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?!