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Archive for the ‘Road Casualties’ Category

OK, yeah.  I know.  It’s been a while.  I can’t make excuses, other than to say that running a family and career takes almost all my time these days.

Anyhow, something happened this morning that is worthy of recording for posterity.  Mrs BWM left for the early shift at work.  About half a mile from the house she came across the body of a dead animal by the side of the road.

Now, roadkill deer are pretty common in these parts, mostly Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer, and you quickly get used to them.  But Mrs BWM has obviously picked up some of my roadkill obsession because she had a good look as she drove past.

And it wasn’t a deer.  It had a big long tail.  And little short front legs.  In her words “there’s a bl**dy dead kangaroo on the road!”  She’s a great wife and she snapped a pic with her phone.

Bedfordshire Wallaby

Bedfordshire Wallaby

Yup – it’s a dead kangaroo.  Actually, I’m no expert, but I’m guessing it’s a wallaby.  I’m also guessing that it’s an escapee from the nearby safari park.  There’s a rumour that there are a fair number of them living wild in the local area.  This isn’t so far-fetched – there are a number of naturalised wallaby colonies in the UK, and frankly so many species have escaped from Woburn over the years and become naturalised (from Muntjac to Wels catfish) that one more isn’t surprising.

Mind you, if there were more of these in the area then I’d have expected to either have seen one or heard about them.  If wallabies are hopping across the main road like this one did (albeit unsuccessfully) then you’d think more people would notice.  As it is, there is someone in Bedfordshire now who is trying to explain that they got the dent in their car from crashing into a kangaroo last night…

 

 

 

 

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Just a few quick notes to show that I’m still here, and I haven’t been killed off by bovine TB or a virulent disease caught from a dead animal by the roadside.  But another month has gone by and what’s the closest I’ve got to a badger?

Shaving Brush

That’s right, the nearest I’ve been to a badger is my shaving brush.  And even that isn’t very close (arguably the finest shaving brushes are made from badger hair, but mine isn’t – it didn’t seem right somehow).  Anyhow, suffice it to say that I haven’t been near badgers lately.

Actually, this isn’t strictly true.  There’s been a couple of road casualties, one of which I had to move off the road.  This was an adult female in the spot that I saw a live badger in February last year. The other was in the usual spot for road casualties around here, the big wood where there have been most of the deaths.  There must be a very substantial sett in this wood to sustain this number of road casualties over the years.

What else has happened?  I got an unexpected parcel through the door the other day.  It was a book – ‘Urban Mammals – a concise guide‘ by David Wembridge.  It’s published by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and it’s a great book – a thoughtful and informed look at the common, and not so common, urban species, from foxes to bats.

Urban Mammals by the People's Trust for Endangered Species

Why did it come through my door?  Well, it wasn’t entirely unexpected, to be honest.  I was contacted by the Trust a few months ago who had found this blog and asked me if they could use some of my pictures in the book.  Of course I was happy to help a worthwhile charity, they used the pictures and in return they sent me a copy of the book.  I’m very grateful, and it is a very good book.

What else?  There have been a lot of buzzards flying over the house lately – I hear them mewing as I sit in our living room.  One day I looked out to see what looked at first sight to be a seagull, but on second glance seemed to be a very pale, almost white, buzzard.  It had drifted out of sight by the time I’d dashed in and returned with the camera.  There were reports of a white buzzard in the area a while ago, so perhaps this was it?

What else?  On the subject of birds, I took Scarlett to the lake at Woburn to feed the ducks today.  There’s a family of black swans in residence that are interesting to see.  Black swans are introductions from Australia, which fits with them being on an estate lake (and given all the other species the Dukes of Bedford have introduced…). The RSPB website says they rarely breed in the UK, but these ones obviously have done.

Feeding the black swans at Woburn

Anyhow, after throwing in bread for a good five minutes I looked to the side and there was a heron perched on a tree, quite oblivious to us.

Heron

There’s a lesson to me to be more observant next time!

I’ll be back soon – there’s a whole bunch of correspondence I need to catch up on too, so bear with me…

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Parakeets

Parakeets in the Office Car Park

Well well.  Here we are on March 21st.  The Spring Equinox.  Hasn’t the year flown by?  It seems like only the other day that we had snow and ice, and now the days are longer, the trees are in bud and the Blackthorn is in flower.  It seems that spring has well and truly arrived.

I’m conscious that I haven’t been on here much lately.  There’s a few reasons for this, but they all boil down to the fact that I haven’t done much.  You see, I don’t do things just so I can write about them.  People sometimes say to me that they couldn’t write a blog because they don’t think they could do enough to fill it.  To me, this is putting it the wrong way round.  The blog is simply a diary, a record of what you’ve done, and I haven’t done much.

Partly it’s because I’ve been busy at work.  I’ve just returned from a business trip to Saudi Arabia, for instance (sandstorms, and absolutely no wildlife!) and work does otherwise take up a certain amount of time.  Partly it’s because of Mrs BWM’s shift patterns, since when she’s at work in the evenings then I need to stay at home parenting.  A lot of it is because young Scarlett is getting more independent-minded.  In the old days I could carry her around the fields and she’d be happy with that.  She’s now got to the age where she’s less easily impressed and she has the language skills to say ‘No Daddy, I don’t want to go out. I want to watch Thomas the Tank Engine’. Which she does.  A lot.  Although I still take her out (for educational purposes) we tend to spend more time at the playground, or feeding ducks, or other, more fun, places.

So what news is there?  Well, there was a dead badger on the road a couple of weeks ago, in the same place I saw the polecat a couple of years ago (see https://badgerwatcher.com/2010/06/27/a-very-much-alive-polecat/).  It isn’t safe to stop and look closely, but I haven’t seen a badger here before so it’s a new spot on the map.

And talking of badgers, I saw a badger on our road yesterday evening, at 7.31pm to be precise.  This is good, partly because I like the idea of a badger being on the same road as me, partly because I’ve waited ages to see it.  This is undoubtedly the badger that I regularly track in the field behind my house.  I feel I know it already, so it was good to finally meet in person.  If only I could entice it a couple of hundred yards into my garden…

Finally, I’ve added a new bird to my life list.  I work in an office in suburban Surrey, near Surbiton, which is actually more leafy and wooded than you might think.  It turns out that our office car park is home to a small flock of a dozen or so Parakeets.  Now the days are longer and I’m in the car park in daylight I’ve started to notice them.  Parakeets are a naturalised species across a lot of London, and some people complain about them because they can be quite noisy, but I quite like them.  They add a bit of colour to the office in more ways than one.  I was told that they are descendants of birds that escaped from Henry VIII’s menagerie at nearby Hampton Court.  Not sure if I believe that one, but they’re interesting enough all the same.

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Scarlett in the Field Behind My HouseOK, I haven’t done much for a while, I admit.  Mrs BWM has been working at the weekends (including a practice event for the Olympics – she’s a volunteer announcer and they were having a dry run) so I’ve been on parenting duty and confined to home except for the odd short walk.  I remember the good old days when Scarlett was little and she’d happily be carried for hours.  Not any more.

But this is still my diary, so I have a few things to note.  Firstly, I came across another dead badger on the main road.  I saw it this morning on my way to the shops, in almost exactly the same place as the road casualty of July 23rd.  On that occasion the dead badger vanished, causing me some confusion.  I looked closely at this one, to make sure that I wasn’t imagining it.  Good thing too, as by the time I came back an hour or so later, the badger had disappeared.  There must be a sett around here somewhere; and I can only imagine that, being a main road, the bodies get picked up pretty quickly.  I wonder how many road casualties occur that I don’t notice, even in our village?

While we’re on this morbid subject, we’ve had some trouble from a fox attacking chickens lately.  There are at least a couple of foxes locally – I see their tracks regularly – but not nearly so many as we had in London.  This is pheasant country, and there are rearing pens around the village.  The keepers are not fond of foxes.  Probably not fond of any other carnivores either, but certainly not foxes.  Incidentally, a couple of years ago a fox got into the penguin enclosure at the nearby safari park and wreaked terrible havoc among the young penguins.  Foxes were even less popular around here after that, I can tell you.

Anyway, our neighbour lost one chicken last week, killed in daylight.  A couple of days later, our own Mabel went the same way, a patch of feathers telling the story.  Poor Henrietta had a narrow squeak but escaped with cuts and bruises, only to fall victim on Friday.  So it’s RIP Mabel and Henrietta.  They’d had a good life – four and a half years – with no trouble.  They have a fox-proof house in which they sleep, but this is the first time we’ve had a fox in the daytime, hence their run is not fully protected (which takes either a 6-foot tall dug-in fence, or an electric one).

On the whole, I like foxes.  They are attractive, interesting to watch and great survivors.  They do what they do, not out of spite or malice, but to eat and live.  But I love them a little less after this.

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Road Casualty Badger

Well, Mrs BWM and Scarlett are still on holiday in Anglesey, braving the gales, but I’m back in Bedfordshire.  I’m here alone with just a somewhat neurotic cat for company.

Anyway, I have another badger road death to record.  I came across this one on the way to work this morning, in a wooded area to the south of the village.  I didn’t have time to look closely (especially not in my best suit), but it was a fully grown adult.

I’ve never seen any signs of badgers in this area before, but it’s a badgery sort of place – woods and fields and no houses.  My long-term plan of logging badger deaths in the area is meant to give me a record that I can refer back to and look for patterns, but it also helps to track badger setts too.  If my mapping of territories is correct, badgers around here control an area with a radius of 350-500m from their home sett.  This means that every time you see a dead badger on the road, there is probably a sett within 500m.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

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Badger Roadkill

One the way back from the library this morning I came across a dead badger by the side of the main road, about half a mile west of my road.  I went back this evening to check it out and note any details for the record.

When I got there the badger had gone.  All I found, among the litter, fast food wrappers and wheel trims, was a decomposing deer (not pleasant!).  As I was in the area, I walked down the verge for a hundred yards or so to see what I could find.  The verge here is substantial, varying from 20-40 feet wide, with the road on one side and a boundary wall on the other.  There are mature trees and varied undergrowth, from grass and bracken to big patches of nettles and brambles (not the place to be wearing shorts, as I found out).

Wasps nest dug out by a badgerIt was a fascinating little area.  I doubt if anyone has walked there or even seen it for years, even though thousands pass by on the main road right alongside.  I doubt if there is enough space for full badger sett (they would need to cross the road to reach a decent foraging area, and if this was the case I’d have seen more casualties) but there was a network of paths.  Following these, I came across a huge wasps’ nest that had been dug out, so there are obviously badgers in the area.  There were wasps still present, so it had been dug out recently, possibly by the same badger that was killed on the road.

I don’t know if this means there is a sett nearby and the verge is part of their territory, or whether this was a lone badger, but it’s given me more clues about the badgers in the area.  One thing still puzzles me though – the missing body of the badger.  I mean, what sort of person goes round picking up dead badgers off the road?  Apart from me, obviously…

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Road Casualties

I attended a meeting of the Bedfordshire Badger Network last night, and very interesting it was too, hearing about badger activity around the county.  The discussion on badgers being observed swimming was particularly fascinating – more on that later…

We talked a little about badger road casualties.  I was quite smug when I said that I hadn’t come across any road accident victims for some months.  I should have kept my mouth shut.  When I drove to work this morning I came across not one but two dead badgers.  The first was in the usual spot – in the wood on the outskirts of the village.  This is the same spot where we had the last casualty (or at least the last that I found) back in April. I try to get basic information on road victims – size, sex, approximate age etc – for the records, but I was in my best suit and on the way to a business meeting.  Not the best dress for handling roadkill.  When I came home the corpse had been moved off the road, so at least that’s something.

The other badger was in Toddington, which is out of my patch, but it was still a trifle depressing to have two casualties on the same day.

In case anyone thinks I’m being a little morbid focusing on dead badgers, I merely want to keep a record.  This blog is primarily my diary, and sometimes I have to make notes on the unpleasant things as well as the pleasant.  So it goes.

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