Inspiration and hope in these difficult times

What a strange summer this has been all round.

As the country went into lockdown, many people started to reconnect with nature and soon began feeling the benefits, especially to their mental health. Then as the restrictions started to be lifted, we saw images of piles of litter carelessly discarded at beauty spots. It was shocking how quickly some people had forgotten we are also in the midst of an environmental crisis, which is adversely affecting people and nature alike across the globe.

The weather has certainly behaved in an unusual way this year. After six months of torrential rain throughout the winter, we experienced three months of drought on the League’s sanctuaries and then a period of turbulence when the weather changed from day to day. This makes planning difficult for us and impossible for wildlife.

Swallows failed to nest at all on the sanctuaries this summer, as there was no mud for them to build their nests with, whereas some Pied Flycatchers made a second attempt at nesting, on top of previous nests, and managed to successfully raise a brood a month later than normal. Peregrine young fledged from their lofty nest site as usual, but the Goshawks that have been around for the past few years sadly failed. Life is so precarious for many creatures, even the slightest change can make a big difference to them.

Despite promises from the Government the badger cull is being wound down, new culling areas have been opened and the killing continues. In response, the League has been taking the steps to vaccinate as many badgers on the sanctuaries as we can, in partnership with Somerset and Devon Badger Groups.

Fascinating footage from trail cameras set at the vaccination bait sites has revealed they don’t just attract badgers. A whole host of other species are either attracted to the bait or to the other animals. Squirrels and Jays are first to drop by late in the evening for a snack. As it gets dark, Wood Mice and the odd Brown Rat move in, which in turn attract visits from Tawny Owls. When the badgers appear only the Wood Mice are brave enough to continue leaping between them like tiny kangaroos. Once the badgers have left little bait remains, but all the activity still attracts curious fox cubs and even the occasional polecat. It is an incredible nocturnal world that is usually hidden from us.

The Roe Deer rut is drawing to a close, ending the exciting time when Roe bucks become emboldened by a surge in testosterone, as they are led on a merry dance by the females. It is a pertinent reminder that humans are just mammals too. Meanwhile, the Red Deer stags have regrown their antlers and they are moving back onto the sanctuaries in time for their autumn rut.

Despite everything nature has to contend with, it is always there to give us inspiration and hope, which is especially important in these difficult times.

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