Friday 30 December 2022

Wildlife Review 2022 - Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish

Onshore the highlight was the on the second Badger since 2017 in Feb & May at least, but as with most records of this species, the only evidence of its presence were footprints, droppings and digging. One was however seen on the mainland very close to the Recording Area in autumn. The continued presence of Hedgehog was confirmed with a rare sighting in late May.

As above the majority of species to be found onsite mostly go unseen, except for the once ubiquitous Rabbit. Tragically this species continues to decline, with a combination of VHD and Myxomatosis hitting the population every year. The loss of this species has a considerable negative aspect, the lack of grazing pressure damaging the grassland and the lack of ground disturbance impacts a wide range of plants and invertebrates.
Rodents, by their nature tend to remain hidden, Water Vole frequent the Main Pond and Golf Course ditches, but are rarely seen; the first sighting of the year was on 28 Jan. With a near omnipresent Kestrel and other predators, smaller rodents kept in cover.

Presumed Wood Mouse - Alan Keatley

Records included Wood Mouse on 2 Feb and 10 Nov, Bank Vole on 26 Mar, and a Field Vole on 2 Sep. Similarly sightings of Brown Rat on 15 Jan and 14 Sep certainly under represented their presence. Several Common and Pygmy Shrew were found during the year, but no sign of any Water Shrew, the dry conditions may have been a factor.
Once a vagrant to the Warren, Grey Squirrel is now just about annual. Unusually this year's visit was in spring, an individual running around the go-kart track on 27 May, luckily it was closed at the time! 

Grey Squirrel - Alan Keatley
Like their prey, predators tend to be secretive. Sightings were few, but their presence is given away by footprints in the sand. There were only around half a dozen reported Fox sightings through the year and none after September, This year there were no active Fox dens on site, but one was suspected on the Railway Embankment. The only Stoat was seen on 27 Feb, with the only Weasel on 13 Sep but there were plenty of footprints to be found on the Dune Ridge.  The airborne predator Common Pipistrelle were first seen hunting over the Main Pond on 27 Mar, with nightly movements onto the Warren but no evidence of on-site roosts.
Marine mammals were frequently seen, with up to three Grey Seal present throughout the year and their vocal courtship echoing around the estuary in November. Common Seal are far less frequent with sightings of presumably the individual on 15 Sep, 12 Nov and 10 Dec. 

Grey Seal - Alan Keatley

Cetaceans remain occasional with Common Dolphin sightings on the up compared with several years ago. Numbers are always difficult to assess; the first was on 3 Jan, but a pod of at least five were seen on 10 Feb, with fifteen on 8 Jun. A Bottle-nosed Dolphin on 3 Aug was the first since 2019. Although annual, the only reports of Harbour Porpoise were in March and December.

Common Dolphin - Alan Keatley

It was a good year for breeding Common Toad with hundreds of toadlets present around the Main Pond on 30 Apr, with masses of young toads throughout the meadows and woodland. This provided a useful food source for breeding birds especially Moorhen and Blackbird. Common Frog remain scarce but have become numerous over recent years with a few individuals seen from 4 Mar. The only newts seen were presumed Smooth Newt seen on occasion when caught by Little Grebe on the Main Pond. 

The warm, dry conditions favoured two of the Warren's lizard species. The first Sand Lizard were out of hibernation on the early date of 17 Feb with Common Lizard first reported on 12 Mar.

Sand Lizard - Alan Keatley

Sightings of Sand Lizard were made throughout the summer, in low numbers but on the hottest days retreated to cover. Common Lizard prefer the more vegetated areas, and one on the late date of 28 Oct was most likely seeking a place to hibernate. 

Common Lizard - Alan Keatley

There were no sightings of Slow-worm this year, their favoured food of slugs, snails and earthworms impacted by the conditions.
Some observations, not unexpectedly come from fish caught by predators with terns, Osprey, and Kingfisher helping out. Others are seen in situ, via fishermen or found washed up on the beach.
A Dab was providing a meal for a Cormorant on 15 Jan, with Greater Pipefish doing the same for a Shag on 2 May. At the Main Pond, Rudd were attracting Kingfisher and Grey Heron and also provided food for growing Little Grebe chicks. Back offshore lots of Lesser Sandeel were being caught by Sandwich Tern from 7 Jul to feed their accompanying juveniles, whilst in the estuary the larger Thick-lipped Grey Mullet caught the eye of hunting Ospreys. 

Common Sprat - Kevin Rylands

Other sea fish recorded included Lesser-spotted Dogfish, Sea Bass, Plaice and Flounder, with Starry Smooth-hound feeding in the estuary shallows on 22 Sep. Large numbers of Common Sprat were present in late September, drawing in large numbers of gulls. The highlight though was an Atlantic Bluefin Tuna breaching offshore on 7 Aug, continuing the recent sightings of this impressive fish.

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