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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Jackpot with Badgers

From my recent post i told everyone about the badger sett that i have been stalking lately. Although the times i spend there are restricted with early darkness upo us. The one way i could monitor the sett was by using a camera trap. My previous attempts at this last month were a massive fail. All of my footage was of group of rats acting up in front of the camera. Exciting as it might be to actually get something on the camera, my phobia of theses little beasts just made it torture to go through all the clips. However a lesson learnt for the position of the camera. On my return to the sett i had a think on the position of the camera, and tracked what looked like the most used entrance/exit, the trail that looked most used. I set the camera up, and thought i would test it out, i moved location and proceeded to crawl through the dirt and trees to see what level the camera sensor would trigger and at what distance it would pick something up. Happy with the height, switched from set up mode to on, hoping these black and white striped beasts would come on show. Having being preoccupied  with other things for the majority of a week, i had totally forgot about the trap, until yesterday. On arrival to the sett i explored more of the area to get a better understanding of the location and what areas the badgers used. From having a good scout around, i spotted more entrances form different area. Having originally thought that these will most likely be neighbouring setts, a bit of research found that these entrances could possibly lead to the main chamber of the central sett. Records show one sett was found to have over 310 meters of tunnels that led to a sleeping chamber. Totally mind blowing.
Once back at the original sett, it was quite noticeable of the movement over the week, bedding had been excluded and fresh was taken in. The latrine near by was full of fresh nasties. I grabbed the camera trap and off i went back to the car, checking the files on the way making sure the card had something on it. Card full...... magic, please no rats though.
Back on home i wapped the SD card in the mac, and watched the videos with a massive smile, 251 clips of badgers!! 

On the first clips, it was clear that the badgers knew something wasnt right, a set of eyes could be seen peering over the mound of soil, staring at the camera, unsure what to make of it.



As the rest of the night continues the badgers are cautious of the camer and keep to the side of the mound they feel comfortable on, carefully watching the infrared light every so often. 
During the next night, they seem to become a bit more used the to the camera and venturing closer to it, but still keeping an eye on it, just incase.



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Watching the videos, you can get a good understanding on the activity that they get up to, scent marking on the trees, showing some playful aggression.


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The getting too used to the camera and readjusting it to the position they think, camera badgers in the making.


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Monday, 19 November 2012

A much needed update!!

Looking back at this blog, and I was shocked at the last time that I actually made an update. Three months have passed since my posts about my ventures back home in Northumberland. September seen me arrive back in Cumbria full time, continuing into the second year of my degree 'Wildlife and Media', and trying to earn a crust at work. Im ashamed to say that my photography had taken a back seat over these months. Getting my head back in the game of essays and academics was not as easy as i thought it was going to be. The summer air and wildlife hypes had gone to head and washed away any thought that it was going to go over so quickly. Anyhow its now November and most of my assignments are done, and its well seen. From handing in the most recent work, my camera has lept out of my bag and straight into my hand. A tube of super glue is needed if any more work is going to come my way. I cant be having the Canon mistress on the back seat no more.
I have been trying to sort out business plans for an attempt to start my own. Continuously working with a business advisor , i have managed to complete plans and funding. I have also managed to gain a permanent residency for my work in Newbiggin Maritime Centre, which items are currently up for sale, as well as communicating with Cumbrian business to try and do the same on the west side of the country.
I say i have done no photography, but i have been spending time exploring the area where i have moved for wildlife, working on the potential. Trips to Martindale to witness the red deer rutting was one spectacle that i witnessed this year, and great views to see it from.  I live not far from a river, which is very promising, spotted a Kingfisher many of times. The signs of a Fox also lurks the farmland, but everyone shares my enthusiasm on this. I have also just recently placed a camera trap at a badger sett,the first attempt was a massive fail and the memory card was filled up within an hour by a very active brown rat, who seemed to love the camera too much, but hopefully the camera is still snapping away, and not been once again overtaken by a rat or worse robbed. I have spent many nights sitting along side the sett watching these black and white beauties, although i was petrified, its still great to see the activities of the badger.


Last week i took advantage of the Waxwing ventures. A large number of birds flowing down from Carlisle arrived around the Penrith area and have furiously been stripping the rowan trees of their berries. A first for me to witness these birds, and i wasnt disappointed when i did finally catch up with them. I have to say, it is one of the best looking birds I've seen, although thats not hard, i live in Penrith and a crocodile on speed would be better looking than the women around here.
Around fifty of these sexy beasts were seen fluttering around the Gillwilly industrial estate entrance, hoarding as many berries as possible. The birds currently wintering in the UK form the Scandinavian regions are a blessing for any photographer, happily sitting on a branch munching away and not bothered by your presence.



I have also just spent the weekend away and visited the Grey Seal colony at Donna Nook, its the time of year that the females come ashore and spend their time giving birth and to mate will the bull seals. Arriving at the campsite (Pigeon Cottage - great little site) on saturday morning and pitching a 2 man tent for 4 people was fun, especially looking inside and realising it was barely big enough to fit 1 person never mind 2. Once the tent was up, a short drive to the colony to spend the day trying out filming. Within second year of uni, we are required to start in the field of making films. So i thought this would be a great chance to do that. Looking back at the footage, there are some clips that my 'Trash' bin would be offended if i placed them in there, they were that bad. But others i cant wait to sink my teeth in and edit.  I didnt spend much time with photographyon this trip, ut he stills that did get didnt fail to make me smile.



After a good day, it was time for a pint, the sun was going down quickly and the temperature was rapidly declining. At around 6pm it was pitch black and we sat around thinking about what to do? so unfortunately the Mac came out the bag and we all had the eye bleeding torture of watching Austin Powers. possibly the worst experience of my life. After the film it was straight in to the tent to begin the sardine effect. All four of us, squashed, and literally bursting the seems fell straight asleep. During the night we all subconsciously alternated our positions, one person would roll on to their side so the other could lie on there back and front. We should have set a time lapse up, it would have been comical to watch. As the alarm clock rang at 6:30am, the whole tent moaned at the thought of trying to get up. Once we were out the tent, we all stared at the outer shell, it looked at though mother nature was converting the tent to an igloo. a nice sheet of frost/ice blanketed the cover. Once the tent was packed away and everything sorted, it was time to head back to Donna Nook to beat the public so we could record some sound for the films. The beach gets quite hectic when the seals come ashore, and the noise generated from excited children, and the "awwws' from parents can be too much for any mic.


We spent a good few hours before we decided the ride back home was to begin. Looking at the fuel gage it was scary to think that we might make it a petrol station. But we did, we fuelled up and carried on to approach the A1. Before arriving at scotch corner, to continue along the A66, we decided to bomb off the motorway and head to Studley Royal to take a gander at the deer within the grounds.
The alterante route proved to be a good choice, plenty of deer roaming around, red, fallow and sika deer. After an hour or so walking around we decided to call it a day and travel back home, but not before we sat inside a tree. We found an oak tree with a perfect hole to literally climb in. As we all climbed aboard, leaving our cameras in our bags, a barn owl flew by, so close for a frame filling shot with the smallest lens. Devastated, but the tree was fun!