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Mammal Report for 2007

by Michael Thompson

Looking back at reports from 2005 and 2006, I find the contents are very similar and rather repetitive. I have tried a different presentation for the 2007 report. Compared with 2006, I have received more records from more members of the Society in 2007, and many of them have a grid reference number. This makes it more easy to send the records to the North and East Yorkshire Ecological Data centre in York. In 2007 the Society’s membership recorded 25 species of mammal within most of Ryedale; this total is 42% of the land based mammals in Britain and compares with 21 species for 2006. Missing from the list this year are the house mouse, harvest mouse, water vole, dormouse and red deer, all of which have been recorded in previous years.

Those mammals recorded in 2007 are listed below, according to six of their Orders.

Insectivora: Hedgehog, Mole, Common shrew, Pygmy shrew, Water shrew.
Chiroptera: Natterer’s bat, Daubenton’s bat, Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle, Brown long-eared bat.
Lagomorpha: Rabbit, Brown hare.
Rodentia: Grey squirrel, Bank vole, Field vole, Wood mouse, Brown rat.
Carnivora: Red fox, Stoat, Weasel, Mink, Otter, Badger.
Artiodactyla: Fallow deer, Roe deer.

Hedgehogs, along with moles, are widely dispersed, but with a concentration of hedgehog records around Kirkbymoorside and the A170, many of them road casualties. Of over 30 hedgehog records received, only seven were of live animals. Some of these sightings were in November, indicating late hibernation dates due to milder climatic conditions, a similar finding occurred in 2006. A hibernating hedgehog was uncovered near Oswaldkirk on 1st February. Does doubling up of these records in 2007 indicate a good viable population of hedgehogs in Ryedale in spite of high mortality, or is it indicative of greater recording activity of the membership? More research at a national level is required on the current status of the hedgehog in Britain.

Shrew records were few, with common shrew sightings from Whitwell, Scackleton and Fryton Lane, along with remains of two in barn owl pellets from Slingsby. An adult common shrew was watched for five minutes in broad daylight foraging amongst some leaf litter in Fryton West Wood at the end of August. Seven Slingsby barn owl pellets were analysed and this was carried out by members of The Yorkshire Mammal Group. They contained, along with the common shrew, the remains of two bank voles, two field voles, one brown rat and a claw of a cannibalised barn owl chick. There was one record of a pygmy shrew from Gilling and a single dead water shrew from Fryton. The last water shrew record from this area was at The Lawns, Slingsby in 1999, indicating, I think, a small viable population of these elusive mammals locally.

Like other common mammals, the rabbit is under-recorded, with five records coming from Sykes House, Marton, Gilling, South Holme and Slingsby. Mating was noted on 2nd March and youngsters observed at South Holme on 8th July. Nine brown hare records were received during 2007, from the high moor on Rudland Rigg, Gillamoor, Ampleforth, Nunnington, Whitwell, Fryton and clusters of 10 hares in one field at Salton on 21st January and 14 from the Gilling area. A leveret was seen south of Fadmoor on 17th April. Small rodents were represented with bank voles at Whitwell, South Holme with 5 sightings, a garden in Kirkbymoorside and Slingsby, along with field voles at Whitwell and Slingsby. The general public, as in 2006, have commented about the number of brown rats about and this was confirmed by the number of records received from Gilling, Whitwell, Terrington, Pockley, Sykes House and Slingsby. Wood mice were recorded from Sykes House, Gilling Woods, Brandrith Farm and two sightings at South Holme on 25th October and 11th November. A wood mouse caught at Slingsby in a snapper trap was a male in prime breeding condition on 28th February, with much enlarged testes. Grey squirrels seemed to be widespread in Ryedale with records received from Whitwell, Gilling Woods, Bulmer Hagg Wood, Hutton Common, Sinnington, Cropton Forest, Beadlam, Slingsby and Sykes House, where two remained around the garden from May to August.

Of the bats, the most interesting find in 2007 was a dead brown long-eared bat at Sykes House. This gleaner does usually roost in older buildings in association with mature trees. Common pipistrelles were present from mid-May to the beginning of October at Slingsby, along with records from Sykes House, Gilling Woods on 10th November and Nunnington on River Rye; the soprano pipistrelle was present on the River Rye at Nunnington on 9th August. The annual Daubenton’s bat survey indicated an increase numbers at the study site along the River Rye at Nunnington on 9th August with 190 passes compared with 162 in 2006. This species was also recorded from Gilling Lake. It seems that the adult female nursery roost of Natterer’s bats at Ellerburn Church continues to increase with over 80 bats recorded in 2007. A dead juvenile bat was found in the church 5th July. The stand off between the conservationists and the parishioners remains unresolved.

Of the Mustelids, the stoat has had a good year with 8 records being submitted, with upland sightings from Bilsdale, Bransdale, lower Farndale and Sykes House, where they are described as common. The remaining records are usually from road verges and are recorded from South Holme, Brandrith, Whitwell and Kirby Misperton. Likewise, weasel road verge records are from Slingsby, when two youngsters were observed playing on 7th July, and Thornton-le-Dale when a weasel crossed the road carrying a common shrew. A single weasel was seen at Coulton. Three of the five badger records are of road casualties, namely Cawton, Howkeld and Carcroft Lodge, Kirkby Mills; the other records are from Gilling and a North Yorkshire Badger Group outing to Cropton Forest. A dead otter was found on Newsham Bridge in November and a dead mink reported from Pockley in January. A male fox, in prime condition, was seen in Gilling woods 6th April and foxes were also reported from Hovingham and Cold Harbour, near Coulton, as a road casualty.

A group of five fallow deer were seen in Ashberry Woods and a small herd in Cropton Forest. A cluster of 12 records for roe deer in Gilling Woods during the year, with mostly singles from Slingsby, Pockley, Hindenley Woods near Scackleton and Sykes House.

Records sent in by Gill Smith, Tom and Janet Denney, Keith Dixon, Andrea Cooper, Rhona Sutherland, Michael Thompson.

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