Incredible Footage of Bank Vole giving Birth!

I think I have just captured the most incredible footage I have ever captured! I have been experimenting with a new mammal box, with an HD Vivotek camera and lights inside. This box is not live streaming yet, but it is constantly monitored by i-catcher software, which means it saves footage whenever movement is detected. I regularly check my cameras and you can imagine I had a double take, when I looked at the image within this mammal box and there was a vole with absolutely TINY babies! I was astounded! I ran the footage back from earlier in the day and, over about half an hour, this female vole gave birth to 4 young right in front on my HD camera! I have the whole process recorded (and backed up!)

This is a wild vole, giving birth in a lit box with no bedding or nest of any kind. I am unsure as to why she chose to give birth here… but happy she did as I now have, what I believe to be, pretty unique footage. She stayed in there cleaning and suckling these tiny babies, that can only be a cm in length, before another vole, a male, came in to feed. She valiantly fought him, trying to keep him away from her young. Eventually he left and she then proceeded to move the babies, one-by-one, out of the box. I presume she has another burrow nearby.

What I have been left with is truly amazing video footage and I still have not had time to watch the whole process. I am sure there will be lots of mammal experts out there who will love to see this!

I have captured a few screen captures to show a few scenes from  this truly incredible insight into the secret lives of the mammals who live in our gardens….

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 15.09.47 Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 15.12.00 Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 15.18.28 Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 15.26.43 Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 21.16.44 Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 21.17.16 Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 21.18.27 Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 21.19.59 Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 21.21.19

I set up my Moth Trap and catch a beauty!

I finally got round to setting up my moth trap in the garden last night. I had popped it away safely for the winter after buying it late last season, 2nd hand. I then had to locate the 12v battery that powers the Actinis bulb and charge that up… finally I was ready to go. I set it up in the middle of a small circular lawn. The conditions were perfect… a warm and still July night! 

I was up early, as you really need to check the trap and release your captives as soon as you can. I had decided I was not going to be too fussed about all the micro small brown moths… but start by just selecting the most distinctive ones. I have not to any specimen pots (although I did order some today!) so I carried the trap down to my conservatory, where I had set up my little studio. I started to check the egg boxes inside. Lots of small brown moths… and a couple of interesting (as of yet unidentified) moths and then I turned over one box to reveal what I had been hoping for… a Hawkmoth…. and not any old Hawkmoth; the stunning Elephant Hawkmoth! I was excited to say the least!

These moths are not only amazing to look at but amazingly tolerant and docile. They will happily sit in one position and do not really attempt to fly in the daylight unless really forced to do so. Handled gently and they will pretty sit on whatever you put them on! I gently moved it into my studio and took a selection of shots, from different angles. It is a truly stunning moth!untitled-7983 untitled-7990 untitled-7996

Later in the day, my dad popped over. He is a very keen macro photographer and loves insects, particularly bees. He spent a lot of time watching my bee hotels where the leaf cutter bees are now nesting… he was keen to get some shots of them in and out with their neatly cut leaf sections….P1060077 P1060074

My Hawkmoth was now on a piece of bark I had found for it and it posed beautifully, giving dad  and I plenty of opportunities to get the perfect shot. I supported the camera and shot on a really slow shutter speed to achieve a good depth of focus…

untitled-8076 untitled-8069 untitled-8060 untitled-8047

The wonderful thing about macro photography is that it enables you to really study an insect up close and see details you would never see normally. This is quite the most beautiful moth I have ever had the pleasure to photograph and the colours are truly incredible.  This moth stayed on the bark until it was dark, before it disappeared into the night.. what a total privilege to have been able to study it in so much detail…. It was also great to spend a couple of hours with my dad…. his love of the natural world was definitely played a big part in making me what I am today! Thanks dad!

Check out my dad’s (@Ed_P_Wildlife) work at: http://www.edphillipswildlife.com

P1060070 P1060069

Dad&Me1

 

 

 

 

Hedgehog Rescue!

Tonight, I received a phone call from my daughter. Her boyfriend’s family had spotted a very small hedgehog in their garden earlier in the day, when it was light, and it was still around. They have given it some meaty cat food and water, which was exactly the right thing to do… never give bread or milk. They were concerned and rightly so…. any hedgehog seen out in the day, especially when they are this small needs help!  I drove straight over and we located him up behind their gate. He was tiny… small enough to fit in the palm of my hand and way too small to be out on his own. Although he looked ok, I knew he was too small to be alone and I popped him in a shoe box and brought him home. Straight away, I rang my friend and hedgehog expert, Joan, at West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue. She confirmed that this little chap, weighing just 120g, was too young and small to be left out. He needed to be bought into the centre, fed up until he was at least 3x the size before release. I put in some hedgehog food I have for my wild hedgehogs and he was soon tucking into the Spikes semi-moist and a few mealworms. He also drank quite a lot from a saucer and then a small bottle top I put in, filled with water. P1060028 P1060039 P1060050 P1060055 P1060058 I then prepared a cat basket with some bedding, more food and water and left him in the quiet. Tomorrow, I will take him up to Joan to look after until he is ready to go back into the wild.  P1060062 I took a little video of him tucking into some food….

With the drastic drop in hedgehog numbers here in the UK, every single hedgehog is precious…. so remember if you ever see one out in daylight, particularly in this hot weather, then PLEASE put some meaty cat food out and some water and contact a local Rescue Centre ASAP.  If it is as tiny as this one is,  and it is out, in daylight, on a very hot day, then it is definitely in need of help. I think we have caught this hedgehog in time, as he was pretty alert and ate and drank well. Another day out in this heat and the story may not have been so positive.

July mothing and a hawk moth beauty

Rob, at SilverTrees has regularly been running his moth trap and recording all the visitors. I have been so busy, I have not had the chance to pop up again for a few weeks.  When he said he was starting to have hawk moths visit, I was keen to get up there with my mini macro studio and have a mother go at photographing some different species. A text telling me of his success sent me packing the car and heading up there in the morning sunshine!

This time of the year is great for nothing and, with such a wonderful site, Rob always catches some beauties. This time he had caught quite a few species that I had not photographed before. Using my little hand-made foam board studio and my flash gun firing up into the roof of it, I carefully positioned the moths into the studio so I could grab a few shots before they warmed up and headed for freedom! We had a few that were off before I had the chance to photograph them, but these guys hung around long enough for a decent shot.   I am beginning to learn some names, but it is great having an expert like Rob around…

 

August Thorn-7876

August Thorn

Bird Cherry Ermine-7833

Bird Cherry Ermine

Black Arches-7849

Black Arches

Coxcomb Prominent-7797

Coxcomb Prominent

Drinker-7976

Drinker

Ear Moth-7846

Ear Moth

Early Thorn-7868

Early Thorn

Grey Dagger-7936

Grey Dagger

hawthorn Shield Bug-7834

Not a moth!!!! Hawthorn Shield Big

Northern Eggar-7802

Northern Eggar

Northern Eggar-7808

Northern Eggar

Northern Eggar-7815

Northern Eggar

Northern Eggar-7822

Northern Eggar

Peppered Moth-7866

Peppered Moth

Swallow Prominent-7902

Swallow Prominent

Lesser Swallow Prominent-7904

Lesser Swallow Prominent-

 

The highlight for me, though was this spectacular Poplar Hawk Moth…. they are simply stunning and a lovely moth to photograph as they are pretty happy to sit still! It is only when you look at the macro hots that you can appreciate the beauty of these insects and notice things that you simply can’t see with the naked eye. I am hoping that Rob catches some other hawkmoth species for me to photograph soon!! 

Poplar Hawk Moth-7957 Poplar Hawk Moth-7951 Poplar Hawk Moth-7948 Poplar Hawk Moth-7943 Poplar Hawk Moth-7940

Water Vole Wonder

The last time I saw a water vole was some 25 years ago, when I was a student ion derby. I used to sit down by the river in Darley Park and watch them plop in and out of the water there. When friend and photographer, Iain Green (www.wildwonder.co.uk) asked me if I would like to come and see some, I leapt at the chance! Iain lives in Gloucestershire and there is a healthy population on the river close to where he lives. Leaving early, I met Iain at half seven in the morning and we headed straight down to the water. It was a stunning morning and a beautiful place to spend some tim before the heat of the day set in.

The river shows all the signs that it is not only perfect for water voles, but that they are definitely present! Little holes little the banks and freshly cropped ‘lawns’ frequent the area, with fresh dropping on many of the muddied banks. I was not to be disappointed, because within a few minutes, Ian suddenly pointed downstream. There, swimming purposefully across the water, was my first water vole in many years! Like a wind-up toy, they swim at an amazing speed, their little faces and whiskers up above the surface. A quick shake on the other side of the bank and they would disappear into one of the many holes.

This time of year is probably not the best time to photograph them. There is a tremendous amount of foliage, a lot of it overhanging the banks, meaning it is very dark. Next year, I will take Iain’s advice and visit in March or April, when the banks are bare and I can get a better view. Despite the challenges, we were able to watch a series of individuals and I got some shots…. on a very low shutter speed though!

WaterVoles-7526

WaterVoles-7540 WaterVoles-7555 WaterVoles-7651

The best views we had were of one vole who was using a hole right opposite the bank. There was quite a lot of plant growth around it, but I managed to position myself so I could see this entrance. At this time of the year, they love the stinging nettle stems. He was popping out of the hole, grabbing a nearby nettle stem and then pulling it down into the hole, where he could eat it in safety in the burrow! It was quite comical to watch and I managed to get some shots!

WaterVoles-7578 WaterVoles-7627

WaterVoles-7607 WaterVoles-7595 WaterVoles-7599

I had a wonderful morning and these endearing creatures are wonderful to watch and photograph. It is a lovely site and I know I will be back with my camera to get some better pictures of these super little mammals. A big thank you to Iain who gave up some of his precious time to show me his neighbours!

 

Glorious Hampton Court Flower Show!

I was delighted, this year, to be invited by the RHS to be part of their ‘Invisible Garden’ stand at this year’s Hampton Court Flower Show. I have exhibited with my own stand at BBC Gardeners’ World , working with many of the RHS team members, but this year I decided to have a year off due to work commitments and the immense amount of time which is required to plan, build and then be present on a show stand. It does make you appreciate all the more, what is involved in creating some of the amazing stands at Hampton this year.

This year, the RHS designed a huge stand of their own, to highlight the amazing hidden , ‘invisible’ world that is our own gardens. Through a series of microscopes and specimens, visitors were invited to interact with the stand and take a look under the bench microscopes as well as watch on the big screen, what was under the main microscope. The stand looked amazing and certainly drew in the crowds! It was not only microscopes on view; a bumble bee tank, wormery , butterflies and amazing bug hotel were also displayed…

Outside, a beautiful ‘visible’ Garden had been created, showing how you can create lots of habitats for wildlife in a relatively small space. It looked beautiful!

I ran a series of activities, making some ‘Seed Bees’. I came up with this idea when I had been making some little clay seed balls with the kids at school. We mixed compost, seeds and clay together and then tested them to see if the clay would dissolve when it rained… it did! I then played around with a few more ideas, wanting to create something that people could take away with them that got the message across that we can easily increase the pollinators in our garden by planting nectar rich plans that are attractive to them.

Charlotte, my daughter, worked with me to create a logo and a set of illustrated instructions. These would then be printed by the RHS and put in a little pack. The visitors’ Seed Bees that they had made would then be popped in the bag to be taken home to plant! I made some little transparent wings to add, that made them look really sweet!

final logo!-01

Allstages-01

Packs

The activity was really popular and in one session of an hour, I was making over 100 Seed Bees!! All of the instructions and free downloadable materials will be available on my website over the next week or so. It is a great activity to do with kids!

Charlotte’s Blog posts about her designs can be seen on her blog  www.charlottemacrae.weebly.com

It was great to be able to have a look around the whole show ground… and especially great when you can do that before the show opens! 

Two gardens were of particular interest to me; the PTES Hedgehog Street Garden and the Jordans Wildlife Garden. Although many of the gardens this year had a strong wildlife element, there 2 gardens were very much focused on this theme.

I met Hugh Warwick ecologist and writer, with a particular fondness for hedgehogs and Jill Nelson, who is the Chief Executive of PTES to have a tour of the Gold winning garden before the show opened and I was not disappointed! The garden was actually three adjoining suburban gardens, all showing how to make your garden hedgehog friendly, whatever the style of the garden. From  creating adjoining gateways to link the gardens, to feeding stations, water sources and hedgehog homes, the messages were brilliantly conveyed in 3 stunning gardens.

Scan 87

I absolutely loved it and congratulations for their RHS Gold award and their success in winning the People’s Choice award for best small garden!

I also visited Selina Botham on her garden designed for Jordans, as a celebration of their long-term commitment to the British countryside. The garden was based on the idea that this space can easily be a larder to both wildlife and animals. It was boasted oats, a native hedgerow with blackberries, wild strawberries and rose hips and a nut terrace, bursting with cobnuts, acorns and beechnuts. I loved the swathes of wild flowers and the unique sculptured insect homes, birdhouses and feeding stations. Two beautifully sculptured straw benches provided a lovely relaxing space to view this garden which perfectly demonstrated how gardening for wildlife does not necessarily mean overgrown grass and a mess of weeds. I also loved that several schools benefitted from this garden as lots of the plants found new homes in their school grounds!

The planting around the show was truly wonderful and very inspirational! I could not believe how many insects I saw taking advantage of all the wonderful nectar-rich planting, including lots of Small skippers which loved the lavender displays in particular. Here are a selection of the many shots I took showing some of the stunning displays…

I absolutely loved my time at Hampton! A massive thanks to all the wonderful girls and guys from the RHS in the Invisible Garden stand. I hope to return another year to be inspired again by all the amazing exhibits and stands in this stunning location!

HamptonP105082442

Helping Harry at Wildlife Aid

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 20.32.00

Last week, on my way down to London, I visited Wildlife Aid, in Leatherhead. You may have seen this wildlife rescue centre on the TV series Wildlife SOS. The Wildlife Aid Foundation rescues hundreds of animals every year with the aim of returning every animal, that is capable of surviving, back to its natural environment.

They have recently launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the plight of hedgehogs in the UK and to raise some money for their care. In the 1950s there were over 30 million hedgehogs in the UK, now there are less than one million with urban extinctions predicted by 2025! It is a very frightening thought that these creatures could completely disappear from urban habitats by the time my nieces and nephews grow up.

To help rise valuable funds and awareness, they have launched  micro-site off of their main site and it is well worth a look… full of information and wonderful photos of Harry… one of the many orphans being raised by the trust. You can access the website by clicking on the image above. They have also commissioned a wonderful hedgehog animation, which can be accessed via the microsite or via YouTube.

 You can also download the wonderful song that accompanies the video. The animation and song are both lovely!….

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 20.34.18 Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 20.34.30 Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 20.34.47 Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 20.35.01

I was lucky enough to see behind the scenes at the amazing work the Foundation do…. so many orphans requiring specialised care. I had the chance to meet some of the smallest hedgehogs being cared for. These guys are still at the age when they should be safely tucked away in a nest with their mother. It takes a tremendous amount of time to care for these tiny guys… hand feeding until they are able to feed themselves and constant checks to ensure their well-being.

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 20.41.47 P1050816_B&W

It is SO important to be careful when clearing areas in the garden where there may be piles of leaves, long grass, or similar, as it is easy to disturb the maternal nests of these mammals, often causing the female to desert her young. One family the Trust has were ‘rescued’ as a complete family when they were found and the owner did not want hedgehogs in the garden! Unbelievable!

If you are not already thinking about what you can do to make your garden hedgehog friendly, then take a look at this Wildlife Aid microsite and may be upload the song from iTunes…. in this way you can support the great work the Foundation are doing.

P1050815

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,560 other followers