DMG Otter Survey
Recently our project was visited by a mammal’s expert who carried out surveys of our river looking for evidence of Otters. Excitingly both spraint (Otter dung) sites and a potential holt were found. Otters use their droppings as scent markers so leave them in prominent places. Our investigations will continue in 2021 when we are able to welcome visitors back to our land safely and we look forward to updating you with our findings.
Red Deer Sightings
The Red Deer on our land are a regular sight throughout the year but come Autumn our woods and land start to echo with the clashing of antler and roars of rival stags. This Autumn our dominant male Red Deer was consumed with protecting his hinds, and we were lucky enough to get a photo of him. His antlers are vast and intimidating and you can see how battles between stags can lead to serious injuries and even death.
Belted Galloway Cattle
Our Belted Galloway cattle play an important part in our farm’s eco-system. They graze our land, utilising lower quality pasture and keeping it in the best natural environmental condition. Not being selective grazers, our Belties tear the vegetation as they graze and disturb the soil creating ideal conditions for plants to germinate.
Cattle make for the most wonderful seed vectors, acting as ‘mobile links’ between habitats. Not only are their coats and hooves able to carry seeds (known as epizoochory) but they can also disperse seeds via ingestion (known as endozoochory.) Their deep fur and lack of preening make them important instruments in ecological restoration projects like our own.
Owl Pellet Investigations
Owl pellets are easy to come across on our farm and when the Devon Mammal Group kindly offered to help us investigate the contents of the owl pellets we find, we jumped at the chance.
The contents of owl pellets are able to give us a great indication of what small mammals are on our land. Not only are the materials found in owl pellets easy to extract but being seldom affected by digestion they are commonly easy to identify too.
The Devon Mammal Group managed to extract bones and skulls from 15 owl pellets from our farm in total and found the remains of:
• 38 field voles
• 15 common shrews
• 11 pygmy shrews
• 8 wood mice
• 1 brown rat
The collection of photos below includes the bones and skulls found:
• The first photo shows the brown rat bones which includes the tibia/fibula, femur, humerus, ulna/radius, pelvis, vertebrae and sacrum.
• The second photo shows the shrew skulls and bones, this includes the tibia/fibula, pelvis, femur, ribs and scapula. The common shrew skulls are on the left and the pygmy shrew skulls are on the right.
• The third photo shows the field vole and wood mouse skulls and bones, these include the pelvis, scapula, tibia/fibula, femur, ribs, ulna/radius and vertebrae. The field vole skulls are on the far right of the photo and the wood mouse skulls are to the left of these.
We have found these remains so interesting to look through as they allow us to see up close some great discoveries. Most excitingly for us however is seeing the evidence of the food chains that are on our land which really is fascinating.
Over a 2 week period in April, Devon Mammal Group monitored a trail camera in the corner of one of the woods on our farm. This is the first trail camera we have had organised on our farm and so once the camera was in place we awaited the results eagerly, uncertain of exactly what would be captured.
We obtained 873 pictures and after they were reviewed by Devon Mammal Group the results were collated and seven mammal species were identified:
• Badger (Meles meles)
• Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus)
• European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
• Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
• Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)
• Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
• Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
Each of these species are widespread in Britain but hares are thought to have undergone a huge reduction in numbers over the last century and are generally under-recorded and so their regular appearance on this camera was wonderful to see.
The trail camera remains on our farm but now in a new location, near to the ground in the hope of catching some smaller animals. Fingers crossed we will have some more of these shots, which give such a great insight into the life on our farm, to show you soon.