Category Archives: Mammals of Britain

Mass dolphin strandings

Last year in June 2008  saw one of the largest strandings of dolphins ever to be recorded in British waters. Some 60-70 animals were involved, and 26 dolphins were stranded and died in Falmouth Harbour. Listen here to this BBC Radio 4 documentary which looks for explanations to the event.

Mass dolphin sighting

A massive group of dolphins has been spotted off the Welsh coast. Researchers found their boat surrounded by a pod of around 1,500 dolphins off the coast of Pembrokeshire, one of the largest groups ever recorded in British waters. The lucky conservationists described a “mile-long wall of dolphins….They just kept on Continue reading Mass dolphin sighting

Eating badgers

This BBC documentary is entitled The Man Who Eats Badgers and Other Strange Tales from Bodmin Moor about Arthur Boyt, a retired civil servant, who collects and eats roadkill. Mr Boyt’s freezer is brimming with badgers, barn owls, dogs, cats, otters and foxes. But this is much more than a tale about strange eating habits. It is a portrayal of a small, isolated community on a bleak Cornish moor told through superbly shot filming and an intelligent script full of pathos.
Continue reading Eating badgers

Poems about badgers

The Badgers (Restrike Etching)

Badgers are possibly the most loved wild animals in Britain and it is unsurprising that there are a number of poems about them. I’ve collected a couple 19th century poems here. The first is by Edward Thomas, who was killed in the Battle of Arras in 1917. The badger, “that most ancient Briton of English beasts” is gone from the sett, killed by baiters. The second poem is by John Clare (1793-1864) who was famous for Continue reading Poems about badgers

Watching badgers

Brooks World has this excellent series of tips on watching badgers in the wild. First and foremost remember that badgers are usually frightened of people.  If the badgers know you are there, you probably won’t see much of them. The good news is that a badger’s eyesight pretty awful.
Read  tips on Brooks World

Watching pine martens

The Aigas Field Centre in Scotland offer you the chance watch wild Pine Martens and Badgers from their own specially-built hide. It was originally built to watch Badgers, which still visit the feeding station every night, but the Martens also took a liking to the spot, and are a regular visitor.The people who run it say “We encourage the mammals to visit by putting out a small amount of peanuts and a tablespoon of jam. The food is merely to entice them in – by no means do we sustain them or interfere with their territoriality.” They claim that the success rate for seeing Pine Martens during each 2 hour hide visit is a remarkable 95%, all through the year. They also promise prolonged views of feeding and playing Martens at distance of between 6 and 30 feet. The field centre looks a great place to stay offering “Wildlife, Birdwatching, History & Nature Holidays in the Highlands of Scotland”. More on this soon.
Visit the Aigas Pine Marten and Badger hide

Whale hunting could hit whale watching in Scotland

According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, Norway’s annual hunt of minke whales could cost the Scottish economy up to £15m, and threaten the viability of the whale-watching industry there. The last report on whale-watching in Scotland published in 2001 estimated the industry was worth £7.8m a year, but tour operators have doubled since then from 80 to 165.

Walruses in Britain

The walrus occasionally turns up as a vagrant to the northern shores of Britain and Ireland, though in no way can be considered a British mammal. It was perhaps, though, the first British zoological species as one was said to have been presented to Alfred the Great. No doubt with climate change the few sightings are going to become even more infrequent. If you know of any more please let me know.

  • There have been at least 13 records in the Shetlands in recent history, the last a male in 2002. Here
  • And then there is the famous Wally the Walrus who in 1981, as he visited the east coast of England, became a media celebrity, before being flown back north.
  • Walrus sightings in IrelandA Walrus was seen hauled out on rocks in County Mayo, Ireland for six hours. Lying within 100 metres of the busy coastal road and spotted as a “rock that moved”, the resting walrus finally disappeared at dusk. There have been several walrus sightings at sea off County Donegal in recent winters, and a couple of walruses were reported to have been seen by surfers in Killala Bay in December. A dead walrus was found in County Kerry in January 1995″. From here
  • North Uist: local fishermen saw a walrus – tusks an’ all on a small island off the east side of North Uist a couple of years ago. Here
  • A large walrus was regularly seen in Aberdeenshire in 1954.

Above Image: John Tenniel’s illustration for Lewis Carroll’s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter. (wikipedia). – which also notes:

The origin of the word walrus itself has variously been attributed to combinations of the Dutch words walvis (“whale”) and ros (“horse”) or wal (“shore”) and reus (“giant”). However, the most likely origin of the word is the Old Norse hrossvalr, meaning “horse-whale”, which was passed in a juxtaposed form to Dutch and the North-German dialects as walros and Walross. The now archaic English word for walrus—morse—is widely supposed to have come from the Slavic. Thus ???? (morž) in Russian, mors in Polish, also mursu in Finnish, moršâ in Saami, later morse in French, morsa in Spanish, mors? in Romanian etc.