Monday, 6 August 2012

Blubber and Fur

Last Saturday saw me down at Dungeness reasonably early taking a couple of hours out to look for marine mammals as I’d missed out on the National Whale and Dolphin Watch weekend over the 27th – 29th July. So I’d decided to complete my watch as a Kent Mammal Group activity and to be honest I wasn’t really expecting anyone else to turn up which was just as well as I spent the two hours alone, enjoying an exciting cetacean and seabird spectacle.


The watch started off well with 3 harbour porpoise being seen within 5 minutes of arriving, 2 of the animals were within 800 metres offshore and one could be seen with the naked eye. There was an obvious trickle of terns, common, arctic and sandwich moving west in the strong south westerly wind which was whipping the sea into a state 4/5. With lots of white water visible and troughs of up to 2 metres, this was hardly good conditions for trying to see the smallest cetacean in European waters being between 4.5-5.5 feet in length but at least it wasn’t raining.


Other notable birds included 2 black terns an arctic skua and an adult little gull still with a black head. Around 2km’s offshore a building, wheeling group of gannets had started to form and plunge dive, always an impressive sight and an indication of food below the waves which may also be attractive to cetaceans. Sure enough 3 harbour porpoises were there surging through the waves obviously feeding and chasing prey. At times the porpoise would be on the front side of a wave trough and you could see the whole animal just under the surface. In total I managed to see around 10 harbour porpoise and a very close grey seal.

On Sunday, Lisa and I went to a woodland area near to Aylesbury to help out with edible dormouse Glis glis monitoring. Mainly due to the spring and summer weather the numbers of glis being found in the provided nestboxes were down on previous years. Hopefully the majority of animals were safely hibernating the year through and would appear in 2013 rather than having moved into the surrounding houses were they are known to cause havoc by chewing through cables. We were told of one home where already this year 297 had been caught and killed!

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How can you do that to something so cute! Watch out for those teeth though as they bite back and they hang on, hence the need to wear gloves when handling.

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A superb set of whiskers helps this little beastie check out it’s surroundings at night as it wanders the canopy looking for beech nuts.

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This year the use of endoscopes made it easier to checkout the contents of the boxes for any snoozing dormice. As I approached one box and looked through the scope I said ‘ I’m not sure but I think there is a dormouse in here, probably worth taking down just to double check.’.


The box was duly taken down and emptied into a collecting bag. In the bottom were 8 mature dormice, it must have been a squash in there, just awesome!!


After a lot of box checking and data gathering it was back to the control hut for tea and cakes after a job well done.


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