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Saturday, 30 May 2009

Marvellous Mammals- 1, 2, 3!



An early start at Breydon hoping to clear up the great Knot controversy, only muddied the waters further, the finder had seen the bird earlier but it had flown off at 5.45am. A bird pointed out to me as THE bird by twitchers already there, was definately a Knot in winter plumage, 3 other Knots joined it including one fine Red Knot. They posed next to an Oystercatcher and appeared to me the same size as the bird last night.    
Incredibly an Otter (only my 2nd sighting of one, my first had been a pair of Otters swimming along the Island Mere at Minsmere in May 2007 & marvellous mammal no.1) swam left down the channel, it clambered briefly onto the muddy bank and looked at us briefly. It then flopped into the water and disappeared from sight. Later on a Common Seal (marvellous mammal no.2) swam up right along the channel.
Around the approach road, a Cuckoo called incessantly, I saw it very well in flight briefly but sadly this species eluded my camera lens yet again!
I then undertook a 2 and a 1/2 hour journey to College Lake near Tring in the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire in the hope of seeing some usually rarely seen European Polecats. 
European Polecats had been hunted to almost extinction in England in the past because they were considered a "pest" for sometimes hunting feral poultry. The European polecat stronghold in the UK is in central Wales. I had heard reports of up to 4 cub Polecats being seen regularly hunting, drinking and playing at a manmade pool overlooked by a small hide called the "Window in the Woods". The Reserve is very well run and having paid my £1 donation, I was given excellent directions to the hide. I had to wait just 5 minutes outside before I was ushered into the hide (there is standing room only for about 8 people at a push)!
After a 2 hour wait, where we were treated to views of Smooth Newt, feeding Jay and several Speckled Wood butterflies, one excellent juvenile European Polecat (marvellous mammal no.3) appeared suddenly really close in front of the left hand side of the hide. It was like a diminutive ferret it looked up at us showing its creamy brown face, the brown appearing like a mask and it also had a very brown back too. The Polecat then ran right in front of the hide and darted in and out of the vegetation and nettles. Over the next half an hour, we were treated to some very confiding but mostly obscured views of this rarely seen creature; hunting at the back, leaping on prey (probably a small rodent) and drinking from the pool (unfortunately right behind a log giving us again very obscured views). Once it must have stood on it's head up because a head suddenly appeared from above the vegetation at the back left, where it then bounded off to the right behind the pool. It was a real privilege to see to see this rare and elusive but marvellous mammal.
NOTE 6/6/09 Simon King & the Springwatch team are still struggling to film Polecats near Lake Vrnwy in Wales they should come to College Lake to film them! 

6 comments:

bob said...

that'll be eluded?

Peter Ransome said...

Yes Bob, thanks for pointing that out!
My only excuse is that not only had I got up at 4pm to try for the Great Knot at Breydon water, but I also had driven a 300 mile round trip to see the Polecats and was very tired in the evening when writing my 2 posts.
Hope you enjoy reading the blog!

Paul Woolnough said...

Great Knot is not on the Norfolk list as far as I am concerned.
PAUL

Peter Ransome said...

I wasn't convinced either Paul, as I said on the blog, the bird pointed out to me by one of the finders, just looked like an ordinary Knot to me. I've seen great Knot in China, they are distinctive but the bird was just so, so far away.
I have heard the finders may have withdrawn their claim of this bird, so that settles the matter?

Abagale said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Betty

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Peter Ransome said...

Thanks Abigail.
Originally I was using the blog just as a personal diary of my wildlife sightings plus posting a few of my wildlife pics too.
I have had a lot of positive comments and glad you like the blog.