Something Cheesy

House Mouse Mus musculus

Now … where did I put that cheese?

House Mouse Mus musculus

Ah-ha … I have sniffed it and now I spy it!

House Mouse Mus musculus

Yum-yum in my tum …

House Mouse Mus musculus

… but I think I prefer the seed the feathered things drop from above …. squeak!

Here I have tried to capture a few moments in the life of a House Mouse (Mus musculus) … or mice … as I have seen a few of them under my birdfeeder where they have been grabbing the white heart sunflower seeds the finches drop.

They were quite funny to watch. I sat in a garden chair barely a couple of arms lengths away, and every time they appeared from beneath the flora I tried to snap them they ran for cover! They knew I was there, watching them, but I think they were curious about me and it became a bit of a game with them. Eventually they appeared in the open and they did their thing … which was eat … and eat some more …

September 2019 © Pete Hillman.

Living Amongst The Trees

Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer

Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis, June 2018, local field, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman. Sigma 18-300mm lens.

Cheeky Chappy

Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis

This cheeky one was sitting on my garden fence until I poked my camera in its direction and it promptly jumped into my neighbour’s garden amongst their lights fitments.

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), September 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Morning Fox On The Roof

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes

Early this morning as I got up for work I looked out my bedroom window. What should I see on my garage roof? A beautiful young fox. I barely managed to open the blinds enough to get a reasonable few shots in, and dared not open the window, so these were taken through glass. It was quite a nervous young thing, especially when my camera shutter made a few noises, and she or he looked directly down my lens.

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes

There must be something about my garage roof, for every once in a while I find a fox up there.

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) rear garden, Staffordshire, England. September 2017.

The Kid On The Great Orme

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme kid

Here he or she is just coming into view. Full of spring, full of life, hardly ever keeping still. Always on the move with poor nanny not far behind, ensuring he or she does not get into any serious bother, like falling off the edge of the cliff.

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme kid

Stopping for a chobble, or doing one of those old western tough guy impressions. ” Howdy partner.”

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme kid

Off again …

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme kid

I wouldn’t go that way though if I were you … thank goodness for nanny!

Edit: This is the kind of trouble they can get into …

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme, Llandudno. April 2017.

The Great Orme Goats

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme

Even from a distance one can spot the goats which roam wild on the rugged headland of the Great Orme. I am always amazed how none of them slip off over the edge of the perilous high cliffs as they wander near the edges to fall to their deaths. We came across a small group of these Kashmiri Goats, some of them just relaxing and sitting down on the grass, others nonchalantly chewing on it. None appeared bothered by the two-legged beasties which made strange noises as we snapped photos of them.

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme

The ancestors of these goats once roamed the mountains of Northern India, Kashmir, and there are around 200 strong here now on this Welsh headland, which has been their home since they were bought over sometime in the middle of the 19th century. The numbers are controlled and watched over, otherwise they would get out of hand.

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme

Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme, Llandudno. April 2017.

A Brief Moment With Bright Eyes

Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

A little further along the Great Orme coastal path this little one bounded out of the scrub. It allowed me a brief few moments into its life in the wild before it hopped out of view.

Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017

Welsh Rabbit

Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

No, not cheese on toast, but a bunny from Llandudno with a beautiful seaview home who was just so chilled out on his front porch he didn’t want to move even though I was but a stone’s throw away snapping my camera and saying how cute he was.

Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017

Mr Badger Pays a Visit

This was taken some years ago when I had the most fortunate experience of having this extraordinary badger visit me over a fairly long period. I often wonder what ever became of him, but cherish these once in a lifetime moments.

You can learn more of my experience through my Badger Diary.

You can learn more about badgers by clicking on the image below:

European Badger (Meles meles)

Over Tree World

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Photograph of Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), taken December 2016, local woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Golden Light On A Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

I love the way the afternoon lowering winter sun turns everything into a golden glow. On my walk this afternoon I heard the squirrels calling across the woods, then spotted this one bathed in gold.

Photograph of Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), taken December 2016, local woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Mr Badger #2

European Badger (Meles meles)

This is probably the very last photograph of the badger who used to regularly come and pay me a visit during 2012 and 2014.

Photograph of European Badger (Meles meles), taken August 2013, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Fox Upon The Roof #2

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

About an hour ago I had a wonderful visitor who looked wet through to the bone after a heavy night’s rainfall, and looked a little worse for wear with what looks like a dirty cobweb strewn across his or her nose.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

I photographs this young Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) through the glass of my bedroom window as it walked across my garage roof, sat down for a short while, before moving off. I was afraid of opening the window for fear of frightening it off, as it already appeared somewhat skittish.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

It has been some years since I have been able to photograph one of these wonderful creatures, so I was quite happy indeed.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Photograph taken of Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) August 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Garden Tea Party For Squirrels

Photographs of Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis),  taken August 2016, Bournemouth Winter Gardens, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

More of Mr Badger

European Badger (Meles meles)

The image above was my very first encounter with a real life badger, and the very first photograph I took one late night back in the summer of 2012 in my own backyard. I was so unbelievably excited I dared not open the sliding patio door for fear the noise would frighten it off, and although I knew flash through glass was a bad idea, nevertheless I gave it a go and the result is the mysterious image we have above.

The following nights I got bolder, and opened up the door to the patio just enough to get my camera lens through, and managed to get the photographs you see here.

They were all originally took in colour, but I felt as nighttime photographs and because of the subject black and white suited them better.

Over the months Mr Badger, as I had began to call him, although I was not really sure of his sex, had grown bolder, too, and he was getting used to my presence, and he allowed me close observation of his nocturnal wanderings of my backyard.

For more photographs and information on this magnificent mammal please visit my posts below:

European Badger (Meles meles)

The Badger Diary

Not For The Squeamish

Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus)

I observed these rats come out of undergrowth to feed on bird seed which had been dislodged from a feeding point on a nature reserve. I was surprised how many there was, and all appearing in an orderly fashion, some following one behind the other.

Also called the ‘Common Rat’ or ‘Norway Rat’, these rodents are very good swimmers and divers, and fair climbers. They spend quite a lot of time washing and grooming themselves. The female can give birth to 6-11 pups, and can have up to 5 litters in a year. They are predated on by cats, foxes and owls, which tend to go for the young. The Brown Rat is an intelligent creature, and one of the most successful followers of humans for thousands of years, eating, breeding, and nesting amidst the population.

As omnivores, they eat seeds, plants, fruit, human food, mice, birds, eggs, fish and carrion. They can live up to 18 months

Brown rats are found in towns and cities, on farms, rubbish tips, in sewers, warehouses and storehouses, waterways, and also in hedgerows, wasteland, and agricultural fields. They live in large colonies in tunnels which maybe used for generations. Originally introduced to Britain from Asia in the 18th century, they are a common and widespread species.

Photographs taken October 2012, parkland, Staffordshire.

Fox Upon The Roof

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Some years ago I discovered foxes favoured my garage roof to relax. I would look out of my bedroom window, and to my surprise I would see them just chilling out and warming themselves in the golden rays of sunlight.

This was rather unusual to see as the foxes around here are normally quite shy and wary of humans, and are only seen at night.

But here they was, and for a few days after, months and years they would appear in exactly the same spot on the garage roof.

Even a new generation came to partake in this leisurely pursuit …

And maybe the same one a few months later …

The Red Fox has reddish fur with a long bushy tail and white undersides. The head is long and pointed with large ears which are extremely sensitive, and they can hear a mouse squeak at a distance of 100m.

They live in family groups, mainly establishing stable home ranges by marking their territories with urine. The group is led by a mated pair which monopolise breeding, and the subordinates in a group are usually the young of the pair. Subordinate foxes help in rearing vixen kits, and when they are old enough and the provision is there they will leave their family unit to win a territory of their own to enable their own reproductive cycle. They reproduce once a year in the spring, where the vixen gives birth to a litter of four to six cubs which are blind to begin with. The male helps brings food to the den until they are independent at between three to five months. The den maybe within thick vegetation or amongst dense tree roots. Foxes will also burrow into hillsides and live beneath the earth, especially in harsh winter conditions. Burrows can be up to 2.5 metres deep, formed with interconnecting tunnels and cave system. The main passage can be up to 17 metres in length. The city fox scavenges for food amongst the human waste we leave behind in bins or as litter on the ground, but it will also predate on pet rabbits and guinea pigs left outside in cages when it can. It will also hunt down wild animals such as rodents and leporines. As omnivores, they will also feed on insects and fruit, and even earthworms. They can live up to 10 years.

This solitary nocturnal hunter is rarely seen in the daytime where it lies amongst dense vegetation, instead preferring the shelter of the dark to hunt and prowl the countryside or urban streets. They are a common and widespread species.

Photographs taken February 2009 and August and November 2011, in rear garden sunning on garage roof, Staffordshire.

Bank Vole

Myodes glareolus

I came across this little vole on the bank of a local canal as I looked over an aged, arched bridge. And there it was, nibbling on bits of bread which folk had put out for the birds.

Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus)

The Bank Vole is one of Britain’s smallest voles. It has a reddish-chestnut coloured coat and a dirty white underside. Similar to the Field Vole (Microtus agrestis), but the Bank Vole has a greyer coat, a longer tail (under half the length of its body), and larger ears. Head and body length 8-12cm.

They make their nests in shallow burrows beneath the earth which they line with leaves, grass, moss or feathers. The females have litters of up to three to five blind young between April and October. They can live up to 18 months. Bank Voles are active day or night, and they forage for food for fairly long distances. They feed on grass, roots, fruit, seeds, insects and earthworms. They are good climbers and will climb up vegetation to eat fruit.

They are found in broadleaf woodland, scrubland, hedgerows, and sometimes well established gardens. They are native to Great Britain, and are common and widespread.

Photographs taken September 2011, by local canal bridge, Staffordshire.

Grey Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis

There are many of these Grey Squirrels living in the local woods, and I have seen a squirrel carrying a bunch of leaves in its mouth (see photo below) which it had gathered to build a nest with. As the name suggests, the Grey Squirrel mainly has grey fur, but it can also have a reddish colour. It has a white underside and a large bushy tail from which it get its genus name from. It maybe confused with the Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), but it is smaller, has bright chestnut fur and has become the rarer species of the two.

It builds a drey (squirrel nest) in a tree, although nests in roofs in towns. The female has two litters a year, producing up to seven young on each occasion. Its favourite food is hazelnuts and acorns, but also eats unripe cones from which it extracts the seeds. Food stores are built up in the autumn so it can eat during the winter months as it does not hibernate. They can live up to 9 years.

It is found in woodland, parks and gardens. It was originally a native species of the United States, and was introduced into Britain in the late 19th century and has now replaced the native Red Squirrel throughout most of England and Wales. It is common and widespread throughout much of lowland Britain. The Grey Squirrel is considered quite a pest by many, and it can cause severe damage to trees by stripping the bark to feed off the sap beneath.

Acrobatic Squirrel

Although I live near woodland, oddly enough I do not get many visits from squirrels in the garden as I thought I might. However, on this occasion, I did get a visit from a Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) which did quite a balancing act to get at the peanuts I had left for the birds on my feeder!

Photographs taken January 2012, rear garden, Staffordshire.

European Badger

Meles meles

I first discovered I had this very special visitor to my garden in July 2012. The badger is a fascinating animal to watch, and I count myself most fortunate to have experienced these most amazing encounters. I would lay out some peanuts and grapes on my patio, and wait patiently for it to come and pay me a visit during the dark hours. I would have to switch on my garden security light and have the patio door open a crack so I could take the photos here. ‘Mr Badger’, I had come to call him (although I was not entirely sure of its sex) got quite used to the light and to me being so close to it. At times I was just a few feet or so from him.

He visited regular right the way up until Boxing Day of that year, and then afterwards there was no sign of him until the following spring. I knew badgers didn’t hibernate in winter, although they went into a kind of torpor, and with the fat reserves they had been building up they did not always venture far from their setts. However, I did wonder whether Mr Badger had met an unfortunate end, especially as he probably had to cross some busy roads during his night travels. But in the spring of 2013, and to my sheer joy and excitement, I saw signs of him in my garden once again, and then I spied him foraging for food and eating peanuts I left out for him.

Mr Badger continued to visit right up until late December again, until he vanished until the following spring once again. I saw him briefly in March 2014, and have not seen him since. In the spring of 2014 Mr Badger had apparently been displaced by a Mr or Mrs Fox, who appeared to take up his spot for the remainder of the year, eating peanuts I placed out, until he or she vanished never to be seen as 2015 opened its doors.

Badgers belong to the weasel family Mustelidae. They are powerful mammals with large heads, and strong legs and claws, well suited for digging and burrowing into the earth. Their jaws are powerful enough to crush most bones, and the Badger is one of the few predators to be able to kill and eat hedgehogs. They live in excavated tunnels which they build by burrowing into the earth, and which are called setts. They are made up of tunnels and chambers, which can be at several levels,  in which they hide in during the day. They use grass and other vegetation to line their setts which they use as bedding. Setts can extend over hundreds of square meters, and up to twenty-four adults and cubs may share a sett, which make them quite social creatures. Females usually give birth in February after mating the previous spring, and they may have up to three cubs.

An early name for badger was ‘brock’ from Old English, and within the roots of etymology means ‘to construct’, making a reference to the badgers building of underground setts where they live most of their lives. The name we use today is most likely to be from the French ‘bêcheur’, meaning ‘digger’, which was introduced during William the Conqueror’s reign. As omnivores, they mainly feed on earthworms and large insects, cereals, fruit, and occasionally small animals such as hedgehogs and rodents. They will raid bees nests to feast on their honey. They can live up to 16 years.

They are found in deciduous woodland, fields and pastures, and  in urban habitats such as gardens. During the winter they are less active, but do not hibernate, but emerge in milder climes to forage for food. They emerge from their setts during dusk and use the shelter of night to hunt and search for food. Badgers are widespread throughout Great Britain, but are scarcer in Scotland. There are thought to be up to 300,000 badgers in the UK, from which they have benefited an increase in the last ten years. They are a native species, common, and they and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

Photographs taken July & October 2012, and April 2013, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Field Vole

Microtus agrestis

I was getting some excercise and walking along the margin of a local farmer’s field when I caught a glimpse of this lovley little Field Vole dart across my path. How I managed to keep my eyes on it I don’t know, but I tracked it into the field to get this single photograph of it. It was very difficult for me at the time for I had badly broken my right wrist and it was strapped up, and the Field Mouse was so quick it soon vanished amongst the vegetation.

Also called the ‘Short-tailed Vole’, it has brownish fur with pale greyish undersides, and a short tail. Similar to the Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus), which has darker, more chestnut coloured fur, a longer tail and larger ears. Head and body length 9-13cm. Tail length 2.5-4.5cm.

It makes shallow burrows underground, and forms runways through the grass marking a trail made by an unpleasant smell, which birds of prey can detect via the UV light which emits from the trails. They breed rapidly, with four or five litters between March and December. The Field Vole is an important food source to a large number of meat eaters, such as owls, kestrels, foxes, and stoats. It mainly feeds on roots and grasses, but will also scavenge for food, and eat tree bark in the winter. It can live up to 2 years.

Found in dunes, moorland, woodland, hedgerows. It likes damp grassy places like marshes or river banks. A native species and locally common over much of Great Britain.

Photograph taken March 2012, local field, Staffordshire.

House Mouse

Mus musculus

House mice have grey-brown fur, large pink ears, and a hairless tail which is as long as its head and body. Compared to similar mice, they have narrower heads and small eyes. Head and body length 6-10cm. Tail length as long as the head and body.

The female House Mouse has five to ten litters of four to eight pups in a year, and may produce up to forty young in a lifetime. They are mainly nocturnal creatures, but can also be active during the day. They can climb and swim fairly well, and live in family groups. They make nests in buildings by chewing paper or the like, and natural habitats they live in a small burrow in the soil. Not only do cats predate on them, but also barn owls, stoats, weasels and rats. They are killed by severe cold in the winter, and are trapped and killed as pests. Their sense of sight is poor, but their senses of smell, touch, taste and hearing are acute. They do not hibernate, and are seen all year round. They feed on grain and fruit, insects and other invertebrates. They can live up to 18 months.

They are found in association with human occupation, such as houses, food stores, farm buildings, rubbish tips, sheds and outbuildings, shops, factories, warehouses, gardens, open fields and hedgerows. They were originally from Asia, and were introduced to Britain via trading during the Iron Age. Abundant and widespread throughout.

Photographs taken September 2012, February 2014 and March 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. In March 2016 I saw two house mice by my bird feeder scurrying around a flower border. There were small holes in the ground which they kept jumping in when my camera shutter made a noise, but they soon got used to it and they were hardly bothered by it in a short while. They appeared to be gathering small twigs and bits of plant debris, perhaps to make a nest.  I hadn’t got my zoom lens with me, only my macro lens, but I manged to get within a couple of feet of them to get a few shots off.