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Mammal madness, reptile rampage, butterfly bountiful and amazing amphibians…

June 17, 2013

What with spring quickly sprinting into summer our native wildlife has come out of the wilderness with one big bang! Bumble bees, butterflies, birds and reptiles are all starting to creep out of the woodwork and are being spotted all over our reserves.

Skills for the Future are preparing for the wildlife boom with lots of identification and survey training all across the county.

Reptiles – With a brief presentation delivered by our brave and fearless leader, Steve, interrupted by a spell of sunshine, we were led to the great outdoors.  We were armed and ready to lift a few reptile tins and master the smooth snake shuffle walk as demonstrated by our licensed leader.

Stalking the reptiles is a tricky business which involves walking as quietly as possible and listening out for distinct rustles of snakes and lizards.

The sand shuffle worked, Emma spotted our first sand lizard!

The shuffle worked, Emma spotted our first sand lizard!

Despite it being a breezy day and us being a large group, we managed to spot several sand lizards and common lizards lurking in the dappled sunshine of the scrub. A few slow worms lay concealed under tins trying to keep warm and we were lucky enough to find one of Britain’s rarest animals, the smooth snake, lurking under another tin in a more sheltered and secretive part of the heath.



A trip to the old roman road led us to some tins hiding more reptile treasures – grass snakes, smooth snakes and Charlie even glimpsed the tail end of an adder!

Now licensed, the Skills for the Future Trainees are preparing to take on their own reptile rambles across their respective reserves!

Mammals – At the Urban Wildlife Centre, Steve gave us an introduction to Longworth mammal trapping. Armed with 20 traps filled with hay for bedding, a natural seed mix to feed any hungry mammals and a few meal worms to occupy neurotic “living life on the edge” shrews that would otherwise struggle to survive, each of the Skills for the Future trainees picked their preferred plot around the car park outside the centre and left the traps overnight with all fingers and toes crossed we’d get results!

With a good nights sleep, we all met up for an early start back at the centre to check the traps. Although a few of our traps were empty we weren’t disheartened! Tom was the luckiest with a score of 2 out of 2 for trapping leading to a new nickname… Tom the Trapper!

Our first mammal of the day was a small female bank vole, identified by its little ears and distinctive reddish brown fur. Several more bank voles followed including a suspected pregnant female – not surprising since the little things breed like, well… voles, particularly in the recent burst of warmer weather. Another critter caught in a trap was a spritely wood mouse! Not quite as mellow as the bank voles that are renowned for becoming trap happy, the wood mouse gave us a few hops and a skip that made us jump but brave Megan pinched its scruff so we could all have a better look at the beautiful but feisty little furry!

A scruffed bank vole

A scruffed bank vole

All in all we had really positive results showing that even in busy and noisy car parks which are regularly used by people and dogs our mammals can still thrive. Wildlife really can be found right on your doorstep!

Amphibians but mostly newts – Time for Skills for the Future trainees to leave their normal places of work and adventure to the wildlife wonderland of Leeson House. Set amongst the rolling landscape of the Purbecks, Leeson House is well equipped to provide a great day wildlife hunting. Today’s targets…..amphibians.

In the pouring rain the day began with Rachel Janes, our very own pond and wetland conservation expert, giving us a helpful introduction to Britain’s native amphibians. We were introduced to newt survey methods including egg hunts, bottling and torching. Despite the atrocious weather we all dipped our nets into the ponds and started our quest for the elusive great crested newts.


Peek-a-boo: Our first Great Crested Newt of the day!

Our adventurous spirits were not dampened by the wet weather! After only a few dips we struck gold! One, two, three, four and then five great crested newts were discovered in the murky depths of the ponds that have become well established breeding grounds for the rare mini dinosaur look a likes over the years.

Like our fingerprints each Great Crested Newt has a distinctive belly pattern.

Like our fingerprints each Great Crested Newt has a distinctive belly pattern.

After lunch and still feeling a bit soggy, we headed out on a road trip to visit “Bunny” – a lovely character whose house made us all a little green eyed. Restored ponds hoping to home newts soon border ancient woodlands provided the perfect training grounds for us to exercise our new egg hunting skills. The first pond, although lacking in newts, boasted a healthy tadpole population. An eagle eyed Rachel spotted a folded leaf that harboured a great crested newt egg on the second pond – a really positive reward for Bunny and all the hard work he has put into making his pond a perfect newt habitat!


Adonis Blue and Green hairstreak butterflies – Fontmell

Marsh Fritillary butterflies – Powerstock, Kingcombe Meadows, Bracketts Coppice

Marsh fritillary

Marsh fritillary

Sandwich Terns & Common terns have started nesting at Brownsea.

Lots of Stalked jellyfish and brittle stars in Kimmeridge Bay.

Hare spotted in Kimmeridge and also Wyke Down.

Big news! We have a new Skills for the Future trainee! Our next blog will feature the lovely…Sam!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2013 11:04 am

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put
    in penning this blog. I really hope to view the same high-grade blog
    posts from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own blog now 😉

  2. July 26, 2013 3:18 pm

    We are glad you enjoy our ramblings of life as a Wildlife Trust trainee. We have another post coming up really soon – hope you like the read!

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