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John's Mammals 2023 (1 Viewer)

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Sunshine yesterday and I decided on an amble around Moor Green Lakes, probably the single site I would count as local patch (normally I consider a 10 mile circle round my house in that light.) I was briefly distracted by Goldfinches and Chaffinches around the feeders in the car park but then headed for the Blackwater River and the path West towards a small sewage works by the road marking the boundary of the habitat. Birders coming the other way had mentioned a Green Sandpiper which I still needed for the year.

It crossed my mind that this is a typical time of year for me to encounter mustelids on the reserve - the lack of leafery both on bushes and shooting up from path verges helps immeasurably, and as a bonus it has been so dry lately that the leaves on the ground crackle and rasp with the lightest passage of small paws, most helpful with small animals moving lightning fast and using what cover does exist. However, by the time I'd found the Green Sand and enjoyed the gleaming spring plumage of the Lapwings, added Teal to my local list for the year and listened to Chiffchaffs buried in impenetrable willow and sallow scrub, I'd encountered only a velvet-antlered Roebuck.

The return journey didn't change matters, nor did a sit in the hide in the hope of locating the oft-elusive Ring-necked Duck. I had almost reached the horse paddock just below the car park when I noticed a Rabbit feeding not far on the other side of a gate into the no access surroundings of Colebrook Lake North. I managed a photo of that with its nose not buried too far into the short turf and then made for the paddock hoping for a Mistle Thrush bouncing among the horse clods. Just as I passed the end of a ditch by the field fence, I heard a scuffle in the leaves that made me whip round, so see the head of a Weasel projecting up from below the leaf litter.

Inevitably it let me line up the camera and as the lens focussed, it hit the afterburners and vanished. I came off the camera instantly but didn't even see it go: squeaking didn't bring it back. Luckily, I then heard the quietest of crackles from the leaves on the far side of the bridleway that parallels the reserve footpath. Lurching over the loose, low wire fence between the two, I re-established contact with the Weasel, which was dashing about under a crazy concatenation of trailing brambles, fallen branches and heaped lumber. Every time I got the camera on it the animal was off again. I kept following it, hoping that at some point it would pause for longer than a couple of seconds. The first time it did the camera would not lock up on it and I got a frustrating burst of perfectly framed out-of-focus shots before it once again hurtled off, this time disappearing down a vole hole I would swear was narrower than the Weasel. I prayed that Voley was not at home, otherwise it might be a long wait for the Weasel to come back up!

Luckily for me and the hole's owner, no fatal encounter occurred and the ginger bullet fired back out of the hole into the clutter on the ground. At last it paused in a sufficient gap and for long enough for me to get a shot away, before it whipped round in its own length and ran up a tree! While it was searching a cluster of twigs on the trunk and demonstrating its independence of gravity, I managed to get a decent sequence, and even better when it came back down it stopped long enough for me to get some pictures of it standing alert. I may have drawn it towards me with some more squeaking but it might have been going where it did anyway.

After that sequence it shot away along the line of the path and disappeared over a ditch rim. I headed for the car with a big smile on my face.


Roebuck in velvet


Weasel X 5


Farnboro John

Well-known member
Roll call last night, effectively: all six current foxes present and correct, all eating healthily. Patch only occasionally holding his left paw up, Scruff, Rip and Hoppity fully fit; Toff still off his left rear (I wonder really if that will heal completely). Smudge I am once again doubtful about, he's not limping but he is carrying his head cocked on one side most of the time. He can straighten it but doesn't seem to want to. Hopefully he's just pulled a muscle and will return to normal soon, or maybe (wild stab in the dark) it's his way of compensating for now having only one eye. Meanwhile he looks odd walking along with one ear pointed straight up in the air.


Farnboro John

Well-known member
Patch pulled an amazing stunt the other night. He is regularly harassed by what we believe is a stray cat that we call Whitesocks, who tries to dispossess him of his chicken. Often Patch will eat most of the flesh off the first drumstick and then leave it for the cat so he gets the rest in peace, but the other night he was either feeling aggrieved or just saw an opportunity.

We have an elderly near neighbour with a couple of small dogs. She walks them religiously, making her way very slowly while the two dogs accompany her on their leads without ever yapping or pulling. They are the best behaved small dogs I've ever seen and I don't think they've had extensive training (well, I know they haven't) - they just know the old lady can't cope and they don't want to upset her. Anyway, they even ignore the foxes.

On this occasion Patch saw them close to the nearest corner of the nearby green, leaving only about five yards between them and the hedge bordering the end of a terrace of houses. With Whitesocks in pursuit he trotted through the gap, going within maybe two or three yards of the dogs. The cat pulled up short with its thoughts being easily guessed: "Whoa, I'm not going near them!" The dogs ignored Patch completely and he got away with his booty. Result.

The only other fox news is that Rip is lactating and her appetite and attendance have shot up, so she has cubs somewhere.

Elsewhere Clare and I had a trip out after ducks, getting point-blank pictures of Lesser Scaup at Farmoor and more distant views of both a drake Smew and a bunch of Red-crested Pochards at Stocker's Lake. We missed the American Wigeon at Otmoor as we didn't have the full directions so approached via the reserve, not Oddington. We did however have good scope views of a pair of Muntjac feeding in a damp meadow on the reserve and prolonged views of a Bittern hunting along a reedy ditch.


Farnboro John

Well-known member
Quick bit of fox news after some investigative photo sessions (nothing to show, detail shots for individual IDs).

Rip is not lactating, she has been displaced as breeding female: but she is still around, just more cautious about the other foxes than she used to be.

Hoppity is lactating and seems to be hooked up with Patch (we've thought that before), who is still hopping a bit off his injured left fore but not all the time. I think Patch and Hoppity are the inheritors of the family earth though poor Smudge did all the hard work. Hoppity has learned to ask to be loaded up with two or three drumsticks at a time and takes them off, presumably to the earth.

Haven't seen Smudge for nearly two weeks. I think he has succumbed to his injuries. I'm quite sad about that.

Toff is still with us and still limping left rear, I don't think that will ever be right.


Farnboro John

Well-known member
While I was away, Marion fed the foxes, usually meeting them when she sat outside for a cigarette as is her regular habit. She doesn't know them all by sight as I do, but she does know Patch. She says that although she was feeding them plenty of chicken, Patch (who comes closer than the others and was brave enough to be on the front step while she was on the garden chair there, no more than six feet away) kept looking away from her and towards the door. Maz's version is that he was looking for me.....

I've rarely been so flattered.


Farnboro John

Well-known member
By the way, the holiday I was on was a fortnight in Sri Lanka after mammals, with Steve Babbs, Roy Hargreaves and John Pilgrim.

There will be a report but I'm going to write all of it before I start publishing so I don't stall in the middle - also I have picked out under 600 pictures from the 6600 taken but now I have to process them....

Blue Whale was quite enough of a spoiler but here are some stats from my point of view (obviously there is some variation across the crew) - even there I haven't a full grip on the herps and will need Mr Babbs's help to sort those out.

Mammals: 50 species, 34 lifers, 42 photographed (not all the same quality though!)

Birds: 147 species, 71 lifers, 107 photographed

Herps: over 50 species, pretty much all lifers, dunno yet how many photographed.




Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
Took a friend to a moth survey last night and dropped him home at 02:45 in Welwyn Garden City. As I pulled up near his house a badger shot out of one garden and across the road in front of us with a hedgehog in it's mouth, then down the opposite pavement. Rather an astonishing sight. Can't help but feel sorry for the hedgehog as its not like we have any to spare.
Somewhat mixed emotions!

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
I've been away on holiday... ticked Blue Whale today. Obviously more news to come!

I really enjoyed your Sri Lanka trip report John, it was really full on by the sound of it! Here in the Alps we have visitors staying, they persuaded me to put out the camera trap the other night even though I normally use it in winter only. A Pine Marten visited a few times (see one photo) and in the middle of the night another visitor (see two other pics) - it's a bit embarrassing but can't make out what it is, it doesn't look like any of the local farm dogs (all of which have now gone up to pasture higher up anyway) and surely a Fox would not have a tail like that. We have had attacks by Wolf on some sheep near the village but it looks too small to be one of those (I think).
Any help gratefully accepted!


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