Apologies for lack of posts recently (and for going to the same place!!) but I'm inundated with (mainly family) commitments at the moment and only getting a few occasional hours to spare - hence the need to keep outings local!
I had a couple of free hours last Friday so I returned again to Marsh Lane NR.
I walked to a different part of the reserve this time - this is the path to River Hide
with lots of holly berries which will hopefully attract a few Winter visitors.
A clump of tiny toadstools on the path
River Hide was by far the largest hide I have visited so far and overlooks Car Park Pool (in the photo below)from one side and Railway Pool from another side.
Water levels are high on the reserve at the moment and most of the islands are submerged.
View towards Railway Pool
All the commoner species spotted on previous visits were seen. The only addition to the reserve bird list was a Song Thrush feasting on berries in the car park and I saw my first rabbit bobbing along a hedgerow.
On Thursday evening I went along to the last meeting this year of Warwickshire Badger Group.
Stephen Trotter, CEO of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, gave an excellent talk and presentation on Hedgehogs. Hedgehog numbers are declining rapidly - during the 1950's the estimated population was around 30 million throughout the UK but the number today is believed to be less than 1 million. Recent research shows there has been a national decline of 50% over the last 10 years.
Sadly, the reasons for decline are the same as for so many species - habitat loss (disappearance of hedgerows, field margins and edge habitats), reduction of the quality of habitat due to agricultural intensification and development, fragmentation of habitat due to the building of new roads and fencing in suburban gardens thus isolating populations and possibly leading to local extinction, use of pesticides which means less slugs and snails for hedgehogs and the risk of poisoning and road casualties as a result of increased traffic and road building. Pro-badger cull supporters and a certain Governmental Department have cited badgers as a reason for hedgehog decline but in actual fact these two species have co-existed for centuries without hedgehogs declining and badgers are only likely to play a very minor part in hedgehog decline if other factors are acting to reduce the number of hedgehogs. The badger group's latest newsletter contains photos of a hedgehog feeding alongside 5 badgers and the badgers took absolutely no notice of the hedgehog.
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has launched a "Help for Hedgehogs Campaign" to try and protect hedgehogs. There are several steps that can be taken in gardens to help this species - leave "messy" areas for them to nest, make a log pile which could be used for hibernation, make ponds safe so that hedgehogs can climb out if they fall in, check long areas of grass before mowing, check bonfires for hibernating animals, don't use slug pellets, link gardens by creating a small hole at the base of the fence and put out dog or hedgehog food (NOT bread and milk!!!!).
The meeting concluded with an update on the badger slaughters and a charming video of the release of Billy the Badger. The badger cub had been found injured at the side of the road and was taken to a Wildlife Hospital to be treated. The plan was to release him with some other orphaned cubs from another Wildlife Hospital but as Billy had not been tested for bTB by the time of the release this was not possible. Eventually after much searching a sett was found not far from where he had been injured and it was believed this was his home sett. Badgers live in established social groups and are very territorial so poor Billy had to be daubed all over with with bedding, dung and some musk from his home sett before he could be released. He was a very feisty and lively young badger so the video shown was exceedingly amusing. Its to be hoped that he has been accepted back into the sett and the story has a happy ending!
I was really pleased to win a framed photo in the raffle of two of the badgers I watched earlier this year at a local sett and I've been asked if I'd like to take part with some members of the group sett surveying next year which I really am looking forward to.
If anyone is stuck for ideas for their Christmas present list - New Look are selling a really delightful badger jumper :)
The long awaited BTO Bird Atlas arrived in the post on Saturday morning so reading this is going to keep me busy for a while. First impressions are that it is excellent, its well laid-out and just stuffed with information :)