RECORDING SMALL MAMMALS
Part of our big project is to develop a Modern Natural History of Selborne based on contemporary observations of the natural world in the grounds of Gilbert White’s House and surrounding areas. Good progress has been made by staff and volunteers with recording of butterflies, moths, and with botanical and habitat surveys so far. Recently we have undertaken the first of a series of small mammal surveys using humane trapping and release techniques (for these purposes, the definition of Small Mammals includes mice, voles and shrews).
Training for recording of these species was provided as part of a regular programme of education by Sarah Jackson, the Senior Ecologist of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. The training included identification skills, ecology and survey and recording techniques as well as licensing requirements and legislation. The Field Studies Centre already had a small stock of Longworth Small Mammal traps (see picture) from previous studies by former staff at the Centre. These traps will be used to build contemporary records of species present in the grounds. The particular survey technique takes place over two nights to allow one night of familiarisation by the mammals without trapdoor activation and one night of temporary capture to allow observation. Account is taken of the weather conditions and plenty of food and bedding is provided for the care and well being of the animals.
On the first recent trapping session, seventeen traps were deployed across eight sites chosen for the various habitats across the grounds. In the morning, we were able to identify six small mammals of three species, recording their gender and weight. This included three Wood Mice (see picture), two Field Voles and a Bank Vole. In time, we might expect to record up to six species in the grounds given the right conditions.
Look out next year for events to see Small Mammal survey techniques first hand and enjoy close observation of small mammals. Observation using Longworth traps can be supplemented with mammal tunnels, camera traps as well as looking for tracks and other signs. Plans will soon be put in place to undertake bird and reptile surveys to complete the scope of observations envisaged as part of collection of a wider set of records. If you would like to volunteer to help with future surveys please contact Emily at the Field Studies Centre.
Chris Piper is a regular volunteer and content contributor to Gilbert White & The Oates Collections