At Twycross we have helped to create and restore habitat for otters on the River Sence and have supported the monitoring of native crayfish, so we are very excited about our Nature Reserve and looking to see what mammals decide to make us their home!
"The mole never heard a word he was saying. Absorbed in the new life he was entering upon, intoxicated with the sparkle, the ripple, the scents and the sounds and the sunlight, he trailed a paw in the water and dreamed long waking dreams."
Mole on the Water Rat's boat from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
Of course moles wouldn't be on a boat with a water vole but the delightful tale of The Wind in the Willows does capture the magic surrounding water and the animals living around it. Unfortunately The Nature Reserve is probably too wet and the clay is too sticky for moles to make a home but water voles (Arvicola amphibious) may do so. Water voles are the largest species of vole in Britain and can be confused with brown rats. To tell the difference look at the tail, brown rats have a much thicker and longer tail than water voles, and how the animal in question is swimming. If it enters the water with a 'plop' when disturbed and swims quite high with a round body it's a water vole, if it is swimming with less body exposed and looks longer and thinner then it's a brown rat.
Water voles are the most threatened mammal in the UK and are vulnerable to extinction. Threatened by the loss of wetlands, water pollution and predation by the introduced American mink (Neovison vison) the water vole population has decreased dramatically in the past 30 years. Conservation actions to help the water vole focus on controlling American mink populations and reintroducing water voles into areas where they will thrive. Like all rodents, water voles have the ability to produce a lot of young each year. The recovery of otter populations has also been beneficial for water voles as the otters seem to discourage American mink from an area.
Summer is a time when many mammals and their young are more visible, and it is worth looking out for fox cubs, hare leverets and fallow deer fawns.
So far we are delighted to discover that the pigmy shrew, common shrew and water shrew have all made homes at the Nature Reserve. In general, shrews are terrestrial creatures that forage for seeds, insects, nuts, worms and a variety of other foods. They have small eyes, and generally poor vision, but have excellent senses of hearing and smell. They are very active animals, with voracious appetites and unusually high metabolic rates. Shrews must eat 80-90 % of their own body weight in food daily!
More common animals but no less important which have been spotted at the Nature Reserve are rabbits, western hedgehog, mole, stoat and weasel so keep your eyes open!
The Nature Reserve is home to five species of bat. These are;
Daubenton's Bat, myotis daubentonii - it's a medium-sized species and feeds on aquatic insects. It has a steady flight, often within a few centimetres of the water surface and is reminiscent of a small hovercraft.
Common Pipistrelle, pipistrellus pipistrellus - the pipistrelle is Britain's smallest bat and our most common species. It usually has a jet black face mask, black ears and black wing membrane. Its fur is at least two-tone (black rooted with brown outer which shows up best when the fur is parted).
Soprano Pipistrelle, pipistrellus pygmaeus - has a non-contrasting brown face that merges more into the fur colour. It has an 'open' expression due to the more exposed appearance of the eyes and the fur is far more of one colour. It also, allegedly, has a distinctive 'perfume'.
Noctule, nyctalus noctula - is one of the largest British species and is usually the first bat to appear in the evening, sometimes even before sunset. Adults generally have short, sleek, golden evenly coloured fur. Juveniles, newly moulted adults and some females are a dull chocolate brown colour. They have broad brown ears and a distinctive mushroom-shaped tragus.
Brown Long-eared Bat, plecotus auritus - are medium sized bats. The ears are nearly as long as the body but are not always obvious; when at rest they curl their ears back like rams horns, or tuck them away completely under their wings leaving only the pointed inner lobe of the ear (the tragus) visible.