The first half of Rem G this last Friday were the first to split into two smaller groups: one intending to observe and catalogue the woodland birds at the feeder (using the observation hide in the field classroom); the other to collect a second week's footage from the main badger sett (site 2). In theory, the bird group should have seen a lot more real-life wildlife than my badger group did, though the only two entries on their log sheet rather summed up the first part of their afternoon:
2:30 - Survey started
2:35 - Started raining. No birds!
2:41 - High pitched tweeting; small bird? Did not see it.
So their survey was a washout; but after they went on to pay a brief visit to the path-side sett, and after the badger group had done the work of observing the main sett and fetching back the camera footage from site 2, we all observed and logged some fantastic badger behaviour on the monitor back at the field classroom: an adult badger bringing new bedding material to the sett, and dragging it into the burrow.
All this footage is from a period of 15 minutes in the early evening (8:50 - 9:04 pm) of October 1st. We will monitor progress again next week, alongside a new project to look at the fruiting fungi in the reserve.
After being left unobserved for a few months, a camera was placed back at site 2 at the badger sett on Fri 13th Sept. The main tasks of the first half of Rem L this week (Fri 2013.9.27) were to explore the 'main' sett, compare it with the path-side sett, and examine the week's worth of trail-cam footage from the monitored burrow.
En-route to the main sett, observations were made at the path-side sett: further digging had taken place, and in the fresh soil depressions from footprints could be observed. An ad-hoc measuring attempt showed that the prints were about 3 x 10 pence coins in length. Click to enlarge the accompanying image.
Filming at the main sett stopped at the start of July, both because activity there was dwindling, and after a camera there had been spotted by passers by (an occupational hazard). After some months' hiatus, and in a different season, it makes sense to begin monitoring the sett again, and site 2 is one of the most active burrows there.
The Wildlife Log calendar details full records of badger activity at site 2 during the week, but the highlights can be found below, as summarised by Luka Joannou, Will Cook, Nabeel Choudhury and Shivum Gupta:
"11: The badger is clearing out the hole in the sett and then another badger comes.
12: This badger is continuing to dig his hole, and you can see another badger in the corner."
"18: This badger has been foraging and has returned with a muddy nose. He needs a clean!"
"60: Two badgers are cleaning each other and grooming themselves!!"
This was also the first time since trials at the sett began that a badger has been filmed in colour by the trail cameras (which default to infra-red, and therefore black and white, in low light); though a video of a 'badger's bum' as he walks off didn't seem to merit posting here!
One final image: recent excavation at a new burrow on the top of the main sett. One to monitor in the coming weeks.
Though the 'deer cam' at site 8 was also monitored during this outing, and did indeed record some muntjac presence, there is nothing worth noting here beyond the Log entries for the week; though that site did see some badger foraging, the presence of two foxes, and an upright squirrel! More on the YouTube channel if you are interested.
The second outing of the term (Fri 2013.9.13) was made by the 1st half of Rem W, who likewise set out to observe evidence for badger activity at the sett alongside the main path, and recordings of the muntjac deer at two sites at the top of the reserve (sites 8 and 10).
The first two images show recent excavation at the path-side sett, where the impression of badger prints could also be found. It is hoped that clearer examples of prints may be found in coming weeks, in damper mud.
As for the deer, this third image shows the environs of site 8, including the camouflaged trail camera. The site's location has proved valuable for capturing passing and foraging deer, and during the last week returned 4 videos of muntjac deer from Sun 15th & Mon 16th Sept; in one, two individuals are seen together. Full records are able to view on the new Wildlife Log page, together with those of other current 'target' species. For the second consecutive week, however, site 10 returned nothing worth recording, and so has been discontinued.
Some smaller observations made during the afternoon are given below, with pupils' notes:
2013.9.13 (p.m.), top of main path
Sahil Bashir & Rushi Dasoondi
"One particular forage area contained bulbs, some of which had been half-eaten. Imprints on bulbs of teeth may show what animal..."
Rayyan & Bilal
"The oak leaf seems to be infected with gall mites. The leaf is covered with light and dark brown irregular outgrowing spots. They grow on the leaf (not part of the leaf) and are packed very closely together".
The 1st half of Rem M started off the year's projects this Friday (2013.9.6) by searching for signs of the presence of the muntjac deer in the reserve. Though the cameras returned no extra footage of the deer themselves, the group observed possible bite and scratch marks on a fallen log, as well as disruption to the ground caused by foraging along a known deer path. See below for their records, including badger burrows alongside the main path in the woodland, a broken egg-shell, and a sketch-map of the locations and features passed and observed.
2013.9.6 (14:45 approx) near site 10
"tree bark on the ground which had bite and scratch marks on it"
2013.9.6 (between 14:15 and 14:40) ~200 yds from uprooted tree (see map)
Sheharyar Khan & Freddie Crawford
"4 badger sett holes and small burrow marks and diggings from foraging. Ground was upturned".
Broken Egg Shell
2013.9.6 (14:40 approx), main path
Ben Coward & Jaydon Gill
"about half the size of a ping-pong ball; it looks to have been eaten at the side. We don't think it could have hatched because it split in half and the hole was too small".
2013.9.6 (15:00), trail leading to site 10
Hardeep Kalsi & Sulaymaan Khalil
"bite marks on the cap... rotten and soggy!"
The 'deer cameras' at sites 8 and 10 were checked, and site 8 returned footage of what seemed to be the same fox passing by on 2013.9.4 (20:15) and 2013.9.6 (4:06); a badger was also observed to pass by at 2013.9.6 (3:36) [records by Jake Johnstone & Zhangqu Chen].
The map below shows the route followed and the observations made.
Map of Woodland
An extended summer trial at Site 9 - negligible distance from the future site 10 - returned only a little footage of the muntjac, but this one is worth posting (no activity after 0:18).
And here is a little extra from Site 8: two muntjac clearly in view, with markings and behaviour clearly apparent.
After the sighting of a muntjac deer at the main badger sett (site 4), some further locations for filming have been trialled. Site 8 views an animal path through the woodland - not interrupted by some of the man-made paths (or more importantly, man-used paths), and running through woodland confined on one side by a fence line and on the other by just such a man-used path. Through late July and into August, several videos of muntjac have been taken recorded here - those below initially showing a deer foraging, sniffing and scratching; then a second deer in frame. The majority of these are in the 'small hours' (refer to timestamps on the videos below), but one shows two deer active just before 10am.
Further footage from site 8, and from two further deer-hopeful sites, to follow...
There isn't yet much mention of the invertebrates on this site, but summer is the perfect time to document them. Some of the most photogenic are the several species of damselfly and dragon fly which hover around the pond and Edgbaston Pool, where these images were taken.
This first image shows the male (blue) grasping the female (green) behind the head, which takes place for a protracted period of time during their mating.
As well as a similar grasping pose from another pair below, the third picture shows the female curving her own body forward to receive the male's sperm - another position which can last some time! The distinctive 'heart' shape can clearly be seen.
Some idea of the 'mating in action' can be seen in the video below (far from a close-up clip, though it depicts the process). These videos and images were all taken on 2013.7.30, in the middle of the summer break from school; next year's projects will aim to capture better video footage, and document the species found and their areas of breeding, as well as the egg-laying part of the reproductive process.
Site 4 has turned up some surprises. As mentioned in the last entry, footage of badger behaviour, as such, has been limited as yet; though the sett itself seems to attract other animals too. Below, a frequently-visiting rat can be seen catching something as he walks around the burrow.
Foxes were seen to visit site 2/3 on a previous occasion, and here we see more activity on the 'site 4 side' of the sett. Note the limp of the second fox as it walks in front of the camera.
But the last visitor seen at site 4 was completely unexpected: a muntjac deer sniffing around the burrow itself; just passing through, it seems. In a month of filming at site 4, this is the only sighting of a deer, though it is enough for us to set up elsewhere in the coming weeks and months to find further detail of where these deer live and forage, and how they behave when undisturbed.
Badgers have been filmed at their sett in the nature reserve from two camera angles on one burrow so far (sites 2 and 3). Site 4 is around the other side of the same sett, and the videos below, from mid- to late-June, predictable show badger activity; though the more elevated location of the burrow means the behaviour shown so far is of passing animals than of entrances/exits/digging of the burrow itself. See the video details for dates and times.
A first glimpse at some of the fungi in the woodland: pictured left, the Birch Polypore; pictured below, the 'Dryad's Saddle'. A full survey of the mushrooms, toadstools and other fungi in the woodland can be carried out later in autumn. These images taken 2013.7.9.