Sat 25th Feb 2012
Well there’s still a little snow left on the hills of Exmoor. There could be more to come seeing as it’s only February but at the moment the weather is quite mild for the time of year.
The news on our land is that all the wild boar have gone. I know the reason for this as I got up there the other day and there was a truck parked up in our gateway, with a Land Rover parked down the bottom of the hill. We reckon there were six people in these vehicles and that they were poaching right there next to our land.
While I was there I met a man and a lady who told me a good old story. They said they’d been for a walk up the valley but I think this was just their cover. Anyway, all the keepers were up there waiting for them as soon as it got dark in case they came back to load up any game they’d left behind. Sure enough, one of the keepers saw them loading something big which must have been a deer or a boar. Now there’s a bit of excitement for you.
I was down Barnstaple market last week, as I am every Tuesday, and people kept coming to my stall very upset over something they’d just seen. In the nearby churchyard there were chaps cutting down all the trees to stop the starlings roosting there. Myself I couldn’t believe it when they told me. The men said they where doing it because of health reasons. Of course the people thought that I could stop them but I couldn’t do anything about it.
You know, starlings don’t stay that long in one place. Anyway, people get some funny ideas sometimes and certainly there are a lot of local people against what’s been done. They say it’s a waste of money for a start as well as being sad to see the trees chopped down.
The last thing I want to tell you about this week is my visit to see a good old mate of mine. It was nice to see him and we had a good old natter. Then on the way home I was coming down a very steep hill when all of a sudden a buzzard came out of the hedge and flew right up over the front my truck, heading for the windscreen. I braked so hard there was smoke coming from the tyres but doing so saved that buzzard’s life. I was so lucky not to kill that bird. I was only able to brake so hard because I was on one of the back roads where there’s rarely any other traffic about. Had it happened on a busy main road, the bird would have been dead as I write to you. I can still picture those talons coming towards me now.
Well that’s all I have for you this week. I hope you’re managing to get out and see some wildlife now the weather is a bit better. With March only a few days away we can finally begin looking forward to Spring. God bless and I’ll see you soon.
The wintery weather has stayed with us and we’ve had a very cold wind from the east down here in North Devon. I took a trip to the top of Exmoor to see a friend of mind the other day but got stuck in the snow for about an hour. The lane was full up with snow to about four foot deep out near a place called Sandy Way so I never made it to see my friend. We only had about three inches at home.
I think it’s about time I talked about foxes again as some of you lovely people might not know what the old fox gets up to. At this time of year they are mating and some nights you can hear them barking like a dog.
A lot of farmers don’t like the fox because it takes their lambs and also their chickens. It’s pretty keen on pheasant chicks as well. The real problem is that the fox seems to kill just for fun. If it killed one animal and took it away to eat then I think people wouldn’t mind so much. We all understand that every animal needs food and that the fox has to kill to get his. The trouble is, a fox will kill all the chickens in the coop but only take one away to eat. That’s hard to understand and accept.
But when those little cubs come out of the den in the Spring, they are the cutest things to see and, just like the badger cubs, so lovely to watch as they play together. The biggest litter I’ve ever seen is seven cubs but altogether I’ve have seen twelve cubs at one den, from different litters though. If you go too near the den the fox will move her cubs. I once knew a fox who moved her cubs four times because her den area was disturbed and she felt the cubs were in danger. Foxes have a great sense of smell and can pick up your scent a quarter of a mile away.
We are lucky enough to have foxes on our land and I love to watch them and film them when I can. I will never forget the day last year when I was down there waiting for the vixen to come back with food to feed her cubs and when she did arrive she had a hare in her mouth, one of the ones we let go on the land ourselves I’m pretty sure. I was so upset she’d caught one of these beautiful animals you don’t see so much these days. But that’s the way it goes. The hare was outsmarted and ended up as the cubs’ dinner.
So this is how I know what the foxes are killing, by watching them and also looking to see what remains are left outside the den. So, if you know of a foxes den near you, go up there in Spring and see if you can spot any cubs. Be sure to keep a good distance mind but if you think the vixen might have moved her cubs on then have a closer look around the hole to see if you can work out what she’s been feeding them from any remains lying about. Maybe then you’ll say to yourself, yes, Johnny’s right about that.
Wed 8th Feb 2012
We’ve had some very cold weather since I last spoke to you and even some snow. I expect it’s been the same for many of you.
I’ve not too much to tell you this week so I think I’ll talk a little bit about the badgers as they should have started having their cubs by now. Not that you’ll be seeing them out and about yet. You’ll have to wait until the spring for that when they’ll start coming up to the top of the holes in the sett and will eventually venture outside. They’ll be about three months old by then. They are so funny when they start to play. You’ll have the time of your life watching them.
If you’ve never watched badgers in the wild, I recommend it’s something you try and do. Let me tell you, the first time you see them is something you will never forget. When badgers leave the sett they always keep to the same track, so if you can find one, you can sit and wait for them to come along. Maybe you know where there’s a sett. Keep your distance though and don’t go trampling all around it or they’ll smell your scent and stay underground.
You’ll need to be there in the evening mind, as they are nocturnal animals, but I’m sure you know that. The light summer evenings are the best time. And remember to make sure the wind is blowing towards you so that your scent is blown away from them, and keep very still.
I think I told you back in December about how clean badgers are. They are also quite inquisitive and clever, especially where there’s food involved. I think I’m the only person who’s ever made a playground for badgers, with ladders to climb and wheels to turn, and food rewards for them to find. I even made a DVD of it years ago and I still sell it today on this website and on my market stall. My badger photos are always popular as well. This just shows how much people love the badgers. You can see some of the photos in my gallery.
If you want to find out more about badgers, here are two good places to go:
www.badgertrust.org.uk - A charity aimed at the welfare of Badgers in the UK.
Tony Dean - Badger watching tours in Gloucestershire (01453) 750164.