Red squirrel in tawny owls’ nestbox, video


Before the tawny owl couple of my earlier blog post started nesting in their nestbox in Oisterwijk in the Netherlands, a red squirrel visited that box; as seen in the video here.

Good long-eared owl news


This video is about long-eared owls.

Vroege Vogels TV in the Netherlands reports that this year, more long-eared owls than ever have been counted in Friesland province. 1740 owls at 143 resting places. Last winter, there had only been 800 birds.

Extremely probably, this is because 2014 has been a good year for rodents. Other owl species have profited from this as well. 90-95% of long-eared owl food are common voles. In a bad rodent year, they eat some small birds as well.

Beaver cleans itself, video


This is a video about a beaver cleaning itself, in nature reserve Rhoonse Grienden in the Netherlands.

René Sluimer made the video.

Red squirrel in garden, video


This video is about a red squirrel in a garden in the Netherlands, feeding on bird feed.

Greetje Sibon made the video.

Norwegian lemmings, new study


This video says about itself:

Norway Lemmings Norske Lemen

10 October 2013

Lemmings in all their cuteness, with the beautiful Norwegian mountains as a backdrop.

I also bust one of the great lemming myths; the one [propagated by Walt Disney] that claims they commit mass suicide by throwing themselves off cliffs and drowning in the Arctic seas.

From Wildlife Extra:

Norwegian Lemmings stand out in a crowd and scream to deter predators

Conspicuous, boldly coloured fur and loud barks warn would-be predators that little Norwegian Lemmings are not to be messed with, researchers have discovered.

The findings of the team headed by Malte Andersson from the University of Göteborg in Sweden appears in Springer’s journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

The Norwegian Lemming (Lemmus lemmus) is endemic to northern Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Kola peninsula in Russia.

The animals have a red-brown back, yellow flanks, white breast, chin and cheeks and a large black patch on the head, neck and shoulders.

They are unique among small rodents in their ferocity, and will readily fight back the aerial attacks of predators such as the Long-tailed Skua with loud screams, lunges and bites.

Most smaller rodents rarely aggressively protect themselves from predators; a willingness to have a go, therefore, is worth advertising.

Through five field tests, Andersson noted that the Norwegian Lemming’s remarkable traits can be ascribed to aposematism: the use of warning colours and other methods to signal to predators that the potential prey has some form of defence, for example being toxic.

Aposematism is unusual in herbivorous mammals, however, being much more common among insects, snakes and frogs.

In one of the experiments, 18 observers found it easier to spot Norwegian Lemmings in their natural habitat than their main rodent neighbour, the Grey-sided Vole.

In another test, Andersson noted that Brown Lemmings only gave anti-predatory warning calls in one out of 39 instances when a human (seen as a potential predator) was near.

Norwegian Lemmings, on the other hand, did so in 36 of 110 cases.

Black and white or yellow are classic warning colorations, which some birds instinctively know to avoid.

Andersson explains that such calls and coloration are often useful at close range, where a lemming is likely to be discovered even if silent.

They signal to a predator that the rodent will put up a fight if attacked.

“The Norwegian Lemming combines acoustics with visual conspicuousness, probably to reduce its risk of becoming prey,” says Andersson, who believes that such aposematism could help explain why the long-distance movements of Norwegian Lemmings are so conspicuous.

Rat poison kills birds, partial ban


This video is about a kestrel nest on a balcony in Poland.

Translated from Vroege Vogels radio in the Netherlands today:

Vermin fighters may no longer use mouse and rat poison anymore in the open air from early this year on. That was decided by the board for the authorization of plant protection products and biocides (Ctgb). The main reason for the partial ban of these rodenticides is that many mice and rats have become immune to the poison. It is also to reduce the risk of other animals being exposed to the substances.

Research by ecotoxicologist Nico van den Brink of Alterra research institute in Wageningen shows that a large part of our raptors get rat poison in their food. The chance of barn owls and kestrels dying from this is plausible.

Rodenticides are not completely prohibited. Inside buildings they may still be used. Also, the Ctgb offers the possibility to obtain an authorization under strict conditions for outdoor use.

Beavers in Britain


This July 2014 video from England is called Wild beaver kits born in Devon‘s River Otter.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Frosty’s Ramblings: Back from 500 years of oblivion

Friday 6th February 2015

Beavers’ engineering endeavours are examples of outstanding environmental practice. It’s time we accepted it, says PETER FROST

A complete about-face from the government, Defra and Natural England has saved a small colony of wild beavers on the River Otter in Devon near the village of Ottery St Mary.

It is believed to be the first population of wild beavers in the English countryside for over 500 years.

Local and national environmental campaigners had feared the small colony would end up in a zoo or even culled like the badgers.

The Devon beavers were first caught on film a year ago but rumours and sightings had been happening for some time before that.

Nobody knows where they came from.

Last summer, coalition farming minister George Eustice and Defra said they wanted to get rid of the Devon beavers by capture or cull.

Defra claimed beavers were an invasive non-native species and could carry a rare parasite called Echinococcus multilocularis (EM).

A vigorous public campaign by Friends of the Earth and Devon Wildlife Trust has changed the government’s mind. Even I wrote in support of the Devon beavers back in July of last year.

Now clearly embarrassed by the expensive fiasco of the badger cull Eustice has seen sense and listened to expert opinion.

Defra has now decided that the Devon Wildlife Trust can manage a reintroduction programme for the beaver as part of a carefully regulated five year trial.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Alasdair Cameron told us: “This is great news for Devon’s beavers. If, as seems likely, they can now remain in the wild.”

Natural England, which is part of Defra, has approved a five-year scientific study of the beaver and this could open the way to the wider reintroduction of what was once a common species across England.

Meanwhile beavers have been reintroduced into Scotland and are breeding happily on several Scottish rivers where their dams make a spectacular addition to the river-scape.

The first significant recent Scottish population of wild beavers became established on Scotland’s River Tay as early as 2001.

The hugely intelligent European beaver (Castor fiber) is the largest rodent in Europe. They build amazing architectural structures for their dams and lodges.

This fascinating and historically much hunted animal is coming back to its natural homes all over Europe and it’s time we made much bigger efforts to bring it back to the rivers and countryside of Britain.

I first saw wild European beavers and the good they can do for the wetland environment on a visit to the Biesbosch National Park in the Netherlands where they were reintroduced in 1988 after being completely exterminated in the 19th century.

After the reintroduction in the Biesbosch the overall Dutch population has spread considerably, supported by additional reintroductions.

The beaver was once widespread all over Europe and Britain. The animal was hunted to near-extinction for both its luxurious fur and an extract from its anal glands known as castoreum. This is used in the perfume industry and was once believed to have magical medical properties.

Beavers typically grow to 80–100cm (31–39in) and the tail adds another 25–50cm (10–20in). Adults weigh between 11–30kg (24–66lb), with an average of 18kg (40lb).

They usually have one litter of three kits per year. Unlike most other rodents, beavers are monogamous, staying together for many breeding seasons.

Beavers help support wetland ecosystems by creating sustainable wet landscape with lakes and pools, which increase biodiversity and provide habitat for threatened and rare species such as water voles, otters and water shrews.

They gnaw branches from waterside trees and shrubs so that they re-grow denser, which provides useful cover for birds and animals.

Their dams trap sediment and improve water quality and can help regulate river flows and reduce flooding.

Last July I wrote in these pages: “Now is the time to encourage the reintroduction of beavers to suitable sites in both England and Wales.”

That message is even more true today.

Beavers good for bluethroats: here.