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Wildlife

Wildlife Report

The Little Aston Recreation Ground is a haven for wildlife and is managed with ecology and conservation very much in mind.

The only Tigers you will see are Garden Tiger Moths and the only Bears are their Woolly Bear Caterpillar, but all the creatures that we have living on and visiting the site are just as important and often just as endangered as their more famous and ferocious namesakes.

As well as ‘eye witness’ sightings, infrared (night vision) wildlife cameras are often set up around the grounds to record the more elusive visitors such as fox, wood mouse, voles etc. These videos show some of the activity:

 

Some examples of the successes on the site:

Hedgehogs

During 2017 a 10 month long survey was carried out in which no fewer than 27 individual Hedgehogs were recorded on the field.  Quite a few were adult males whose territory can range as much as 2 miles; they were probably only spotted once or twice in the year.  Many others were the offspring from successful breeding pairs and so the young were frequently seen until they went off to find their own territory. However, there were 6 or 7 individuals that were seen regularly, some even several times a week.

 
 

So, how do we know they were all different ones?  Well, on first sighting, they were marked with either specially made coloured and numbered spine tubes, or very small dots of different coloured nail varnish on their spines and a record kept of each subsequent sighting.  As the search for Hogs only took place for an hour or so around midnight it is highly likely that there were many others passing through in the small hours that we didn’t see. One thing that was very reassuring is that several Hogs that had been marked the previous year were also spotted meaning that they had successfully made it through hibernation.

If you live locally and see a Hog in your garden with a coloured mark on its back, it is more than likely one that has visited our field.

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One particular young hog had to be taken into care at the start of the winter in late 2017. He was a survivor of a very late litter but was far too small to survive in the wild. Hogs need to weigh at least 700g to get through hibernation.

He was given the name Pinsvin, which is Norwegian for Hedgehog, (we’d just been on holiday there) and was cared for by our local Hedgehog Rescue Centre- Snuffles. On 25th April 2018 he was taken back to the recreation ground for release. In the video below you can see some of the yellow marker tubes on his spines and the footage shows him coming out of the nesting box we provided for him in the neighboring garden. As a male he will probably go off in search of his own territory, so, if you spot him in your gardens please let us know.

UPDATE: Pinsvin has been spotted on the field in July '18 so is obviously still local and is doing well.

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Birds

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 A wide variety of birds visit the field from Blue Tits to Buzzards, Robins to Redwings.

There are well used bird feeding stations and several bird nest-boxes around the field, but in 2016, and again this year (2018), Blue Tits have taken up residence in a most unlikely and unusual place…the donation box at the entrance to the children’s play area. The box was fenced off and notices placed to discourage interference.

Despite the constant disturbance from noisy, excited children and the continual banging of the metal entrance gate right next to them, these bold little birds successfully raised 5 chicks in 2016 and another 5 in 2018. This time we found that they also had their own little 'nest-egg' of £4.05 worth of coins underneath the nesting material that had been dropped in a few days before they moved in. The photos below are all of this nest, parent birds and chicks

 

Insects

With careful management of natural areas such as nettle-beds we have successfully created a breeding colony of the Garden Tiger Moth. These beautiful moths and their distinctive Woolly Bear Caterpillar were once widespread and common in gardens. Older readers probably fondly remember handling and even ‘adopting’ the Woolly Bears sometimes keeping them as ‘pets’ in jam-jars and match-boxes. Unfortunately, their numbers have declined by more than 92% over the past 40 years.

Selective planting of specific food plants has brought an increase in the range of butterfly species over the last few years. This summer our now established young Alder Buckthorn trees were sleeve-netted in order to contain a few larvae of Yellow Brimstone Butterfly in an effort to create a resident colony of them. On 13th July the nets were removed and 3 butterflies were released, hopefully, along with any others that emerge from the remaining cocoons we may have a small colony starting.

Flowing recent excavations during the installation of an electricity supply, the sandy soil spoil heaps have become a home for a small colony of harmless Sand Wasps.

Our many Hazel and Cherry trees provide an abundance of food for small mammals such as Wood Mice, Field Mice, Voles and Shrews. The small entrance holes to their underground homes can be found in all areas of the field.


Other notable creatures

Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Noctule bats are a common sight throughout the season as they skim and weave through the tree canopy at dusk in search of tiny insects. The bats’ presence is evidence in itself that our carefully selected variety of trees and flowers has provided a dense enough insect population to support them as well as all the bird life.

Evidence of visits from Fox, Rabbit, Squirrel and Mole can be found but thankfully their presence is not prolific enough to cause damage.

There are of course plenty of frogs and toads passing through at various times and there have been sightings of common newt.