Badger Memories -West Kent Badger Group

 

 

 

This article and photos was originally written for the West Kent Badger Group website and Newsletter and is not based on Darrick Wood. However, I thought it may be of interest to ‘Friends’ members.

Badger Memories!

It seems a long time ago now but, following a career as a primary teacher, I went on in the early nineties to obtain a job managing an environmental education centre near Dartford for KCC. It was an old village school built in 1857. One of my responsibilities was to develop a range of habitats for wildlife to inspire visiting Key Stage 1 and 2, (5 – 11 year old) children on a 2 acre site. This included a newly dug out pond which was soon teaming with invertebrates, a small meadow and a tiny wooded area.

In addition to enhancing the site for small wildlife I also had the ambition of building a simple badgers Sett. I mean ‘simple’! I didn’t use plastic piping or build a concrete floor like other badger groups have appeared to produce. My brother and I found a corner of the meadow and dug three channels leading to a couple of bed chambers of which we dug down around 50cm to produce a snug sleeping area.(It seemed so comfortable I even wondered if I could be reincarnated as a badger!) We then covered these channels with large builder’s patio slabs. Then a layer of soil on which grass, Cow Parsley and Stinging nettles later grew. My plan was for the badgers originally to have a basic home which they could then extend (without planning permission!) perhaps downwards or sideways – whatever way that suited them – and they later did. Read on.

My original aim was really to build a ‘release site’ for the West Kent Badger Group to use for perhaps recovering injured badgers into the wild. However, unfortunately (if that is the right word!) local wild badgers apparently like it so much that they moved in a matter of weeks before I had a chance to tell the badger group of my plans.

The following year others moved in so that a family group was formed. ‘Hey presto!’ You can guess what happened next. Three cubs were born and in that April they showed themselves above ground. Cubs were born in most years until I retired seven years ago. With friends and volunteers we were able to have the artificial sett wired up with cameras. We had cameras connected to a digital whiteboard in the main classroom so that we could see when a badger emerged without setting a foot outside. Indeed one clever volunteer managed to enable me, using a password, to watch the badgers from the comfort of my home. There were many occasions when my wife Jane rang me in the centre office often as early as 5.00pm when I was just about to leave to tell me not to come home yet as ‘they’ were out.

Our digital interests lead to fitting cameras in nest boxes, cameras pointing on bird feeders, and a camera looking at the whole site for security, together with, of course cameras over the badgers Sett. All could be seen inside the centre classrooms and from home.

I usually managed to get the badgers to emerge very early by enticing them with peanuts which I threw high over the Sett so they would feel them dropping on the ground above. However, I was always conscience of the fact that perhaps the badgers might have been in danger being out so early. However, there were no dangerous roads nearby and the fenced in centre land was very secure. They invariably went straight back to bed after their treat. I often used the badgers as a tool (excuse) to keep the pupils quiet. Whispering to the children with a finger over my mouth, ‘be quiet, the badgers are sleeping, don’t wake them up’. I was able to show film of the badgers to the visiting class groups, however, later in an evening, the local Cub pack, Scouts, Beavers, Rainbows and Guides etc often saw them live. Local companies, Lions groups and the village society, gave the centre funding for some ‘camera traps’ so we were able to obtain film of the badgers in our absence. Indeed, I often felt we were pioneering some aspects of digital equipment. BBC Natural History Unit ‘eat your heart out’!

Soon I decided that we really needed an outhouse and I thought the simplest and cheapest construction to build was a straw house. However, the only place we could build it was rather too close to the Sett; about forty metres. I managed to get a local farmer to deliver and donate about50 redundant straw bales to the centre. In addition, I bought a number of iron poles and large bricks etc for stability and together with volunteers set about constructing the ‘eco’ building.  A number of infant classes carrying out a mini-beast hunt soon also used the straw hut for singing. However, the badgers had other ideas and it wasn’t singing, if you see what I mean. For those who don’t know badgers regularly bring in bedding, perhaps dried leaves and other forms of undergrowth to their Setts. They must have thought Christmas had come early! Soon great piles of straw, which became their bedding, appeared on the Sett taken from the building. Unfortunately we soon had to dismantle the straw hut as it was a safety hazard, not before I had left a camera trap inside the structure and caught one intruder ‘red handed’, or should I say ‘red pawed’! Not one of my best ideas!

The badgers circulated the village at night, probably many of them from ‘my’ sett as I used to have frequent remarks from the locals that ‘my’ badgers had visited their gardens the previous night. I remember many days when I would take a class out to the river or village and hurry past gardens and their front lawns that I had been told about (say no more!)

It seems a long time ago that I/we were in ‘badger heaven’, living the dream.

I often think back to those wonderful days.

Gary Cliffe

Committee Member

Friends of Darrick and Newstead Woods

West Kent Badger Group

Latest Bird Survey 30th November – Trevor Morgan

We have finally observed a Goldcrest on the 20th Of November; they obviously breed in the woods but we have not seen them in the leaf cover. The temperature was 5 degrees celcius but they survive much colder temperatures throughout the winter. They feed on insects: it amazes me how Britain’s smallest bird, which only weighs a few grams, can manage to survive the winter.

After dark I have been hearing tawny owls in the woods. We have not been able to record them officially yet.

On this  survey we observed two pure white domestic pigeons. There are sparrow hawks around so I hope they are able to find their way home.

The latest report is attached below:

Bird Survey as at 26 November 2018

 

We have been conducting a bird survey, mostly weekly, since 19th April 2018. We have been counting the number of birds of the species that we have seen. Three areas have been surveyed – Darrick Wood and Meadow, Newstead Wood and Meadow and Darrick Wood Hornbeam area/Broadwater Wood.

 

It should be noted that this is not a scientific survey and bird numbers cannot be accurate as birds are very mobile. We have only recorded species which we can positively identify by sight.

 

A list of bird species seen and recorded is shown below (29/30 Species):

Carrion Crow

Magpie

Jackdaw

Jay

Wood pigeon

Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Song thrush

Blackbird

Robin

Great Tit

Blue Tit

Long Tailed Tit

Marsh Tit

Starling

House/ Tree Sparrow (difficult to distinguish between the two species from a distance)

Swift

Wren

Ring Necked Parakeet

Stock Dove

Treecreeper

Nuthatch

Dunnock

Common Redstart (06 November)

A Warbler species not a blackcap (06 November) probably a chiffchaff

Goldcrest (20 November 2018)

Collared Dove (20 November 2018)

Common Gull (26 November 2018)

Domestic Pigeon (26 November 2018) pure white

Chaffinch (26 November 2018)

 

 

Birds heard on survey but not positively identified by sight (2 or 3 species)

Garden warblers, Black caps – these two species can easily be confused by song.

Chiffchaff – warbler family

 

 

Other birds reported as seen or heard by members but not recorded on survey (9 Species).

NB, some members are better at identifying birds by call rather than sight. Also some bird species such as starlings and jackdaws are capable of mimicking other bird species to the confusion of humans and the mimicked species.

 

Sparrow Hawk

Buzzard – Photo Member’s article in News Letter

Black Caps – heard

Possible sighting of Black Cap on Darrick Wood meadow during survey – too fast for positive identification.

Tawny Owl – heard and seen

Bull Finch

Mallard

Black Headed Gull

Green woodpecker

 

 

Not seen on Bird Survey but expected (2 species)

 

Green Woodpecker

Mistle Thrush

Orpington Field Club Talks Autumn 2018 and Winter 2019

Orpington Field Club – Autumn/Winter Talks – 2018/19

Five talks have been arranged for mainly the second Saturday afternoons from October to February at BEECHE, High Elms Country Park, Shire Lane, Farnborough, BR6 7JH. These will be between 1.30pm and 3.30pm giving members and visitors a chance to network! All visitors are  welcome, especially those from Bromley’s Friends Groups, Kent Wildlife Trust and Local RSPB members and anyone with an interest in natural history. Entrance is by a £3.00 donation which includes refreshments.

 

October 13th                            Kent’s Wild Year                             Simon Ginnaw

Simon makes a welcome return to show us more photographs included in his multi-media presentation.  His talk outlines his travels around Kent through the seasons looking at the county’s wildlife and landscapes.

November 17th                             20 Years of Nest-boxing                       Bob Francis

An illustrated talk about Bob’s 20 years experience of checking nest boxes of all type (Birds and Small Mammals) and being fascinated, horrified, surprised and sometimes puzzled by their contacts.

December 8th                                Urban Reserves                                    Alison Ruyter

A positive look at how nature can thrive in some of the places we least expect. The talk will be based mostly on some Kent Wildlife Trust Reserves.

2019

January 12th        A Wildlife of Yellowstone National Park        Duncan Mc Donald

Duncan gave the Orpington Field Club a talk last year on his wildlife journeys through Europe. He is now making a welcome return. He has previously worked as a Countryside Ranger for the Highland Council within the Cairngorms National Park as well as being a guide for Speyside Wildlife. His passion for wildlife and conservation has taken him across the globe. His illustrated talk this time will outline his trips to the Yellowstone National Park, USA

February 9th           The Spanish Bluebell – Menace or Misunderstood     Fred Rumsey

Fred’s talk will firstly focus on what we know about the Bluebell (Hyacinthoids – non scripta) and related species and describe the research he was involved with aimed at addressing the alarmist claims which have been made about the imminent demise of our native Bluebell and the Spanish Bluebell’s introduction and spread.

Keston Fair 24 June 2018

Once again the Friends had a stall at the Keston Fair on Sunday 24th June 2018. There was brilliant sunshine and another fine performance by the Morris dancers.

The fair had to compete for an audience with the Greyhound pub which was showing England v Panama in the group stage. There was no need to check the score on a portable ‘phone as the cheering for every goal was hearty.

Every stall was getting lots of visitors, before and after kick off time, so ample money was raised.

The Planet Jupiter by Trevor Morgan

Jupiter is now a fine sight in the western sky after sunset. I took a picture of the solar system’s largest planet on the 4th June 2018. You can just about see three of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons close to the planet. Through a telescope, the 4th Galilean moon was also visible but very close to the planet. The camera’s telephoto lens which magnifies about 9 times was unable to resolve the closest moon within the glare. I used a tripod and an exposure of 1/8th second. It is not the best of photographs but shows what can be done with amateur equipment.

Jupiter is still prominent in the sky and you should be able to see the planet and all its 4 Galilean moons ( provided they are in the right position) through 8×40 binoculars. You will need to steady your hands by jamming them against a solid object or steady the binoculars by using a tripod.

My photograph was taken from our garden near the woods. Shortly after observing Jupiter my wife and I were treated to the call of a solitary tawny owl circling above our heads but we could not see it.

Why not get yourself out into the reserve to look at Jupiter after sunset the woods are dark enough for you to see it shine brilliantly. You might also be treated to the sound of a tawny owl  and you might even be able to catch a sight of a bat if your eyes are allowed to adjust to the feeble light.

 

Bird Survey 2018

Bird Survey as at 16th July 2018 – Richard Pearce and Trevor Morgan

 

We have been conducting a bird survey, mostly weekly, since 19th April 2018. We have been counting the number of birds of the species that we have seen. Three areas have been surveyed – Darrick Wood and Meadow, Newstead Wood and Meadow and Darrick Wood Hornbeam area/Broadwater Wood.

 

It should be noted that this is not a scientific survey and bird numbers cannot be accurate as birds are very mobile. We have only recorded species which we can positivity identify by sight.

 

A list of bird species seen and recorded is shown below (20 Species):

Carrion Crow

Magpie

Jackdaw

Jay

Wood pigeon

Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Song thrush

Blackbird

Robin

Great Tit

Blue Tit

Long Tailed Tit

Marsh Tit

Starling

House/ Tree Sparrow

Swift

Wren

Ring Necked Parakeet

Stock Dove (2 seen on 17th July 2018 in Darrick Wood meadow but not yet formally reported)

Treecreeper

 

 

Birds heard on survey but not positively identified by sight (2 or 3 species)

Garden warblers, Black caps – these two species can easily be confused by song.

Chiffchaff – warbler family

 

 

Other birds reported as seen or heard by members but not recorded on survey (11 Species).

NB, some members are better at identifying birds by call rather than sight. Also some bird species such as starlings and jackdaws are capable of mimicking other bird species to the confusion of humans and the mimicked species.

 

Sparrow Hawk

Goldcrest – photo on website

Collared Dove

Buzzard – Photo Member’s article in News Letter

Black Caps – heard

Possible sighting of Black Cap on Darrick Wood meadow during survey – too fast for positive identification.

Tawny Owl – heard and seen

Chaffinch

Bull Finch

Mallard

Common Gull

Black Headed Gull

 

 

Not seen on Bird Survey but expected (3 species)

 

Green Woodpecker

Chaffinch

Mistle Thrush