Living Otter Holt Mink.

This image was camera trapped outside the living otter holt; again, using my wife’s tights to control the flash intensity.

As you will probably have gathered, I am sorting camera trap images. I have received emails asking for more camera trap images. I will setup a gallery shortly, to satisfy those that crave them.

Mink

 

Otter Spraint!

Sunrise: 05. 34   Sunset: 08.38

At the bottom of this image, 3/4 in from the left, are a couple of pieces of animal droppings. It smelt sweet and tasted of fish, so it is definitely otter spraint; it’s too small for mink, and their droppings smell and taste pretty rancid. 

The spraint is right outside a hole Mike Averill and I dug under a big old oak tree, right on the bank of the North Pond Chain. We were hoping the cavity under the oak, with its front and back doors, would attract an otter; it looks like it has done just that. The oak tree is a short stones throw from the Living Otter Holt. 

  

Unruly badgers and foxes.

Sunrise: 07.47 Sunset: 06.0o

Over three evening recently, I worked the marsh by head-torch light; it’s dark by 6.30 pm.

Badgers and the north marsh foxes have spent too much time at the living otter holt, so I built a couple of barriers to keep them outside. At the moment, the foxes can still climb into the holt compound if they really tried, but I am banking on them being too lazy, and I will mount branches vertically along the tops of the barriers when I get a chance. A camera trap has shown that only a mouse and a few birds have entered the site during the last three days and nights. The mouse runs over the camera to get rice I place each evening on top of an upturned log, a little way out from the pond bank. The upturned log is supposed to be an otter sprainting post. Each night, over twenty consecutive journeys are needed to transfer all the rice booty from the sprainting post to the mouse’s larder.

Another reason for barriers is that cattle will soon roam this area, and it’s important that they are not able to trash the holt area when drinking from North Pond.

Darkness falls at around 6.30; a mallard quacks from the flooded withy wood – other ducks quickly join in. A barn owl screeches; the ke- wick of a female tawny owl follows and is answered by a male. A water rail shrieks from the island, sounding like a piglet caught in a fox’s mouth. In fact, it seems that all the marsh birds are having their penny’s worth. Even muntjac deer begin barking before the shouting subsides and peace returns. The cacophony last no more than ten minutes, but it’s an evening ritual on the marsh. OK, so this marsh concert doesn’t follow the exact same script every evening, but it is close, and it does start with the quacking of a duck.

 Short vid of the mouse:  http://youtu.be/HRLI72LOOKo

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A barrier bridging a gap between the otter holt on the left, and a hawthorn tree on the right. The hole is large enough to let an otter pass.

 

 

Butterfly log pile and other conservation stuff.

Sunrise: 07.29 Sunset: 06.21

It was calm, windy, cold, warm, dry, cloudy, and it poured on the marsh today. In spite of the varied weather conditions, Mike Averill and I managed to finish the butterfly log pile we began building a few months back. There is some titivating still to do over the winter months, but at least it’s functional and another job I can cross off my to-do list. We will install a few solitary bee nesting blocks there too.

A heron and, later in the morning, a Harris hawk flew from perches in the large willow at the north end of the pond: a favourite meeting place of great spotted woodpeckers early in the year. The resident moorhen scolded us as it scooted across the water surface, annoyed at our disturbing its Saturday morning I expect. Wasps from a low nest in the second oak lightning tree were very active and harried us at every opportunity.

Inspection of otter cam memory card revealed more of the critters I now regard as regular visitors to the holt: mice, rats, rabbits, stoats and weasels, but no otters. I believe it’s just a matter of time before an otter takes up residence. The holt is settling down very nicely and blending well with its surrounding. Many local plants are established in the soil covering the holt, and the willow used in its construction is strongly rooted.

Lunch consisted of cheese sandwiches and a cold blackcurrant drink consumed from a sawn tree stump in middle of a rain storm, alongside the lightning tree, with occasional wasps bouncing from my cagoule hood. It might have rained, but there is still nothing quite like lunch alfresco with workmates on a marsh workday.

The log pile has a waterproof plastic roof membrane. The south-facing side is sealed against the high winds that whistle up the Lower Stour Valley. The east and west sides are open and the north side is protected by a thick bush. To the left is the North Pond chain, and behind the large bush to the right of the image is the living otter holt we built earlier in the year.

A little way out of shot, to the left of the image, is one of the two large oak lightning trees; part the second is just in-shot on the right hand side of the image. We dug under the roots of the first lightning tree this afternoon, extending the existing cavity to create an exit at ninety degrees the entrance, just in case an otter should prefer a more basic and smaller residence to the rent-free palace that is the living otter holt. There is always the exciting possibility, when digging under a very old and large oak tree that someone from the distant past has hidden their fortune there, but it was not the case today.

We cleared out an old fox den in the hope that the north marsh vixen might take an interest in it next spring.

Adult foxes do not live together; they sleep independently above ground, curled up in the cleft of a tree root, in a hedge, or some other place offering shelter from the wind. The fox will squeeze into a tight nook or cranny, fluff out its fur, drape its tail around its head and nose, and brave the coldest temperatures.

The vixen gives birth underground. The dog fox supplies her with food during her confinement. When the Cubs are old enough to be left in the den alone, both foxes will bring food, leaving it outside the den for the cubs to collect.

I have spent many happy hours watching fox activity around dens. Although a vixen might reuse her birthing den, she might dig separate birthing chambers; I suppose she does this to reduce the risk of mange. On the marsh, though, the vixens rotate their dens. The dog fox makes certain that no other male fox invades his territory .

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Butterfly Log Pile.

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Typical fox lie-up under a fallen birch tree.

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Typical fox lie-up under a fallen birch tree.

 

Polecated!

Sunrise: 07.05 Sunset: 06.54

I downloaded 145 images from my Otterholt-cam today. These are three of the more intriguing images that I thought might be of an otter when first viewed on a small screen; however, when viewed on my computer screen this evening, it is plain that the visitor is a polecat.

There is a time difference of two hours between the first and second images, and two days between the second and third.

It seems to me that every marsh animal small enough to do so has inspected this otter holt, apart from an otter.

The otter-cam is looking into the holt living chamber.

Polecat 1 Polecat 2 Polecat 3