Buck deer and snacking Pine Martens
Updated: Feb 7, 2022
Wildlife Observation Camera
The highlight for me this month is several sightings of a glorious roe deer buck (male) with a new set of beautiful horns. The horns are shed and regrow each year, and you can see at this time of year they have a covering of fur, which he‘ll lose by rubbing them on trees or getting into fights during the summer. There’s also a beautiful close sighting of him in daylight at the same spot.
All this is a great sign for the deer that use the property, as they see MPL as a safe area, and multiple sightings of a buck hopefully means he will start marking the territory to claim it, which usually starts in March.
Since the 3 deer sightings this month are all from the same location on the edge of the property, we can establish it as one point of access to the property. There could be other points of access, but this is a good start. Especially since it's from the river bank on the west edge of the property, and there was some old tangled wire fencing down where the riverbank was flooded. That's now cleared away. I will also look at removing or changing some old fencing (especially barbed wire) in that area in the hope this gives them more options for access. On the 3rd sighting a deer can clearly be seen looking twice for one spot (unsuccessfully) to get through the fencing.
Other highlights include a pine marten running past the camera with a giant toad in its mouth. In fact, either we have a few pine martens or we only have one who just loves prancing around in front of the camera! All sightings in the past 3 months come from 2 locations. We can therefore establish that the path from house to the river on the west side of the property is a regular route.
The red fox is back and using the same route as several sightings in February. I'll set the camera up on the other side of that spot in the coming month to hopefully get some idea of where he/she is heading. It’s still not established if we have a pair on the property.
Special mention must go to 2 appearances at 2 locations of the white cat with black patches that's occasionally seen hanging out in Nalanda's vegetable garden during the day!
And of course, badgers, badgers, beautiful bumbling badgers everywhere! They do love running around at night at MPL! This month we also have a sighting of a pair walking together on the opposite side of the property than the one in January. In addition, we can establish there’s a mature male in the group because we can see he’s marking with scent.
Clearer Understanding of Coypu
We now have some very clear sightings of coypu after the camera was setup at the river. The coypu are sometimes confused with a beaver (which is not present in this area of France), but while beavers have a flat tail shaped like a paddle, coypu have a round long tail.
Very shy and nocturnal; they use the night to swim, feed and groom. They are known to construct floating platforms out of vegetation to chill out on and groom, and I imagine they use the small islands of rock in the river to do the same.
We definitely have a family group on the property since we can clearly see differences in size (average family groups are 2 to 10 with 1 male). We also have several sightings of one larger coypu (male?) with his tail missing, which will make him easier to identify in future sightings.
Coypu can swim and dive for 5 minutes without the need to surface because of flaps of skin that closes their throat and nose as well as webbed back feet for swimming. There’s no webbing on the front feet since they’re used for digging. At one point in the video you can clearly see the webbing on the back foot of a coypu as it turns around.
They feed throughout the year and consume 25% of their body weight every night in vegetation (plant stems and leaves and aquatic vegetation). With an average weight of 5 to 7Kg, that's 1.25 to 1.75Kg in juicey plants a night. That's a lot of work! Especially since around 80% of the vegetation is wasted while feeding. And that's just one coypu!
They make burrows in the river banks and larger groups will create a tunnel system 15m long and nesting chambers connected to them. The soft sand river banks and limestone rock cavities we have here give them plenty of scope to set up a family.
Brown Rats Need Love Too ...
Did you know that a group of rats is known as a 'mischief'?! And baby rats can be called 'pups' or 'kittens'?!
And while these wonderful beings get a lot of bad media (and always end up being the bad guys in the movies) they're renowned for their capacity to learn and retain memories, as well as their love of play within family groups.
They are primarily nocturnal, are very good swimmers and will even hunt small fish. They will eat anything, but prefer a carnivorous diet that could be snails, birds eggs, frogs, and other dead animals. They also have a very well developed sense of taste that can detect and remember poisons.
Controlled research has also established evidence that rats are part of a rare group of animals (that include humans and some primates) that have an ability to essentially think about thinking. When this is joined with their well observed social groups, where each individual is given specific role, it is much easier to see past their reputation as just heavy breeding pests.
They are also a key food source for the owls, kites and buzzards that nest in the trees of the river banks, as well as the foxes and pine martens we see on video.