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Northumbria wildlife in February – cheeky badger arrives in Kevin’s garden

Other posts by  | Kevin OHara on Google+ |  February 1, 2013 | 0 Comments
Kevin O'Hara

Kevin O’Hara

I hope I left you all on tenter hooks at the end of my last column as to the identity of the ‘flowerpot mugger’ as I sought to discover ‘just what was turning over my shrubbery.

Well, on the night in question, just as I was ‘closing down’ for the night, the security lamp in my back garden came on … nothing unusual in that one, as the wintry weather causes it to light up with the slightest movement. However, there skulking at the bottom of the garden was a grey shadow, clearly outlined in the dim light as I peered through the kitchen window, yep that’s right, it was a badger.

Now that may not seem unusual or rare to some, but where I live you are more likely to see a Siberian tiger than a badger thanks to years of persecution – firstly from game keepers and then people with nothing better to do with their time than hunt them for sport with all the setts within at least a 10 mile radius being dug to oblivion many, many years ago.

So, for me, the big question was, “where had this fellow come from?” Badgers are notoriously slow to re-colonise former or new areas, something the coalition government fails to recognise as it threatens to proceed with its nonsensical cull. This fellow’s origin will always remain a mystery, which is kind of nice in these ‘know all, see all’ days of digital cameras, sat navs, video cameras and social media.

A cheeky fox makes regular appearances in Kevin's garden

A cheeky fox makes regular appearances in Kevin’s garden. Credit: Kevin O’Hara

As many of you may know, last year Northumberland Wildlife Trust campaigned tirelessly against a badger cull and its campaigning will continue throughout 2013; keep checking the website www.nwt.org.uk for badger updates. During two weeks last October when the words ‘badger cull’ reared their ugly head again, 239,927 people signed two on-line petitions making it the biggest on-line campaign ever and, in two days, 10,000 people had contacted their MPs, which is truly amazing.

Anyway, back to my badger – whatever the reasons for its presence and its origin, it is a more than welcome addition to the garden; I just hope it avoids the terrible threesome – my three border terriers. I now know now why they were going ballistic at its first appearance – their age-old nemesis was brazenly sitting in their garden eating peanut scraps. Although, it’s probably at far more of a risk from the number of cars which ‘rat run’ down my street these days, so let’s hope it stays safe.

Winter will still be slow to release its grip and February can often be one of the coldest months but there are signs already that spring is ‘just around the corner’.

As I write this at the end of January, the first lapwings have already returned to their sodden fields, the first rooks are blowing precariously around the topmost branches in their ancient rookery sites and my neighbourhood lunatic, a mistle thrush, has been belting out his unchimely dulcet tones since the calendar flipped over to January and the first snowdrops poked their heads above ground … only to be covered in snow for nearly three weeks!

It has been an interesting winter; falling into the usual, unpredictable pattern of cold, icy conditions or wet, warm and windy, but then again it’s always been like that.

I was looking through some of my old diary entries the other day, which read along the lines of: “Tried to go fishing but it hasn’t stopped raining all week – river is flooded,” July 1982; “11 degrees, caught 5lb of roach from pond,” 4 January 1992; “Match called off, pond frozen with 6ins of snow,” January 14th 1992; and my favourite: “Pigeons frozen to kale tops, minus 14, went home cold,” January 1987. These set in place a pattern of weather that seemed to continue throughout the nineties and noughties so nothing new there then! The problem of living in a temperate climate next to the sea I suppose – oh for some nice, straight forward, continental weather; cold winters and hot summers – absolute bliss.

This changeable weather has its merits though; one or two nice vagrants and behaviour traits occur in cold weather. My resident ‘Cheeky Charlie’ the fox has now taken to sitting at the end of the garden watching the kitchen window for movement and even, as caught on CCTV, pressing his nose up against the conservatory window to rile the terriers – I defy anybody not to find that hear warming.

He is a handsome beast and, I’m certain, of little concern to any unguarded children on the estate, as one of my ill-informed neighbours suggested, although, I fear his antics may not endear him to my terrier pack. He is resplendent in his thick winter coat and extra bushy tail, his mocking rolls in the snow make me grin and make for some decent images to add to my burgeoning fox collection.

Trips around my locality also produced some superb snow buntings on the coast this year, who have been very obliging little film stars and I spotted the funniest looking short eared owl I have ever seen – ‘cock-eyed’ as sin, how it has survived is beyond me.

Snow buntings

Snow buntings on the Leas, South Shields. Credit: Kevin O’Hara

So that’s it really, it’s always a quiet at this time of the year but there is always the odd surprise and wildlife wonder to those of you with a keen eye or the energy to get out.

Things are however starting to change, and it won’t be long before the mornings will be filled with birdsong and the first spring migrants arrive, but let’s hope for a drier one than last.

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Category: Northumbria Wildlife

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