I was slightly concerned that I might have dragged everyone out of bed at 6am on a weekend for no reason – mammals can be quite hard to detect! Thankfully, the odd-looking rummaging around in bushes with a head torch setting traps the night before had paid off! Four out of twenty of our Longworth traps were occupied with very excitable wood mice.
Discovering the small mammals of Holywells Park
The traps we used in this survey consist of a small tunnel and nesting chamber, full of comfy hay and plenty of food to see them through the night. Casters (fly pupa) were popped in incase of any shrew visitors, alongside seed and apple cubes for any mice or voles. The traps were set along linear features – small mammals often follow these as they can provide feeding and nesting habitat, as well as protection from predators. Unfortunately for me, these edge habitats were thick in bramble and stinging nettles, and were generally quite hard to get to – much to the amusement of others later seeing my hair full of twigs!
We slowly made our way down the transect, being careful to check and remove each Longworth trap from the fence line, emptying the contents of each nest chamber into a large clear bag. After identifying and determining the sex of each mammal, off it went jumping back into the undergrowth – wood mice hop like tiny kangaroos! Despite their name, wood mice are actually quite generalist, and can be found in a variety of habitats, eating seeds, green plants, invertebrates and fruits.
Once we had checked and packed away all of the Longworth traps, it was time to check our footprint tunnels! Footprint tunnels are the standardized way of detecting hedgehogs, so we were very excited to see if they had been successful. The tunnels are made of corrugated plastic and house a dish of food, surrounded by ink pads and paper.
Unfortunately no hedgehogs this time, but we did have lots of footprint activity. Over half of our tunnels had small rodent footprints, and one even had a sneaky cat. These are a really fun way of seeing what wildlife has being using an area, and we’d love to get our footprint tunnels out in gardens and green spaces in Ipswich. We have lots that can be borrowed – get in touch if you’d like to try them out!