St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 15th August 2012 – Three sharp-eyed mice

Weather: sunny intervals, warm, humid.
Observers: Linda, Tom, Kaye, Rangers and Park Volunteers

The regular Wednesday walk was suspended to enable us to attend a small mammal identification workshop run by Ann Hanson of the Yorkshire Mammal Group.

Birds: there were a few, but frankly we weren’t watching carefully enough. Wood Pigeons attracted a certain amount of comment, and one or two Magpies were about.  Bullfinches were heard in two locations but not seen, and a Blackcap’s alarm call was heard from Osbaldwick Beck. Arriving early, Kaye met a pair of Great Tits along the main path, and noted but failed to count a party of Canada Geese flying north-west. Six again. Ian might have made it seven by identifying a pair of finches seen briefly in flight. A Tawny Owl was reported calling from the north-east corner of the reserve on Tuesday evening,  possibly protesting at having its supper interrupted – see below. A further record comes from the Thursday evening bat walk.

Mammals: fifty Longworth traps set on Tuesday night in five locations yielded three Wood Mice (or Long-Tailed Field Mice), each from a different area.

A good site for a trap

Ann explained how to set traps safely, demonstrated correct handling, weighed and sexed the animals (a mature male, a juvenile male and a pregnant female) and took a small fur sample to contribute to a genetic study. We had an opportunity to look at them close up before releasing them as near as possible to where they were caught. Two live trapping surveys last year, and another earlier this month have all yielded nothing but small numbers of Wood Mice.

Wood Mouse ready for release

Ann was not entirely surprised – although she thinks the habitat has good potential and has good green corridor links to other sites, fifteen years turns out not to be all that long for small mammals with quite a small range to colonise new territories. In a presentation afterwards, she suggested that it would be worth attempting a different kind of survey to check for Water Shrews along the Becks.

Invertebrates: It could have been a good day for more systematic butterfly-spotting. We briefly noted a Gatekeeper, plus one or two Whites, a Skipper and a Blue, none of them further identified.  Two Peacocks were the first seen close-up since spring, and we recorded our first Green-veined White of the season.

Plants: the overall impression today was of the yellow of Tansy and Ragwort with the white of Yarrow and Hedge Bindweed. Field Scabious is lasting well at the boundary end of the Butterfly Walk, and there are still plenty of Buddleia flowers.

To be identified...

The Willow-herbs and Thistles are starting to go to seed, and we noticed a few ripening Sloes. A particularly fine grass species in one of the trapping sites has still to be firmly identified. From here on, we need to play a game of catch-up: looking systematically for flowers we saw or thought we saw last year, to establish whether they are still present or might have been wrongly identified. If anyone has noticed Foxgloves, or Evening Primrose outside the Centre garden, reports would be much appreciated.

17 August 2012 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: green-veined white, tawny owl, woodmouse