…that was the aim of last night and this morning, and despite the coldest night of the autumn so far, we were successful!
Looking at the moths in the light trap caught the night before on arrival (a pretty good haul in marked contrast to that of last night, including many November moths, several lovely feathered thorns, a red-green carpet and the star of the show, a merveille du jour, amongst a few others), last night we met in the classroom for a crash course in the how, why and wherefore’s of setting a Longworth small mammal trap before doing just that and deploying them around the dipping pond surrounds at the back of the centre.
We then left the traps in peace in the hope that the local mice and vole population would venture into them once we were gone and, with plummeting temperatures and several noisy children, we somewhat optimistically headed out for a short night walk to see if we could encounter any deer or hear any bats on our bat detectors… perhaps not unsurprisingly we did neither! There were a couple of very brief and distant flybys by soprano pipistrelle’s but nothing that I could say with certainty any but a small number of the group had heard so it was with some relief that when I tried calling tawny owls we got a response and, unusually for Blashford which because of the linear nature of its woodland habitat does not appear to support a large tawny population normally, actually got a response from at least two owls, and possibly even three.
This morning we retrieved the 16 traps that had gone out the night before and I was instantly relieved to see that despite the cold temperatures (one of our volunteers from Ringwood even had to scrape ice of his car this morning!) about half of the traps had closed doors indicating that something at least had investigated them, even if it was just large slugs! As it was a couple of the doors had become fouled on twigs or leaves in the trap openings and therefore not closed properly, allowing the occupants to enjoy a soft bed, nibble on some bird seed and apple, wee and poo a lot and then leave before we got there, but the remainder resulted in 5 woodmice and 1 bank vole – not a bad catch from 16 traps.
Having been transferred to tanks for observations and photographic purposes the small mammals were then released, unharmed(!) back in the area from which they were caught and we had a short walk along the river in search of otter, deer and other larger mammal tracks and signs to finish our morning.