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Sunday 30 January 2011

New Squirrel Survey area

I've established presence and distribution over the area I've been surveying this last year and I'm moving on to the next section of forest.

This is an area of about 360 Hectares consisting of a wide mix of tree species with plantations ranging in age from approximately 5 to 30 or 40 years with some clear fell and also old Scots Pine forest.

Elevation is generally between 200 and 300 metres and presents a fairly wide range of habitat from a squirrels point of view.

The images to the left show an area at about 250 metres which is fairly open with a heath understory
and old pine remnants of the original Caledonian forest.

Other parts are dense with a mix of mainly Birch and a lot of self seeded conifers such as Sitka Spruce. This density of undergrowth makes it difficult to find possible feeding signs on the ground and I'm going to employ a new technique for establishing squirrel presence which I will elaborate on at a later date, when I have some early results.  

Friday 28 January 2011

Woodland Trust Campaign to save Englands ancient forests

The letter at the bottom of this post is currently being circulated in response to the Governments proposal to sell off the national forests.
There will be only one reason for a private company to buy a forest and that will be to make money from the sale of the timber. They'll pay lip service to other issues but in most instances the bottom line will be profit and shareholders.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Tay Beavers.

Following my initial rant over how I felt about SNH trapping Beavers in the Tay valley, I followed it up, not with a retraction but an apology to SNH for referring to them as control freaks. I thought it was also fair to present a more sober view due to knowing little about what was actually happening on the ground, so to speak. I certainly don't possess first hand information about genus, disease or welfare regarding the Tay beavers which would allow me to present an informed opinion.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Protecting Fish Stocks

Half the fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back into the water, Dead! because of the European Fish Quota system.

How does that protect fish stocks?

Friday 14 January 2011

Squirrel Tracks

After a fresh fall of overnight snow I was out last Sunday and came across this jumble of tracks on a forest road.

They were left by a pair of Red Squirrels mating. The first image shows where they mated and the second image shows where they moved away together and then split off in separate directions.

Squirrels leave a set of four prints in each group on a trail, that fill a square no more than 150 mm. For anyone not familiar with their appearance the third image shows such a group. The footprints widest apart are the hind feet and the two closer together are the fore feet. The Squirrel is moving in the direction of the hind feet because when the Squirrel hits the ground it lands on its fore feet and brings its hind feet in front for the next jump.

Agfa Photo DC-1030b

When I'm out Squirrel surveying I don't often want to carry the DSLR with me, partly because of the extra baggage and for fear of damaging it.

The problem is that there's nearly always something I want to make a visual record of, and the other week was no exception. I came across stoat tracks in the snow and couldn't record them.

Thus the decision to find a cheap compact that I could carry in a pocket without worrying about it, which would be always handy. After a quick search on eBay I found the one shown above for £25.00 plus postage and thought, well I wanted cheap.

In its favour it's small, light and 10MP but I have to admit at that price I didn't expect much. Then, on reading further, I found it could shoot video with sound and be used as an audio memo as well. At that point I have to say I expected even less quality, but after tests I was fairly surprised of what it was capable.

In good light it performs fairly well but its dynamic range is limited and in low light full size images look more like oil paintings; but hey, it means I'll never miss keeping a visual record again and using the built in flash for close up stuff, the results are reasonable.

Pine Marten tracks on a snow and ice encrusted log where it crossed a stream.

Taken in near darkness using the built in flash.

Taken in low light after sunset.

Even at this repro' size you can see the pixels are going a bit chunky.

I've tried the video and much the same applies.

Overall I'm fairly pleased with it for the money and it's certainly handy.

Below is a sample video with audio. Because of the position of the microphone it's difficult to avoid some noise and I find the zoom a bit fast but overall it's not bad and as I said before, it depends on what your looking to do with it.

Kali the Collie from Ron Bury on Vimeo

The image below shows the back of the camera and it's controls.
I was asked about turning the flash on/off and the finger points to the button which, when pressed will give five options. These are indicated in the top left hand corner of the screen next to the auto icon.

The option shown in this picture is for no flash. Auto flash would be indicated by the zigzag arrow with the letter A next to it.

Repeatedly pressing the button will take you through the other four options.

Meant to do this earlier. Here's the ebay store address where I found this camera: Tonys Cameras

Thursday 13 January 2011

Tay Beavers re-visited

In retrospect I feel I should make an apology to SNH for referring to them in a previous post, as control freaks and for anyone wishing to see both sides, direct them to the SNH Press Release regarding the Tay Beavers.

I'm afraid that when I hear about animals being trapped and placed in captivity I tend towards a red haze.

In all fairness, there is a risk in allowing un-monitored release which is, of course, against the law anyway; and if these Beaver are of a different genus and possibly carrying parasites not indigenous to the UK environment, SNH have little choice but to do as they are.

I feel extremely sorry for the Beavers in question, for the grief and misery that we heap upon them; and I am fully in favour of properly re-introducing species to the UK, considering that they would have been here now if we hadn't caused their extinction for our own selfish ends.

American Signal Crayfish

In September 2009 I was on a trip south to visit family and spent a day with a friend of mine, fishing for the American Signal Crayfish, near Kingham in Oxfordshire.

This is the River Evenlode on its upper reaches where it meanders through rough pasture on its way into the Thames catchment.

I was interested to see just how much these invaders had taken over and was a bit alarmed to find how many there were in a short stretch of river.

We were using 6 baited traps placed about a hundred metres apart, which were left for about an hour and a half.

When they were collected they were mostly  full and falling over the sides.

I confess to knowing little about the effects these invaders are having on the UK's riparian habitat but hearing of their voracious reputation and that they will apparently turn to cannibalism when food runs out, I would imagine their possible impact is nothing short of potentially catastrophic.

Friday 7 January 2011

ProStalk trail camera problem

After another two days in the forest, set to shoot videos with a fifteen second delay, the camera worked OK but still will not operate correctly when set to a shorter delay time. I had a word with the importers and they've asked me to send it to them for evaluation of the problem.

Not much more I can do about this until they've had time to look at it, so for the time being my monitoring is on hold.

Hope to start making some Squirrel feeders next week, and will be using them in conjunction with trail cameras to try and determine presence/absence in areas which are difficult to survey by looking for signs. It's a bit of an experiment but I'm sure it will work.
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This web site is about the wildlife, particularly the mammals, of the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve area in the north west Highlands of Scotland, UK; and the equipment I use to search for them, which is chiefly trail cameras.

I provide a technical support and parts service for the Ltl Acorn range of cameras and the income from this provides for the upkeep of this site and the purchase of cameras for my own surveying.

I hope you find the site useful and informative; and please contact me if you have any questions that I haven't already covered.