Posts made in August, 2018

Badgers, no mushrooms

I don’t often stray much outside my urban patch. I stick to what I can reach in walking distance most of the time and enjoy what I can see there. Perhaps I’ll write a future post about my reasoning for this, but for now its sufficient to say that I only go looking outside my patch on rare occasions. Last week was such an occasion and, oh my, did it feel like an occasion.

I went looking for badgers.

It wasn’t far, just a few miles in the car to my nearest RSPB reserve. Slow driving too, with a good few miles stuck behind a pair of tractors enabling me to enjoy the evening light a little. The light was beautiful, magic hour just beginning as I pulled into the near-empty reserve car park. I’ve never been there at that time of day and I couldn’t resist using my free hour before sunset to go hunting for magic hour photos around the deserted reserve. March half an hour in one direction and then turn around, the unfamiliar sights and sounds of the reserve birds reduced to a support act to the evening’s main attraction.

As the sun set the badger watching event began with a friendly and informative welcome and introduction, before the wonderfully disparate group of folks that always seem to make up RSPB events headed up and into the woods as the light started to fade. Then we stood and waited and remarkably it was only about 10 minutes before the first badger appeared, swiftly followed by the rest of the family. I was perfectly placed to see 4 black and white heads all grouped together in an unforgettable view.

It was an amazing and rather surreal experience to see them all together. In fact, after having watched so many badgers on TV it was curiously like seeing famous people in the flesh! Once the badgers left the sett it became harder to see them. The grass was long and the light was fading, but there were still a few flashes and hearing their chattering calls was priceless.

I could have gone home happy right then, but this wasn’t even all of it yet. With the light almost gone beneath the trees, we walked back down to where we’d started. The atmosphere of failing light and birds still flying in to roost with the soundtrack provided by canada geese was tangible, especially with the moon out in a clear sky and reflecting in the scrapes and pools.

After a short pause it was out to the other end of the reserve and a specifically created badger feeding viewing area. The opportunistic badgers had discovered a bird feeder pole was a good place to come and feed and staff on the reserve had encouraged it to the point that they could confidently lay on badger watching events. 3 (painfully narrow) benches held the high ground above a dip with a floodlight illuminating the feeders. It’d be difficult to imagine a better location. Here we waited a little longer for badgers to emerge, but when they did the gasp of excitement from my fellow watchers was electric.

The views of the badgers really was incredible, just with the naked eye.

Eventually it was 2 badgers feeding together. Such a privilege to be able to watch this.

By now my feet had completely gone to sleep, but it was totally worth it! I really couldn’t have imagined finding a better badger watching opportunity. Quite simply the best views I’ve ever had.

The time slipped by too fast and, getting close to 10pm, the watching was drawn to a close. Walking back to the car park in the dark there were a lot of thoughts to process, like why the folks on Springwatch have such trouble filming badgers. Clearly the answer is to hold Springwatch in August….

It had been an unforgettable night. 2 hours I won’t forget in a hurry.

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Making a bee-lion for the park, patch walk 16th August

Alongside the park sits a Victorian building, brimming with the confidence of the age it was made in. A civic building, adorned with cast iron statues that declare self belief.

The bees don’t care about Victorian self belief. They care that the mouth of this lion offers an ideal location for a hive and something in me wants to wildly applaud them for this choice, for making a monument to human folly into something much more real and important. These honeybees are busy indeed as they cover the nearby flowers that remain, unnoticed by almost all. How glorious.

Its glorious getting back into the park too, on a rare quiet morning. The summer club has claimed the park most days so far and really that’s as it should be. Public parks should be used for public uses, lest cash-strapped councils start viewing them as “land resources”. Its undeniable, however, that 50+ excited children playing games don’t always make for the best nature viewing conditions and so I’ve left them to enjoy their summer and spent time elsewhere, knowing that come September that I’ll be back.

Yet on this day they weren’t there.

Waiting to cross into the park and a little drama is unfolding overhead as a pair of speckled wood butterflies do battle. Swirling, tumbling, parting and coming back together until one flees to the safety of the ivy.

Victor or loser? I don’t know, but I feel like I win every time I get to see one of these interactions, staring open mouthed at the side of the road as busy people go thundering past.

Woodpigeons are wandering, magpies are chattering. From hidden perches robins are singing again. There is change in the air.

No squirrels appear at the black spruce tree, they’re all at the other end of the park today, it seems.

One cheeky fellow responds instantly to the shake of the bag of nuts and quickly jumps on to the nuts I throw down, unconcerned that I’m right there. Eats a couple, then its off to bury more.

Sloes are ripening, rowans are heavy with berries. Blue tits and robins call from the overgrown and wild area. By the old bowling green the jackdaws are stamping around, all confidence and power.

Its a curious thing, confidence, I can’t help but reflect as I start to head home. Those who placed statues of lions had it and this jackdaw seems to have it in equal measure. There’s likely a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m far too happy to have been back on the patch today to work out what it is.

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