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"A Nature Observer′s Scrapbook"

Animals or -
to be technically correct, Mammals!

........ Animals / mammals, Mmmm. ........ 'Don't have many pictures of ani/mam mals.

They move around a bit, do animals.

Oh, wait.

....... how about some evocative stuff.

Sheep worrying. Yes, that usually arouses emotional interest.

Sheep worrying is a universal problem in all farming communities. It is no different in Lincolnshire.

Well no, that's not strictly true. It is different in Lincolnshire - like so many other things, there is a quaint slant to the problem here.

Normally it is the dog that worries the sheep, ........... but here? Oh, no. It doesn't quite work like that.
Do you mind!

Meet Ben, the 9 month old Suffolk cross,

and Sascha, the 6 year old Weimaraner.

Is it a 'boy - girl' thing?

Or, are they just good friends?

'Tell you what, ..... they are either very, very good friends, or they won't be friends long if he carries on like that !



Erinaceus europaeus

The hedgehog, more appropriately known as the Western hedgehog, is common throughout Europe west of a line drawn from Italy northwards to Denmark, and also in southern Scandinavia. A separate Eastern European species is common to the east of that line.

It is quite secretive, mainly foraging for worms, insects and slugs at night and it will often take eggs of ground nesting birds. Its presence is most often indicated by its black sauasage shaped droppings on lawns and pasture.

They are solitary animals, normally hibernating through the winter months in leaf litter when the food supply is scarce, and not very vocal. Normal sounds are confined to snorts and snuffles as they sniff out their prey. But mating, maybe twice a year, is accompanied by animated squealing. Litters of 2 - 10 have been recorded but the average number is about 4.

In February 2007 nocturnal garden activity was traced to shallow tunnels in dry loose soil in an open shed which proved to be the retreat of an early awakened hedgehog.

It is known that they can live for up to ten years but it is thought that predation from foxes and badgers, and also road kills reduces the average lifespan to about three years. Adults will reach an overall length of 220 - 270mm (9 to 11 inches).

11.05.2006 Seen late at night in open grassland.
20.02.2007 One found active, living in shallow tunnel in dry earth of an open shed.
19.05.2008 Pair found procreating (noisily) under hedge late at night.
03.10.2008 A calm unflappable character quietly foraging under the bird feeder late at night.



Mustela erminea

This is a stiff stoat.
'Stotally devoid of life.
And, although within the accepted dimensions for the species, at 300mm head and body length, definitely the biggest I have ever seen. It was found dead with no obvious signs of injury, although some youths were known to be using an airgun in the area.

October 1999Willingham Woods, Market Rasen.



Mustela nivalis

The image is of a weasel recently killed in a road accident. At 200mm head/body length and with such crisp body colouring it was a young male, probably not a year old. A female would be somewhat smaller.

The weasel is a member of the Mustelid family, the smaller relative of the stoat. Two features that help to differentiate it from the stoat are the brown spot on its cheek and the lack of a black tip to the tail. They are very active but quite secretive and normally are only seen scurrying across roads.

They feed on small rodents, birds and eggs but, are quite aggressive and will attack much larger rabbits, as well.

They can have up to two litters of 4-6 kitts each year. The average lifespan of a weasel is probably only about three years.

10.09.2007 Victim of a road traffic accident - ironically by a 'Protected Roadside Verge'!


Bat - probably Pipistrelle

Pipistrellus pipistrellus

This was a tiny bat, and although it is difficult to be subjective when they are flitting around at speed overhead, it is assumed to be a Pipistrelle, the smallest of the UK bats.

Pipistrelles are reputed to be gregarious, but we only see them in ones or twos. Late in the season there might be three. So that must cast a doubt over the ID.

They seem to favour the area around a large Chestnut tree and the old outbuildings.

26.04.2004One bat, the first of the season, seen at dusk, 20.45hrs.

Common Mole

Common Mole

Talpa europaea

On my Home page I was bold enough to claim that I had a non-interventionist policy towards my wildlife observations. But, then there are moles. Why can't they stay on the other side of the fence? Why do they insist on messing up the bit of territory that I have staked a claim to? Nature is a 'dog eat dog' world and this is where my base 'hunt and kill' instincts kick in.

The mole is a carnivorous animal, living on a subterranean diet of worms and grubs, with occasional nightime forays on the surface to seek out slugs and snails. This diet is most plentiful in loose or cultivated soil, hence the mole favours deciduous woodland leaf litter, grassland or neatly cultivated gardens.

The general wildlife field guide suggests the mole is a solitary animal and one can understand that in the competition for food, the mole is strictly territorial. But, in May and June after a cursory mating period, the male will go off on his own and the female will raise a family of three to seven youngsters. This results in the female's frantic search for food close to home and then, for a short period, there will be juvenile mouths all looking for food in the same area. So this is when the molehill 'problem' is at its worst.

Most molehills are simply surplus tunnel soil pushed to the surface out of the way. But in winter a large mound ( a 'fortress' ) might indicate a deeper, semi-permanent base specifically designed to keep the frost out. And in spring, a large mound could well be a nest site. At its heart will be a soft bed of grass and moss and it will have many tunnels leading off to all the best feeding areas.

Moles can live up to seven years but, many will not survive past three. Body length up to about 150mm, females slightly smaller.

09.06.2005 Three found within a 2 metre radius within three hours. One of 140mm, two of 120mm.
10.06.2005 Old tunnels re-activated extending 30 metres from yesterday's site. A fourth, of 120mm, found at 20 metres.
12.06.2005 A fifth (125mm in length) found at 10 metres from original site and a sixth active at 20 metres range.
15.06.2005 And the sixth (125mm in length) found back at the original site.
26.06.2005 And the seventh (!) after gradually extending his range, found at 35m.
17.07.2005 And finally, after chasing it up and down the garden, the eigth, 135mm + 20mm tail. I am presuming that was a family unit because the activity has been continuous within the one area.
15.06.2006 Much less activity in the local area this year. One in north paddock, in very shallow run after showery weather.
20.10.2006 After some very wet autumn weather, one found in a tunnel 200mm below the surface in sheep pasture.
30.05.2007 After a quiet winter the recent showery weather has brought the moles to the surface. Three found just below the surface.

Brown Rat

Brown Rat

Rattus norvegicus

Brown rats tend to be more prevalent in rural areas and Black rats in urban areas - but, they can interbreed.

Like most wild animals, they tend to avoid humans but, twice, I have had brown rats 'freeze' in front of me in the garden. On both occasions there has been a bright light behind me and I assume this 'blinded' the rat to my presence. - And once, I had the camera with me!

This one, at 17 inches overall (head/body 23cm, tail 20cm) appears to be 'lighly built' and I assume to be a first year female. A big, more heavily built male could be 21 inches overall - and they do look impressive!

Brown rats have an omnivorous diet, eating seeds, grain and vegetation as well as slugs, snails, frogs, birds eggs and they will also scavenge carrion - and, given the opportunity, domestic food waste. Their lifespan in the wild is reckoned to be fairly short - maybe only about 18 months. They suffer predation from feral cats, foxes, owls, stoats and weasels - and farmyard Jack Russell Terriers!

03.10.2007 Prowling the garden, late at night.

Wood Mouse Wood Mouse

Wood Mouse or,
Long tailed Field Mouse

Apodemus sylvaticus

Just once in a while you happen to be in the right place at the right time with the camera switched on when something unexpected happens. Like this Wood Mouse in the upper image, creeping out of a wood pile and pausing just long enough for the shutter to open before the 'click' sent it scurrying for cover.

The lower image is of one that fell a considerable height from wall vegetation and was disorientated long enough to get its picture taken.

Apart from the slightly smaller and greyer House Mouse, the Wood Mouse, often referred to as the 'Field Mouse' is by far the most common mouse seen outdoors in the UK. Other UK mice, the Harvest mouse, Yellow Necked mouse and Dormouse, tend to have a much more restricted and localised distribution.

They are largely nocturnal and daytime sightings are likely to be prompted by nest site disturbance or hunger. They are omnivorous and their diet will be dictated by what is available. During the warmer months they will feed on seeds, fruits, nuts, seedlings, etc. and in winter will eat insects, beetles, worms, caterpillars, centipedes, etc.

They breed from March through to October and can raise as many as 4 litters of up to seven in a year. Apart from predation by larger animals and birds of prey, they are also susceptible to pollution toxicity.

26.01.2008 Chance daylight sighting close to a disturbed wood pile.
03.10.2008 An adult flushed from Clematis on the house wall, probably on its way to the roof space for the winter.

Common Shrew Common Shrew's red teeth

Common Shrew

Sorex araneus

In general, shrews are identified from other small rodents by their long pointed snouts.

The Common Shrew tends to be a very busy, almost hyper-active animal, needing to eat as much as 80% of its own body weight each day. So, apart from short rest periods, it is almost constantly hunting through low grassy tunnels in its quest for beetles, worms, slugs and grubs.

It is a smaller, daintier animal than either the House or the Wood mouse, measuring about 110mm overall (head/body - 70mm, tail - 40mm) but dimensions will depend on maturity.

Although they have been known to survive for two years in the wild, raising two litters of about six young per year, mortality is high and the average lifespan may only be about one year.

There are 15 species of shrew found in Europe, split conveniently into 'white toothed' and the 'red toothed' shrews. The three species native to the UK, the Common, Pygmy and Water shrews, all fall into the latter red toothed group.

16.08.2007 Found in recently cut hay meadow.

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis

The Grey Squirrel is not native to the UK, having been introduced from the eastern region of the United States into the UK from around the late 1800s. Since then it has become well established throughout England and Wales, displacing the native Red Squirrel from all but Northumberland and Cumbria. The displacement is due to the Grey being bigger, fitter and seemingly immune to a virus which affects the native Red - all of which leads to the greys dominating available food sources. The Greys were also introduced into Italy in 1948.

The standard Grey has a grey coat (tinged with brown on the flanks in the summer) and white underparts. But, albino (pure white) and melanistic (black) forms are now being seen as well. Their life expectancy in the wild is a maximum of 10 years (20 years in temperature controlled and well fed captivity) but, 2 to 3 years is thought to be the general average. Infant mortality is relatively high - due in no small part to the blind and naked infants being subjected to both the temperature fluctuations within a ball shaped nest of twigs and leaves (called a 'drey') constructed high up in a tree and also predation from crows and magpies.

Grey Squirrel

Their diet is mainly vegetarian, nuts, seeds, fruit, roots and cereals and when these are plentiful they are renowned for storing away surpluses in pits scraped in the ground or in crevices to sustain themselves through the winter months. Quite how they remember where all their larders are is something of a mystery. Insects and birds eggs are also taken. If they have winter food shortages they will strip bark off trees to eat the underlying softwood and sap.

It is a member of the rodent family and in some parts is colloquially known as the 'tree rat'. As can be seen from the lower image, it is not difficult to understand why. When it is not scrabbling up or down a vertical tree trunk (it's the only animal that will climb down head first) it tends to bound along flat level surfaces with a co-ordinated front feet, back feet gait as opposed to most other animals left foot, right foot walk, trot or run.
Mature body length can be 25 to 30mm with a tail length 20 to 25mm.

24.10.2012 Caught in the act of raiding the bird feeder.
05.11.2012 Cleaning up seeds and corn under the bird feeder..

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