2015 Mammal Report

Mammal report 2015

By John Drewett

The only report of Badger this year was a dead animal on the road by Bushby Gill Plantation, Scotton. Chris Metcalfe watched an Otter on the River Ure at Middleham on 4th March, and I saw a Red Fox at Widdale Head in September. Foxes were also recorded thanks to their strong scent at three other locations during the year. Four reports of Stoats and one of Weasel were received, including two Stoats jumping and tumbling together in a field at Kirkbridge. During the year I saw what I consider to be three individual Polecats, all between Downholme and Grinton in Swaledale.
These were animals with the classical Polecat markings, quite unlike the feral Ferrets so often seen in the Dales.
There were six reports of Roe Deer in 2015, including eight at Goskins Plantation near Hornby in March. On 3rd August I happened to look out of my window in Arrathorne mid-morning to spot two Roe Deer a couple of fields away. For several minutes I watched as the male, head down, closely followed the female around the field. Just as I was expecting them to vanish down into the valley they mated in the middle of the field.
There has been a welcome increase in records of Brown Hare during 2015, thanks to a series of records from Sheila Simms, and several seen by myself. Many of the records come from the agricultural area between Leyburn and Bedale. The highest numbers at the same time were six near Stoop House Farm in April, and five at Marske in Swaledale in May. Rabbits continue to be widespread and were the subject of 19 records during the year. On my Breeding Bird Survey square at Brompton-on-Swale Rabbits are always abundant;; this year I counted 72 in the 1km square!
Common Pipistrelle Bat was recorded throughout the area during the year, mostly in flight. A roost of Pipistrelle Bat made itself obvious by their entering some council flats near The Green, in Richmond in August. As the buildings were scheduled to undergo repairs a survey was carried out, but by that time the bats had already left for the season. Soprano Pipistrelle were also widely recorded throughout the area. A roost at Askrigg was located by the presence of droppings in a derelict building, but the site was abandoned by the bats a day or two later.
Occasional Brown Long-eared Bat was recorded in flight, one seen emerging from the wall of an old stone barn at Countersett in August. As usual, Noctule Bat was recorded widely, mostly in ones or twos, and always in flight. Daubenton's Bat was particularly under-recorded in 2015, the only report being from Bishopdale. Whiskered or Brandt's Bat were recorded in flight during surveys in Wensleydale, Coverdale and Bishopdale over the summer months.
In terms of bat surveys, one carried out at Ulla Bridge near Caldbergh proved both delightful and challenging. The bridge is an historic route, carrying a footpath across a deep, rocky gorge, just upstream from the surprisingly tall bridge that carries the little lane from East Witton to West Scrafton. Common and Soprano Pipistrelle and Natterer's Bats were heard in good numbers, but could not be seen against the dark rock faces beneath a dense canopy of trees. We eventually decided that none had emerged from the bridge, but that bats were most probably roosting in the trees and rock faces.
Mole continues to be the most recorded mammal, thanks to the obvious molehills: no one reported seeing a live animal. Five live Hedgehog were seen on roads during my nocturnal drives around the Dales over the summer months.
In July two tiny Field Voles were discovered in a field at Caldbergh. An adult animal in August at Arrathorne was running in tight circles in the road, suggesting that it had been injured. Five Grey Squirrel were reported during the year, all from the lower parts of Wensleydale and Swaledale.
Many thanks to those members who took the trouble to report their sightings during the year. More records would be appreciated and can be sent at any time of the year to ynhsmammals@btinternet.com. Do it while you remember!

Sheila Simms reports: I have totalled up the mammals I have seen in different locations in Wensleydale from my bike or the bus this year. A=alive D=dead: Badger 2D. Hare 5D,7A. Stoat 2D,3A. Roe Deer 2D,3A. Hedgehog several D.