Saturday, 11 July 2020

More from OtterCam

Another sighting of the otter and cub in the culvert, this time heading away from the camera.  Mother paused to make sure junior was keeping up and then leapt effortlessly up the sluice gate to show how it is done.  The cub couldn't manage and mother leant over to give encouragement and/or assistance.   At that point the camera reached the end of its 20s recording.  As there was no subsequent recording the cub must have made it up somehow.





I am sure this is the same mother and cub as last week even though the cub appears much bigger this time.  The difference must be due to the distortion of perspective by the (relatively) wide angle lens on the trail camera, as well as the relative positions of the two otters.  This was last week


and this is now.

The next night an otter appeared on its own, first heading south past the camera.  Almost immediately it went back to the sluice gate and stood there, apparently listening intently.  After a few moments it turned and came back past the camera again.






On the next occasion I had a second camera in a ditch about 100m away and it picked up the same otter four minutes later.  Again the otter was on it own.





On the latest recording the otter was again with the cub.  She led it through the culvert and jumped up the gate but again the cub couldn't get up.  Mother reached over and grabbed it but unfortunately the first time she got it by the nose or the whiskers which looks and sounds very painful.  The second grab was more successful and she hauled it up by the scruff of its neck.  On this recording the cub looks almost as big as its mother.





Since then I have put in a plank to act as a ramp so it will be interesting to see if they use it.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

A new fox cub in the garden


At last.  I have been looking out for a cub for the last three weeks.  The adult foxes have been visiting every evening at dusk but until two nights ago I hadn't seen a cub.  This is three weeks later than the previous two years so the cub is already well grown.  On both nights it has arrived with the vixen.  The first time it was very excited and was running round the garden so that I was worried I wouldn't even get a photo.  But eventually it calmed down and came over to eat some biscuits.


This cub is instantly recognisable because it is missing half of its tail.  I don't know whether this is from an injury or a congenital malformation (I suspect the former is more likely) but I have decided to call it Bob.


Last night the cub was still very excited and was carrying off biscuits to bury them in the lawn.

The bond between mother and cub is obviously very strong.  In a few weeks time the cub will have to leave the territory, especially if it is male.



Last year the number of visiting cubs gradually increased from one to five over a couple of weeks so there is still time for me to see more this year.  I'll certainly be able to tell if I see a different cub from this one, even if there is only one.  I hope there will be more reports to follow.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Out and about in June

As the restrictions eased a bit last month I was able to get out to a few local nature reserves, just in time to see a few more dragonflies.  I already posted some photos of a pair of emperors, the most satisfying dragonfly photos I have taken in quite a while.  This was the best of them.

Here is the male on his own, except for an azure damselfly.

Other dragonflies from last month were male broad-bodied chasers,


and four-spotted chasers from Gosforth Nature reserve,



and at Weetslade Country Park the first common darter of the year, this one an immature female.

A few large red damselflies were still about but I expect their season is over by now.


This common blue damselfly's season is over as well.


The emerald damselfly's season is just beginning.  This female is the first I have seen this year.

A couple of interesting day-flying moths, a cinnabar

and a five-spot burnet moth.

At Banks' Pond this year a pair of swans are raising four cygnets, the first successful breeding for a few years.

Canada geese are also there with three goslings but they are harassed a fair bit by the male swan.  It is the first time I had seen both species breed in the same year.

I expect the moorhens have young as well but I haven't seen them yet.

I sometimes see a brown hare near the pond but I rarely get a chance of a photo.

Apart from bees and woodpeckers and foxes I haven't taken many photos at home but here are a few.  I have seen several sets of fledgling wrens in the garden in the past two weeks so they must be having a good year.


Another bee, this one a female Willughby's leafcutter bee.


And a flyover from a buzzard being harassed by a crow.  I have also had swifts, swallows and house martins hunting over the garden.


With the easing of lockdown I shall probably post a bit less frequently here, perhaps twice a week rather than every two days as it has been.  We'll see.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Exciting news on OtterCam


I haven't had much opportunity to look for otters with the trail cameras since the lockdown began but I have been able to put one in the culvert a few times and it shows that an otter goes through nearly every night.  I did one night in April for Vivien Kent's Otter Network's annual survey and the otter obligingly went past the camera, and returned seconds later.



The next video was from three nights in May.  I can't tell which otter this is - Vivien thinks from the head shape it might be a female or a yearling male but says it it very hard to tell from these pictures.



Last week I put in the camera again and it picked up an otter nine times in seven nights.  At one point twice an otter went north through the culvert within five minutes which is intriguing.  I can't tell whether it is the same animal that completed the loop a different way and came round again or two different otters - probably the latter.  The next night an otter came past and sniffed the camera.


Two nights later an otter came south past the camera, briefly looking back over its shoulder, and returned immediately, calling as it did so.  It stood up at the sluice gate to look over the top.  There was a short break in the recording (the camera can only do 20s clips at night).  When it restarted the otter was again coming south towards the camera and behind it was a small cub, the first I have seen since January.  I think the cub was too small to jump down over the sluice gate without encouragement from the mother (it must have been pretty scary in the dark).  You can tell the cub has never seen a camera before but it will get used to it!








Here is the video.


The following night the camera didn't see an otter and that was the last of the batch.  As you can guess the camera is still there so I am excited to see if we get more views of the cub.

One thing that puzzles me is the timing.  I have been monitoring the otters with trail cameras since February 2019. There were two well-grown cubs with their mother that month and then only solo otters from March to September.  In October 2019 I saw a mother with two cubs and they appeared every month until January 2020.  Since then I have seen just a single otter on each month's recordings.  This cub is small, probably only four or five months old, so it was probably born in January or February.

Otters are said to be non-seasonal breeders and to have a litter every 18 months or so as the cubs stay with their mother for up to a year.  If this is all the same female she is producing a new litter of cubs in less than a year.