We had a great year at Yew View last year, with lots of great wildlife and some amazing insights into the lives of our local wildlife, especially our lovely Tawny Owl pair who raised their beautiful owlets to fledge into the garden. We built an otter holt, with cameras and encouraged as much wildlife as we could into this 7 acre site.
We have lots of exciting ideas and projects for 2020, of course. Hopefully, after months of high river levels, we will get our otter holt up and running with its two cameras. It has spent more time under water than above water so far and the cameras are sitting up in the office, waiting for the river to be stable enough for me to feel confident about reinstalling them! We are also going to upgrade some of the cameras we have, as well as creating some new feeding stations.
We have a new piece of land that is also going to be developed for wildlife this year….. a large pool and boggy area for dragonflies and damselflies, wild flower meadow, tree planting and bird feeding stations are all planned.
The year started with the whole site under water… again! The very wet winter has meant that the River Severn, which is at the end of the garden, has burst its banks on numerous occasions. The site has been part submerged for weeks on end.
My otter holt, which was designed to survive the occasion flood, has certainly been put to the test! It will remain without cameras until the Spring when things have dried out a little.
We have 3 owl boxes on site. Our ‘special’ one in the centre of the garden has had the owls breeding for the last 3 years. This year, I have upgraded and moved some of the cameras. We have an external camera, internal one on the entrance hole and another inside, that I can zoom and focus remotely.
We have been struggling with squirrel interest this year though. Every year, they go in and start to bring in leaves. We take them out straight away. Sometimes they just ue it as . a playground!
Usually, after doing this 2 or 3 times, they give up and go in one of the other boxes. This year, they have been very determined. We must have emptied that box 8 times. We have tried all sorts of suggested remedies to keep them out; coffee, mint and faeces of other predators. The owls do not have a sense of smell, so they don’t notice! This week, they seem to have finally got the hint, but I still added the ferret poo I had managed to get. Apparently this is the ultimate deterrent!
Tawny owls are early breeders. Hopefully, our female will start settling into the box in February, visiting regularly and roosting in there during the day. For the last two years, she has laid her first egg on the 5th March.
The pair are increasing their visits now and spend a lot of time calling and ‘discussing’ the site. I absolutely love these conversations and these calls are all about bonding and help them decide on the nest site for the coming year. They like to go back in the same site each year so, as long as we can keep the squirrels out, I am confident they will go back in.
A big success this year is our feeding station. It was originally set up for the badgers so we could watch and monitor the individuals that are visiting. Whereas they have not really used our sett this last few months, they do come every night to feed. I have installed a Hikvision ColourVu camera here. It has integrated white LED lights that you can program to come on at night. The wildlife has got used to these lights and it means we get colour footage.
We started getting foxes visiting last year, which was not really surprising. The foxes feeding alongside the badgers was more surprising, especially as they were so close at times. There are sometimes a few minor squabbles, but they tolerate each other really well. From the beginning of the year, we have also started filming muntjac here as well. There are two pairs. One male has one antler larger than the other. The other male has a small double antler on one side. These make them easy to identify.
This week I filmed scenes I have never seen before; fox and muntjac feeding together and then badger and muntjac.
The badgers and foxes are often filmed together and generally respect each other, until they get too close. The fox will often object, but the badger is definitely in charge will simply push the fox out the way if it gets a little bold…
This week, we filmed four badgers feeding here… this is a first for the site..