Tues 31st January
Well another week has gone by and the weather is still wet and windy. I’ve been going to the hide every day, staying there about five hours. But saying that, I’ve got some very good shots of the long tailed tits which I’m so please with. They are very hard to film ‘cause they don’t keep still very long.
I’ve also managed to get some shots of the nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker but am still trying with the tree creeper. Now this is a bird you only ever see going up a tree. I’ve watched it so many times over the years. It goes up the tree, most times to the top, then flies to another tree where it starts on its way up again. There’s a lot of people don’t know this but you go and watch one and see if I’m right. The nuthatch, on the other hand, goes both ways, up and down.
So how am I going to get a still shot of this busy little bird? I think I’m going to bore a hole in a dead tree near the hide, fill it with a little fat and meal worms and see if the tree creeper will stop to feed. That’s the only thing I can think of at the moment.
Now I must tell you about the dead pheasant I picked up last week. I thought I’d take it down to the land and put it in our wood. I left it there in a place I thought was a regular animal track and put up the trophy cam on a tree to see if I could film something feeding on it or taking it away. Nothing showed for three days then a wild boar and a badger came by in one night. They didn’t take the pheasant though. I went back again the next morning and the pheasant was gone. I think the reason it wasn’t taken earlier was because my scent was on it. I’ve played back the trophy cam and found out it was a badger who had that pheasant for his dinner.
I was looking at the calendar this week and thinking that it won’t be that long before I start my Exmoor safaris again. March 10th is my first one and I go right on until the Red Deer rut in the Autumn, finishing my trips at the end of October. The dates are filling up fast, with some fully booked already, so if you’re hoping to come with me this year I’d check out my ‘Safaris’ page right away. I’m really looking forward to them. I love showing people my favourite places on Exmoor and finding the red deer and other animals. I meet some lovely folk and have regulars who come back year after year.
Mon 23rd January 2012
Well I’m still busy putting up bird boxes on the land and the blue tits are really liking them for roosting. We’re working very hard at the moment as many birds are already beginning to pair up. I think they’ll be nesting early this year.
Rupert has been helping me set up some more box cameras. I think I told you we put up a tawny owl box. The owls are around but not in the box yet. Of course this may not happen but you got to keep trying. Wildlife can be hard to get sometimes.
Also me and Billy have been putting up birds feeders. Within two days we had all sorts of birds come to them - blue tits, great tits, great spotted woodpecker, gold finches, marsh tits, long-tailed tits, and another bird you don’t see very often, the tree creeper. The feeders are around the new hide so in the next few days I’ll be trying to film them and also get some still shots. I would love to get a nice still shot of a long tailed tit or tree creeper. I’ll let you know how I get on next week.
Back along I told you about the Bushnell Trophy Cam I have on hire from J.J Vickers & Sons Ltd in Kent. It is so good that I’ve bought three more and I set them up every night. I’m telling you now, it’s great fun putting them up on the trees but the best thing is getting there early in the morning to see the results.
They work with 12 AA batteries and the heat of the animal sets them off. They’ll even pick up something as small as a rat which I filmed the other day. Don’t forget, the pictures and film won’t be so good as in daylight but saying that, if you put an infra red camera beside them you can get very good pictures. They also work very well through the day
For any of you living in North Devon or visiting us down here, I’m in Barnstaple Pannier Market every Tuesday now, until about lunchtime. I’m unusually there up til Christmas but this year have decided to keep going. I hope you’ll come and say hello.
Sat 7th Jan 2012
Well we’re a week into 2012 now and what a wild week it’s been. I’m still working on the hide with Billy and we’ve taken our lives into our own hands in the gales. Pretty hairy it’s been but I wanted to get it done. We’ve been insulating it, you see, as it’s so cold in there, especially very early in the morning or late at night, because I’m out there all hours getting the filming done.
I’ve had to get rolls of special insulation, like loft insulation but with a backing on. It swells up five or six inches thick and we’ve put it all round the walls and on the ceiling. Then we’ve covered it with green canvas.
Billy has also altered the steps. I made them too far apart and it was quite a job to climb up. He’s taken out the 12 I put in and replaced them with 24. The ladder jumps about like a snake in strong wind so you need a firm foothold to stay on it.
We’re also going to put a big post on one of the corners, about the thickness of a telegraph pole. This will hold the hide steady in the wind and support it if the branch it’s on breaks.
I’ve got the Trophy Cam sorted now and am getting some great shots. There’s a good number of wild boar about and one’s come back that I thought had been shot. The badgers are staying away at the moment. I don’t think they like the boar. I’ve seen them around other places though. I’m going to get another three Trophy Cams to set up in other places to try and film otters and kingfishers in the Spring.
I’ve now got 18 different bird boxes up in the area around the hide. I face them mainly north-west, south-west and west but never east because they’ll be in full sun. It’s ok if they are on a building under the eaves but I find the other directions best. There is already a blue tit roosting. I put a little camera in to film her but the next night she roosted in the next box along.
I’ve had to order two more box cameras as the squirrels keep ruining them. They like to chew the wire. It’s a real problem and I need to think of a way of stopping them.
I’ve put up a few open fronted nesting boxes. Rather than having a hole for the birds to in and out, the top half of the front is open, just a big hole, if you see what I mean. The flycatchers and robins like to nest in these. I’m really looking forward to seeing who uses all the boxes this year. I’m also really hoping to see the wrens again.
I’ve concentrated all my activity on the top part of our land this year while I’m making my new film. I’m aiming to have it finished by May and am calling it ‘Animals On Our Land’.
So it’s been a busy start to the new year but I’m pleased with what we’ve got done. I hope you’ve had a good week as well.