Reaseheath Mammal Society was created properly in January, though I’d had the idea for at least a couple of months before that after reading of other ecological recording groups set up by students. As mammals are my main interest it was an obvious choice to focus on them although that’s not to say that the sightings of other species are not ignored; when birds are caught on the trail cameras or when amphibians stroll through the footprint tunnels, details are submitted to the environmental record centre for Cheshire, rECOrd.
The focus is on acquiring records for this centre as the data will contribute to published local and perhaps even national mammal atlases; Cheshire Mammal Group relied on rECOrd for their 2008 ‘Mammals of Cheshire’ publication and are working on an update. Certain records are also submitted for the purpose of national projects like the Hedgehog Street campaign jointly organised by People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS).
So on to what we have found! To date, footprint tunnels have been used in multiple locations and woodmice, weasels and either frog or toad prints were found. Longworths have been used at separate sites, finding woodmice and bank voles and trailcams have shown a number of other species such as badgers, otters and tawny owls. Field sightings of course have their place too and a range of rabbit warrens have been mapped out, footprints of the red fox discovered in the sandbanks of streams and endangered hedgehogs seen in numerous places. Bat detector surveys have presented at least 6 of the 10 (or possibly 12) bat species of Cheshire just above Reaseheath lake, with a couple of species above the ponds, too; they emerged in spring to feed on recently emerged insects such as mayflies.
I’ll finish off the introduction to Reaseheath Mammal Society with a few interesting facts about the fascinating mammals living alongside us; the woodmouse, one of three native mice, was previously believed to be one and the same with its two relatives the yellow-necked mouse and the harvest mouse. It’s only a relatively recent discovery that they are in fact distinct species. Secondly, the badger, a species of the Mustelidae family, bucks the trend shown by its solitary relatives (i.e. weasels and otters) and instead opts to live in groups known as clans, although in some situations it does revert to solitude. Noctules have been heard above the lake with heterodyne bat detectors, with distinctive ‘chip-chop’ calls coming through at 25khz; this bat is the largest in the UK, although it still only weighs 40g at most with a range of 19 – 40g.
If you read this and want to get involved at all, visit our Facebook page. Information on joining the group is included on the page (see ‘About’).
By Jack Riggall, Level 3 Conservation and Wildlife Management student