Wednesday 19 February 2014

Environmentally friendly

Last week, Gatwick's Environment, Health and Safety team got their (gloved) hands dirty, helping us put up 50 new dormouse boxes.

We were working within fragments of ancient woodland, over in the Land East of the Railway Line. Despite having previously detected signs of Dormice here, we are yet to find that definitive evidence of one curled up sleepily in a box.

A sludgy woodland trek

The team did an excellent job of getting the boxes up onto trees, seemingly enjoying themselves despite the now habitual rain and rivulets of mud. The boxes were put up in rows of consecutive numbers (no thanks to my lacking mathematics, leading to much confusion and switching boxes about...) which will make surveying all the easier in the seasons to come.
Tom S. of Gatwick Greenspace, 'papping' the team

So about an hour later than it should have been, we finally stopped for a well deserved tea and biscuit break. Before leaving the site, while looking around for signs of mammal tracks, I spotted this entire badger skull...

Badger skull found in Lower Picketts Wood. 
I like how the sagittal crest has a funky green mossy toupée

Badger skulls are pretty solid things, with the skull plate sutures well-fused and the bottom jaw often still connected to the base. They also have a large ridge towards the back called a sagittal crest, to which the strong jaw muscles would be attached. 

After a good clean up, the crest is slightly more obvious. It seems fairly small and I thought this might indicate it was a young badger. However, the teeth are also rather worn and an upper-rear molar looks badly infected (this now being the least of its problems.) There also seemed to be signs of recent badger activity very close by; some further investigation could be required by Gatwick Greenspace Partnership's Youth and Wildlife Rangers!

Tom's new friend, named in the honour of Environmental Secretary Owen Paterson
(O-Patz for short)

After lunch, it was back into the woodlands for some glade creation - we coppiced an area of the unmanaged hazel understory and several birch trees. All of the wood is kept on site, stacked into neat-ish habitat piles, maximising the space on the ground for woodland flora.

Of all the team, I'm not sure that Frank takes Environment, Health and Safety the most seriously.

Hand saws and tree loppers, along with grit and determination means we can achieve a lot in a short amount of time; we are now starting to feel on top of our winter habitat management targets. Around the place are signs that spring is just around the corner, meaning that time to complete last year's data entry is also running out...

Tops of bluebells

Wild daffodils

The 'dormouse boxing' team

A massive thank you again to all who came out to help and to Karen for organising. We hope to see you lot again on a drier day in summer!

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