Thursday, 4 February 2010

small furry animals

Sometimes conservation work seems to involve more disruption and disturbance than anything else: felling trees, clearing and burning scrub...

The other day we moved a pile of new logs up on the North Downs to find a tiny shrew and four field voles living underneath. They scattered in all directions, frantically searching for cover - mainly in the holes just dug for wooden bollards. Eventually we gently persuaded them to disperse a little further afield. Thankfully there were no young under the log pile. At lunch time we spotted a kestrel hovering low over the scrub - hunting homeless voles, no doubt. It moved on after ten minutes without finding prey. Guilty feelings lingered all day.

The cedar logs were cut from a nearby plantation to make bollards, the aim being to stop 4x4 drivers out on a jolly from tearing up the grassland where wildflowers and wild mammals thrive. Inadvertently we had created a temporary habitat pile and welcome home for small mammals battling wintry conditions. Then we evicted them without warning, probably while they were sleeping. The site offers lots of alternative housing, though none quite as cosy, safe from predators or convenient. I loved watching them, but wish we hadn't disturbed them.

On the same slope, a family of weasels has been spotted further along the path. I've never seen one in the wild and went searching with high hopes. I didn't see them, but they probably saw or heard me. Perhaps I'll be lucky next time.

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