Monday 13 December 2021

Small mammals of Gatwick

Recently published research by the Mammal Society has revealed some very worrying news; the UK's small mammals are not faring as well as we thought. Species previously not known to be at risk, including Weasels, Stoats and even our seemingly ubiquitous voles and shrews, are suffering long-term declines and are in need of conservation action. It is now estimated that 1 in 4 species in the UK are in real danger from extinction.

We have known for decades that UK landscapes are highly pressured, nature-depleted places in which to live, but the scale of the problem is still coming to light. Small mammals are important, and usually abundant, parts of natural ecosystems. Their loss will impact our habitat dynamics, ecosystem stability and populations of other wildlife which depend on them. 

Publication by the Mammal Society

Intensive management or development of land leading to the disappearance of long, naturalistic areas of vegetation which these species need has taken its toll. We are fortunate that buffer land around an airport can provide resources for a wide range of small mammals: Harvest Mice, Hazel Dormice, Weasels, Stoats, Common and Pygmy Shrews, Field and Bank Voles, Yellow-necked and Wood Mice have all been confirmed on our sites. We have also identified opportunities outside of these areas, with a new road-verge management regime providing those all important long-grass areas.

I have been playing with some new lens attachments for trail cameras, targeting better close-ups of small wildlife. I set up a Browning trail camera on an old log pile within our best scrub and grassland, which looked to be a hub of activity due to all the niches and crevices. It is always fascinating to observe different species interacting with each other. After trawling through a lot of footage, the results are in; I can officially and scientifically state that all small mammal species are Very Cute.

If you happen to own or manage a very manicured piece of grassland, then perhaps think about setting aside some longer grass areas, particularly at the base of shrubs, trees and hedgerows. You could just mow your patch once a year in early spring, before the wildflower species get going. Collecting up the cuttings and leaving in a pile in a corner is very beneficial to insects, mammals and reptiles too.

Thanks for reading... here are a few Gatwick Bank Voles, mice and shrews for your enjoyment.

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