9 Mar 2014

Mammal Tracks

Colin Miles

The previous week we had been looking for mammal tracks in Trawscoed meadow and found evidence of those of Bank and Field Voles.  We are hoping that by  plotting the whereabouts of these and larger creatures such as Badger, Fox and Rabbits, we can build up a picture of the mammal wildlife in the Garden. This week we headed off towards Waun Las, but even before we got there we found the holes of the Bank Vole alongside the path down by the Bull.

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And further on, looking at the stream from the bridge at the entrance to Waun Las we saw a pair of Dippers.  These don’t seem to have been upset by all the clearance work that has gone on in preparation for the possible reinstatement of Llyn Mawr.  We also heard a Missel Thrush singing and a Cormorant circling overhead.  According to Bruce it has even got a name – Eric!

But before we got on to the Waun Las Reserve itself we decided to try to investigate further the hole in the far side of Llyn Canol.  This was wrongly labelled and discussed last week as being a possible Badger set.  It is far more likely to be an Otter holt and is near to where there was known to be one some 20 years ago before the Garden was being built.  But this week we couldn’t see it at all.  It looks as if either a tree has fallen down and obscured it, or there has been some sort of collapse due to the recent heavy rains.

Around the old Waun Las farm buildings there was lots of evidence of Field Vole runs and we were very lucky to actually see 2 of them when lifting a piece of corrugated iron.  Unlike Bank Voles, which dig actual holes, the Field Voles construct their runs by weaving the grass into a tunnel.  We also found their droppings which are apparently emerald green, though these didn’t seem quite that bright.  And the photo below shows just how they chew the leaves.

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With so many Field Voles around this should be a good habitat for Barn Owls.  But the nest box in the old milking parlour shows no sign of any use, recent or otherwise.  However, we did hear a Greater Spotted Woodpecker drumming away – a good sign of Spring.  And we did see possible evidence of Redwings searching for worms in the form of a scrapped mossy area, though that is more Winter rather than Spring activity.  But a real sign of Spring was the abundance of Mole hills, creating rather interesting patterns in the field – ok in these meadows but not welcome in the Garden. [nggallery id = 531]

Although the weather is now showing signs of improving, the constant rain over the past 3 months means that the water table is very high and in many places the ground is extremely muddy.  But on the plus side the many streams offer excellent habitats for water creatures,  like the one at the side of the Whorled Caraway meadow.  Here we soon found River Limpets, Mayfly nymphs and Caddis Fly larva, including one outside of his protective shell.

Returning back into the Garden we heard a rather unusual sound in the trees below the Bull, a Nuthatch slapping a nut against the branches.  But an even more interesting find on the path nearby was a large hairy Caterpillar.  Originally identified as a Field Eggar a look online indicated that it might well be that of a Fox Moth.  We were very careful not to touch any of the hairs! [nggallery id = 532]

Unfortunately John was not with us this week as he was baby-sitting his new puppy – a Cockerpoo!  So the photos aren’t quite up to the usual standard.  However, we were very pleased to welcome another volunteer, Chris Clayton.    Thanks also to Chris Beynon and his two volunteers who were separately helping out by doing clearance work in Pont Felin Gat.

If any volunteer or member is interested in joining us please  send an email to Colin Miles  – you DON’T have to be an expert in anything, just interested.   If you click on any of the images in these blogs, or anywhere else you will see a larger picture. And if you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Survey blogs If you find an injured bird, hedgehog or other wild animal and want help and advice then phone the Gower Bird hospital. on 01792 371630.