We are developing ever closer links with our county’s wildlife trust, the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and our allotment community gardens at Bowbrook. (see website http://www.bowbrookallotments.co.uk and shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk) This year on the day of our NGS Yellow Book Gardens Open Day we planned a mini-bioblitz in the morning before the public arrived to share the community gardens in the afternoon. The Shropshire Mammal Group came along to lead the first session where we opened live mammal traps which had been set in baited areas around the wildlife areas of the site. The mammals were identified, weighed and recorded. The local children and their families enjoyed the chance of seeing these experts at work and were afforded the rare chance of close up views of some of our small mammals.
We had been spotting a weasel close to our Herb Garden recently and we had good, extremely close-up views of him as he was so confident. Some members watched the spectacle of him catching a vole – a bit gory but very exciting – the reality of life in the wild! The SWT and Mammal Group members gathered and set up their gazebo, before we all trouped off to find the first of the 30 live mammal traps set in our green spaces. The areas around the traps were baited with peanuts and peanut butter. Every mammal finds it hard to resist peanut butter!
The critters were held up for all to see – a rare opportunity for the youngsters of our allotment site to see these creatures close up. They were help by the scruff of he neck just as a mother mammal would carry its young, which is totally harmless. This handsome fellow is a Wood Mouse. We were to catch several more of these.
The second trap was a repeat of the first. We were delighted to see that it had been tripped as the normal success rate is about 3 captures out of 30 traps. We looked set for a successful day!
We encouraged the children to get involved. We hope these will not only be the gardeners of the future but also the naturalists and almost certainly wildlife gardeners. We moved emptying successfully tripped traps and recorded many more Wood Mice as well as Voles.
The picnic site under the oak tree became an activity centre for the day giving youngsters the opportunity to get involved in nature related craft activities.
As we moved on from the oak tree we discovered several traps tripped by the tiniest mammals of all, the shrews.
But as we neared the end of our expedition we found the stars of the show, The Yellow Necked Mice. These are much more of a rarity than any other creatures we caught and for many a completely unknown one. Not many people seem to know of their existence so were delighted to find we had a colony living alongside us here on the allotments. It certainly justified all the hard work we have put in creating our wildlife areas.
In the end we were amazed by how successful the trapping had been with 27 of the 30 traps fired. We now know our green spaces are working for wildlife. Back at the Communal Hut we opened up the tunnels put down to record the tracks of mammals passing through. These were covered in little foot prints.
The Mammal Society stayed on through the afternoon into our NGS Open Day and provided entertainment and information. They were kept very busy.
What a great day! It is amazing how fascinating such little creatures can be.