Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Tuesday 21st.October 2008

Already , it was time for the monthly Dormice and Reptile survey , up on the Greensand Ridge near Westerham . Dependant on night temperatures , this could be the last one until next Spring . The hope is always that the Dormice found , have , or will have acheived a good weight , which will enable them to live off body fat , especially hard for late families . Under normal circumstances , if the animal has reached a weight of 15-18 grams before hibernating , it should stand a good chance of seeing next year . Now that most of the berries are finished , it will be down to nuts and seeds .
The first 50 boxes produced 4 Dormice , well let's call it 4 and a half . Having seen nesting materials in the box , I went through the usual procedure of opening the box inside a large plastic bag . As I lifted the lid , this is was I saw .
The green leaves are Hazel and the brown strands are Honeysuckle bark . As the animal seemed torpid , like in half hibernation , I attempted to remove it from it's nest . This was easier said than done , but eventually I managed it , and it was happy to sit on my hand .
I sexed it , it was a male , and then weighed it . Remembering the weight needed to survive the Winter , he weighed in at 35.5 grams . Twice the hoped for weight , I don't think he will have any trouble surviving , I just hope he left enough food for the others . Also found in one of the boxes was another of the Mouse family . We find Wood Mice quite regularly , but this was a Yellow Necked Mouse .
These animals can give a good nip , so I carry a plastic jar with me , the type you get mixed nuts in at Christmas , and I photographed it inside the jar . It gets it,s name from the yellow collar on it's throat . I tried to get a shot form underneath , but it wasn't very successful , as the jar was
steeming up with it's acrobatics . Just before finishing at the first site , the stench of rotting flesh could only mean Stinkhorn-Phallus impudicus . The head covered with the foul smelling slime , but already the slugs have started feeding on the stalk . Just one Slow Worm was all that was found at the first site .

The second site containing 20 boxes produced 10 Dormice , including a family of five . The three youngsters weighed in at 11,12 and 13 grams , but I think and hope they will put on some more weight before hibernation . All others found were of good weight , including another rotund specimen , weighing in at 25.5 grams . In a box that contained a Dormouse last month , I was worried when I slipped the roof and spotted a Pigmy Shrew inside . The trouble being that these Shrews have been known to enter nests of torpid Dormice , and eat into their head . Fortunately , the Dormouse had moved on and there was nothing nasty to find . The mixed nut jar came in handy again to get a few shots of the Pigmy Shrew . Reptilewise , things were very quiet with just one Grass Snake found .
Under another pair of refugia , another Pigmy Shrew was found , but this one did three laps at top speed and then disappeared into the distance . I was about to replace the tin when I noticed , what I mistakenly thought was a black Common Lizard , having found a black Slow Worm a little while ago , but it looked wrong . Eventually the grey matter started working properly , and I was pretty sure it was a Great Crested Newt . As I tried to photograph it , the batteries in the camera gave out and my spares had not been recharged . So I had to try the old trick of warming the batteries , then by using the viewfinder instead of the LCD screen on the back of the camera , managed the odd shot .I have since emailed a couple of shots to a herpatologist friend , who has confirmed that it was indeed a Great Crested Newt . This is only the second or third one that I have seen in the wild , and the first out of water . The rest of the visit was uneventful , but 14 Dormice , a Grass Snake , two Pigmy Shrews , a Yellow Necked Mouse and a Great Crested Newt wasn't a bad day's finds . On the way back to the yard , we did a repair to a broken stile , and on the outfield of a cricket ground nearby , was this show of a Wax Cap , Hygrocybe coccinea-Scarlet Hood .

This is just one small area of the outfield which must contain hundreds and hundreds of Wax Caps .


John Young said...

A post full of furry animals, you cannot get much better. No matter how many times you see a dormouse they still have that ahhh! factor.

Steve said...

That GC Newt is fantastic! What a great day you had