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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Wildlife

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Today while trying to get some fencing upgraded, I was walking in front of the Lecture Hall when a rabbit tore past me, closely followed by a small brown blur. Both disappeared down the track to the houses at the bottom, then up into the field at the back, then back around again several times.

Five or six of these circuits must have been completed before I saw the small brown blur heading back towards me, still at full speed, the rabbit now nowhere to be seen. At the last minute I was spotted, and evasive action was taken, making use of an adjacent clump of reeds. But by now I had realised it was one of the ‘squeaky sausages’ that we had spotted last year.

I managed to grab a couple of photos of the little critter while it was investigating me, but it was soon gone again, back into the reeds and rocks.

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We had our first snowfall of winter last weekend. Doesn’t it look lovely? The site was covered in footprints left by the local wildlife; robins, crows, rabbits and a fox. We managed to catch a glimpse of the fox on camera in the early hours of the morning as she passed by the front of the lecture hall. The other set of paw prints above hers belong to a very brave rabbit!

We would have made a post a bit sooner, but have had some technical difficulties.

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Wal, JK and I went for a wander around our ‘estate’ today to see what we could see. First off a streak of brown and some frantic squeaking heralded the appearance of one of the ‘squeaky sausages’ in a rock pile on North Woodlands! It seems that the weasel family has made their home in here as their squeaking has been heard on and off for several weeks. However this is the first time that JK and I have caught a close up look at them.

Next we spotted several owl pellets dotted around. These have become much more common over the last year or so. We think that they are from the Little Owl (Athene noctua) that Wal sighted recently. Clearly the local mice and voles have more than just the weasels to worry about.

South Woodlands is looking amazing and the trees are really coming into their own. The Rowans are covered in orange berries and the Oaks have tiny acorns appearing.  The wood was alive with wiggling caterpillars on nettles, rabbits dashing through the undergrowth and bees visiting the Willow-herb flowers.   Not looking so bad for a four-year-old plantation.  

Finally, hiding in one of the gates was this beautifully camouflaged moth.  We have tentatively identified it as a Pale-shouldered Brocade (Lacanobia thalassina). It is nice to see so much wildlife around the site.

HoF

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I was passing by Woodlands View on my way back from visiting a relative today. I had no intention of doing any work as I’d spent a good 6 hours driving, but was curious as to why just outside the entrance, two cars were doing a very slow, and strange dance across the middle of the road. I thought that maybe the driver of the first car decided to pull in to the entrance and then thought better of it.

The second car then ‘undertook’ the first, at which point I spotted what they had actually being trying to avoid. There were five or six small, very agitated, brown and white ‘sausages’ in the middle of the road, surrounding another one which unfortunately looked as though it had been run over; and indeed, as I passed, I could see that it had been well and truly squashed.

I pulled into the drive and went to grab my camera, but by the time I got back to the scene, the road was clear; even the casualty had disappeared. There was nothing to be seen, but lots of high pitched squeaking could be heard, so I stayed as still as I could and kept my eyes open.

A minute or two passed and then, the small, squeaky sausages re-appeared on both sides of the road, calling to each other frantically. I managed to get a couple of photos, but they soon spotted me and ducked back into cover.

Thinking that I might be able to do a fair impersonation of the noises I had heard; my reward was a Weasel (Mustela nivalis) kit, popping its head out from under a rock to check me out.

We have seen what we thought were weasels, a few time on sites, but were never able to make a definite identification. This time, thanks to a few photos, I could see the slight change in colour on the end of the tail (not a definite black tip), and the wavy border between the brown of the back and the white of the underbelly, which meant these were weasels and not stoats.

There is a well-known saying, that ‘weasels are weasily wecognisable, whereas stoats are stotally different.’ However, up at Woodlands View, we seem to have an especially speedy variety, which until now has made proper identification impossible.

I have no idea of whether it was one of the kits, or their mother that had been killed. At best, I can guess that the young can’t be more than three to four months old as after this time, they have usually gone their separate ways.

It was time to let them go about their business. Walking back to the car, I noticed a line of baby bunnies sat on the wall along the side of the track. I wonder what they had made of the whole spectacle and whether they had any idea that they might well be the next meal for the young family trying to cross the road.

 

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We finally have frogspawn. There was lots of telltale croaking on Friday which we were expecting as it was quite a nice day. Didn't spot anything on Saturday as the weather was not too good and we had other engagements to attend to.

Had a quick look just after lunchtime today and there is a good amount of spawn, possibly equal to the amount we had last year. Well done frogs!

 

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Spotted yesterday, enjoying the Sun. The first newt of 2015.

It got us thinking. this time last year, we had frogspawn. We are keeping our ears open for the tell-tale croaking.

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After what seems like an eternity constructing two stone walls either side of the driveway, I have managed to come down with a severe case of Man-Flu. The Boss told me to take the day off, but I thought I would do a bit of gentle tidying up to keep active (moving piles of rock and slate).

We have four Guinea Pigs and their waste bedding is disposed of at Woodlands View, where the slugs take care of the left over fresh veggies and the hay rots down and encourages other things to grow. The rabbit "Kits' that are continually appearing like baby bunnies do, spend some of their time investigating the compost and I suspect that they are nesting nearby, although it now seems like we just have the one 'regular', the others maybe having fallen prey to the weasel that we spotted a couple of days ago.

They are very used to our presence and although still easily startled, are quite happy to sit within a few feet of us and watch us work. I wondered whether they would be comfortable enough to take food from us, and this morning I finally got my answer.

Obviously I don't want them to become too used to us, as they are still wild and that is how they should stay. It was nice though, to take a few minutes out and interact with the wildlife.

Oh well, back to walling...

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While gazing out of the window of the lecture hall during a short rain shower, my attention was caught by a piece of grass swaying wildly in the wind. It appeared to have a strange growth on the end of it. ‘Strange’ I thought. Once the rain stopped, I wandered out to investigate and found myself faced with an amazing hairy caterpillar. Now, given that it was a bit breezy on the top o’ t’ hill I am impressed with the fact that a) the caterpillar managed to hang on the grass as it was blown madly around and b) that I managed to get a photograph of the caterpillar that wasn’t all blurry.

The fuzzy mini beast turned out to be the caterpillar for the Knot Grass moth (Acronicta rumicis), which feeds on heather, mint, bramble, hawthorn and plantain. Most of these plants we have in abundance around us at Woodlands View. The caterpillars can be found throughout England between June and September, and tend to like hedgerows, gardens and meadows. They can grow up to 40mm long, so this one was about fully grown which is probably why I spotted it.

The caterpillar’s body is mainly black and covered in amazing golden brown hairs. What makes it so distinctive are the big red and white splotches down its sides and tiny white spots just above them. This helped in the identification of this beautiful mini beast as it can easily be confused with the caterpillar of the Brown Tail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea). However the Brown Tail caterpillar does not have the red splotches (but it does have irritating hairs so don’t touch!)

Other caterpillars and butterflies that we have successfully photographed for identification include; Peacock (Inachis io), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeus), Small White (Pieris rapae), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) and Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae). These are shown on our Animal life page.

The Tortoiseshells and the Small Whites have done okay this year, although I think that there are less of them than there were two years ago. I have noticed more Small Copper butterflies than before so I believe that their numbers are up. I’ve only spotted one rather tatty Meadow Brown and a couple of Peacock butterflies this summer. Peacock numbers are definitely down on previous years. (None of this is particularly scientific; it is just what I have noticed while working around the site)

One mini beast that is not so beautiful (in my opinion) but very valuable is the Yellow Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria), which I photographed feeding on a fly that he had captured – I believe it is the male of the species as the females are duller in colour. The adult flies feed on small insects that live in dung, while the larvae eat dung. Yum!

I have tried to photograph the numerous leaf hoppers without much success. This is because they are very small and jump off rather suddenly which makes the process of snapping a reasonable photo very tricky. I did manage to get a picture of one of our many grasshoppers (Orthoptera). We have thousands of these around the site and enjoy listening to them chirping in the long grasses. I watched this male hopping around and rubbing his back legs rapidly against his forewings to make the sounds.

I think that I’ve also correctly identified the beetle that was attracted to my rucksack while I was on a walk around South woodlands earlier in the year. It would appear to be a Mint leaf beetle (Chrysolina menthastri),which does like riverside habitats. The beetle is a rather beautiful iridescent blue-green colour.

Bug hunting in the sunshine at Woodlands View is to be recommended. Hours of fun!

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On our way home today from a rare day out, I spotted what looked like an injured bird of prey on the side of Bacup Road. After turning around to get a second look, we found that the bird had made it across to the other side of the road, but was dragging one wing along the ground. It looked very similar to one we have seen around Woodlands View but have never been able to make a clear identification of.

We were then faced with a dilemma. Should we attempt to rescue the bird, or leave it to its own devices in the hope that it would recover? We know that sometimes, trying to intervene can do more harm than good. After a call to a friend to see if he could provide us with the number for a local animal rescue or similar, we finally got advice from a local vetinary surgery who said they would examine the bird if we could get it to them.

We managed a capture with minimal fuss and little distress to the bird itself (and all fingers intact) and we hoped that the injury would not be too severe. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a broken wing with the break so high up that there was no chance of a recovery. It would not be able to fend for itself and would die from starvation or predation if left in the wild. The only chance it would have would be if it could be permanently cared for, but alas, there was nobody who was able to take it in.

The bird would be euthanized, this being the "kindest" option in the long run. Although this was not what we were hoping for, it is not about how good we feel about ourselves as the result of our actions. Ultimately the bird would have suffered and died a slow death if left on it's own.

On a positive note, we were able to get a photograph before we captured it and it was identified as a female kestrel. If it was brooding chicks, then it's partner would take over and provide for them while they fledge. There is plenty of food for them around Woodlands View as they feed mainly on small mammals such as voles, and other small birds.

 

 

 

 

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I took a wander up on to Todmorden Moor to enjoy some fresh air and exercise, and to have a look at the wind turbines that now dot (or blot) the hillside above us. We can see three of the five turbines from Woodlands View, although they are mostly behind the pylons and wires from our perspective. Whatever your opinion on the wind turbines they are mighty impressive structures and very, VERY tall.

It was a lovely day for a walk; the skylarks were singing, the sheep were bleating, and the long horn cattle were giving me the evil eye. It was sunny, but cool enough to be comfortable while marching uphill across tussocks, reeds and muddy farm tracks. I stopped off at the lower coal mine area, which is just visible to us at WV. There was an interpretation board on a rock, which told me a little about the early mining in the area. Then it was onwards and upwards to the Sandy Road Colliery on Flower Scar Road. 

There was another interesting interpretation board on the spoil heap of the Sandy Road Colliery, and a view of all five wind turbines. It was old energy verses new energy. I was surprised by the number of people who were strolling by, also enjoying the slightly warmer weather and who all seemed interested in reading the interpretation board. The boards are part of the Todmorden Moor Heritage Trail. I am hoping to follow this trail all the way around sometime over the Easter holidays if the weather is suitable.

In other news: the frogspawn is starting to wiggle; we should be reporting on a mass tadpole hatch any time soon. We have seen over 20 newts in the pond. This means that there are many times that number hiding in the area. There are also large numbers of magpies who are setting up nests in some of our mature trees on site.  Spring has certainly reached the top o’  t’hill.

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