Thursday 3 December 2015

December 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Harvest Mouse

Photo Credit: Reg Mckenna via Wikicommons
We're pleased to announce that our Mammal of the Month for December is the harvest mouse!

Our top five harvest mouse facts are:

  * They have 2-3 litters a year

  * They weigh just 4-6 g on average

  * Spotting a nest is the easiest way to detect their presence. These are built at least 30 cm above ground in  grasses or reeds and can be up to 10 cm in diameter for a breeding nest

  * They have prehensile tails - useful for climbing!

  * They live 18 months on average.

Find out more about the species with the Mammal Society's fact sheet at:

Harvest Mouse Factsheet

and don't forget to record any sightings or signs of these or any other mammals for us at:

Mammal Records

Check out the great photos of the harvest mouse nests found on the recent training day - posted a few weeks ago on the BMG Facebook page.

Monday 30 November 2015

Berkshire Mammal Group Talk - Riversearch

Jim Jones, Surrey Wildlife Trust. 5th November 2015


Speaking to the Berkshire Mammal Group at its new venue in Park Church, Reading, Jim introduced himself as a former dispatch rider and care worker, before he read for a BSc at Plymouth and an MSc at UEA. His first post was with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and he now works for Surrey Wildlife Trust as Wetland Landscapes Officer. He is also Vice Chairman of Surrey Mammal Group and a trainer for the Mammal Society.

Outline of the talk

Helping riparian mammals recover, especially otters and water voles, and using people in partnership to understand where these animals actually are, is how Jim set out his theme – and to encourage a landscape approach to nature conservation. 

1. Otter and Water Voles

Otters have been in tremendous decline since the 1950s – caused by DDT pesticides and, to a lesser extent, hunting – surviving only in the South West and Wales. Interestingly, a 1905 book on hunting reports an otter hunt in Chiddingfold where Jim now lives. Now, however, the otter is present in every county in England, though still scarce in the South East; the North Downs act as a watershed and otters are few south of them, in Hampshire, Sussex and Kent. 

Water voles
Hedgehogs excepted, the water vole is Britain’s most rapidly declining mammal, a fate propelled by intensive agriculture (ploughing up to the bank, for instance), development of the flood plains, even a lack of management that allows the growth of scrub and trees to prevent the lush vegetations that voles need. On top of this, the American mink is a modern menace. Smaller in size than the otter, the mink has a white chinstrap rather than bib, and creates a bow wave when swimming. Interestingly, when their territories overlap with those of polecats, the sex bias of the latter is affected, with a diminishing number of females.

Jim Jones

The status of river mammals in Surrey
The current distribution map includes records dating back 15 years and so must be regarded as an unreliable reflection of population. Otters are recorded on the Mole and Eden to the east of the county, with more coming into the catchment of the River Wey from Hampshire. The pattern is more marked in the case of voles; ten years ago they were on the Mole, but now are just on the Wey, while mink are found throughout the county, even the central Surrey Hills.

Record keeping
Local records are sent to the National Water Vole Database & Mapping Project, 2009-14, from which ‘alert maps’ are produced and both local and regional key areas proposed for conservation.

2. Water vole recovery plan

A six-point plan to reverse the trend was introduced when Jim became Wetlands Officer:
  1. Going back to the existing sites for a status update
  2. Reintroduction of animals if needed
  3. Inform local authority planning departments
  4. Habitat management where existing sites are suitable
  5. Creation of new habitats in key areas if needed
  6. Mink control – a collective action with landowners, at catchment level.

3. RiverSearch

Building on previous attempts at surveying ‘wet’ mammals, and the work of river wardens, RiverSearch was launched in 2012. Taking its inspiration from the work of Darren Tansley of the Essex Wildlife Trust from 2007, it collects data on the otter, water vole, water shrew and harvest mouse. Starting from scratch, Surrey’s new volunteers are trained at Darren’s house. Volunteers are asked to adopt a one km stretch of river and monitor it at least once a season. The resulting data are captured by a river co-ordinator for prioritisation and planning.

117 volunteers recruited
82 volunteers trained
71 stretches of the Wey and Mole covered
23 mammal surveyors trained

Vole Patrol 2015 is a 60-site survey on the Wey, Mole and Blackwater. There was also a vole-raft project conducted by Nick Mason of Nottingham Trent University, designed to indicate the presence of voles by the traces of excrement left behind. Negative results were obtained at 20 to 30 sites, before Nick moved on and found success in Hampshire.

Vole Reintroduction
Several suitable sites have been identified, including Stoke Meadows, next to the A3 at Guildford, and Nutfield Marshes at Redhill. If no voles are located, then reintroduction on these sites will be attempted. However, £150,000 would be needed to prepare the sites. 
Otter surveys
The 5th Otter Survey of the UK identified two positive sites were in Surrey, and Jim’s Otter Bridge Blitz of 2014 found spraint under selected bridges around Guildford. 
Photography project
A University of Surrey / SWT project was established in 2013 to monitor the riverbanks with cameras. Aaron, a student at the university, installed live-action camera traps and succeeded in obtaining lots of otter pictures that year, supplemented by images from John Hawkins Wildlife Photography. Analysis of the frequency of visits to the traps indicated a pattern a couple of days’ activity followed by absences of either one or two weeks before returning. This was in July and August when such a level of activity is atypical of otters. Eventually one animal was found, injured or unwell, and while at the sanctuary, it was discovered to have been ‘chip-and-pinned’ by a Somerset Hospital that had released one originally from Devon and two originally from North Wales. (Out-of-area releases – possibly due to overcrowding – can be problematic and spread diseases such as liver fluke.) However, no sightings of otters have since been reported in Surrey and presumably they have moved on.

4. Landscape

Jim seeks bigger, joined-up landscapes and asks how mammal projects can indicate or even initiate progress toward this aim. He points to ‘catchment partnerships’ and notes that RiverSearch also monitors pollution, barriers and the presents of non-natives, besides helping in practical work of enhancing channels and maintaining the banks. He gave examples of multiple-benefit projects: Wey Meadows and Wet Heath & Mire Project (Devil’s Punchbowl)

5. Surrey Harvest Mouse
Increasingly found in wetlands, harvest mice are a monitor of how joined-up the landscape might be. For the Surrey project the team experimented to establish which traps would be best: Longworth (“best”), plastic (“OK”) and Sherman (“hated”) – at stalk height or on the ground. Apparently the position made little difference, but many more were found in the morning than after midday. 26 mice were found in one field alone.

Second Phase: Genetics
Genetic testing, by fur plucking, is seeking to establish connectivity or insularity of population. Testing is conducted by the university at Brighton. For success 15-20 animals are required per site, and so volunteers are being trained to search for nests. The first four yielded nothing, but the fifth site, 18; the last, 32; the current, 10 and counting. This is exciting stuff – the first project in the UK to look at population genetics; the only other is in Taiwan, with which Jim keeps in correspondence. Harvest mice inhabit the entire Eurasian land mass.

Questions and Discussion

- Will otters benefit if mink numbers are reduced? Probably not, as they co-exist relatively independently.

- How does the European mink interact with voles. Not sure, but less aggressive than its American counterpart.

- If banks need management, then perhaps riparian mammals are being artificially encouraged by conservationists? Why bother? Because the rest of the landscape is also artificial and man has assumed the responsibility of attaining balance.

- Is harvest mouse trapping only conducted in the autumn? This is the peak time in terms of population. 90% die over winter and the population has to recover in the spring.

- Harvest mice are increasingly found in wetland sedges. Perhaps they always were there, if not as noticeably as in arable grasses. They have declined in fields, but still continue especially around the edges and near the hedgerows.

- RiverSearch is sponsored by the brewer, SAB Miller.

- No sign of otters in 2014 after losing sight of the 2013 family. They travel throughout a 40-50km range, at very low density. There are only ten along the River Itchen in Hampshire!

Edwin A.R. Trout,
Berkshire Mammal Group

Tuesday 3 November 2015

November 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Fallow Deer

It's November already! Time to say goodbye to the hedgehog and welcome the fallow deer as our November Mammal of the Month.

Our top five facts for this species are:

• They were introduced to the UK by the Normans - they originally come from south-west Asia - and are now the most common deer in the UK.

• They are in between roe deer and red deer in size and have spotty coats and a white bottom edged with black stripes.

• The rutting season is October and November so keep an ear out if you're out and about in the woods this month.

• Females can live up to 16 years in the wild.

• Nearly 2/3 of their diet is grass but they will also browse young trees and eat acorns, beech mast and chestnuts in the autumn.

Please record your sightings at BMG Recording

If you'd like to find out more about this species check out the Mammal Society's fact sheet at: Fallow Deer

Thursday 1 October 2015

October 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Hedgehog


Photo credit: Becky Thomas

It's getting into hibernation time now so our October Mammal of the Month is our prickly friend, the hedgehog.

Our top 5 facts for the hedgehog are:
1. They live for up to 10 years, though most live only 2-3 years 
2. They breed between April and September, with litter sizes of 4-5 
3. They travel up to 2 km every night hunting for food and in built-up areas have been shown to use up to 10 gardens each.

4. When hibernating they may awaken several times to build a new nest 
5. They are good swimmers (but often get stuck in modern smooth-sided ponds so please consider a ramp using a plank of wood if you have one)

If you see any hedgehogs, or any other mammals this month, please record it for us here

Of course we hope that all of your sightings will be of live hedgehogs but sightings of dead ones are useful records too so please enter these as well.

Check out the Mammal Society's fact sheet here to learn more.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

September 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Muntjac Deer

Photo Credit: Mel Orros

Our September mammal of the month is the muntjac deer. Here are our top five muntjac facts:

1. They are native to China but were deliberately introduced into the wild in England in 1901 close to Woburn Abbey

2. They breed all year round

3. They don't form herds - if you see a group together it is likely to be a mother and her kid

4. They are only little! In size they are just a little larger than a fox and weigh under 20 kg.

5. Males have long, protruding canines - you should be able to spot these in a photo or if you spot one in the wild, even at a distance.

Check out the Mammal Society’s fact sheet for the species to learn more.

Please record any sightings of muntjac or any other mammals for us here. Every record counts!

Saturday 1 August 2015

August 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Mole

Photo Credit: Mike E Talbot (via Wikicommons)

Time to announce our August Mammal of the Month! This month it's the mole. This species is one of the hardest British mammals to spot but you may well see signs of it. Here are our top five mole facts for you:

1. Moles eat over half their body weight in earthworms every day!
2. Their deeper tunnels may be used by several generations of moles
3. Their tunnel networks can be several hundreds of metres long
4. There are no moles in Ireland
5. Moles sometimes keep their prey alive in underground chambers instead of eating it straight away. 

Find out more details with the Mammal Society's fact sheet

And finally, last but most certainly not least, please don't forget to record your sightings of moles or any signs of them (mole hills count!) at our recording page.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

July 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Fox

Photo Credit: Becky Thomas

This month’s mammal is the fox! 

Familiar to all of us, this carnivore is widespread in both urban and rural areas. July is an ideal time to spot the species as this year's cubs are now out of their dens. We would love to see any photos you have of them and of course, please don't forget to enter your sightings for our records here.

Our top five foxy facts are:
  1. Foxes are found all across Britain except for all of the Scottish Islands other than Skye

  2. Most only live for 1 to 3 years in the wild although some have been known to reach age 9.

  3. They hold family territories that can vary from 0.2 all the way up 40 square kilometres depending upon the type of habitat

  4. Their tails get thicker and bushier in the winter

  5. Adults weigh between 5 and 7 kg.

The national Mammal Society's factsheet has more details here

Sunday 31 May 2015

June 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Grey Squirrel

Photo Credit - Becky Thomas

Somehow we’ve reached June already so it’s time for a new mammal of the month for you all to spot in the long evenings. This month it’s the grey squirrel. Not everyone's favourite squirrel in the UK but in suburban and urban areas probably the wild mammal that you'll most often see.

Our top five grey squirrel facts are:
  1. They originally come from the USA and were introduced into the UK over many years from the 1870s through to the late 1920s.
  2. Their tails can be as long as the rest of their bodies (tails up to 24 cm, body length 24-28.5 cm)
  3. Their nests are called dreys and they often use twigs that they cut straight from the tree with leaves still on (birds use dead twigs).
  4. Females can have two litters a year, in spring and again in the summer, with 3 or 4 young in each litter.
  5. As they are not a native species and are often considered a pest it is illegal to release one back into the wild in the UK without a special exemption certificate (some wildlife rehabilitation centres have these).

 Find out more with the national Mammal Society’s fact sheet for the species 
Photo Credit - Damian Carter

Please record all of your grey squirrel sightings for us at our recording page – we have surprisingly few squirrel records considering how many are around. Don’t forget that we also welcome records of all wild mammals all year round so please don’t restrict yourselves to the Mammal of the Month!

Wednesday 20 May 2015

The not-so-common dormouse

Illustration: Clara Prieto

This month’s Mammal of the Month is the hazel (or common) dormouse which is no surprise as
May is usually when surveys start for this species as they are now out and about after 5 months
in hibernation. The dormouse however is not so common, even if the name suggests otherwise,
in the UK (or in fact Europe) and has been afforded European Protected Species status which
means it is illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb a dormouse or destroy its resting place
amongst other clauses (see Natural England website for its full legal protection information).

Under a NE licence dormouse boxes can be opened and checked and although everyone hopes
dormice will be resident, it is not always the case... these lovely dry, draught-proof (to a degree)
wooden boxes can become homes for a myriad of species; from bees to yellow-neck mice. It
does make a surveyor a little nervous when approaching a box; "Will it be a small mammal or a
box that buzzes?"

The Berkshire Mammal Group have four dormouse box sites around West Berkshire and we
have organised 16 dormouse box checks this year (4 per wood), two of which were carried out
this weekend (17/5/15) in Ashampstead Common and Moor Copse. Both are extremely
enchanting woods this time of the year with Bluebells abundant, and Dog’s Mercury about to
flower, however the Common Nettle is willing and able to sting at the slightest touch. Alas we
have yet to find a torpid dormouse curled up within its nest, but fingers and toes are crossed that
the not-so-common dormouse will appear!

In the meantime we have had pygmy shrews, wood mice, yellow-neck mice, bees (!) and blue tit
chicks ‘a’plenty resident in the boxes.. so at least some species are making good use of these
artificial nest sites.

If you want to find out more about dormice, and maybe don’t want to experience the box buzzing
scenario, we have been working with a very talented graphic designer who has produced a
dormouse infographic for us, it is extremely informative, well illustrated and deserves to be read
and shared.  It is also available as a PDF available here.

If you want more information about dormice or maybe want to get involved please contact us!

Amanda Lloyd

Dormouse Officer BMG

Friday 1 May 2015

May 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Hazel Dormouse

Hazel Dormouse - Photo credit: Becky Thomas

Happy May Day!

We’re pleased to announce that our Mammal of the Month for May is the hazel dormouse. They are just coming out of hibernation at this time of year so it is the perfect time to welcome the species as our Mammal of the Month.

Our top five dormice facts are:

  1. As well as hibernating over the winter, dormice can also go into a state called torpor in poor weather to save energy. Their body temperature becomes lower and they appear to be in a deep sleep
  2. Dormice rarely come to the ground, instead using tree and shrub branches to move around
  3. Females usually have one litter of about four young and the young stay with their mother for up to 8 weeks.
  4. In the UK, dormice are mostly found in southern England with some in Wales. It is rare to find populations north of the Midlands.
  5. There are surprisingly few dormouse records for Berkshire but we are hoping that our nest box sites may provide more during this year’s checks.

Find out lots more about dormice via the Mammal Society's webpage for the species where you can also download a species factsheet

Dormouse records are hard to come by but do let us know if you spot any when you're out and about and please record sightings or signs of any mammal here

Wednesday 1 April 2015

April 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Badger

Photo credit: Matt Collis
Our April mammal of the month is the badger. The species we have in the UK is the European badger (scientific name Meles meles). It will be familiar to many of us from children's stories and lots of other sources but how many of you have seen one live in the wild? If you do spot one, please record it for us here. Any road-kill victims can also be entered as a record although of course we hope not to have many of those. Any other mammal records can be entered via the same page too.

Our top five badger facts are:
  • They weigh around 8-9 kg in the spring but go up to about 11 to 12 kg in the autumn
  • Social groups usually contain about 6 adults but groups of over 20 have been recorded
  • Cubs are born bald and blind within the sett, usually in February, and do not emerge above ground for around 2 months (so look out soon!).
  • They mark the edge of their territories with latrines - shallow pits in which they defecate
  • The territory around a set is usually around 30 ha but can be up to 150 ha.

For more details, check out the very informative Mammal Society fact sheet on the species, including pictures of their tracks and signs.

If you are lucky enough to take a photo of a badger or have any that you've already taken, we'd love to see them - please share!

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Short-eared Owls love Field Voles!   
Short-eared Owl - Ian Paterson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Short-eared Owls seem to be regular winter visitors to the Ridgeway in West Berkshire and so I decided to take a short trip to see them. Arriving an hour or so before sunset, it didn't take long to see several hunting along the long grass and scrub. They perched frequently on the fences and posts, so I thought I would check to see if there were any pellets. I did in fact find one, but later lost it!

At the recent Berkshire Mammal Group AGM and very interesting talk from PC Ian Whitlock on Wildlife Crime, I saw there were copies of the FSC/HOT Guide to British owls and owl pellets available and thinking I'd later try pellet dissection, I bought one.

SEO pellets.jpg
Short-eared Owl pellets

Another trip to the Ridgeway one lunchtime produced 7 pellets in a short time. They were fairly easy to find under the wooden fences and near marker posts, though there were not huge piles in any one place. I already knew these were Short-eared owl pellets from the location and they were smooth and grey exactly as described in the guide. They were also light, containing lots of fur.

Although I suspected that most of the prey would be rodents, I wasn't sure which bones I'd find in the pellets. I realised that as the owls swallow small mammals whole, all the parts of the prey that are not digested (fur and bones) must be regurgitated at some point.

Soaking the pellets in water with a little disinfectant loosened them up. It was surprising that despite being light, they are highly compact and takes a little time with the tweezers to separate out the bones. Another slight surprise was the appearance of the leg bones. They were small but sturdy looking with clear ball and knee joints. The human resemblance made me feel sympathy for the prey.

    FVole upper teeth2.jpg
Field vole upper teeth - zig-zag with 3 lobes on inner middle tooth

The first pellet contained not one, but at least two prey items. The lower jaw molars showed that these were voles, but closer inspection was needed to decide between Field vole and Bank vole. Fortunately, I had a magnifying lamp, and a macro lens for the camera and this was not too difficult. There are three molars on each side. They form a sharp zig-zag with three lobes on the inner part of the middle tooth. This makes this a skull from a Field vole. The second (larger) pellet contained no less than 4 Field vole skulls!

One pellet contained some remains of a Wood mouse as well as a Field vole. The lower jaw of the Wood mouse is a different shape to that of the Field vole, and on removing the teeth, you can see 6 root holes.

All bones.jpg

Wood mouse jaws (top left), bird wishbone and leg-bone (bottom left), Field vole bones (right 3 columns)

    WMouse ljaw.jpg
Wood mouse lower jaw with 6 root holes

A further pellet contained remains of a medium-sized bird. I won't try to guess the species, but I suspect it was at least as big as a thrush. This pellet was far more unpleasantly “mushy” - perhaps feathers break down in the owl's gizzard unlike mammal fur?.

Overall, in the 7 pellets there were at least 11 Field voles, 1 Wood mouse and 1 bird. There was quite some size variation in the Field vole bones, as well as in their teeth.

The habitat from which I collected the pellets was rough grassland with scrub but few trees, so perhaps this is no surprise. This is also consistent with published papers of Short-eared Owl diet; Field voles forming the vast majority of Short-eared owl prey, with Wood mice, Rats and various birds making up most of the rest.

If you are lucky enough to see a Short-eared owl hunting, it's a fair bet that there are plenty of Field voles around!

Rob Davies

Tuesday 3 March 2015

March 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Brown Hare

Our mammal of the month for March, is the 'Mad March' hare. Brown hares are present across most of the country in lowland areas and our records for Berkshire are all in the west of the county to date (west of Bradfield) so it would be great to get some from elsewhere - see if you can spot this speedy character when walking on farm or grassland. Please record any sightings for us here.


Our top five hare facts are:


* They can run fast - up to 45 miles per hour!


* They have longer ears than rabbits, with black tips


* Unlike rabbits, they don't burrow. Instead they make small depressions called forms.


* Young hares are called leverets


* Females can have up to four litters every year.


The Mammal Society factsheet has more details:

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Tracking the Fox

Photo Credit: Becky Thomas
It had been a mild winter – no sledging and snowmen before Christmas as we had in 2010 and 11 – but at the end of January came what the media called “the Beast from the East”. Cold air swept in from the Continent, chivvying flocks of redwings before it, and hail pelted down in a furious, but mercifully brief burst on the 29th. Then on Saturday 31st, I awoke to find the landscape covered in a velvety coating of snow. It wasn’t yet 7.00 in the morning, so the scene looked calm and peaceful in the lamplight; there was only one set of tyre tracks in the road out front. I thought I’d go for a walk in the first snow of the year and enjoy the frozen serenity of Maiden Erlegh Nature Reserve before anyone else was up.

Wrapped up in hat, scarf and gloves I set out, my Wellingtons pressing on the virgin snow. Only it wasn’t virgin – someone, or something, had been here before. There was a set of paw prints stretching down the pavement towards the lake. Instinctively I followed them, wondering what they were: cat? (wrong shape); dog? (too big) – surely fox! They crossed the road and proscribed a circle on a neighbour’s lawn, then on to the grass in Lakeside and along the path. Approaching the gate I saw them divert across the sward and out onto the road. One set of tracks led out to the houses in Lakeside, and another came back. I followed them along the path to the weir and the foot of the lake. They diverged: one into the woods, and the other on to the fishing platform. They were definitely fox tracks, dainty, forward facing and – vitally – unaccompanied. Prints were to be found on the path leading to the playground, and though I lost sight of them in Laurel park and around the pavilion, I found them again passing the Interpretation Centre and onto Instow Road. This was too easy, the fox was following one of the routes I take of an evening! The trail went cold in the meadow – disappointingly, as that is where a den can usually be found in the summer – but was picked up again as I rounded the sediment pond at the Beech Lane end. The tracks crossed the road and along the footpath for a while, before cutting through a gap and up Allendale Road.

"Caminozorro" by Erfil - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
One, or possibly two foxes between them had taken the same circuit as I often do, before daybreak prompted them to seek cover. But then I’ve also seen them on summer evenings in the past, openly trotting along the paths a dusk. But now, when sightings of foxes are rare (compared with a couple of years ago), these tracks came as a pleasing reassurance of their continuing presence.

Edwin A.R. Trout

Sunday 8 February 2015

Dormouse Box Check and Clean

Moor Copse Dormouse Box: Check and Clean – 18th and 24th January 2015

Damian Carter (BMG Treasurer)

It was time for the dormouse boxes at Moor Copse nature reserve to be checked, cleaned and, in some cases, simply located. This being the first time I’d ever done this properly, I was expecting a pleasant walk through the nature reserve, clean out a few boxes and then wander home after a good bit of fresh air. Well I was mostly right.

The small group of us set out with bags of spare boxes, wire, cutters, “stuffers” Amanda provided us with, a couple of ‘outdoor’ marker pens and Liz with a map marking where all the boxes where. The idea being simply to clean out the boxes, while the dormice are hibernating at ground level, re-mark the fading numbers and replace any that were broken, or missing, and remount any that needed it.

Wandering through a wood looking for wood-en boxes, even with a marked up map, isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, especially when you have to remember to look behind you sometimes to see the ones that you’ve just walked right past! Sharp eyes and a good sense of direction come in very handy.

So, approaching the first box I find out what the “stuffers” are for: sticking in the hole to stop any residents from escaping before we’ve had a chance to properly read them their rights and evict them! After all these are dormice boxes, not wood mice, yellow-necked mice or pygmy shrew boxes, but I guess they can read the signs!

Yellow-necked Mouse

I was actually quite surprised at just how many of the boxes were in fact occupied. We took pity on the couple of wood mice families we found which still had large numbers of young in residence.

Pygmy Shrew

Wood Mouse

We had a complete range of box contents from old mice’ nests, filled with chewed nuts; birds’ nests; an incredibly tough, sticky and elastic hive-like nest (jury still out on what these were, caterpillar, bees nest?); through to completely empty – not even a leaf!

I managed to get a few photos but sadly, like so many others, my camera skills need improving so many came out complete blurs but here’s a few of the others. If anyone can identify what creature was responsible for the droppings in one of these it’d be interesting to know.

Friday 6 February 2015

Berkshire Mammals Group AGM and Wildlife Crime Talk


Our next indoor meeting is the Annual General Meeting at 7pm on Thursday 26th February followed by a talk given by PC Ian Whitlock who will speak to us about his work as a Wildlife Crime Officer.

Ian has been a Wildlife Crime Office for over two years and specialises in CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and exotic animals.  He has run a number of investigations including taxidermy cases, bat roosts and puppy farming, and securing the first ever CITES prosecution for Thames Valley Police.  He aims to provide an overview of wildlife crime and the work in which he is involved, with examples drawn from experience and emphasizing mammal cases.

Talks are £4 for non-members and free to BMG members (why not join on the night? see Membership for more details). The University of Reading is kindly sponsoring this event by providing a venue and free admission to any current University of Reading students.

 The talk will be held in Room G74 in the Philip Lyle Building (near the Harris Garden) on Whiteknights Campus, University of Reading. The 20 and 21 buses both serve the Pepper Lane bus stop just outside the campus entrance (the stop after the main university one if coming from Reading town centre). Free parking is available in front of the adjacent Harborne Building in Car Park 13. Please use the Pepper Lane entrance to the university, turn right at the roundabout and then follow the road around until you reach the building, which will be on your right. For further details please consult the campus map, available here.

 The door to the building will be locked from 7pm onwards, so please try to arrive in good time (anyone arriving after 7pm will have to call a mobile number left on the door to be let in).

 As part of the AGM we will vote in the committee positions for another year. We currently have two vacant positions:

 1) Surveys Officer: To co-ordinate and organise species surveys and to maintain records submitted to the group

 2) Secretary: To take minutes during committee meetings and to oversee the general emails

If you are interested in either of these positions, then please get in touch at

Sunday 1 February 2015

February 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Wood mouse

February's mammal of the month is a bit easier to spot than January's otter. This month's star is the Wood mouse. 

This is the mouse you're most likely to see in most parts of Berkshire, including urban areas, and by far the most common species that we find in our live trapping surveys. Please record any sightings via the BMG records page  - we really appreciate all of your records and don't forget, it's not just sightings of the mammal of the month that we're after but any sightings or signs of any wild mammal.
Photo Credit: Becky Thomas
Our top facts for the wood mouse are:
  1. They can be easily distinguished from field and bank voles by the size of their ears - as you can see from the photo they are rather large. Those of voles are hardly visible in comparison. Check out the Mammal Society info here for other species that they could be confused with and how to tell them apart.
  2. They are prolific breeders! The usual season is March to October but can be all year round if there is enough food. Females are able to get pregnant again very soon after each litter.
  3. They store food in caches in underground burrows
  4. They nest together in groups over the winter
  5. They are an important source of food for many other species - anything from foxes to owls (and of course pet cats!) will eat them.

Monday 5 January 2015

Busy Times for Berks Dormice

©Rob Strachan WildCRU


Happy New Year Everyone!!

The dormouse is a small, nocturnal mammal weighing in at 30g. For a large part of the year (6 months or more), they hibernate in nests on or under the ground. Dormice spend most of their active time high off the ground in tree canopies and not just in hazel woods, they have been found in pine-dominated commercial forests and in people’s greenhouses and allotments!

Dormouse numbers are estimated to have halved in the last 100 years, with the majority of remaining populations occurring in southern England. The main reasons for this decline appear to be linked to the loss and fragmentation of ancient woodlands, reduction in woodland management practices and, more recently, climate change. Berkshire is just on the edge of this range with what appears to be a correlated lowering of numbers.
My name is Amanda Lloyd, I am a mammal ecologist and will be leading and organising the dormouse surveys in the coming months. Currently we have 4 sites with dormouse boxes in place, one site was checked in November for dormice and 3 nests were found in the boxes, which is great news and I am looking forward to finding the actual animal (maybe more than one!) in question in spring. 
This year the dormouse surveys (as part of the National DormouseMonitoring Programme) will truly commence but first we need to ascertain the state the boxes are in and repair any old un-useable ones. Thanks to membership fees we have been able to purchase 50 new shiny boxes that will be used to replace any old and worn-out boxes.

 Some of our new boxes

Photo: Amanda Lloyd

So as you can see busy times ahead and any help whether that be in the form of providing dormouse sightings or actively volunteering your time with box checks or “nut-hunts” is all appreciated and a nice way to spend a day out in the countryside! If you do want to get involved please email:
©Rob Strachan WildCRU

January 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Otter

Photo Credit: Becky Thomas

We're back after the festive break and very pleased to announce our first Mammal of the Month for 2015 - the otter. 


 Our top five facts for this often secretive species are:

• They can live up to 10 years in the wild
• Young are born in dens called holts and the mother looks after the cubs alone
• Otters can have large territories - up to 20 km of river!
• Their poo is called spraint - it smells sweet and musky and is often the only way you know that an otter is in the area.
• After almost disappearing from much of Britain in the last century they are now making an impressive come-back - BMG even has a record from very close to the Oracle Shopping Centre in the centre of Reading!!

 Find out more about the species on the Mammal Society's fact sheet and please record any sightings (of them or their signs) one our website