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Our Great British wildlife has played a part of my life since the age of 4. For many years I have watched and studied how all kinds of creatures act and live. But finding, watching and photographing these animals can and does take years. We are not blessed with woodlands meadows here in the Fens and very much dought if there's are any natural places left. I find it essential to try and find animals out in their natural habitats and not in nature reserve like Wicken Fen that is some 30 miles away; those places are just not the real world to me and never will be.
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One of the UK's most endearing creatures, it is Selden seen and never heard and is now rare. The hog is a gardener's best friend. European hedgehogs will eagerly hoover up those pesky bugs and slugs. It is covered in prickly spines and mostly comes out at night and will hibernate in winter. It has been noted that Hedgehogs are now being seen throughout the year and I see this too. Seeing these creatures out and about in mid-January is a worry. As the climate is changing so are their habits, but some of their food isn't evolving.
Length 15-30cm, Weight up to 2kg, Average lifespan 2-3 years. If you are placing food out for the Hogs, water and cat food is best and not bread like I did, after learning that bread causes them issues I soon stopped.
Photos; garden only; sightings; 7 in 20 years
The Adder (Vipera Berus)
Englands only venomous snake, this stunning snake can be found across the UK and mainly in heathland and open woodlands. On a warm springtime day, you may be lucky to see one sunbathing in a free patch within heather and mostly out the wind.
They can grow to around 55-60sm (21-23in) long. The female is larger than the male. These snakes give birth to live young and not eggs like many reptiles. I only see one or two of these beautiful creatures a year, the scare easily but will come out of hiding if you are patient enough and will even approach you.
Photos; woodlands; sightings; 4 in 20 years but these are tricky to find.
Grass Snake (Natrix Natrix)
The snake in the grass is one of those animals that to some looks scary yet this snake will slip away into the undergrowth rather than try and act tough. It is none venomous, lays eggs, it can swim and doesn something rather funny if you are careful they will come to you. I've had a few of slowly come up to the camera's lens and taste the air with their forked tongue, its almost coming to say hi and it is a joy to watch.
They are widespread, but I have never seen them in the Cambridgeshire fens drains but in Bedfordshire they were abundant if you knew where to look. They can be found mostly around the edges of lakes but also out in woodlands hunting toads, frogs and small animals. On a chilly day, you likely to see them sunbathing on logs, on tree branches, in patches of open grass and always out of the wind. They will let you close if you move slowly and peacefully but make a noise and they will move away, often at speed.
Photos; lake edges; sightings; 50+ in 20 years
Great Created Newts (Triturus cristatus)
A rather rare and exciting amphibian and one that seemed abundant within my garden, after heavy rain soon after moving to the farm in Bedfordshire I became aware they were there.
Having the opportunity to watch and learn what these cute little creatures got up to at night was interesting. My home had a small stone wall just 12 inches tall with a lowered pathway to my home's door, when the rains came the path would flood, and when it flooded the newt would turn up, often in numbers. I would watch with interest what they got up to but didn't know what they were doing until one night; I found one eating large earth worn. And this was the only thing they hunted, the worms would come out the side of the wall, and the newts knew it, I was shocked that these little creatures that lived in the pond some 50 yards away knew when it rained they would find food, yet the pond was full of life. My studies reviled that o photograph them, they liked a tickle under the chin and would seek cover under leaves. After moving back to the Cambridgeshire Fens, I haven't seen any and never likely too.
Photos; garden wall only; sightings; 40+ in 3 years but maybe the same newts
Hares (Lepus capensis)
The boxing March hares (Lepus capensis), often seen out in the open ad nit that sociable and the GTI version of the much slower rabbit. The males weigh around 8lb or 3.6 kg and can be seen on farmland and amongst dunes and in woodlands. I have seen many out the fields of Norfolk but hardly any int eh wide open Fenland countryside, seems very strange, this may be due to the amount of habitat loss.
The agile hare, with all its speed and aggression, can sometimes full like a boxer knocked out in the first round, I stood there and watched one run, only to trip over and tumble end over end. It was one of those moments that make makes you laugh, and even the very best takes a dive, it felt like I was watching a football match haha.
Photos; Norfolk, seems many but not so many in the Fens; sightings; all over
The Common Frog (Rana Temporatria)
Well, not so common in my local area, we are struggling to keep these poor creatures alive, with their number declining in recent years. In 2019 when the ditches should be singing with frogs croaking has become silent, breeding numbers in 2018 were just seven, now down to only three and the reason, far too much agriculture, the use of pesticides and careless people filling the ditches with rubbish.
Frogs are one of the most fun creatures you will likely come across. How the look makes me laugh every time, look closely, and you will soon find out, either they have a smile on their face or will look snobbish and when spawning the males will chase anything that moves thinking its a female.
Photos; all garden; sightings garden only; terrible decline and I fare for these creatures future, just three breeding pairs in 2019; no tadpole survived.
The Fantastic Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
To some people, the red fox is an evil vermin which kills livestock and is hunted with packs of hounds by the posh snobbery by the English high society, but in my eyes, the real vermin are those people hunting the defenceless fox for a so-called blood sport.
Like most animals in the Fens, the fox seems to be extinct, and I thought I would never see any until I moved to Bedfordshire. Some old local Barnes that were left to ruin was home to all kinds of birds and aninal, from barn owls, little own and of course the foxes which at the time I didn't know they were there.
One Sunday afternoon on my barn owl watch for the RSPB I heard so noises in a small runied shed, so I sat down wondering what it was, only to get the shock of my life, to see my first ever fox cub was something special. I won't lie; it brought ties to my eyes. There was a lump of grass just in front of me, so I laid down and watched as these cubs played and relaxed in the afternoon sun. I wanted photos to record this rare moment in my life but didn't want to upset the cubs. I started to take a few shots, and each time the Cubs heard the shutter they would stop and look, I found this cute and funny. I never did see the adults. Also with all animals I find and photograph I never pass on their location or take others to see where they are, for the safety of the animals which is paramount.
Photos; old barn in Bedfordshire; sightings sadly just one in the Fens in 43 years, in Bedfordshire would see one or two every few weeks.
Seals of the Marsh Washes
Seals are one of those animals that have always been around the Lincolnshire wash marshes nature reserve yet not in the numbers I have seen over the last ten years also. A new colony had sprung up along the river Nene. Often at high tide, you will see them past Sutton Bridge port. On rare occasions, you may find one or two hunting small fish within the river, and this gives lovely photos and a closer look at how they hunt. I have never been along the Norfolk coast to see them around Bleakney point. There are boat trips where you get to see the seals close up.
Photos; nene river Lincolnshire; sightings seesm ok and can be seen along the North Sea, will see them often when out walking along the river Nene.
The Deers of Dersingham Bog
Where there are woodlands and forests, you liable to see a few deers and Dersingham bog is no exception. Dersingham Bog is part of the Sandringham estate West Norfolk, the Queen's estate, (well it is ok for some to own that much land hey!). It once was a vast pine forest, but around 20 also years ago it was made into a wetland costing millions. The goal was to bring rare birds and plants to the are but sadly things haven't gone to plan, after talking to one of the wardens there, he stated that the effort to bring particular creature there had caused the loss of most of the natural wildlife there. That proves my point that you can't control nature and when you upset that delicate balance all the money in the world won't make any difference.
There Used to be many deer there, they would wander around the reserve, but I hardly see any now. They are there but in smaller numbers, the best times to see them are at dawn, often crossing the wetland part of the Bog. As for bird life they have taken a turn for the worse, hardly seeing or hearing any nowadays. They have been talking for the last few years about closing the nature reserve to people because of the mess they have made themselves. A real embarrassment for the woodland trust!
Photos; Dersingham Bog; will see them often in Norfolk and one or two in the Fens.
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