Five months ago I wrote my last blog. In it I shared the news that I had recently purchased a 12 acre woodland in deepest darkest East Sussex. I mentioned that a strange ‘giant rat’ had been spotted lurking outside one of the abandoned badger setts. I closed the blog with a promise that I would keep investigating until I found out what it was…
As it happens, just 24 hours after my blog was posted I downloaded 4 truly glorious seconds of video footage from the camera I had positioned directly outside the badger sett entrance. As seen here, I had captured my ‘strange creature’ waddling into the badger sett. Unfortunately it was just its back-end, but it was enough to confirm that our strange beast was not a badger (tail too long), nor a rat. It was clearly a mustelid of some sort, but which? I shared the video with all the ecology experts in my black book. Eventually it was narrowed down to being either an American Mink - not native to the UK, can cause lots of damage, would probably need to be trapped and destroyed - or a Polecat - native to UK, can cause lots of damage, should be encouraged and nurtured. (Read into that what you will). The only way we could tell for certain was to get a face-shot since Polecats have ‘bandit-type’ markings whereas American Mink don’t.
About the only hard fact we could determine was that it was a male (watch the video, its very obvious…).
I felt that whilst the above news was quite exciting, it was not blog-noteworthy. The mystery needed resolving. From that day to this the entrance to the badger sett has been closely monitored. In my desire to capture a shot of the elusive animal I even briefly broke my (self-imposed) rule of not using bait. This resulted in me capturing an almost perfect shot of a very happy squirrel eating peanut butter from the end of a stick.
Last Friday I finally decided it was time to abandon my search and finally move my camera to another part of the woodland (we have 4 positioned in various positions across the site). I removed the SD card and late that evening as I sat in bed watching the 58 videos which had been captured over the previous few days. As usual, most were of the squirrels, rabbits and deer which seem to live happily in the woodland. However clips 56 and 57 were of a beautiful stoat, surely the fastest moving animal in the UK!
Imagine my excitement however when, having worked my way through my badger sett SD card, I moved onto the memory cards from the other cameras. Suddenly I was looking at a 10 second video of a mature majestic Buzzard, with half a bloodied pigeon in its gruesome talon, positioned perfectly in front of my camera. It was a shot professional nature photographers would sell their grandmothers to achieve. The video of both the stoat and the buzzard are here.
In this file you will also see some of the other creatures we have observed, including bats (if anyone ever invites you to attend a bat survey SAY YES IMMEDIATELY; it is the best fun ever!), a slow worm, foxes, badgers (my favourite animal), mice and owls. The owls are particularly difficult to record. I swear they work out where the cameras are and then deliberately sit with their backs to them.
My dream is to record an owl hunting and capturing one of the mice. When I get that shot I will write my next blog, irrespective of whether we have identified the mysterious ‘rat’ by then!