Creepy Forest Ghost Spot Creature

No idea what this is:

 

A strange object I captured on the trail cam in the forest (photo frames, not video). It appears to be about a foot long, vertical and consists of 5 small equidistant ‘spots’. Bizarrely, it’s in the same location that we had a tree come crashing down in front of us today – the tree broke halfway up its height for no reason.
The object seems to move forward and then go upwards. There’s no way it’s an insect as they’re not out yet due to the cold. In the first couple of photos it’s to the right of the camera.

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New year, new wheels

New year, new wheels

It’s been a while since I last posted and a lot has happened.

Thanks to the new wood stove we could stay at the house over Christmas and New Year at a livable although not comfortable temperature. New Year’s Eve was minus 15 Celsius and that was hard going. The stove now allows us to be be able to live, should the need arise, without mains connection.

My brother and his girlfriend have left Slovakia after spending almost 8 months here. They gave it a good try, first at his hill fort and then later in a rented apartment, but it’s a harsh environment to get set up in financially and bureaucratically. I wish them the best back in the UK.

Finally, the snow has come after only a couple of fleeting earlier visits. We spent several months in dense fog, mud and rain with no sunlight and that was utterly miserable – and completely different to the true winters we’re used to. We’re currently expecting minus 20 and below.

As usual, my family celebrated Slovak Christmas on the 24th, English Christmas on the 25th and then Ruthenian Christmas on the 6th of January (their New Year’s Eve was this Wednesday).

Finally, I have a Land Rover – a Discovery Mk2 TD5. I’ve wanted a Land Rover since I was a toddler, albeit a LWB Defender, but Discovery was always my second choice. Because of what I actually need it for, the Discovery seemed a much better idea. It’s taking a bit of getting used to – when I’m driving I’m half shaking with nerves and half grinning from ear to ear – as I’ve been driving a low powered saloon for the last 6 years. I still can’t believe I’ve finally got one, and it’s mahoosive.

Just getting the car was an adventure in itself (buying a  car or house out here can be problematic to say the least) and saw me taking a long pre-dawn bus ride through small bush towns and through snow draped countryside, dealing with scary dodgy blokes in big cities, going from police station to police station… but I finally got it. Just need to change the clutch now.

Today, after returning on isolated bush roads from Bardejov, where the boys and I went to buy a new stereo for it, I got to see just what the Discovery is capable of. I hit a  bad patch of ice coming out of a sharp bend and the car slid this way and that with me fighting to rectify it and slow it down. I really thought it was going to flip and then go crashing down a hillside into trees but i managed to swing/slide it across the road into a steep, snow filled ditch on the other side. We came to a stop, in shock, nose facing downwards and with the right rear wheel up in the air. Having come off icy and snowy roads into ditches in several different cars over the years out here, i suddenly realized that the Discovery is way too big to be pulled out by the average passing car and would need a tractor from a nearby village some several kilometres walk away. And then I thought why not see what it can do? I told the boys to stay in the car to weigh their side down and then I put it into low and reversed. It did so, without any effort whatsoever.

I was stunned.

The Discovery reversed on 2, maximum 3, wheels, out of a deep, steep, snow filled drainage ditch. I put it back into high and, with heart still pounding, we drove carefully home on the icy and snow-covered remote roads through the hills. I’ve had way too many adventures with it over the last two days to fill me for a while. For now, I’m content to just watch it from the window.

I’m hoping that this year is a good one and will bring some positive, forward, momentum. And money 🙂

Bushcraft Magazine Autumn Article

Bushcraft Magazine Autumn Article

The Autumn issue of Bushcraft Magazine is out. They’ve included an article of mine on the benefits and techniques of Trail cam usage as both a learning tool for and a moral alternative to trapping.

Go order a copy. As usual, the magazine is beautifully printed. Support real bushcrafters – those dedicated to sustaining ancient skills in the modern world.

Czechoslovak VZ-58 bayonet

Czechoslovak VZ-58 bayonet

Yesterday I was driving into Bardejov when I noticed a village pub having some sort of flea market. Most of the stuff on sale was dire but one bloke had some interesting old military memorabilia. There were quite a few WW2 German badges and some old socialist Czechoslovak uniforms but his big box of bayonets is what caught my attention.

Inside the old box were several bayonets from WW1, mainly of the pig sticker variety, and a few from WW2. However, as an amateur collector of Kalashnikov bayonets I decided to go with a pretty beat up Czechoslovak VZ-58 bayonet. Unlike the Izhvesk Kalashnikov bayonets I have, which are virtually mint, this one has obviously been hammered, reground and the leather scabbard has suffered from mildew. I figured it would make an excellent new bushcraft knife. The VZ-58 was a Kalashnikov clone produced and used in socialist Czechoslovakia, but it used a completely different type of bayonet to the original and other communist country clones.

The seller told me it was from 68 or 69 but I have no way of telling as the inspector’s stamp on the rear of the uniquely styled frog is too worn out. I chose this one over the older variant as it has a full tang which extends into a ‘hammer’ behind the hilt. I intend to use this one in the bush, not merely keep it as a conversation piece.

Old hunting skills for new technology

Old hunting skills for new technology

It is man’s nature to kill, for he is the enemy of all animal life.

AR Harding

Recently, I’ve been reading up on wolf trapping techniques. I have no plan whatsoever to trap wolves but the skills required are virtually the same for using a trail camera. While I’ve already managed to ‘capture’ most of the medium and large mammalian species in my area with my Redleaf RD1000 game camera, there are three species which still elude me – the bear, the raccoon dog and the wolf.

The bear is an occasional visitor and, as they have immense ranges, is almost impossible to catch on a game camera that has a 5 metre range, unless it’s right up next to its den. With the raccoon dog, I ask local hunters, foresters and wildlife photographers for its location but it appears that they’re not using the den they used last year (after 2, perhaps the breeding pair, were shot in the same evening).

I’ve no idea how large the wolf pack in my village is this year, after they were decimated a couple of years back. Last year, in summer, I saw three running up the hill at the back of the house but haven’t seen any since. There is evidence that they’re around again, though. We’ve seen two carcasses of young deer (completely stripped to the bone) in the back fields and, for the last few weeks, the deer and boar have been avoiding the area at the back of us, where normally they graze in large numbers – signs that there are predators around. It’s possible that the large lynx killed the fawns, or even boars, but the herbivore herds have moved and that suggests wolves.

Wolves are extremely intelligent and wary animals, and any sign of human scent will send them running in a different direction. I’ve tried different baits for the camera and, thus far, it never works as intended. Therefore, I decided to read up on the old techniques for trapping these large canids.

Firstly, it is really important to understand that wild animal welfare is a very, very new concept in the history of humanity. It’s like that change in our thinking when the jungle became the rain forest. If you go back to any period in history before the late 1960s then prepare yourself for an extremely different way of viewing nature and its inhabitants. I despise animal cruelty in any form but our forefathers didn’t see their actions as being such. Their concept of political correctness regarding the animal kingdom didn’t stretch farther than:

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 1-26:28, KJV

The actual skills described in books such as Wolf and Coyote Trapping (1909), by AR Harding, are extremely useful and eye opening, and it is amazing to what lengths the old trappers went to disguise their scent or set bait, but their overall view and manner of interacting with the canids they hunted is stomach churning. In one paragraph, Harding quotes a trapper describing the joy and beauty of watching a group of pups playing in the long grass on a hill side and, in the next, his own joy and thrill at climbing into their den and ‘raking’ each pup out with a nailed stick.

Bizarrely, professional trappers still believe themselves to be the guardians of the natural environment and that what they do keeps the ecology in balance – even though most do their job to protect invasive human-introduced sheep and cattle ranches. A good modern example of this philosophy is in the life of Norman Winter, featured in the film ‘The Last Trapper’. It’s a beautiful semi-documentary film but as it never actually shows him trapping or killing, it makes his life seem in perfect harmony of nature. He lives how many, including myself, would like to live, but I wonder if we’d feel the same if the film showed the reality of trapping an animal’s leg for several days until it starves or freezes to death?

I’ll continue my studies as I really want to catalogue the local beasties and I need to upgrade my skills to do so, but this delving into historic and traditional lore is really not easy going. No wonder we are on the verge of the next great extinction.

Parasol Mushroom – start of mushroom season

Parasol Mushroom – start of mushroom season

Last year we had a historic mushroom season. Edible and other fungii grew in unbelievable abundance from the beginning of summer until the start of winter. however, this year is not the same. There are virtually no mushrooms about and it has been forecasted that there won’t be. This is due to two factors – last year it rained all summer and also the fungii basically spored themselves out. it will take years for them to recover in number and strength.

This parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) stood alone where last year there were hundreds.

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.