A fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with one of Britains most elusive animals, the Badger.
The European badger (Meles meles) also known as the Eurasian badger, is a species of badger in the family Mustelidae and is native to almost all of Europe and some parts of West Asia. Several subspecies are recognised; the nominate subspecies (Meles meles meles) predominates over most of Europe. The European badger is classified as being of least concern by the IUCN as it has a wide range and a large population size which is stable, and even increasing in some areas.
The European badger is a powerfully built black, white, brown and grey animal with a small head, a stocky body, small black eyes and short tail. Its weight varies, being 7–13 kg (15–29 lb) in spring but building up to 15–17 kg (33–37 lb) in autumn before the winter sleep period. It is nocturnal and is a social, burrowing animal that sleeps during the day in one of several setts in its territorial range. These burrows, which may house several badger families, have extensive systems of underground passages and chambers and have multiple entrances. Some setts have been in use for decades. Badgers are very fussy over the cleanliness of their burrow, carrying in fresh bedding and removing soiled material, and they defecate in latrines strategically situated around their territory.
Though classified as a carnivore, the European badger feeds on a wide variety of plant and animal foods. The diet consists mainly of earthworms, large insects, small mammals, carrion, cereals and root tubers. Litters of up to five cubs are produced in spring. The young are weaned a few months later but usually remain within the family group. The European badger has been known to share its burrow with other species such as rabbits, red foxes and raccoon dogs, but it can be ferocious when provoked, a trait which has been exploited in the now illegal blood sport of badger-baiting. The spread of bovine tuberculosis has been attributed to badgers, however, studies in 2016 conclude that the issue is more to do with cattle and farm management.
The barn owl (Tyto alba) is the most widely distributed species of owl and one of the most widespread of all birds. It is also referred to as the common barn owl, to distinguish it from other species in its family, Tytonidae, which forms one of the two main lineages of living owls, the other being the typical owls (Strigidae). The barn owl is found almost everywhere in the world except polar and desert regions, Asia north of the Himalayas, most of Indonesia, and some Pacific islands.
Phylogenetic evidence shows that there are at least three major lineages of barn owl, one in Europe, western Asia and Africa, one in southeast Asia and Australasia, and one in the Americas, and some highly divergent taxa on islands. Accordingly some authorities split the group into the western barn owl for the group in Europe, western Asia and Africa, the American barn owl for the group in the Americas, and the eastern barn owl for the group in southeast Asia and Australasia. Some taxonomic authorities further split the group, recognising up to five species, and further research needs to be done to clarify the position. There is a considerable variation between the sizes and colour of the approximately 28 subspecies but most are between 33 and 39 cm (13 and 15 in) in length with wingspans ranging from 80 to 95 cm (31 to 37 in). The plumage on head and back is a mottled shade of grey or brown, the underparts vary from white to brown and are sometimes speckled with dark markings. The face is characteristically heart-shaped and is white in most subspecies. This owl does not hoot, but utters an eerie, drawn-out shriek.
The barn owl is nocturnal over most of its range, but in Britain and some Pacific islands, it also hunts by day. Barn owls specialise in hunting animals on the ground and nearly all of their food consists of small mammals which they locate by sound, their hearing being very acute. They mate for life unless one of the pair gets killed, when a new pair bond may be formed. Breeding takes place at varying times of year according to locality, with a clutch, averaging about four eggs, being laid in a nest in a hollow tree, old building or fissure in a cliff. The female does all the incubation, and she and the young chicks are reliant on the male for food. When large numbers of small prey are readily available, barn owl populations can expand rapidly, and globally the bird is considered to be of least conservation concern. Some subspecies with restricted ranges are more threatened. [Credit: Wikipedia]
Image source © Hoo Farm
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes and the most abundant wild member of the Carnivora, being present across the entire Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, North America and Eurasia. It is listed as least concern by the IUCN.
Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia, where it is considered harmful to native mammals and bird populations. Due to its presence in Australia, it is included among the list of the “world’s 100 worst invasive species”. [credits: Wikipedia]