Cats are a worry. On the one hand we want to let them come and go as they please so they can go out, play, chase mice, climb trees, and be cats. The trouble is, they go out, play, chase mice, climb trees, and get into all sorts of scrapes. Being cats.
The real worry is not seeing them for days on end though. Brothers Willow and Mr Mittens like the summer. In the summertime, when the weather is fine, they go and talk to the students, pretending to be unloved and unfed. It’s only by putting webcams on their feeding bowls and bed that we realised they still lived with us.
On a recent holiday we left the cats at home with a homesitter as normal. But on four separate days we had phone calls from Chapel Heights, from alarmed students who’d found Willow mooching around their flats. As the crow flies Chapel Heights is only a few hundred metres from our house, but it’s near a busy dual carriageway and Willow doesn’t have any road sense.
I’ve tried a tech approach. Tile works ok. But its range is short and its use is limited. So now I’m trying another tech approach.
You’d think there’d be tons of tech for monitoring your pets. And there is, but it’s still a maturing market and there’s a long way to go. Trackers for dogs seem a lot more common than those for cats, which makes a lot of sense. The devices are still quite bulky and cats a quite small.
Half an hour ago I attached a Findster Duo to Willow’s collar. It’s light, but bulky, but he seems ok with it. I took it off its supplied strap and threaded Willows collar onto it directly. Let’s see how it goes.
Watching the Kittiwakes at Marsden Rock. Still lots of nest-building going on. Or is it maintenance? Lots of birds sitting on nests. It was very entertaining watching the mid-air acrobatics as the birds ‘negotiate’ over nesting material ownership. They reminded me of aircraft dogfights.
Most of the Kittiwakes I’ve seen have been from the Level 4 viewing terrace at BALTIC so it was interesting to see so many different viewing angles. The distinctive black legs of the Kittiwake are clearly visible.
For a few days I had a motion-sensitive webcam on the blue tit nestbox. It was a neat set-up but the usual problems of false-postives were too much of a headache to solve. Apart from dappled sunlight shadows being sensed as motion the tree itself would sway gently in the wind, as can be seen in the video clip below.
While fast-forwarding through chunks of nothing-happeningness I stumbled across this rather grim segment. I’m assuming that it’s a parent bird clearing out a dead chick. One of its own. It did occur to me it might be predation by another adult blue-tit but I’m not sure if Blue Tits do that.
Here’s a still taken at the time the adult takes out the dead chick. That was Saturday (three days ago). I’ve not noticed much, if any activity since then so perhaps it’s a failed nest.
[Vimeo and Flickr comparisons so duplicate videos]
The best wildlife sightings are the ones that are least expected. We’ve lived in Durham for over 10 years and knew that Otter and Kingfisher are sometimes seen on the river. But despite spending a lot of time running and wandering around the riverbanks I’ve not managed to catch a glimpse.
However about a month ago, on a cool sunny February evening around dusk, I was running along the river path near to Baths Bridge. Out of the corner of my eye (as they say on Most Haunted), I thought I saw something. It was the briefest of glimpses but I was pretty certain I’d seen an otter. I fished my iPhone out of my bum bag, walked slowly to a good vantage point, and waited. Sure enough:
All these years of vigilance, and when I least expect it, an otter. Unfazed by the people around. And apparently fishing.
My excitement and slightly odd behaviour was becoming noticeable and while some walkers gave me a suspicious look and wide berth, many others realised what I was watching, and before long little clusters of people were staring and pointing their smartphones at the river.
Any thoughts at a structured training run had long been abandoned and I continued to parallel walk alongside the otter which seemed completely unconcerned at the audience it had attracted.
I was beginning to recognise its behaviour by now and found that often there was a tiny tell-tale trail of air bubbles that would give a clue to where it might surface again. It seemed to be steadily meandering its way upriver to Baths Bridge.
My final sighting was on the racecourse side of Baths Bridge. I’d seen the otter head onto the riverbank and so I stood and waited. I could see it heading straight towards me and I resisted any temptation to move or try and get into a better position. At the last moment it saw me, and headed down the bank and into the river, as much startled by me as the cyclists and walkers who chatted by about the same time.
A magical few minutes. Totally unexpected, and all the more special because of it.