Mousecapades – Yellow-necked mouse infra red

Another denizen of my attic, the yellow necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis). This little critter is caught on infrared trailcam as he darts to and fro.

While he may be cute, the yellow-necked mouse carries tick borne encephalitis and, worse yet, the Dobrava virus, which is the Eurasian Hanta virus. It has a 12% mortality rate. As the main cause of viral infection is from aerosolized yellow-necked mouse faeces, I’m glad I wear a gas mask to go into my attic. Shame the Beech Marten couldn’t get rid of the lot of them.

 

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Autumn bushcraft in the Carpathians

Autumn bushcraft in the Carpathians

When I’m at the village house I go to the forest at least twice per day, usually morning to retrieve the trap camera and just before dusk to set it. When I’ve got chance I also like spending the day time wandering about in the woods looking for edible fungi.

This weekend we took the kids in to collect some nice leaves for an art exhibition I’ve got coming up. Whilst there my son found just over half a particularly large lynx skull – sadly not including the teeth. That’s now sitting in a bucket of water and bleach in my garage.

The colours of the forest at this time of year just cannot be explained in words. It’s utterly mesmerizing.

Stag and Red Deer herd

Stag and Red Deer herd

I caught this herd of Red Deer (only part of which is in the photo) as I was walking up the hill to the forest today. I found it interesting how each section of the herd was ‘segregated’ – the hinds (out of shot), the fawns, the hinds, the stag, and then the young bucks.

As I was looking for a place to put my trail cam, i followed them into the forest to see where their main entry/exit point was. The noise of a herd of red deer crashing through thick brush has to be experienced to be understood. A truck wouldn’t be louder. Also, as it’s still rutting season, I have to be a bit wary around stags as they can attack – they’ve killed a couple of people here over the last few years. My kids and I were charged by one we stumbled across in the forest years back and we had to hide behind a tree. During the rut they’re just bundles of hormones and adrenaline and testosterone and muscle with an immense rack of antlers at the front. Their main activity during this period is standing out in the open, easy pickings for hunters, bellowing “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” at the top of their lungs, for several weeks.

Young Wild Boar trailcam infrared

Young Wild Boar trailcam infrared

For a while the boar left the area as they follow the sweetcorn harvest but over the last week I’ve noticed their scat in the field behind the house. I set up the trailcam in a damp and muddy woodland gully which I know they pass through.

This young boar is calling out and looks particularly ugly. I have a photo of a scarily immense boar but only its head and shoulders. For some reason, the Redleaf HD1000 trailcam often gives ‘file errors’, completely black photos or doesn’t film. As a budget or entry trailcam it’s good to help learn the technique of using a trailcam but it’s not exactly reliable, nor are the pictures of decent quality.

Bushcraft Magazine Summer Issue

Bushcraft Magazine Summer Issue

I’m a bit late in posting this as I’m still waiting for my own copy to be scanned (my scanner is broken).

Bushcraft Magazine did me a double treat this summer issue as not only did they publish my article on the Slavonic forest spirit Leshy – Guardian of the forest, but they also gave me the cover. The painting of the British-Celtic forest god Herne is from a diptych I did on an old wooden cupboard in my dining room. I feel honoured that Steve Kirk, the editor of the magazine, would give it cover space. Cheers, Steve!

Order a copy from their website!

I plan to do more on the Leshy theme as it provides an answer to the Bigfoot conundrum. Stay tuned.

River picnic

River picnic

The other night while out looking for suitable places to set my trailcam, I discovered this beautiful stretch of river out in the bush. The next day we decided to go on a picnic there and my brother and his girlfriend joined us. It amazes me that even within a short distance from my house I can still find new places I haven’t seen yet. We had a small fire on the bank and cooked bacon on sticks, and both the kids and dog had the chance to swim a bit –  a welcome respite from the 30 degree centigrade plus heat.

It was a bit of a gypsy holiday but it goes to show that you don’t need to spend lots of money, nor have lots of equipment, to have a fun day out. Judging by the tracks lining the river bank, I wouldn’t like to be there at night though….

Edible Dormouse trail cam

Edible Dormouse trail cam

Most people go to sleep to the sound of traffic and sirens; my family goes to sleep when at the house to the sounds of an entire menagerie of wild creatures a few feet above our heads. The attic is home to a multitude of beasties including quite a few nests of bees, hornets and various wasp species. The constant nocturnal crick-crick of the  larvae of wood boring beetles as they gnaw away the beams, the scratching of the two different species of mice, and the whooshing of the bats. However, I set up a trail cam (a Redleaf RD1000) in order to film the most annoying and destructive resident, the Stone Marten (Martes foina), who has turned my entire attic floor into a giant latrine and who sounds like a man running around when its pursuing mice. The noise and mess it makes are incredible – they’re a common pest to attics out here. Unfortunately, since I’ve been using a new fan to cool off the bedroom, the Marten hasn’t visited, possibly because of the sound. I will get him eventually.

One pleasant surprise I found on the trailcam is an Edible Dormouse (Glis glis), a foot-long rodent which looks something between a squirrel and a chinchilla. Bizarrely, as a defence mechanism, like reptiles (as I’ve witnessed in the garden with slow worms and lizards) they can consciously lose part of their exquisitely bushy tail and regrow it. The locals call these critters plch.

Note – I’ve got much better and clearer IR video footage of the dormouse but I can’t edit it because my graphics card doesn’t support the new codec. Really need to get a new PC….