All posts by Nick

Borrowdale’s rainfall record

Flooding in Cumbria as bad weather sweeps across the UK
It’s official. Scientists at the Met have just annouced that the downpour that fell last November 2009 on Seathwaite Farm in Borrowdale saw 316.4mm of rain fall – statistically a once in 1,800 years event. The previous heaviest rainfall in the UK was at Martinstown, in Dorset, when 279.4mm fell in 24 hours in 1955. More from The Guardian

Are foxes dangerous to cats?

On a recent BBC wildlife podcast, fox expert Professor Steve Harris, Bristol University stated that the average urban fox will kill a cat every 6 years, and that some 500 cats live in every fox territory. So the risk is tiny.

A Bristol City Council leaflet writen by Professor Harris gives the follwoing advice:

This is very rare; a survey in northwest Bristol, where foxes were particularly common, showed that they killed 0.7% of the cats each year and these were predominantly young kittens. This means your cat is far more likely to be run over, stray or die from a variety of other causes.

Foxes are only a little bit bigger than a cat (males average about 5.5 kilograms) and are equipped with a set of sharp teeth. Cats have an equally sharp set of teeth, plus some pretty unpleasant sharp claws. If a fox tackles a cat, it risks severe injuries and that is the last thing it wants. Every night a single fox will meet many, perhaps dozens of cats and most encounters are either indifferent or amicable.

Cats and foxes will usually ignore each other. However, some cats are aggressive animals and will go for a fox, sometimes to drive it away from their garden or food bowl. Usually a fox will flee but if this is not practical and particularly if it is cornered, it may defend itself against the cat. Then both animals may be injured.

Finally, although foxes live in family groups and meet up periodically to play or socialise, they hunt alone. So stories of “packs of foxes” roaming the streets killing pet cats are totally fictitious.

Above photo from Wiki Commons of fox and pet rabbit by Oosoom.

Spindle webs

web across nettles

Remarkable photo from the BBC’s Autumnwatch a few years back of spindle trees and bushes (Euonymus europaeus) in a Dorset hedgerow infested with the silk webs of the spindle moth or spindle ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella). More here with a video.

Spindle ermines weave silk webs to protect themselves from birds and wasps, allowing them to gorge on leaves for six weeks before transforming into the moth. Not known for being bright sparks, they sometimes mistake other objects  for spindle trees such as this car in Rotterdam (Image: Daily Mail).
Moth attack: spindle ermines moth caterpillars covered this car with a giant silk web in Rotterdam

Mammals in British gardens

92,000 people have taken part in the RSPB’s survey of garden wildlife, Make Your Nature Count, taking in 69,000 gardens in the UK. In addition to birds, the RSB asked participamts to look out for certain species of mammals. Above image: Nigel Blake (rspb-images.com)

Fourteen per cent  recorded the presence of moles, with half of these detecting moles regularly. Unsurprisingly, most moles were detected in rural gardens, being most frequently seen (or at least their molehills) in Wales in 25% of gardens, compared with 15% in Scotland and 13% in England. There are no moles in Northern Ireland.  Roe deer were recorded in 5% of gardens, with most sightings came from Scotland, where they were seen in 16% of gardens, compared to 4% in England and only 0.5% in Wales. There are no roe deer in Northern Ireland.

Hedgehogs were seen in 30% of gardens in urban areas, and more than one in seven saw them regularly. Hedgehog expert Hugh Warwick said: “Gardens are clearly very important for hedgehogs, a great example of a truly wild animal not only at home with us but also of great benefit to gardeners. “We should treasure the fact that they live comfortably in our gardens and so many people can get nose-to-nose with them.” The Guardian

A lucky 5%, in my opinion, saw badgers, including more than 20& in Somerset and Pembrokeshire.

The results:

Badger 5.50
Fox 26.23
Muntjac deer 1.91
Hedgehog 23.35
Roe deer 2.22
Mole 7.33
Red Squirrel 0.77
Cat 79.41