trudged through the marsh to swap the cameras’ memory cards.
It was a very dark night. The stars appeared very bright and some of them looked particularly large. I mistook one bright object for a police helicopter hovering in the distance.
Walking along the corridor to the tenant farmer’s field, which is often as dark as a coal miner’s cellar at night-time, I heard splashing in the River Stour. Scanning towards the sound with my night scope, I saw an otter rolling about in the water. It was throwing something up in the air and diving to retrieve it. I watched it for twenty seconds or more, and then it disappeared under the water. It’s true what they say: “You have to be there to see it.”
I swapped the memory cards in the remotes and returned home. I am always excited when slotting memory cards in my computer; you never know what images are on those cards. I put the stills card in the slot first. Three images popped onto the screen, only one showed anything worthwhile: a rather grainy black-and-white IR image of a woodcock. Well at least I have something, I thought. Next in the slot went the video card. Twelve video files appeared on the screen: eleven showing the marsh fox, with some clips in black-and-white IR and others in full daytime colour. What a result for the first night!
22nd January 2011: Today’s marsh weather has been pretty much the same as yesterday; it was slightly warmer this afternoon when the sun occasionally broke through. I remembered to zip a wool liner into my jacket this morning, so comfort hasn’t been a problem.
As yesterday, five hours on the marsh wasn’t hugely exciting, but it was enjoyable. Fifty meters down-stream from the north weir, a teenage lad was trying to cross the river from the canal side to recover a fishing float that he had snagged in a tree on the marsh bank. Some young lads have no sense of danger! He said the float was expensive and there was no way he was going to leave it behind. I managed to return the float by tying it to a piece of drift wood and lobbing it over the river to him.
I set up a couple of remote cameras, one shooting stills and the other video. One way or another, I will get marsh wildlife photos – hopefully, a fox, muntjac deer and badger.
There were people out rabbiting at the warren close to Wilden Pool, and at a couple of other places along the canal bank.