Dates 1/1/18 to 29/3/18 Area No.2
|Badgers||Numbers and in good condition||14|
|Foxes||Numbers and in good condition||17|
|Muntjac deer||Numbers and in good condition||59|
|Grey squirrel||Numbers and in good condition||95|
|Rabbit||Numbers and in good condition||27|
|Brown Rat||Numbers and in good condition||29|
|Wood mice||Numbers and in good condition||47|
|Otter||Numbers and in good condition
There seems to be 3-4 on multiple visits
|Bank vole||Was being eaten by kestrel at time||1|
In area No.2 we have used 3 trail cams that have be moved on a weekly basis giving an overall reading of the area. 2 trail cams have monitored the area were possible otter sightings may be made and we are using 1 trail cam to monitor the badger sett (not included in survey results).
The weather conditions over this time have ranged from rain, standing snow to damp and the temperature has fallen to below freezing for extended periods.
Foxes and badgers are both unregularly visiting this part of the reserve. The farther you go to the south end of the reserve towards the river Tame the less is seen of them. This lack of numbers may be due to the females being underground with young and the males staying close to their breeding females in both cases at this time of year leaving only the dog fox’s and male badgers at large. There seems to be very little foraging activity by them both in this area, just the occasional visitor. We will see if this is a seasonal thing over the year with spot testing of the previously sampled areas.
The muntjacs continue to graze the site being seen regularly. Any of the young deer we have observed with the females in our past surveying have now become self-sufficient and have left their mothers grazing and wondering by themselves. They are unmistakably young ones. There is still plenty of green foliage on the site for them to eat despite the muntjacs ability to survive on dead leaves if it needs to. The cold temperatures have had no effect on them what so ever come rain, ice or snow.
There are Grey Squirrels in numbers throughout the area as we expected and a healthy population of Rabbits in the wooded and grassy areas of the reserve and both can be seen out feeding throughout the year.
The Wood Mice live in the grassy areas as well as the wooded areas and are in abundant numbers across the surveyed areas up to now. As you move towards the river Tame there is an increasing number of Brown Rats living in the banks and undergrowth. They are active mainly at dawn and dusk but can be seen throughout the day if you are lucky.
We have had 2 Polecats sightings on separate occasions over the last three weeks of testing. A species making a comeback. We must investigate further over the next few months to see if this is a visitor or occupant of Ladywalk.
An unexpected bonus whilst we have been observing this area for the otters was a Water Rail that uses the inlet pipe constantly to access the River Tame.
The Otters at Ladywalk – Feb 2018
The Otters have been the stars of the last few months for us and this is what we have learned. There are 3 possibly 4 otters entering the reserve on a regular basis through the inlet pipe from the river Tame to the trench leading to the Rudd pool before moving off across the reserve. Only one otter exits this way so we hope to pick up the trail of the others at another point in the future.
This area is where we have seen the otters scenting, scratching and rolling and is defined by the large pile of loose grass and spraint that the otters have left. It was noticeable each and every time an otter passed by this area, it smelt and scented this point so must be significant scenting post for them. There is a distinct fixed run worn in the grass on the route that the otters are taking along the grass bank by the trench and looks to have been used for some time.
Otter tracks can be found along the banks of the river and in the wet mud. Unusually in this case showing the webbing photographed on the soft sand by the new inlet. Generally just the pads and claws imprint. They leave 80mm wide strides and when running 300mm – 600mm wide prints.
The otter spraint is irregular sometimes short and rounded pile of droppings. Segments with flattened masses containing fish bones and scales. It is most often found on the banks of streams ponds on logs or rocks in the water. It may when fresh look a greenish colour. This marks the otters range defending its territory and helping neighbours keep in social contact with one another.
Otter behaviour. We have watched this pair of otters involved in vigorous chasing and play fighting, rolling and sliding on and over each other. This went on for quite some time and was very vocal with high pitched squeaks rather than the whickering chatter it makes when threatening. We observed this behaviour over a number of evenings. This is thought to be part of the courtship display. This takes place with the pair staying together for about a week. They can mate on land or in the water. Otters carry their young for 61-63 days but can prolong it for over 9 months and have a litter up to 4 pups. They can mate all year around but mainly in the spring and otters mate for life.
We will continue to monitor the otters. Overtime we will attempt to find more tracks and trails of the otters across the reserve to gather more information on their movements and habits possibly with young in the months to come with luck.
The Badger Sett January – March 2018
There are three distinct setts with many entrances and spoil heaps covering a large area. We will only follow the one sett. We know it is decades old and Is very active by the presence of fresh spoil heaps as well as discarded bedding in the area. There are many individuals of different sizes in this family group using the sett and at this point we have no idea how many. We are and will continue to watching their comings and goings, and looking for identifying features among them. This can be done by comparing size, their white patches vary in size and shape and tail width and lengths as well as scars. We have seen a range of behaviours from scenting, greetings, grooming each other as well as badger politics with posturing, disagreements and disputes.
There is continuous activity across the sett with all local members checking out the activities of their neighbours and inspecting the many sett entrances. Badgers live in complex social groups, which average about five adults. There is usually a slight preponderance of females because of the higher mortality of males in fights and on roads. Only some females breed. Those that do not are generally smaller and more likely to carry scars on their rumps from fights. Cubs of subordinate sows may be killed soon after birth by dominant sows and left outside the sett. During fights badgers often bite each other’s rumps, tearing off chunks of skin and flesh. Males fight in spring and late summer, when they are mating; females throughout the year.
It was great to see badger tracks in the snow with clear outlines of pads and claws. Badgers front feet usually have longer claws than its back foot and the stride varies on the pace the badger is moving as well as its size.
Latrines (dung pits) can as I understand it vary in size, but they are generally around 15cm across and up to 15cm deep as we have found. They will slowly be filled with dung over a period, until almost full, whereupon a new one will be dug nearby. The faeces may also contain evidence as to the badgers diet. Black and slimy, implies a worm-rich diet. However, there may also be evidence of cereal, grains, seeds or even insect casings. It would seem that at this time of year our badgers mainly feast on worms. Badgers will also use their musk and urine spread across their range to mark their territory; so neighbouring clans know where the boundaries lie. This may not apply with more than one sett in such a confined area were boundaries can’t be used effectively.
Regularly used badger tracks through woodland and fields can be recognised by the height of the plants and growth above the tracks. These may have been used for generations and can be found in many areas of the Ladywalk site.
The badgers are extremely sociable with males grooming each other outside the entrance to the sett and scenting by bum rubbing to mix there unique blended scent to distinguish themselves as part of their family group. Outsiders are driven off by fighting and rump biting especially during early spring. This takes place from February which is also when most of the young are born. Females may move their cubs to new nests if disturbed by amorous males. This can be seen from holes with fresh spoil heaps in march.
Sows normally lactate for at least 12 weeks, sometimes considerably longer if food is hard to come by for cubs as they learn to forage. Cubs are usually fully weaned at around 15 weeks. Juveniles often play around the sett particularly leap frog and king of the castle.
The staple food of badgers is usually earthworms which generally make up around 80% of their diet. They can eat several hundred worms each night, but being omnivorous they will eat almost anything, from flesh and fruit to bulbs and bird eggs. They also eat slugs and insects and have a keen sense of smell and sharp claws that can root up grubs from under the soil surface. Fruit also features on the menu, including apples, pears, plums and elderberries – you can often find elder bushes growing near to the setts. They will eat nuts, seeds and acorns along with crops like wheat and sweetcorn.
With the end of one season starts the next and for us the prospect of the start of surveying area 3 over the future months as well as any unexpected subjects of interest that may crop up along the way.
We will continue to monitor the Otters. Overtime we will attempt to find more tracks and trails of the otters across the reserve to gather more information on their movements and habits possibly with young in the months to come with luck.
We intend to continue monitor the badger sett over the next year and possibly on from there to watch their social behaviours and see if the HS2 development has impact on the sett and to what level. We will keep you up to date with what we find as we go along.