The regular fox sightings near our field pond and wild garden paint a fascinating picture of a thriving ecosystem in our backyard. Here’s an expansion of our observations.
The visiting fox, is likely a vixen, she is displaying classic hunting behavior. Her sniffing around rabbit hole could be for two reasons:
Prey Scouting: Looking for potential meals in the future.
Den Site Selection: Foxes give birth in dens, often repurposing existing burrows like those made by rabbits. So our vixen is hopefully looking for a place to bring up her fox cubs.
The time difference between our fox and rabbit sightings suggests a well-established coexistence. Rabbits are highly attuned to predators, possessing excellent hearing and sight. They detect the fox’s presence and retreat to their burrows for safety.
Foxes are more than just cunning hunters. They play a vital role in the ecosystem by controlling rodent populations, including those that can damage gardens and crops. Their presence also indicates a healthy environment with a diverse food chain. Unfortunately they do have a taste for chicken.
Another week by the pond, and not much to report. Plenty of rabbits, a definite need for an AI application to filter them out of the videos. A grey squirrel, an import from the USA, unfortunately it has found the bird feeders now, but has not learnt to climb. A sighting of a Muntjac deer most evenings. One sighting of a Fox.
As the new year begins, it is the season for foxes to find a home to raise their young. Next to our field pond, there is a large mound of earth that is friendly to wildlife. Rabbits use it to dig their burrows. In early January, when the weather was sunny, many birds came to feed amongst the fallen leaves. We saw starlings, redwings, fieldfares and garden birds, including a cheeky blue tit that pecked at the camera. We also had many rabbits, a squirrel who luckily has not discovered the bird feeders, and a mouse. The fox visited several times, inspecting the holes. It won’t be long before the rabbits move out for a while when the fox cubs arrive.
Please ignore the date on the camera, the day and time are correct, but the month is wrong. This is January, not March.
This week, our outing was to the National Museum of Computing, near Bletchley Park. It’s a separate museum with cool old working computers, like the code-breaking machines Colossus and Bombe (though Colossus was sadly off that day). They even have a recreation of the EDSAC computer from Cambridge University!
Seeing the IBM 370/165 brought back memories from my university days, writing programs on that clunky machine. I swear, it always kept me waiting with those compilation errors! And was it just me, or did Cambridge get a dud? It didn’t even have virtual storage at first, which cost a huge chunk of money to add. My next job had a smaller 370, one that actually did have virtual storage, thankfully.
After the big machines, the museum had an awesome collection of personal computers, from Sinclairs to Pets and early IBM PCs. Some were even working! They also had a cool collection of old mobile phones and organizers. It reminded me about cleaning out our office desk at work, full of outdated tech.
After the museum, we headed to IKEA for some classic Swedish meatballs, mash, and gravy. Delicious!
Wanting to escape the boredom of same-old, same-old days, R and I have embarked on a self-proclaimed “Odyssey.” Every week, we vow to venture out, taking turns in choosing our destination. Last week, we meandered through the tranquil hues of College Lake in Tring. This week, our second expedition on this self-imposed odyssey, we went to the grand expanse of the National Trust’s Stowe Gardens. (Usually, Stowe beckons us in early spring to view Snowdrops, but this year, that season had slipped through our fingers.)
A brisk stroll led us around the lake, past the imposing house (now a private school), viewing poignant poppy decorations, each a silent tribute to fallen soldiers in conflicts past, as well as large silhouettes of soldiers standing stoic as stark reminders of sacrifice and valour. Our exploration complete, we sought the NT cafe for lunch.
The relentless drizzle had transformed our field into a patchwork of glistening puddles. Few green blades of grass, just grey puddles reflecting the leaden sky. A new habitat perhaps?
Drawn by the waters, flocks of starlings arrived, their speckled plumage gleaming against the grey backdrop. They alighted with a flurry of wings onto the makeshift islands, their chatter livening up the drabness. Their beady eyes darted, scanning the water’s surface for morsels, their movements a blur of avian industry.
But the stars of this soggy symphony were the Egrets and Grey Herons. Tall and elegant, they stalked the flooded fields with an air of regal entitlement. Their long, sinuous necks dipped and probed, their sharp beaks spearing unsuspecting invertebrates from the murky depths. Each successful strike elicited a guttural croak, a triumphant fanfare echoing through the wet air.
Their movements were almost balletic. The Egrets, poised and delicate, walked across the water, their snowy plumage a stark contrast to the muddy green canvas. The Grey Herons, larger and more imposing, waded with measured steps, their piercing yellow eyes missing nothing.
This soggy interlude, born from the whims of the weather, has transformed our familiar field into a vibrant wetland teeming with life. It was a reminder that even the most mundane corners have the potential for unexpected beauty.
The College Lake, near Tring, but in Buckinghamshire, serves as the flagship location for the Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), of which we are members. Apparently, the acquisition of this quarry by BBOWT is steeped in historical significance. Originally a working chalk quarry, the site underwent transformation in the mid-20th century into a nature reserve due to the collective efforts of conservationists and the local community. This shift from industrial use to a conservation area marked a pivotal moment in the history of BBOWT, signifying their dedication to preserving natural habitats and fostering biodiversity.
Returning from our holiday in France, we intended to make Tuesdays special with an outing. Our first visit would be to College Lake, an attraction long overlooked despite our longstanding membership and support of BBOWT. The day boasted ideal conditions—abundant sunshine and warmth—perfect for a leisurely walk around the lake, an exploration chosen for its length, preceding a well-deserved lunch break.
The trail predominantly comprises cement pathways, ensuring accessibility even during soggy weather in the winter months. However, the paths unfortunately veer away from the lake’s edge, posing challenges for wildlife observation and photography. Though hides offering closer proximity to potential wader sightings were present, the allure of lunch prompted a deferment of this exploration.
On the far side of the lake stood a collection of antiquated farming machinery, serving as an intriguing interlude during the walk.
Upon our return to the BBOWT shop, we had lunch outdoors.
While we were sitting outside eating lunch, we became aware of some paragliders flying over us. In total there must have been around eight. Some were high, and a few were quite low. I was expecting these to land in fields around us. They recovered and found some lift and were soon very high.
They were moving in a north easterly direction being blown along by the south westerly wind. Where had they come from and where were they going? I had heard of previous flights from Combe Gibbet and Milk Hill and landing somewhere in Norfolk. I read a report about a flight on the 26th of July from Milk Hill to Kings Lynn but have not seen any reports of this August flight.
A group of us visited Addingrove Farm to see their new robotic milking parlour. We arrived at Chilton and were taken down to the farm on the back of a couple of tractors and trailers. On route we drove through a “closed” road, where Thames Water was endeavouring to fix a leak. At the farm, we were divided into two groups to look at the milking parlour.
The barn has room for 200 cows, plus a few more dry ones. Normally they are able to go in and out of the barn and graze the fields, as they wish We were told that many of the cows preferred to stay inside, and when it rained there was a stampede for cover. The barn had feed on both sides. In the centre were the cows water beds where they could lie in comfort. The cows were on slats which robots patrolled, scraping the excrement through the slats into a special processing system down underneath.
There were four milking cubicles, and the cows would enter these of their own accord and be automatically milked. They could be milked up to four times a day. If they entered the milking parlour again, they were not fed, and were ejected. Those cows who chose not to be miked in 24 hours could be identified on the computer screen and action taken to persuade them to be milked.
In the evening, the lights are dimmed to a red glow.
It all seemed to work smoothly, we saw cows entering and being milked, and others, who were trying it on, being ejected.
After the visit we were transported back to Chilton, where we bought beers from the Chiltern Brewery and BBQed burgers from the local butcher. They were excellent burgers, and I did go in for a second round. The money raised went to the church
Following the burgers, we finished the evening at George’s drinking Scotch. As we left at 10.10 I spotted a bright moving light in the sky. I later checked. It was the International Space Station.