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Mammal Report for 2009

by Michael Thompson

Writing the Mammal Report for 2009 has not been an easy task, for not only have I received well over 300 records, most of which have grid reference numbers, but also more details going with each individual record. For the first time I have used the mammal records contained within the Ryedale Natural History Society’s biological data base on the web, set up by Gill Smith. Besides this source, the majority of records have come from six individual members of the Society (not every sighting is mentioned in this report). Hopefully, all will find their way into the North and East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre based on St. William’s College, York. Compared with the 21 species of mammal recorded in 2008 within the catchment area of the Society, this year’s total was 23 species; the average number of mammal species per individual recorder being 12. Again, still missing from the recorded list this year are water and pygmy shrew, dormouse, harvest mouse, several species of bat and American mink. Basically, the majority of absent mammals are small animals requiring field craft of sign, track and trail and trapping techniques to locate. Members of the Yorkshire Mammal Group surveyed Hovingham woods on 31st January and found evidence 9 species of mammal, including wood mouse, bank vole, badger, fox and roe deer, based on sign, track and trail. I have reversed the classification order of mammals, starting with deer.

Judging from the record returns, the roe deer is the most common mammal in Ryedale; this, no doubt, due to its large size and often being seen in daylight, either in woodland around Gilling, Helmsley, Kirkdale woods, Rosedale and Hutton-le-Hole or feeding in pasture in small family groups, such as Sykes Intake. Some of the roe deer sightings are of the same mammals being observed more than once. A hind with a kid was seen at Spaunton on 14th July. In the early 1970s roe deer were considered to be relatively scarce in North Yorkshire, with small numbers in the woodlands around Scarborough. They then spread south to re-establish themselves throughout the County. Seen on one occasion were Fallow deer feeding in a wheatfield at Painter Rigg, near Ampleforth on 4th May, as well as five red deer hinds crossing a field near Hawnby on 25th May.

Members of the Mustelid family are well represented in the 2009 records, albeit in small numbers. An adult otter was observed on the River Rye at Nunnington Bridge on 11th December and, by a non-member, in the car park of the industrial estate at Nawton, Beadlam on 25th December. Recorded was the rescue of two orphan otters by Jean Thorpe in Norton, for re-release at some time in the future at the same site. The ratio of the records between stoats and weasels was 3 to 1. Most stoat records are roadside sightings, their black-tipped tail being diagnostic. As in previous years, sightings were from Sykes House garden, the moorland habitat of Shaw Ridge, Slingsby and South Holme. An adult stoat was seen killing a rabbit at Welburn. A stoat in ermine was seen on Rudland Rigg on 11th March. Weasel records were from Coulton, South Holme, Gilling, Terrington Bank and Barton Hill. Of the 18 badger records the majority were road casualties from such areas as New Cliff, Wombleton, Howkeld and Slingsby, with activity and sightings at Hovingham Temple Bank woods and Gilling woods. Ten red fox records were received. These include Whitwell, Oswaldkirk, Welburn – West Ness road, Slingsby and Hovingham.

As in 2008, the common dormouse captive-release programme in the Rievaulx area failed, yet again, to find any dormice, so that the factors for their decline in the first place are probably still acting. A more extensive dormouse programme in the West Tanfield area of North Yorkshire appears to be more successful. A small number of records were received for wood mouse, water vole, bank vole, field vole and brown rat, but none for harvest mouse. These records are not indicative of how common these mammalian species are, for they are more common than any of the above mentioned species. Both field vole and wood mouse were recorded at Sykes on 21st February and brown rat at Hovingham, Nunnington, Gilling, South Holme and Harome. There were two water vole records in 2009, compared with one possible record for 2008. These were from Wath Beck, Slingsby and Priorpot Beck near Gilling. Is this early evidence of recovery of this aquatic mammal?

The brown hare, according to the records received, is the second most common mammal in our area, but they, like roe deer, are conspicuous daytime animals, often seen in arable land, moorland or woodland. Records were received from White House Moor, Rosedale, Marton Common, Ashberry Woods, South Holme, Coneysthorpe, Hovingham and Gilling to mention a few sites. Some records contain more than one hare, with 5 being seen at South Holme on 11th May. The third most recorded mammal was the rabbit, with sightings from Rudland, where it is described as being common and present all year; present also at Howkeld with several on the road verges, Kirkdale, Whitwell, Scackleton and Gilling, to mention a few places. Another rodent, the grey squirrel, with 13 records, is thinly distributed in Ryedale, with most records coming from the southern wooded slopes of the North York Moors, such as Pockley Rigg, Manor Vale wood, Kirkbymoorside, Kirkdale, also Hagg Lodge, Hovingham, Nunnington, Slingsby and Gilling Woods. The Natterer’s bat nursery colony at Ellerburn continues to thrive, with increased adult female numbers. Permission to block up the access holes to the interior of the church for the bats was granted in 2009 by Natural England, but subsquently, on appeal, the decision was reversed. The brown long-eared bats continue to use the garage at Sykes House and fly around the garden. A dead specimen was found at Mill House, Pickering. Bats were recorded but not positively identified, but probably pipistrelles, at Sykes, Cropton and Gilling; common pipistrelles were identified using a Bat Box 111 bat detector at Slingsby at the end of March. A noctule bat was observed in flight along a woodland edge at Gilling on 19th September and over its golf course on 22nd.

Hedgehogs were numerous (19 in all), but mostly of road casualties at South Holme in January and June, Gillamoor road, Fadmoor, on the A170 at Keldholme, Beadlam and Howkeld. However, there were more records of live hedgehogs at Nawton, South Holme, Kirkbymoorside and Welburn Grange. A pair remained in the garden at Slingsby all the summer, as well as singles sighted at Sykes. Mole hills were widespread, but there were no alive or dead specimens recorded. They were described as numerous on Rudland, Beadlam, Whitwell, Hovingham park land and Gilling golf course. Of the shrew family, only the common shrew was recorded at Sykes garden, Gilling woods, Scackleton road verge and on a track at Hutton Carr.

Records were received from Michael Carroll, Andrea Cooper, Janet & Tom Denney, Keith Dixon, Andrew Grayson, Gill Smith, Bill Thompson & Michael Thompson, and entrants in the Society’s website.

© Michael Thompson & Ryedale Natural History Society 2010 Back to the Annual Report Contents and Home page