Part two of our Nature Watch “Moth & Mice” event started early on a bright misty Saturday morning. Like a small child, the first thing I did when I arrived on the reserve was to check one of the small mammal traps. Well… the door’s closed, so we must have a visitor!
One of the 30 Longworth small mammal traps placed around the
Reserve the night before – and the door is closed!
Our nature reserve in Corfe Mullen is not what you would call big. In fact it consists of one small hedged field with a small stream running down one edge and a few mature oaks. So why’s it so special? well, in the Spring it’s full of green winged orchids followed by southern marsh orchids and a host of other wild flowers.
Springtime and Green-winged orchids in the Meadow
Seeing this perfect Meadow it’s hard to believe we are only a couple of miles from over half a million people in Poole and Bournemouth and that Corfe Mullen alone has over 10,000 residents. I wonder how long will we keep this patch of tranquillity?
Today the hay’s been cut, the bales have gone and it’s just like any other field. Or is it?
A misty morning in the Meadow
By 9am people had started to gather. Another 30 people (some who hadn’t been at the bat event the night before) so a good turnout. We started by looking at the moth trap.
Now Friday night was not good weather for moths! It was perfectly clear, a big moon and cold. In fact we had watched shooting stars and satellites as we wandered round looking for bats the previous night. So we weren’t expecting many moths. Luckily we had another expert on hand today who really knows his moths, Mike Jeffes. A great bloke who is really down to earth and obviously loves his subject.
Mike talks about one of the moths found in the trap
We had the grand total of four different moths in our trap. I was actually quite pleased, as I honestly wasn’t expecting ANY! The four (who I will be paying later) were Lunar Underwing, Brindle Green, Common Marbled Carpet and Square Spot Rustic.
Some of our younger “wildlife watchers” were totally enthralled!
Some things just need a closer look!
Luckily Mike also brought along some that he’d had in his trap, including this beautiful Merveille du Jour (I think that’s what it’s called… put me right if I’m wrong!)
A Merveille due Jour (??) brought from Mike’s own trap!
So, now to the mammal traps. Steve and Amanda from Dorset Wildlife Trust split us into two groups and we went in search of the mammal traps we had set the night before.
I should probably say at this point that the traps are totally humane. We added bedding and food into the trap for any mammal that might get caught, and we would be putting them back into the Meadow once we had recorded them.
Amanda opened the traps, put the contents into a big plastic bag and then got the little creatures by the scruff of their neck (this doesn’t harm the mouse or vole) and then put it into a plastic tank, so that we could have a look at it closely.
Kids and adults alike seemed to be enthralled by the mice, voles and shrews. It was amazing to see these little creatures so close-up. There were lots of ooo’s and aaah’s!
So what was in the traps?
Bank Vole, Clethrionomys glareolus (below). These little creatures grow to approx. 9-11cm and have quite a short tail (you can see the tail better in the film at the end of this post). They have a reddish brown coat and are common in woods and hedgerows across the UK.
Common Shrew, Sorex araneus (below). These get to a length of about 7.5cm. They are very tiny (although larger than a Pigmy Shrew which is about 6cm – really weeny!). Their tails are roughly half the length of their bodies and they are forever on the go in search for insects and other invertebrates.
Yellow-Necked Mouse, Apodemus flavicollis (below). These are very similar to Woodmice but slightly larger, with larger ears, a gingery coat and a yellow collar. They love climbing trees and mostly live in woods but we found two in the Meadow in the hedgerow. Their distribution across the UK is patchy and local.
Wood Mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus (below). These are our commonest mouse of woods, hedgerows and mature gardens. Unfortunately as they are so numerous they are an important prey for many of our native predators, such as owls and foxes. They are more brown that the Yellow-necked Mouse, and although it has a little bit of yellow under it’s chin, it doesn’t have a band going right round the neck. It is found throughout the UK.
In total we had 5 x Wood Mice, 2 x Yellow-Necked Mice, 2 x Common Shrew and a Bank Vole. Not a bad tally!
I also managed to take a short bit of film of some of the mammals before we released back into the Meadow. It starts with a Wood Mouse, then a Bank Vole, then a Yellow Necked Mouse and lastly a look at all of them in the tanks (Yellow Necked Mouse, Common Shrew, Wood Mouse, Bank Vole and Wood Mouse again!).
Thanks again to everyone who came – it was great to talk to so many interested (and interesting) people. I for one had a great time. Plus a big, big thank you to Steve Davis, Amanda Cooke (Dorset Wildlife Trust) and Mike Jeffes, without whom it just wouldn’t have happened!
Nature Watch Corfe Mullen
PS I forgot to mention that when we were releasing the yellow necked mouse, I tried to scruff it and pick it up behind the neck and ended up getting bitten twice! We had to blow on it’s nose to get it to let go. Luckily no incriminating photos and the mouse (and my fingers) were fine!