Sunday, 12 February 2012

Signs of life in a snowy Rother woodland

An article by Heather Martin

Rodney coppiced an area of our wood last winter that had a long established badger track crossing it. To enable the animals to continue using their path to get from their sett out into the field on the northern boundary, we installed 'badger gates' in the dead hedging and temporary deer fencing. Footprints in the snow definitely confirm that these features are well used.

Good foot-prints show a large, broadly kidney-shaped pad with the five digital pads all lying in front in a shallow arc. The badger's front foot is a little larger than its back foot and has longer claws.

The Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus) has chestnut-brown fur and a tail about half as long as its body. It is omnivorous and active day and night throughout the year. Some Bank Voles in our wood are voice activated - we only have to call, "Voles, grub's up!" and they come running to feed on peanuts placed on a brick at the corner of our shelter.
A cluster of 7-spot Ladybirds (Cocinella septempunctata) on the south facing side of a stake in a plastic mesh tree shelter. This is "exactly" the same spot that a group of this species spent last winter.
New plants of Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) are emerging in more sheltered places in the wood. They favour shade and are dioecious - the male and female flowers produced on different plants, usually growing in separate patches.
Evidence that one Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) has sadly failed to make it through the winter.

All pictures by Heather Martin 12/02/2012

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