Although it is mid-winter, Izzy Dick and Todd Jenkins, placement students with WTSWW, are still finding plenty of animals under the artificial cover sheets at Parc Slip Nature Reserve near Bridgend. This includes two highly unseasonable great crested newt sightings!
Izzy’s project is looking into species’ preference for sheet size; one of the fields she is surveying in at Parc Slip has 156 0.5m² sheets in it, grouped into clusters of four, whilst another field, of a similar size and habitat type, has 39 1m² sheets in it. This means there is the same sheet surface area present in both fields, allowing us to make unbiased comparisons of whether species prefer big or small sheets to shelter under. The following table shows a summary of the results found so far.
The graph shows that the common toad has been the most commonly sighted species in these fields so far; in fact, although toads normally hibernate, they are still frequently being seen in January, as it has been such a mild winter. Other important observations include the fact that wood mice, field voles and grass snakes all noticeably prefer sheltering under the larger sheets.
So far, in all the fields being surveyed, there have been a total of 619 sightings; 351 of which have under big sheets, and 268 under small sheets, showing that overall, big sheets are more popular, however individual species have different preferences.
Todd’s project has undergone some slight changes, in the fact that instead of looking at slow worm’s (due to the rareness of sightings so far), he is now looking at great crested newt belly patterns. This project has started off well with the photos of the patterns from last year and this year so far being analysed.
This has provided us so far with 5 re-sightings from individuals last year, which were also found under the same sheet set (or one across from it). Showing a slight territorial side of the newts, also suggesting that maybe these individuals were juveniles last year and potentially hibernated nearby. Here’s a look at one of those individuals:
Notice the identical pattern on the chest, the spots that form a solid line, this was the indication that this was the same individual. This newt individual was found under sheet 102 and 102a respectively, showing that it has not moved far at all. This project will develop more with the reappearance of the newt, and also with float trapping in the ponds to identify most common breeding grounds of the newt.
To continue with their harvest mouse survey, Izzy and Todd are hoping to set up bait stations with camera traps, to try and capture some footage of harvest house carrying out everyday activities such as feeding.