The End of 2017 at Yew View… Barn Owl Appearance and Frisky Badgers!

It has been a pretty incredible year at Yew View, with the major highlights being our breeding tawny owls and the badgers using our camera badger sett. Their appearance on BBC Autumnwatch has generated loads of interest and we have lots of exciting plans for 2018!

2017 is not ready to give up yet though and my last visit there yielded some great new footage and a new filmed species for the site; quite a special occasion when we have recorded so much here now!

I had quite a lot of footage to go through and I started with the feeder platform where I filmed the fieldfare and the mistletoe thrush.  They are still visiting regularly, but a couple of night-time blips in the timeline caught my attention. I played the footage back from these points and was absolutely thrilled to see a BARN OWL visiting! I have never seen barn owls on site, but thought I heard one earlier in the summer. We have a barn owl box up pretty close to this perch, which is very close to the river. I knew that the barn owls hunted the flood plains on the other side and always hoped they would make it across to Yew View.

It would be fantastic if they checked out our barn owl box….. let’s keep our fingers crossed!

After a period with little action in the camera badger sett, a pair started visiting again, often spending long periods inside the sett. One night, they seemed rather amorous!

Badgers mate at any time of the year. Around 80% of mature females are fertilised in February/March, immediately after the birth of their young, but individuals continue to mate through the year. Badgers are one of the few mammals which can suspend the development of their young in the womb by delaying implantation of the fertilised egg into the uterus wall. They are able to maintain as small ball of cells (a blastocyst) in suspended development for up to 9 months, until it implants in the womb, in December, and progresses to a pregnancy of about 7 weeks. Consequently, all the young are born between mid-January and mid-March, after which they can emerge from the sett in the Spring as food increases and they become more active.

Female badgers often mate with more than one male during the year. They continue to ovulate even if they have been fertilised earlier, and they are able to carry more than one blastocyst. As a result, one litter of badger cubs may be sired by different males.  Generally one sow in the sett actually produces viable cubs, as subordinate females often fail to conceive, and dominant sows may kill the offspring of any other female in the group. Possibly the female I am seeing is a subordinate female. I am pretty sure she is the one who suckled a cub in this sett earlier in the year.  She is likely to be pregnant now and I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if she gave birth in this sett. I think it might be the first time anyone had filmed a truly wild badger having cubs underground in an artificial sett……

I was pleased to see them pull in some of the straw I had left outside for them…

The sow was spending time sleeping in the chamber when the male appeared. She did not seem too keen, but the footage certainly lookalike he is trying to mate with her…

I would imagine footage like this is pretty unique… not often we are privileged to be able to watch interactions of this nature with wild badgers underground!

Finally, I managed to capture this muntjac making its way, in broad daylight, across the site….

As we reach the end of 2017, my mind is racing with exciting projects for 2018.  Hopefully I will be bringing you more exciting projects and footage as we create more new habitats and homes at Yew View.