Monday, September 22, 2008

Treading carefully

I have made the decision to widen my net a little for this blog and start to include other walks around the village, not just the railway track. The land around here is criss-crossed with public footpaths that run along what used to be farm tracks wide enough for a horse and carriage. Many of these tracks would have been the commute to work for the people who lived and worked here 50 or more years ago.

As I write now, the weather has closed in and we have returned to typical British grey drizzle. This morning when I walked, it was glorious autumn sunshine and for a few moments, the world was a simpler and wonderfully peaceful place.

My aim today was to get a little closer to the pair of Buzzards that inhabit a large old oak tree that sits about a half mile from our house, up a gentle slope. From our front garden you can easily make out these magnificent birds as they perch on a protruding dead branch. They have raised chicks here before, but I fear not this summer.

The red circle on the aerial photograph locates the Buzzard tree.

I approached the field from the east (right of the map). The broad band of small trees on the photograph must have been planted around 30 years ago, perhaps as shelter to nurture pheasants. I ventured into this dense vegetation with the aim of finding a short cut across. I quickly realised that this was a bad plan and emerged unsuccessfully 15 minutes later, scratched all over by hanging brambles. I did, however, find many deer prints in the mud in there and also the skull of a badger (blue dot on the photo).

Badgers are omnivorous (eating fruit, seeds as well as meat), which is reflected in their general purpose teeth. The large canine teeth are missing from my skull (original photo to follow) but otherwise it is almost perfect, if a little smelly. The large crest of bone on top of the skull marks the main difference from the skull of a red fox which is also a little more slender and dainty. There are a lot of badger setts around here and I will aim to cover them in a future blog entry.

When I retraced my steps and found a new route to the Buzzard tree. The bird obviously spotted me, or heard me, long before I saw him. By the time I emerged around a hedgerow I was just in time to see him take off and wheel around before flapping out of sight to the north. Time to hone my tracking skills a little more I suspect.

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