Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Posts tagged “Nest

Life & Death

Irish Stoat running with Wood Mouse Tomnafinnoge Woods

The last few weeks brought home the faster life and death nature of wildlife.  Not that all of us don’t have to go through the same things, but generally we seem to have a more intense and drawn out experience to death.  I was watching a TV documentary on elephants where they seem to mourn and dwell over dead friends and relatives a bit more like us – something I had read about before – and there are the elephant graveyard stories.  However smaller animals and birds ‘appear’ to treat death as a sharp shock before getting on with their lives.

Alternately, it might be the frequency of death, rather than the size of the animal, that lessens its effect on others.  Years ago our company used to train technical staff from an African country.

They came on a series of courses and we got quite fond of some that had been to Ireland on a few occasions.

Song Thrush Nestlings in Nest in rough Hedge

Song Thrush Nestlings in Nest in rough Hedge

Asking casually about one such that was not on the course being taught at that time, we were told, fairly matter-of-factly that he was ‘gone’. We had to pursue this to understand that he had died (of aids which kills so many in Africa).

These morbid thoughts are brought on by a few sightings during last month.

1)  We had a Song thrush nest in a partial wild hedge in our back garden.  The young seemed very healthy and not disturbed by the sound of the lawn-mower going past very close – admittedly not as often as it would do in a tidy garden. I was late in discovering them and reckoned by their size and activity, that they were close to fledging.  The parents continued to bring them food and to rest in the nest overnight, keeping them warm. Two days later, when I looked, they were gone but not just the chicks, all trace of the nest was gone!  There had been some wind but not as much as previously, so either they flew and demolished the nest in their leaving or, probably more likely, a cat got them.

Blue Tit in Tree

Blue Tit in Tree

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2)  Relations of ours have a Blue Tit camera nest-box similar to ours, that this year finally produced a nest, eggs and eventually young.

Their joy at the constant feeding and attention shown by the parents was brought to a shuddering halt by their sudden disappearence.

The babies continued to call for food but as time went by, it became clear that the parents were not coming back and that the chicks would not survive.

Cats are the main suspects although it is strange that both parents ‘disappeared’.

Irish Stoat running with Wood Mouse Tomnafinnoge Woods
Irish Stoat running with Wood Mouse Tomnafinnoge Woods

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3)  While walking in the rain along the river in Tomnafinnoge Wood near Tinahely (this is a very special woods and features Oak trees and Woodpeckers and the River Derry, a tributary of the Slaney), I heard a commotion from behind.

It sounded like a bird in a panic flying towards me but as I looked around with the camera un-ready!, it turned out to be an Irish Stoat (often called a Weasel here but actually there are no real Weasels in Ireland) running towards me.  While still trying to get the camera settings into appropriate action, I realised it had something in its mouth.  I thought it was a bird but on later review of the poor pictures, decided it was a Wood Mouse.

Aware that I would dearly want to get a good picture of this startling scene, the Stoat turned and jumped into the undergrowth!

The animal is gorgeous – very small and beautifully coloured – a kind of fawn / beige brown – and with a white belly and a black tip to its tail.

However the bird in its mouth broke the thought of innocent beauty and brought home the lethal nature of nature.

Moorhen & Chick on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

Moorhen & Chick on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

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4)  This week I walked along the Grand Canal in Dublin, thronged by lunch-time walkers and those eating food from the vendors along the banks.  As usual, I was looking for birds in the margins and eventually found a Moorhen amongst the reeds.  Going to the bridge I could see that it was building a nest and as I got closer again, a chick appeared from under the parent’s wing!  In fact there were 3 chicks and at least one unhatched egg.  Moorhens often have 8 eggs so there may have been more.

Moorhen bringing Grass to partner & chicks on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

Moorhen bringing Grass to partner & chicks on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

The other parent regularly brought leaves that (s)he knitted into the nest.  This was necessary as the nest was a floating one and required constant attention to keep it above water.  Both Moorhen sexes incubate the eggs and they are indistinguishable without examination.  However the male is understood to do most of the nest sitting.

On the far side of the canal, a young Heron stood patiently by the water’s edge unconcerned by people behind him, much closer than normally consider comfortable.

In the nest, little Johhnie – there’s always one – climbed out and swam about on its own.  He may have done this before but the parent on the nest did not seem too pleased while the other parent was pre-occupied with leaf gathering.

While I watched the Moorhen’s knitting abilities, someone behind me was feeding pigeons.  They wanted to peck at the large bread crumbs thrown and constantly pitched the crumbs up in the air as they tried to break them.  This led the crumbs and them to get very close to me.  So close that I nearly missed the drama.

A Lesser Black-backed Gull, which presumably had been watching the crumb throwing, also had his eye on the Moorhen Nest and suddenly flew down.  The parent jumped up to attack it and defend the nest but as the Moorhen pecked at its neck, the Gull, in one movement, reached down, grabbed a chick in its beak and disengaged from the fight, flying to the other side of the canal with the unfortunate chick in its bill.

This was not little Johnie, the mischievious roamer but one of the goodie-goodies that stayed in the nest – it’s the same the world over!

This all took about a second or two.  Too quick for yours truly, unprofessional, unprepared and a bit stunned, to get a picture of the scrap.

Lesser Black-backed Gull with chick taken from Moorhen Nest Grand Canal Dublin

Lesser Black-backed Gull with chick taken from Moorhen Nest Grand Canal Dublin

On the far bank, the Lesser Black-backed Gull manoeuvred the chick a couple of times and then swallowed it, as a few people and the Moorhens looked on disbelievingly.

After a few minutes, the Moorhen sat back on the nest with little movement.  It seemed to be detrermined to shield and protect the remaining brood & egg(s).  I was left wondering if (s)he continued to dwell on the incident, to be sad or to mourn.

A couple of days later, the nest was gone.  Only floating leaves remained.  It may be that the remaining eggs hatched and the young went off with the parents.  On the other hand, the nest was close to the bank, in a place frequented by people and the Canal in its city stretches, features many predators including dogs, foxes and of course little (and big) brats!

Looking forward to more on the ‘Life’ side in the next few weeks.

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Lizzie 2013

She’s back.  Lizzie, that is.  Blue Tit near nestYou remember Lizzie?  This blog is about Lizzzie (or Alice and lots of other things!).  See https://cliffsview.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/new-creations-what-grows-in-your-garden/ & https://cliffsview.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/lizzie-2012/

 

The nestbox has at least 5 and maybe 6 eggs in it.  More news to follow.


New Creations – What grows in your Garden?

Cherry Trees FGIt’s hard to say that one season is your favourite when so many wonderful things happen  or are to be seen in every season, every year.  But there is something extra special about the growing season – Spring early Summer – the creation time.

We are lucky to live in a rural setting with a wildlife-friendly garden.  Friends may say that the garden is the wildest thing around, but that’s another story!

Every year the garden seems to burst out, encroach and almost threaten, such is the growth in trees, shrubs, grass and other vegeatation.

Making use of the renewed cover, a range of birds ususally nest.

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Great Tit at nest box Box back garden

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This year we we were fortunate to host a number of home makers.  Of those that we know nested in the gardens, there were Great Tits in the nest box at the end of the back garden (now now, less tittering please);
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Woodpigeon Pair BG.

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Woodpigeons nested in both gardens;
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Starling arriving at Nest box with Leatherjacket & Worm FG.

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Starlings brought up a strong brood in the nestbox on the garage.  This was set up as a replacement for the hole in the garage they had used as a nest site before it was repaired!  They are currently feeding the second brood!

House Sparrow M BG
House Sparrow M with nut at feeder BG
House Sparrow Nest under Soffit front of house
House Sparrows are supposed to be in decline but you wouldn’t think it around our house.

Adabtable, they have learned to hang on to the nut feeder and get at the nuts. They have also successfully bred for the last few years in ventilation holes in the side of the house. This year they also used the creeper under the soffit at the front of the house! They make quite a racket in the back garden.
Sparrow F feeding baby BG
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Once again however, Lizzie was the star of the show. She and hubby once again eschewed the old nest box in the Crab Apple tree to use our camera box attached to the house.

Lizzie 2 (Lizzie 2012) had tried to nest earlier in the spring following our original Lizzie family last year (Lizzie 1).  So we call this lady, Lizzie 3 – of course they could be all the same.

Robin on bird table BGWe are reasonably sure that Robins and Wrens nested nearby and who knows what else?  Magpies have nested most years but not this one – there must be higher trees somehere near!

Of the non-avian animals, we have seen Mice, Rats, Hedgehog, Fox and Badgers but the cutest little Fox cubs appeared this year.

Fox cub near den BGSuspicious of their presence, they were captured first on a trail camera but were tame enough early on, to allow a quiet and reasonably still person to observe and photograph them.



Spring Sprung

Gulls on frozen pond St Stephens Green Dublin

Early Spring started with some severe cold as it often does.

The ponds in St. Stephen’s Green Dublin were almost completely frozen over.

However the popular desire for some better weather seemed to gradually make an improvement.  March saw the beginnings of real Spring effects.

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Cherry Blossom St Stephens Green Dublin

Flowers emerged.

In Dublin’s parks bulbs such as Crocus, Daffodil and Bluebell were followed by more ornamental blooms. Eventually Cherry Blossom brought cheer and colour as well as a stronger belief that the Summer was near.
Robin amongst cherry petals Merrion Square Dublin
Mallard Duck Baby amongst reeds Grand Canal Dublin

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Birds had their territories marked and defended.  They boldly advertised for mates with their colours stronger than ever.

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Birds nested.

Ducks tend to dissappear from ponds and lakes and suddenly re-emerge with a string of tiny fluff-balls that seem too light to stay on the water let alone paddle forward!

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Moorhen on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

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Others like the Moorhen seem to flaunt their home-building skills with sticky nests built on floating leaves or rubbish, close to the bank and people.

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Little Grebe feeding Baby on small lake Tulfarris Golf Club

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In slightly more secluded areas, shyer birds nested and reared their bambinos with few to notice. This Little Grebe regularly fed its young on a small lake on Tulfarris golf course very close to golfers.  Of course (and more so on course!), golfers have other things than wildlife on their mind.

Mute Swan on grass St Stephens Green DublinJackdaw at nest in Copper Beech Tulfarris GC Blessington
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Woodpigeon on Nest St Stephens Green Dubli

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Swans were nesting in many locations. They preened and did their hissy protection routine.

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Jackdaws found holes in old trees to make their nests like this one, also in Tulfarris Golf Club, while Woodpigeons can make nests in nearly any tree with cover and often nest a number of times from Spring to Autumn.  This one in St, Stephen’s Green was just above passers by!

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Rain in Ireland can always be guarranteed although seldom heavy.  This male Blackbird made use of the rain in Tulfarris to find worms for its hungry chicks.

Blackbird M running in the rain Tulfarris GC Blessington


Wildlife in Dublin City

Dublin from WestAlthough we often prefer to go somewhere quiet to watch birds and wildlife, there are many opportunities and good places in Dublin city.

The streets see common birds such as Gulls, Crows, Robins and starlings.  There is even the odd Peregrine.

But there are also a number of good places such as parks and waterways where birds, rabbits and foxes can be regularly seen.  These include the Phoenix Park, the Liffey, Trinity College, Blessington Basin, the Grand Canal and Saint Stephen’s Green.  I will do posts on some of these separately but here are some of the birds regularly seen in the city centre.Hooded Crow on wall with pedestrians Clanwilliam Place Dublin 

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In many cases the birds have become used to people and provided you don’t go too close or make sudden movements they can be quite close.

This closeness with nature feeling does help to take the edge of the concrete jungle.

For photography purposes, this means that a very long zoom is often not needed.

Herring Gull paddling for insects Dublin
Wood Pigeon Dublin

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Grassy oases around the city, can harbour a number of birds such Woodpigeons and Magpies, foraging or nesting.   Herring Gulls often ‘paddle’ their feet to disturb insects in the grass or soil.

Magpie Denzille Lane Dublin

‘In trees on some of the busy streets, such as O’Connell Street,  Wagtails, Starlings and Long-tailed Tits often roost in numbers in the winter.

It can also be surprising to see the places that birds find for nest sites in what seems at first sight a forbidding mass of hard surfaces.

Blue Tit coming out of Nest hole Dublin Castle

Other wilflife includes rats which have been a feature of Dublin for centuries, foxes which are becoming more and more common in our cities and Squirrels.

The Reds are a bit timid for cities and in any case are being overrun by the Greys which now inhabit a number of Dublin parks including Phoenix Park, Merrion Square and Stephen’s Green.Grey Squirrel in grass Merrion Square

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Insects of course are ever present but some go largely un-noticed.

Scale insects can be seen on many trees but look more like a fungus, if they are noticed at all.

Scale Insects on tree Dublin Castle

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Still most people’s favourite is the Robin.  Alll the parks in Dublin have friendly Robins that come very close as you sit, especially if you have a sandwich!

Robin juv on tree Merrion Square Dublin


Great Saltee

It really is a great place.Great Saltee

I have only been there twice but it has to be one of my favourite places in the world. 

I’ts not any any one thing.  You can see seabird colonies easier in Howth for example.  You can find ‘nicer’ islands where you can swim and sunbathe  with less disturbance and with good beaches.   There are much bigger seabird colonies in the UK and even in Ireland,  No it is the brilliant combination of super birds, good climate, off-shore location and the immediate belief that you are somewhere special.

The island is known for its sea-birds but its remoteness makes it a happy habitat for many small birds and of course, birds of Prey.  Also being so southerly, it is a good spot for migrating birds.

Razorbill on cliff, Great Saltee
Kittiwake on cliff nests, Great Saltee

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The ‘normal’ seabirds are here, clinging on to the cliffs like goats on mountain ledges. Razorbills with their heavy looking beaks on tiny cliff ledges and Kittiwakes – sort 0f black legged sea-gulls – on whatever bit of grass they can find on the sheer cliffs.

Just to look at them is exhilerating.

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Bridled Guillemot on side of cliff, Great SalteeFulmar flying in wind, Great Saltee

Razorbill taking off from cliff Great Saltee
Guillemots, auks, like the Razorbill, are also common.

This one is a ‘Bridled’ Guillemot, named after the monacle like stripe and circle on each eye.

Fulmars are here, often in the best nest sites. Like many other species here, they are hardly seen during most of the year, flying far out to sea, but they come to the cliffs to nest during the summer.

They look like Gulls but the tube on their bills relate them to the Albatrosses.

They have near complete mastery of the wind and fly with stiff wings.

The wind plays a big part in birds’ lives here, as at all cliff sites. Birds have to master landing on sharp edged rocks and just imagine launching yourself off a tiny ledge over rough sea far below the theacherous cliffs.

Birds use every bit of surface area to effect uplift when taking off, like this Razorbill with wings, tail and feet used to the maximum.
Razorbill offering sand eels Great Saltee

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Food is also key, both from a successful feeding and rearing point of view, as well as in formal rituals such as courting. The favoureed meal is Sand Eels and the availability of this food source generally dictates the success of the nesters each year.

Recently there has been a decline in Sand Eel numbers, believed to be due to climate change but also possibly due to over-fishing. Birds have been trying to make-do with other food but initial results look poor and the number of nests around our cliffs seems to have decreased.

Apart from the Black Guillemot, all our resident auks nest here. I seem to remember Black Guillemots nesting on cliffs when I was young, although that was a while ago. In any case they now seem to be more often seen in harbours and river mouths and they even nest and are commonly seen in the centre of Dublin.

Cormorants and Shags both have colonies of ragged nests. Other common birds here include Chiffchaffs, Wheatear, Reed Buntings, Rock Pipits and Choughs, while there are many Grey Seals around the coast.

Great Black_backed Gull approaching nest & Eggs Great Saltee
Gannet Colony section Great Saltee
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Above the Cliffs, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls nest.

The Great Black-backs are the perennial marauders and poachers and have a great view of unattended nests and babies from their high vantage points.

But the Saltees are best known for 2 bird species.

The first is quite obvious when you approach.
Gannet Colony section Great Saltee

Huge numbers of Gannets whirl in the air and dive straight down from a height for fish in the sea and 2 spots – one sea stack and one headland – are almost obscured in summer by Gannets and Gannet nests.

The nests are packed in, spaced to leave only enough room to avoid neighbouring beaks!

Apart from the noise and constant motion, the other noticable feature is the strong smell!

Overhaed there is constant activity with birds landing, taking off or over-flying looking for their patch, their nest or their chick.

Gannet flying overhead Great Saltee

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It is hard not to be impressed by this magnificent bird, even from a distance. Up close and personal, it is even more impressive.

Firstly it is big – the wings are nearly 2 metres wide and flying over you there is no mistaking who is the master!

Secondly, it looks great; white with black wing tips and a lovely pale yelow colour on the head.

Finally it seems to be built for speed or more precisely, for reducing air and water drag. Both ends, head and tail, are tapered and the eyes are recessed, making it perfect for diving through the air at spped, with wings swept back and cutting through the water to catch fish.

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Gannets approaching main runway Great Saltee
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Just like an airport, the wind direction determines the prevailing runway and a stream of Gannets follow each other into the air or back into the colony.

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Gannet looking down at colony Great Saltee

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Gannet on nest Great Saltee

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Is that a streamlined beak and head or what?

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The nest is a simple mound of seaweed and vegeatation and there is usually only 1 egg which is hatched after about 6 weeks.

Gannet babies Great Saltee

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The chicks start out as white balls of fluff but gradually turn black as the skin shows through.

They are fed for about 8 weeks before leaving to turn into white adults after a couple of years.

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Puffin on cliff top Great Saltee

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The other speciality here is the cutest and reason enough on its own, to come here

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Puffins nest in burrows at the top of the cliffs. They are very small, only around 30 cms head to tail and their wings seem too small to carry their puffy bodies. But when they fly, the wings extend more than you expect and seem to whirr to keep them airborne.

Puffin on cliff Great SalteeSea Parrots or Clowns they may be called but when you see them in their home habitat, it’s all other birds that look silly!

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If there were no birds here this would be a special place.

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With huge numbers of birds it is one of the places you just have to visit.

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But with all that and Gannets and Puffins and a magical persona, its a little piece of heaven!

Puffins overlooking bay Great Saltee


Lizzie On Nest

It seems that the Tits have enough eggs and she is now sitting – mostly.  She seems a bit fidgety, leaving the nest after hubby brings in food for her!  When I say she is a bad mother, my own brood won’t have it, sticking up for Lizzie as she is now known, as only women can.

There seems to be 8 eggs now in total unless some are well hidden (no wait 9!)


The Video is from just over a week ago.


Newer Arrivals

Didn’t get to see an egg for the last few days in the Blue Tit nest box.  She keeps it well hidden.   Got a short glimpse tonight though and there are now 5 eggs.

Wonder how many she can deliver?

To be continued….

You may Mandarin Duck M with Tufted Duck F, Saint Stephens Green, Dublinhave seen the post on the Wook Duck on the Grand Canal, from March (www.cliffsview.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/if-you-go-down-to-th-canal-today/), well, yesterday morning on the walk to work, a male Mandarin Duck was on the pond in St. Stephen’s Green.

Only had my pocket camera with me and didn’t do a great job of it in the few minutes he stayed but it is clear that this isn’t a normal Dublin duck.

There seems to be a lot of Wood Duck and Mandarin sightings around lately but I haven’t heard a reason for it.  Seems strange as they come from different directions around the world – maybe escapes from a collection?


New Arrivals

Great Easter news.  Instead of getting an Easter egg (well actually as well as getting an Easter egg), I got the gift of life for Easter – ‘twould nearly make you religious.

The fairer half bought me a camera nestbox for my last birthday and eventually I put it up on the house wall, thinking it wasn’t a great place and it would have to be moved.  Well, anyway, a blue tit started sleeping in it very soon after and before Easter started making a nest in it.

We never saw two of them near the box and sort of thought the ould bird was a bit fanciful.  But over the Easter we turned on the video to see a gleaming egg in the nest.  Maybe its another divine intervention or maybe the male is shy of cameras but WHEY-HEY, we have a live nest box with a colour camera watching all the poor little mite’s every move!

Seems a bit intrusive at times.  Seems a bit like paint drying at times as well but WHEY-HEY, to know that on the other side of our sitting room wall there is a baby tit (or 10) in the making.

Of course I’ve no pictures for you – I’m not a pervert, well not until I figure an easy way of converting the signals!

AND news number 2!!!!   What an Easter!  There I was minding my own business and that of a hunter spider I had been keeping an eye on, down the end of the garden,when I noticed a small branch moving in the pond area.  It seemed unusual as the wind shouldn’t have reached there.

Next thing, I see 2 ears moving around. I thought at first it was a rabbit that had taken over the old rabbit burrows (a previous owner had domesticated rabbits).  This was a surprise as I was becoming certain that Badgers were there again, due to grey hairs seen there, burrows enlarged and bits of animal remains nearby.

But no, on further viewing it turned out to be a young fox!  There we were young fox and I, staring at each other – well me staring at him / her until I had the great idea of pointing the camera in that direction.  Young fox disappeared.  I sat out for an hour and a half but didn’t get a glimpse again.  Hopefully more info / pics to come.

Badgers have  had a tragic time in the garden over the years as at least 2 previous families were  killed by locals worried about commercial cow farming!

It is magical to think of these wild animals having a den in a back garden but not everyone is of the same opinion.  I was told today of a fox seen in a front garden one morning on the way to work, near Ballsbridge, and the DSPCA or similar were called to get rid of him!

More anon, hopefully.