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Mammal Report for 2008

by Michael Thompson

Many more mammal records were received for 2008 from more members of the Society, but most of these records were of the larger and more visible mammals. The results, therefore, were skewed with gross under recording, except moles, of small mammals. In all, over 250 records were received, the majority with a grid reference number, as well as dates and habitat descriptions. These records will be passed on to the North and East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre, based in St. William’s College, York. Twenty-one species of mammal were recorded compared with 25 in 2007. Missing from the list are water and pygmy shrew, field vole, dormouse, house mouse, harvest mouse, several species of bat, mink and fallow deer.

The twenty plus hedgehog records indicate that this mammal is widely distributed throughout Ryedale, in spite of a high road mortality rate. The road accidents tell us that hedgehogs are present either in good numbers or a marked decline in numbers. Whatever the reason, more research is needed. Found around Sykes House, Fadmoor and Sinnington on the edge of the North York Moors, hedgehogs are also recorded from The Vale of Pickering, with viable populations in Kirkbymoorside, Marton and Amotherby. Some recorders found live hedgehogs in back gardens, or faecal evidence of their presence. In the autumn, Slingsby hedgehogs were found in a back garden by domestic dogs, consisting of a fully grown adult and first year juvenile. Late hibernation dates in Slingsby were recorded; on 13th November, when the weather was milder, hedgehogs were still about.

In spite of being Britain’s most common mammal, the mole tends to be under-recorded. A field or lawn full of mole hills may be a single animal or many, thus making accurate recording difficult. Of the eleven records, the majority were of mole hills, distributed through out Ryedale. Mole hills are described as plentiful around Gilling and Sykes House. Numerous hills were recorded in Farndale valley, and Rudland Rigg at 400 metres and on a road verge at Ousegill, at 300 metres altitude. Road verges in the region are quite a common habitat; a single mole was seen in broad daylight attempting to cross the road at West Ness bridge.

Whereas in previous years all three species of British mainland shrews have been recorded in Ryedale, this year only five records were received for the common shrew. A noisy road verge pair were observed at Gilling on two occasions in July. Common shrews were also recorded from Sykes House, Whitwell and Brandrith.

Another under-recorded group of mammals are the bats or Chiroptera. They are often seen flying around in variable numbers, but, because they are not either handled or identified by the use of a bat detector, species identification is impossible. It is likely that either the common pipistrelle or the soprano pipistrelle is the bat flying around near houses, back gardens or over water, such as those flying around Sykes House and urban Kirkbymoorside. The common pipistrelles were identified in Slingsby and over the River Rye at Nunnington Hall on 11th July using a detector. On the same evening at Nunnington, Daubenton’s bats were observed flying around the bridge over the Rye. The annual Daubenton’s survey at Nunnington was not carried out in 2008. Ellerburn Church is still in contest with conservationists over the future of the Natterers bat colony within the church. Permission has been granted by English Heritage to block up all the access holes to the church after September 2009, in spite of mitigating, bat-related activities taken to alleviate the situation. The North Yorkshire Bat Group is appealing against the decision. English Heritage is looking to carry out further research into bat colony situations within churches. In 2008, according to Leslie Helliwell, 106 adult female Natterers bats were counted, an increase on previous years. The brown long-eared bat continues to emerge from its feeding roost at Sykes House, below which in August were found moth remains. A similar roost was found in a loft space at Swinton, in which the large yellow underwing moth was the dominant prey item.

Of the small mammals, the long-tailed field mouse was recorded from road verges at Whitwell and Terrington. A male, with grossly enlarged testes, was found in a snapper trap at Slingsby in February and a dead one at Barmoor, Hutton-le-Hole. A single bank vole was recorded from South Holme. There was one possible record of water vole from Gilling, when a single animal was seen running along a ditch. Brown rats were seen at Slingsby, Whitwell, Lousy Lane, Gillamoor and Sykes House. The dormouse captive-release programme in Ryedale does not seem to have succeeded in 2008. Of the larger rodents, grey squirrel records are more numerous than previous years, with records coming in from a wide distribution in Ryedale. However, most records came from woodlands along the southern slopes of the North York Moors, such as Yoadwath, Lowna, Farndale, Hutton Common, Kirkdale and Ampleforth, where they are described as being more numerous in the College grounds. Increased numbers are also reported from Slingsby. Compared with previous years, there have been more rabbit records, 24 in all representing most habitats in Ryedale. Some records state that rabbits are common, such as along the road verges along the A170 at Howkeld and Gilling woodlands. Mating rabbits were observed at Slingsby on 2nd March. Compared with the rabbit, brown hares seem to be more common, or more visible. Over 30 brown hare records were received, covering a variety of habitats, such as rough pasture, arable farmland, road verges, woodlands and heather moorland. Several records from Gilling of hares in rough pasture, covering January to June, were received; also from South Holme with seven records between the end of June and the beginning of July. Hares were seen at upland sites at North Harland Moor, Fadmoor, Bitterdale Slack and Black House. Hares are reported from Bulmer Hagg Woods and Forestry Commission woodlands, as well as West Gate Carr, Pickering.

To predate on all the above described rodents are red foxes, of which 3 sightings are recorded, amongst which were two well developed cubs in woodland at Fadhill Rigg on 15th June; the other sites being Caukleys Bank and Cawthorne. Could this lack of fox records be due to many more of them being shot rather than hunted with dogs? Many more stoat and weasel records were received compared with previous years. The ‘centre of excellence’ for seeing stoats in Ryedale is around Sykes House on the edge of the Moors. A family of five were observed playing around one of the garden walls on 13th June and two playing in a grass verge, Rosedale East on 31st August. It seems that in spite of heavy gamekeeping, the stoat is well established on the Moors, with records from Bitterdale Slack, Black Syke, Thornton-le-Dale, Lowna and Hartoft – where, on 11th December, a stoat in full ermine was seen. A further sighting of an upland ermine stoat was recorded in Bilsdale. Lowland records were from Kirkby Misperton, Ganthorpe, Whitwell and South Holme. Of the eleven weasel records all, bar one, were of this small predator crossing a road or on a road verge. The increased number of records came from all over the Society’s recording area, both upland and lowland sites, such as Gilling and Sykes House, indicating this mustelid it is well established. Two otter sightings were received; one was seen in the early morning crossing the A170 at Welburn near Hodge Beck. Of the six badger records, all but one were road casualties, especially along the A170. Three were observed in Gilling Woods in May, otherwise records came from Slingsby, Hovingham, Terrington, Bulmer and Whitwell.

It had been a good year for deer sightings in Ryedale, especially roe deer. The ‘centre of excellence’ for Ryedale for roe deer seems to be Gilling woods, but sightings or slots came from Pockley, Hovingham, Oswaldkirk, Amotherby, Bransdale Church, Whitwell and Grays Farm. A female with young was recorded at South Holme on 3rd July.

Records were received from Gill Smith, M.J.Carroll, Andrew Grayson, Tom and Janet Denney, Keith Dixon, Andrea Cooper, Nick Fraser, Mike Gray and Michael Thompson.

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© Ryedale N.H.S. 2009