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Are they out there?

I left the camera in place for another two weeks but still no polecat sightings……

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I’m still hunting for the elusive polecat.  My camera was again sited in my neighbour’s field but I moved it to a new location.  This time I placed the camera alongside a mature hedge not far from the area where the polecats were seen.  The polecat’s prey of choice is the rabbit.  So I selected a location with lots of rabbit holes.

Are they out there?  I left the camera in place for another two weeks but still no polecat sightings.  So who knows.  There were lots of images of rabbits, foxes, badgers and songbirds but none of a polecat.  The most interesting footage I captured on this occasion was of a family of crows which happened to be foraging along the hedgerow.  I have captured crows on the camera before but not in a family group.

So although I’m capturing some interesting wildlife behaviour I still have not proven whether there are polecats in the area.  I think I’ll move the camera back to my garden and see if they’re around that area.

Stake-out

Polecats are broadly spread around the UK. Their numbers are very low and one would have to be fortunate indeed to catch a sighting…

A couple of weeks ago while chatting with my neighbour he mentioned that one of his friends was convinced she’d seen two polecats near the footpath which runs into the woods at the back of our houses.  So we agreed that I’d set up my wildlife camera in his field near to the footpath to see if we could capture one on video.

I set up my stake-out with some peanut butter on sticks placed in front of the camera.  If there were any polecats passing nearby, the smell should tempt them to investigate.

The first animal on the scene was a squirrel who promptly wasted no time cleaning up the free meal.

After dark a pair of fox cubs passed through and licked the remaining peanut butter off the sticks.

Later that night, the camera recorded a muntjac doe.  The deer must have caught my scent because although it couldn’t see the camera in the dark it spent some moments checking it out.

Unfortunately, after leaving the camera in place for several days there were no polecats captured on video.  I was not surprised because although a recent survey has shown that polecats are broadly spread around the UK, their numbers are very low and one would have to be fortunate indeed to catch a sighting.  In most cases, the highest proportion of recordings have been of dead animals on the roads.  Having said that, I am not deterred and shall re-site the camera in another part of the field to see if that might be more fruitful.  In any case, the exercise has been worthwhile because the wildlife captured has been great to see.

An Experiment

We put out some bait to see what wildlife would be visiting…

A couple of months ago my son and I thought we’d try an experiment to find out a little more about the wildlife visiting our garden.  So rather than put it in the recycling as we normally would, we used the chicken carcass from our Sunday roast to bait the area directly in front of my wildlife camera.  The experiment proved to be a great success.

First on the scene was a crow.  It made off with a big chunk of meat and came back a few more times before the light faded.

When it was fully dark, the next on the scene was a fully-grown dog fox.  It was very cautious and took its time to check out this unexpected windfall before finally taking the plunge and grabbing the prize.

We thought that would have been the end of the action now that the chicken carcass had been taken.  But we were wrong.  Amazingly, our old friend Limpy, the female fox with an injured foreleg turned up and checked out the spot where the food had been.  We had not seen her for around 10 months.  She had survived the winter and looked in really great condition.  In fact she looked like she had been suckling young.  That would be fantastic if she had succeeded in raising a family.

We left the camera out for the next few weeks checking it for recordings every week or so.  After another month we were excited to see a young fox cub foraging in front of the camera.  Could this have been one of Limpy’s cubs?  Actually, there’s a very good chance that it is one of Limpy’s offspring.  This is because foxes are very territorial and with the previous recordings showing the visits of the dog fox and Limpy occurring within a few minutes of each other, this probably means that they are a pair and the cub is theirs!

Back from the dead

It only rested there for a few seconds but that was long enough for me to get my photo…

The Large Blue Butterfly has always been a rare sight in the UK and sadly, after 50 years of unsuccessful measures to prevent its decline, it was finally declared extinct in this country in 1979.  However, all was not lost.  A later re-introduction at a number of suitable sites followed by meticulous habitat management has proved to be highly successful.  This fantastic butterfly, the largest and most spectacular of our blue butterfly species, is once again flying over our grassland.

A couple of years ago I made a trip to Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire, one of the re-introduction sites, in an attempt to see this wonderful butterfly.  I was fortunate enough to see one but it didn’t settle and I only saw it fleetingly.  So this year, I decided to return to the same spot to see if I could photograph one.  On the day I visited the site it was over 30 C and there was no wind.  It was one of the hottest June days of recent years so it ought to have been ideal for butterfly photography.

I walked around the site for over two hours in the blistering midday heat but despite there being loads of other butterfly species around, and one or two other photographers who said there were indeed some around, I had seen none.  So I thought I’d make the best of it and grab some photos of whatever else showed itself.  There was a recently fledged Long-tailed tit and some Broad-bodied chaser dragonflies around a dew pond at the top of the hill.  I felt I’d got some good photos so my trip was at least partially successful.

Long-tailed tit
A recently fledged Long-tailed tit
Broad-bodied chaser
A male Broad-bodied chaser rests between hunting flights

So believing I had lucked-out I decided to pack up and go home.  As I walked to the bottom of the hill three Large Blues flitted past me and immediately disappeared.  It all happened so fast, I started to doubt what I’d seen.  I stood there for another fifteen minutes watching and waiting.  But then my luck was in.  Another flew past slow enough for me to follow it along the hillside for a hundred yards or so when it settled on a vetch flower to feed.  It only rested there for a few seconds but that was long enough for me to get my photo.  I hope you like it.

Large Blue Butterfly
A magnificent Large Blue Butterfly

I’m back

I went away on holiday to Costa Rica and never got the blog going again – time to restart.

Somehow I let my blog lapse.  This wasn’t because I had lost interest in wildlife or photography.  It was because I went away on holiday to Costa Rica in December 2016 and I never picked the blog back up again.  I guess to start with, I spent most of my spare time editing the huge number of photos I came back with, and then never got the blog going again.  So now I’ll restart posting.

Costa Rica is an amazing country with fantastic wildlife, wonderful people and a world-leading approach to habitat preservation and restoration and Eco-tourism.  If you ever get the chance to travel there, you will not be disappointed.

I have too many photos from Costa Rica to post on this blog but here are a few for you to get a feel of the amazing wildlife and environment in that fantastic country.  If you’d like to see more of my Costa Rica photos please check out the Costa Rica gallery on my website.

Crowned Woodnymph
Emerald Woodnymph
Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano
Anhinga
Anhinga
Brown-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus tridactylus)
Brown-throated three-toed sloth

Even more foxes!

Just look at the way the dog fox poses for the camera..

Just a few hours after our regular visitor, Limpy, showed up in the garden we were visited by two more foxes.  A dog and a vixen in great condition – Just look at the way the dog fox poses for the camera!

Even though this is the time of year when foxes are pairing up and mating, I don’t think these are a breeding pair.  They still look rather young and have very similar markings.  So I think they’re siblings from last year’s litter from a den in the woods across the field from our house.  It could also be possible that Limpy is their sister because all three foxes are occupying the same territory and must come across one another on a regular basis.  Clearly all three foxes appear to be tolerating each other without conflict.

Our friend has returned

She’s still able to find sufficient food to survive…

I can’t tell you how happy I felt when I checked the memory card in my camera trap and discovered that the disabled fox which visited my garden back in June had once again returned to forage for food.  “Limpy” as I had christened her looked thinner than she was in June.  Thankfully she still appeared to be in reasonable condition and able to find sufficient food to survive.  It’s the beginning of September now and there’s probably lots of food about at the moment.  However, I think times will become more difficult for Limpy in the coming autumn and winter months.  I’ll keep a watch out to see how she gets on.