Worcestershire Mammal Group

Promoting mammals in Worcestershire

A Quiet Celebration of Otters!

It is wonderful to see so much interest in our otters at the moment, with WMG Chair Poppy Morris describing her thrilling sighting of one near Tewkesbury on 9th January.  Back in September I saw an otter in the River Severn close to Upton-upon-Severn on consecutive Sunday mornings; and earlier in 2018 I watched one fishing in a farm pond near Colwall.  In Malvern, there have been reports of one or more otters visiting garden ponds at night to take fish. These local sightings fit the national pattern of more people enjoying views of otters as the species recovers from the pesticide-induced decline that started in the late 1950s.  We lost otters from Worcestershire between the early 1970s and the mid-1980s, when spraints were once again found on the Severn and its tributaries as otters began to spread back downstream through Shropshire from the Welsh borders.  By 2011, otters were reportedly back in every county in England.  So, there is much to celebrate; but there is also much to learn and be wary of, because not everyone welcomes the otter’s recovery.

Following some cunning research to identify the cause of the otter’s decline from a long list of candidates, the current recovery was triggered simply by phasing out the toxic organochlorine pesticides that were introduced to British agriculture in the 1950s.  Now otters are well and truly back; and in Worcestershire it is likely that every river, canal and stream – as well as many isolated water bodies like lakes and ponds – support otters or are visited by them either frequently or occasionally; even tiny watercourses and ditches may now be used by otters, especially if they lead to isolated ponds and other wetlands supporting potential prey such as spawning amphibians.  One reason for this extensive re-occupation of our watery habitats is because otters are territorial, with individuals defending linear territories that may be many kilometres long.  Where the best territories are all taken, surplus individuals are pushed away from the main rivers and streams occupied by dominant otters, and this probably explains why otters are increasingly reported from unusual situations such as garden ponds.  This ‘doomed surplus’ sector of the otter population, forced to scratch a semi-nomadic living in sub-optimal habitats where mortality risks are higher (e.g. from road casualties), is likely to have a much lower survival rate and poorer breeding success than those otters holding territories in optimal habitat.

The current increase in live sightings of otters has two causes, one is simply numerical and one is behavioural: firstly, more otters means more potential for direct encounters with people; secondly, a reduction in direct persecution of otters has encouraged the species to regard we humans as less of a threat than previously.  So, otters are now more willing to forage in full view of a quietly watching person than would have been the case 50 years ago prior to legal protection (but they remain very wary of dogs – perhaps a legacy of the long history of otter-hunting with hounds in Britain). But this greater tolerance of humans brings a vulnerability to illegal killing that we should be aware of.  Some sectors of the angling community resent the otter’s recovery and wrongly assume that it will lead to a wide-scale decline in fish stocks; also, keepers of expensive ornamental fish such as koi carp are, understandably, not pleased when a hungry otter thins out their precious stock by night.

Through trusted contacts in Natural England and the Environment Agency, I know that otters are being deliberately killed in parts of southern England, supposedly ‘to protect fish stocks’.  This is illegal and, in the context of a widespread, fully recovered otter population, the least intelligent and least effective response to this type of conflict (whether real or perceived).  For any otter removed from its territory will be quickly replaced by a member of the ‘doomed surplus’ constantly on the lookout for a vacant territory, so any such ‘solution’ is bound to be temporary.  More intelligent and much more sustainable (and legal) is to seek lasting solutions to genuine conflicts, such as fencing otters out of isolated water bodies if their predation of fish has a genuine, proven impact on human or commercial interests (most of which are recreational, it has to be said).  Regrettably, illegal approaches to controlling predation are part of the teething pains surrounding the recovery of predators in Britain.  Like turning an oil tanker, it is taking a long time for some to bend to ecological wisdom and embrace the positive ecosystem benefits of our native predators; equally, there is still reluctance to adopt modern, sustainable solutions.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate the widespread return of our otters to Worcestershire and the thrilling encounters we might now enjoy; but let’s do it in ways that don’t infuriate those who are struggling to appreciate the otter’s recovery; and let’s make sure we don’t reveal details that might add to the risks of illegal killing. Finally, when hoping to spot a live otter, do bear in mind that, because most otters occupy very large territories, you need a large dose of luck to be sitting quietly in the right place to encounter one.

Mammal Records from Owl Pellets

Whilst live-trapping small mammals is useful because we can target specific sites, and exciting because it enables us to see and handle live creatures up close, there are significant downsides that we should not ignore: trapping is invasive and probably stressful for the mammals because it interferes with their movements while they are confined in traps: and it is quite labour-intensive for we humans.  These constraints should encourage us to look for alternative sources of small mammal records and, fortunately, there are some available in the form of the pellets regurgitated by avian predators such as owls.

Our two most widespread owls, the Tawny and Barn Owl, both forage for small mammals up to the size of a young Brown Rat.  Conveniently, Tawnies tend to hunt in tree-dominated habitats such as woodland, while Barn Owls forage mostly in open habitats such as rough grassland and wetlands such as fen and reedbeds; so, together they sample small mammals over a wide range of habitats. Adult owls swallow their small mammal prey whole without any chewing, so when the undigestible fur and bones are regurgitated as a pellet, this contains the undamaged skeletons of the prey neatly wrapped in a protective furry matrix.  This is what makes owl pellets so valuable to us mammal recorders, for it is not difficult to identify most small mammals from their skulls.

Each owl produces one or two pellets after a night’s foraging, and each pellet may contain the remains of two or more small mammals (my personal record is a huge Barn Owl pellet from a Scottish barn that contained ten small mammals!).  Typically, a large sample of owl pellets will contain abundant remains of Apodemus mice (Wood Mice or Yellow-necked Mice), Bank Voles, Field Voles and Common Shrews; depending upon the habitat, there may also be occasional occurrences of House Mice, Harvest Mice, Brown Rats, Water Voles, Pygmy Shrews and Water Shrews.   This means that, if we can find enough pellets from both species and identify their contents (by reference to published keys), we can gather valuable mammal records for the locality where the pellets were found.

So, how can we find good samples of owl pellets? Well, Barn Owls are relatively easy because they roost and breed in a variety of undisturbed farm buildings, owl boxes and in more natural situations such as hollow trees.  So, with landowner permission and a good torch, it is possible to find some of the chunky, shiny-black, fresh Barn Owl pellets beneath the birds’ roost sites (e.g. beneath a cross beam in a quiet, dark barn); I always look first for the sticky-white splash of their droppings as an indication of recent roosting activity. However, bear in mind that Barn Owls have declined in Britain to some 30% of their population 70 years ago, before the effects of agricultural intensification reduced the quality and extent of foraging habitat; consequently, many farms no longer support Barn Owls these days, so it is important to choose farms that support lots of rough grassland or wetland.  Also, beware the legal position through the spring and summer: it is an offence to disturb Barn Owls at their breeding sites without a licence; so, it is best to avoid searching buildings or hollow trees when the owls might be breeding.

Tawny Owl pellets are more challenging to find because the birds tend to roost by day secretively in woodland trees (often ivy-covered); again, I concentrate on searching for the sticky-white owl droppings on the woodland floor beneath a roost site (all bird of prey droppings have a viscous, sticky quality, usually without any black component, which helpfully sets owl droppings apart from other large tree-roosters like pheasants and woodpigeons), and sometimes these reveal a pellet or two (Tawny Owl pellets are slightly smaller and greyer than Barn Owl ones).  Bear in mind that, in addition to their day roosts, Tawny Owls occupy several nocturnal ‘listening’ perches, usually on a lateral tree branch with a clear acoustic ‘view’ of the woodland floor, which they use for detecting small mammals.  This static approach to foraging contrasts with that of the Barn Owl, which does most of its listening to detect prey while flying over suitable habitat.  These night-time Tawny perches are less likely to yield pellets than are the day roosts, but they sometimes do.

There are sometimes short-cuts that we can use to gather good samples of owl pellets: for example, some ornithologists are involved in monitoring nest box schemes for Barn Owls and/or Tawny Owls, so it is worth asking them for any spare pellets that they find at boxes during their visits.  However we acquire our pellets, it is crucial that we keep them in a sealable bag with a note of the date and grid reference; and the best way to make them last is to freeze them for a few days to kill off the clothes moth larvae that otherwise consume the fur that binds the pellets together.

We hope to organise a training session on owl pellet analysis one day, for which we will need lots of lovely owl pellets! So please keep in touch and let your committee know if you are able to collect any pellets.  In the meantime, there is good information on the Barn Owl Trust website:

https://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-facts/barn-owl-pellet-analysis/

 

Crepuscular Coney Counts in 2019!

Back in September 2016 I blogged about the decline of rabbits in Britain associated with rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease; and this autumn there were reports from the east of England that brown hares appear to be suffering from myxomatosis (originally a disease only affecting rabbits). So, there is a strong case for improving our understanding of how these two species are faring in Worcestershire; and it would be useful to establish a repeatable approach to recording abundance so that we can monitor any changes in future. Interestingly, our friends in Warwickshire Mammal Group are also planning a similar survey to the east of us!

Early in the New Year, your committee will be fleshing out the details of our survey method, which is likely to involve two complementary approaches:

• ‘Casual but Clever’ gathering of all Lagomorph records – This will involve members gathering any records of both species throughout 2019 from anywhere in Worcestershire, be they live sightings, road casualties or field signs. However, we will encourage members to be ‘clever’ about how they spread their recording efforts geographically, so that we don’t end up with dozens of records from a single monad (1 km square).
• Dusk or Dawn Lagomorph Walks with effort recorded – Rabbits and hares are especially active around dusk and dawn, so this will be when we aim to walk a length of footpath or country lane and record the number of rabbits and hares that we see over a given time and distance. Recording the date, route and timing will give us a repeatable method so that we can compare our results between different places and different years. As with all surveys, the results will be of greater value if we have a big sample size, so we hope our members will be willing to do several walks in different places spread across the county.

So, watch out for our invitation – very soon – to count bunnies and hares in the delightful Worcestershire countryside. Knowing our predilection for skillfully mixing work and play, I can see many opportunities for sociable dusky ‘Lagomorph walks’ in the vicinity of country pubs (also in decline – so surely we must monitor them too?!); sadly, I can’t imagine such enthusiasm for the dawn walks, unless anyone knows places that serve a hearty breakfast out in the sticks?!

 

A-harvest mousing we will go…..!

After our refresher day at Feckenham Wylde Moor on 30th September, I hope WMG members have been able to start searching for harvest mouse nests?  It is good to get out before the end of the year if you can, before wild wintry weather further flattens the vegetation!

A big part of the challenge of harvest mouse surveying, I have learnt, is identifying suitable blocks of habitat to concentrate upon: so many places are unsuitable because they are too mown, grazed or otherwise managed so that there is insufficient tall, grassy, sedgey or reedy vegetation in which harvest mice can weave their tiny, elevated nests.  I have been very fortunate recently in visiting two Worcestershire sites with abundant suitable habitat, and I found evidence of harvest mice at both of them!  Both are nature reserves, so not typical of most of our countryside, but I thought it was worth sharing my experiences in case it helps to guide you to your own successful search.

The first site was Avon Meadows Local Nature Reserve at Pershore, where WMG did some live trapping of small mammals in October.  On that visit we were struck by the abundance of tall, wetland vegetation at this lovely site (managed by Liz Etheridge of Wychavon District Council), so I looked forward to an opportunity for a nest hunt.  That soon arose in November when I chose Pershore as a place to meet up with an old friend for a walk and a chat, and I introduced him to the thrills of ‘swimming through long grass’, as harvest mouse surveying could be called.  There we found a harvest mouse nest in a tall stand of hairy willowherb with common reed; the delicate woven nest was just 7 cm across and suspended some 60 cm above the ground.  Although I knew what I was looking for, the discovery took my breath away and left me marveling at the aerial skills of our tiniest rodent that enable it to weave such a work of art two feet above the damp ground.

There is lots more suitable habitat to search at Avon Meadows, so we are planning another group event there on the morning of 15th December.

The second site I have been privileged to visit is the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Hill Court Farm near Longdon.  With my colleague Charlie Long I searched just two fields in this huge site, where the main objective is to restore the wetland habitats that have been lost or damaged during decades of intensive farming.  Most of the vegetation suitable for harvest mice in these grassy fields is concentrated around the margins, where uncut headlands comprise tall, coarse grasses supported in places by blackthorn, wild rose and bramble spreading out from the gently-managed hedgerows.  The suitable vegetation here is mostly shorter than at Avon Meadows, so the bending over to search is more severe.  In a foolish and pointless effort to mask the growing pain in my back I imagine myself as an international rugby player competing for the ball at a ruck (picture the All Black flanker Richie McCaw 40 years on – grey-haired and wizened, but still determined to win the ball….); but it doesn’t work, so we had to take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch and enjoy the view of the Malvern Hills, marred only slightly by the sound of the M50 Motorway!

In all we found four perfect harvest mouse nests in just one of the fields at Hill Court Farm; all were tightly-woven near-spherical bundles of grass leaves 7-8 cm across and mostly 20 cm or less above ground level.  Some of the nests were still partly green thanks to the cunning harvest mouse habit of weaving in some grass leaves that remained attached to their stems so that they stay alive to help camouflage the nest (talking of ‘Staying Alive’, I find that frequent survey breaks to dance to the Bee Gees 1977 song of the same name are a good antidote to back pain).

Finding four nests was the result of about 6.5 person-hours of searching, so each nest took just over 1.5 person-hours to find; not a very impressive success rate, but we are relative beginners and doubtless there were some nests that we didn’t spot. It’s true that, depending upon the structure of the vegetation, the tiny nests can be very easy to miss if you are not right up close, so thorough searching is a slow process.  But each nest discovery is a delicious thrill, and we wouldn’t want it too easy, would we?!  Apart from a stiff back and a few scratches, the only downside to harvest mouse surveying is that one’s entire concentration is low down, so it’s easy to miss out on other wildlife sightings and the general countryside views; therefore, it is essential (and good for the back) to stand up every few minutes to take a look around and enjoy your surroundings!

Camera trapping in South Shropshire

Dooley (my canine chum) and I recently spent a fascinating day in a secret south Shropshire woodland, where we checked camera traps for evidence of the extremely elusive local pine martens.  Our guides were Stuart Edmonds of Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s Pine Marten Project and local naturalist David Pearce, who boosted the spirits of all involved when he photographed a wild pine marten in this very woodland back in July 2015.  Since then, Stuart and Dave have successfully deployed camera traps at many sites in an effort to keep track of the charmingly enigmatic Shropshire martens. However, the cameras and their batteries are not cheap, so funding is always a worry. Given that the project is run part-time with a heavy reliance on volunteers, it is remarkable how much it has achieved.

Save for occasional canopy-height calls of bullfinch, siskin, redpoll, nuthatch and a brambling (Dave is a skilful birder with remarkable hearing), the steep, north-facing woodland was calm and quiet as we clambered down to the first in a long, ragged line of camera traps set among the oak-dominated trees.  Stuart extracted the SD card and fed it to his laptop so that we could scan swiftly through the hundred or so 10-second video clips recorded since their last visit.  To any uninformed observer, we three men and a dog must have made an odd sight, squatting damply on the freshly fallen oak leaves and peering at the laptop screen to identify the mammalian ‘captures’: most abundant among the videos were grey squirrels, with wood mice (some could have been yellow-necks) in second place and the occasional fox and muntjac in joint third.

We repeated this operation at a dozen or more cameras, leaving me in awe of Stuart’s skills at species identification from the briefest of glimpses.  We viewed so many video clips in a short space of time that my memory soon became, literally, a digital blur; but I can recall some thrilling highlights: one camera focused on the gnarled base of an old dead tree that was a mustelid hotspot, with several visits by badgers, three records of a delicate stoat, and a brief early morning appearance by a chunky polecat just a few hours before our own visit (Dooley insisted he could still smell it, giving us a look that implied if only we recognised his scenting skills we would realise that camera traps were a waste of both time and money); other cameras seemed to be located in deer hotspots, where videos of the abundant muntjac (sometimes three at a time) heavily outnumbered the native roe deer, one of which posed close to the camera as if checking its immaculate eye make-up.

About halfway along the camera trap line, we hit the jackpot (and Dooley pretended he could smell our target species): a magnificent pine marten in winter pelage was filmed foraging among the leaf litter in the early hours of 23rd October 2018; as usual it was facing mainly away from the camera (typically the Shropshire martens seem keen to hide their distinctively patterned ‘bibs’ so as to prevent Stuart from identifying them); and just after the video started the animal was spooked by a noise to its right, causing it to look up suddenly and run up the trunk of a nearby oak tree.  On top of the excitement and relief that we had found what we were looking for, I was thrilled simply to be sitting at the very spot where an English pine marten had passed by less than four weeks ago.

Although this was the only pine marten that we recorded that day, over the past three years Stuart and Dave have gathered many video clips that confirm the species’ continuing presence in south Shropshire.  They have also amassed huge quantities of data on a range of other woodland mammals, some of which are tricky to detect by traditional methods; this is a valuable demonstration of just how much camera traps now contribute to our understanding of elusive species.  So, why not consider treating yourself or a loved-one to a camera trap for Christmas? I can guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised by what it reveals!

If you want to learn more about the Shropshire Pine Marten Project, please visit its Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=shropshire%20pine%20marten%20project

And if you would like to donate to the project please visit

http://www.shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/pinemartenproject?fbclid=IwAR1kC0694uJ7RIXY7hh8STOH9o_S-AygmCR4AUmUWD2Syp2T5HWFVGh18cc

 

Non-native Mammals Symposium

I am recently back from attending The Mammal Society’s autumn symposium on ‘Non-native Mammals in Great Britain’.  Generously hosted by the engineering firm Arup at their London offices, this was a gathering of amateur and professional mammalogists who were entertained and informed by presentations on the challenges arising from those exotic mammals that have become established in the wild in Britain – deliberately or accidentally – thanks to the folly of we humans.

Talks covered the efforts of Red Squirrels United (the largest invasive species management programme in Europe, which unites more than 30 UK organisations committed to protecting red squirrels) to control grey squirrels and so reduce their impact on our native red squirrels; the four non-native deer species and their booming populations (as well as our two native deer species, which are just as invasive and out of control!); the impacts of edible dormice and fur-farm escapee mink on our native biodiversity; the problem of rats, hedgehogs and stoats on islands where they do not belong; and the threat posed by domestic and feral cats hybridizing with the Scottish wildcat.  We also heard about some ingenious solutions: fertility control is helping to limit the population of iconic feral ‘Kashmiri’ goats on the Great Orme in North Wales; pine martens are helping to reduce the populations of grey squirrels in parts of Ireland and Scotland, with benefits to red squirrel conservation; and a combination of coordinated trapping and the recovery of otters and polecats seems to have driven the mink into a population decline in many areas.

As ever, these conferences and symposia are about so much more than the formal presentations: the lunch, tea and coffee breaks are an opportunity to catch up with old friends and to make new ones; to hear about new mammal research discoveries (I was excited to hear about pine marten eDNA found recently in the Peak District); and to share news about the activities of local mammal groups such as ours, including plans for future surveys.  For example, following the recent publication of the Mammal Society’s eagerly anticipated review of the populations and status of British mammals, which revealed that many national population estimates had to be based on rather inadequate population density data, local mammal groups are to be invited to join in gathering essential information on the abundance of mammals across different habitats. So, watch this space!

Spring Search for Small Mammals!

Taken from Flickr.

After surviving the mild (and often stormy) winter, the promise of warmer weather enticed the Worcestershire Mammal Group from their winter slumber.  After a bit of a stretch and a preening of whiskers, the group decided to welcome in the spring season by focusing on some of our most widespread mammals in the country….. small mammals!

Many British mammals can be considered ‘small’, but the term ‘small mammals’ generally refers to land-mammals which have a head and body length less than 130 mm long.  In Britain, this encompasses 11 species from the families rodentia (mice and voles) and insectivora (shrews), including the house mouse (Mus musculus), wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis), hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), harvest mouse (Micromys minutus), field vole (Microtus agrestis), bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus), common shrew (Sorex araneus), pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus) and water shrew (Neomys fodiens).

Although these animals can often be seen scurrying across a path, or hanging from the jaws of fluffy (who probably cause it’s demise), the small and secretive nature of these animals makes it very difficult to survey for them.  Live trapping equipment (such as longworth traps) greatly increase the chance of encountering these mammals, and is definitely one of the best ways to find out what small mammals are in an area, and a great way to observe these fascinating animals up close.

The group decided to plan a small study to live-trap and identify small mammals in Trench Wood, a stunning Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and ancient woodland jointly owned by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation.  The woodland is managed for migrant birds and butterflies, but the group wanted to see if the system of rides, tall herbs and grassland areas provided habitats for small mammals!

Credit to Poppy Morris.

Thirty-two Longworth traps were locked open (so nothing could be caught) and baited on the evening of the 7th of April.  Each trap was baited with fly castors and oats. The casters (fly pupae – often used by fishermen) were popped into the traps in case any shrews were caught. A fistful of hay was also pushed into the traps to ensure the unwilling prisoners were warm.  On the evening of the 8th of April, traps were set and re-baited.  The traps were placed along one of the rides, mainly out of sight from public, undercover.

Credit to Poppy Morris.

The next day on April 9th, 16 volunteers met early (8am) to ensure any captured mammals could be released ASAP, to minimize any stress.  Johnny Birks led the group, and systematically check each longworth trap.  Any animals that were present were identified, sexed and those that wanted to have ago at handling them, were provided with guidance on how to handle them safely – both for the mammal and the handler! Johnny demonstrated that if you hold a small mammal to your chest, it apparently calms them!

Credit to Caroline Hornberger.

Overall, the group had great success, with 3 Bank Voles, 11 Wood Mice and 1 feisty Yellow-necked Mouse captured.  Following the event, all records were sent to Worcestershire Biological Records Centre (WBRC).

A good morning was had by all, and a lot of mammaly fun!

Many thanks to the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust for allowing us to survey in their woodland, and to Dominique Cragg for arranging!

Please Note: If you are thinking of using traps too, bear in mind that catching shrews without a license is illegal. Specialist licences are required from the necessary statutory agencies. In our case, the course leader (Johnny Birks) had a licence. 

River Survey 2016 – The results are in!

Common-otterThe results of the Worcestershire Mammal Group’s first summer survey are in!

A huge thank you to everyone who took part this year in our first ever summer survey, we had some great days out and excellent records with plenty of otter signs across the county. The Worcestershire Biological Records Centre have now collated the results, and you can read all about them on our web site at www.worcestershiremammals.org/river-survey-2016-results

Worcestershire Mammal Atlas 2007-2019

mammalatlasAfter the successful publication of Worcestershire’s Mammals by Worcestershire Recorders in 2012 displaying records from 1995 to 2007, we are calling for records as part of a three year push to collate mammal data for the following recording period of 2007 to 2019.

Worcestershire Recorders, 51df5c34514d3ab6e8623f8b52e817fa61049d39Worcestershire Mammal Group and WBRC will work together to encourage increased recording of all wild mammal species found in Worcestershire, all species are important to us – no matter how common they are (or are perceived to be). There were 433 monads (c.20% of the county) with no mammal records at all in the atlas so we would really like to get this blank space populated with a more accurate picture of species distributions.

red-fox-side-profileRecords can be submitted to WBRC directly in a method that suits you, by email, spreadsheet or via iRecord, we have special recording forms for download on our website that can be printed out and kept handy for noting your sightings. Worcestershire Mammal Group have a record submission webpage that comes straight to WBRC. We will be keeping our Facebook page updated with latest news and what to look out for across the mammal year so keep your eyes peeled and please send in your records.

If you have any queries or would like help identifying mammal tracks and signs you find then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us direct.  We look forward to publishing updated maps to show the progress.

WBRC October 2016

 

A boar-ing day? I don’t think so!

14606286_10154685888596952_5527850243572352063_nI apologise for the late blog post, but better late than
never! On the 22nd of October, several members of the Mammal Group met in the depths of the Forest Of Dean to embark on a wild boar walkabout. Wild boar ecologist Dr. John  Dutton very kindly agreed to lead us around the area, to look for signs of wild boar.

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Wild Boar Track

Sadly we did not encounter any live wild boar (some members found a road casualty after the walk though), but there was an abundance of evidence!

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Andy helpfully pointing out a gouge on a tree. Probably ‘tusking’ by boar.

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Wild boar mud wallow.

This included tracks, mud wallows, mud up trees (a scratch following a nice wallow) and hair. Boar hair is pretty distinctive, it interestingly sports a ‘split end’….. obviously not using the right shampoo then!

All in all though, it was a lovely autumnal day, spent in a nice stretch of woodland with like minded folk. The day ended with grub in the newly re-furbed cafe at Beechenhurst.

A big thank you to Dr. John Dutton for leading the walk, and to all those that came along. I hope to see most of you soon at one of our next events.

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