Monday, 23 April 2012

Another day, another Otter

Met up with JA along the river at Kempston again this morning, he was already watching an Otter and handily, due to time constraints, it was coming down stream :-)

By the time I arrived it was just downstream from All Saints Church. We followed it downstream to just below the bypass bridge before it turned around and headed back upstream stopping at a favourite sprainting site on the way!

Otter sprainting
I had assumed this was a sprainting site but hadn't been up that side of the river to check for certain, no need to now.

I had to leave at 8am and JA was still following the Otter upstream past the Back Channel. He lost sight of it shortly after though so I didn't miss much.

Another great start to the day.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

What a morning!

This morning the plan was to head along the river at Kempston to find the Otter again. Fortunately the weather was good, the heavy showers we are having at the moment seem to be confined to the afternoon, so I headed off just after 6am. Blackcap and Chiffchaff were both heard as I headed up towards Kempston Mill. There was also sign of recent tree cutting (yesterday I think) between the ILEX building and the Mill, surely this work could have been carried out outside of the birds breeding season. I hope there weren't any Woodpeckers already nesting or anything else for that matter.

As I reached the Mill I could hear a Sedge Warbler singing in the reed bed opposite. I also spotted JA's car in the car park. A quick text and shortly after the response that JA was already watching an Otter upstream. My pace quickened as I continued upstream. More Chiffies, Blackcaps and a second Sedge Warbler were heard along the way. Sky Larks and Lapwings were also displaying and a pair of Common Terns were perched at Kempston Weir.

I crossed the metal bridge over the Back Channel and shortly after I spotted the Otter a a few yards up stream from the island at the south east corner of Box End Park. I cut around the short section of fence and there was JA tucked in by a Willow photographing the Otter directly in front of him, brilliant.

Camera at the ready I joined him and we spent the next 2¾ hours we followed this animal up stream as it fed. We even had a second Otter coming downstream which we followed for a short while before returning back up stream and catching up with the original animal! Amazingly it seemed to be eating almost constantly, I'm surprised it didn't burst! Behaviour was slightly different to my previous encounters. Several times during the encounter the Otter would remain in a particular area for several minutes, often out in the middle of the river, constantly diving, coming up with something, eating it and then diving again. Previously the animals have been constantly on the move, unless they have caught something a little larger in which case they tend to head off into a secluded spot to feed. The river was up a little and the flow was a lot stronger than previously, so this may have been the difference. Perhaps the food was being carried down in the flow so there was no need to move.       

Otter with fish
..and still trying to get it down.
Proof that the American Signal Crayfish is alive and well (not this particular one!) in the next shot. I'm disappointed that I didn't quite nail the shot as it has the potential to be a cracker but I include it here anyway.

Otter with American Signal Crayfish
 At times we were just a few feet from the Otter as it swam past and although it checked us out it didn't seem too bothered by our presence.

What are you looking at!
With it being the closed season for fishing we had all the fishing swims to ourselves so it was a case of move ahead of the Otter, tuck into a fishing swim with some nice cover, wait for the Otter to arrive....

Otter passes by...
..and then do it all over again!

..and again
And finally the light altered providing this lovely golden hue just before the animal disappeared behind the island in Biddenham Loop CP (BLCP).

Our last view.
Mornings don't come much better than that. 

We also had a single Swallow over, BLCP, as we waited for the Otter at one point and Kingfishers were very active around the island after the Otter disappeared. Willow Warblers were also heard in BLCP.

There was another dead Mute Swan (Juvenile) along the Box End Park stretch of the river. This is the second in this area in recent weeks, the previous one being an adult bird. It was across the river on the Box End Park side so I was unable to see any detail, rings etc..

I did a loop around the golf course before heading home. There were more Chiffies, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers along side the golf course and plenty of Sky Lark activity between the golf course and the Mill. A few Lapwings about as well although frustrating to see dog walkers crossing the fields, with their animals, one of whom was right in the area where the Lapwings nest! Come on people stick to the marked paths and keep your dogs close to avoid disturbance to the ground nesting birds. Species such as Sky Lark and Lapwing need all the help they can get.

Monday, 16 April 2012

...and again!

 Another early morning session along the Great Ouse at Kempston with the Otter. Caught up with it at the south east corner of Box End Park and followed it upstream into Biddenham Loop CP. Finally left it munching on something unseen in a reed bed towards the north end of Box End Park.


..munching on breakfast

Otter (finally some good light)
On the way back home came across this Blackcap singing in the wooded section of the riverside trail between Biddenham Loop and the Back Channel.

There were also a couple of Sedge Warblers singing along the Box End Park side of the river this morning following on from the one I had yesterday in the mill pool at Kempston Mill, and the one I had on Thursday at the mouth of the Back Channel.

Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs quite numerous with small numbers of Willow Warblers also around this morning.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Otter again

I met up with Stephen Plummer this morning, who was back in Bedfordshire for the weekend. I was hoping to show him an Otter on my local stretch of the Great Ouse, but when I found him he was already watching one which he had been following downstream from Great Denham. We were now at the south east corner of Box End Park. We followed the animal downstream until it gave us the slip just upstream from the bypass. The wind got up quite suddenly and made it difficult to pick out ripples made by the Otter so we gave up and headed back up stream. Stephen had been following the animal since about 06:15 and it was around 07:30 when we headed back up stream.

There were more Willow Warblers around this morning with a couple heard along the river near Hillgrounds road in Kempston. I also had a single Swallow over, along the golf course, behind the houses at Carnoustie Drive, Gt. Denham.

Another great morning, if somewhat nippy, and great to meet up with Stephen again.

Badger sett this week

After a couple of weeks with lots of activity around the sett this week was very quiet. Did get a Muntjac passing through which is the first time since a move the camera.

The main talking point this week was three dogs that were seen around the sett. Two were seen together both were interested in the holes but were too big to worry about them entering. Later in the week a terrier also came through and actually entered one of the holes. I didn't see it come out but assume it disappeared out of frame, before the camera triggered, when it came back out. Hopefully this won't become a regular occurrence. A black cat was also seen around the sett a couple of times and seemed interested in going down one of the holes but decided against it.

Following is three clips from the camera trap this week. First it seems like there was a disturbance around the sett as one of the badgers has just come out then 2 others come crashing through. Second, one of the badgers is seemingly spooked by the camera. Finally a Muntjac moves through the sett in the early hours.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Box End Park WeBS: 08/04/2012 + Otter

The WeBS count was pretty sparse this morning, highlight being the 2 Common Terns that dropped in briefly around 07:30 before they continued through north. Counts were:

Canada Goose 12  
Coot 1  
Cormorant 8    (1 Sinensis type)
Grey Heron 1  
Kingfisher 1  
Mallard 11  
Moorhen 3  
Mute Swan 11    (include the pair with orange darvic rings 384 and 744)
Oystercatcher 2  
Common Tern 2   
Pied Wagtail 2  
Skylark Present (4 seen together but more on site)  
No Gulls present
Number of species 12

Other birds present included:

Chiffchaff 6
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 drumming
Blackcap 1
Jay 1 (mimicking Common Buzzard call)

I was lucky enough to find an Otter again on the river. Initially towards the north east end of the park I followed it down river, finally losing it at the island on the river at the south east corner. Managed some nice shots.




So all in all a pretty good morning. Very impressed with the open water swimmers who were swimming in the lake when I left, especially the ones in just bathing suits rather than wet suits!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Priory Country Park: Good Friday, not so bad Saturday!

Priory Country Park: Good Friday, not so bad Saturday!: Met up with DK at the park on a cold Good Friday morning (-1°C). Willow Warblers are fresh in this week and it didn't take long for me to g...

Latest from the Badger sett

Highlight this week was another new species for the site. This time a Brown Hare did a quick circuit of the Badger sett.

Since moving the camera I have not had the variety of wildlife pass by which is a little surprising given the camera is only about 20 yards from the previous position and looks back towards the old position. This week a Fox passed through which made a nice change.

And finally the Badgers. After last week when the badgers seemed to be taking loads of bedding into the sett, this week appeared to be maintenance week with many clips of the Badgers digging out the sett holes. Here are a couple of the digging clips followed by one where a couple of the Badgers indulge in a little mutual grooming.

To highlight the amount of activity around the sett this week the previous 2 weeks the camera captured 18 and 27 Badger clips. This week there were 63 clips! Maximum number of Badgers in a clip still stands at 3, hopefully we'll have a cub or 2 soon.

Monday, 2 April 2012

More from the badgers this week

More badger action from w/c 24/3. Another clip of bedding being taken into the sett. There were no less than 8 bedding clips with bedding being taken down all three holes that are within view of this camera. Another clip shows a bit of aggression between 2 of the badgers and the final clip shows 3 badgers, the highest count I have at this sett so far.

While changing the memory card in the camera this week I heard the first Blackcap of the year on the site. A Chiffchaff was singing again. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were both heard and Lapwings were displaying in the fields to the north.