The focus in this late winter wildlife sightings round up goes beyond the 'Sandford Goes Wild' 5 species. The range of sightings is growing and sightings of some bigger mammals feature this time.
Badgers (Meles meles)
At Sandford House a trip camera set up by local residents captured 2 Sandford Badgers feeding at night. The quick thinking Sandfordian put out food the night before and realised it was eaten so adeptly set up the trip camera to capture this brilliant image - 'BBC Springwatch' watch out!'
Badgers will eat earthworms, grubs and amphibians, small reptiles and birds but also roots and fruit as this one is about to tuck into here.
Badgerland.co.uk states that Badgers will benefit from bowls of water and occasional dog or cat food.
The Dorset Wildlife Trust has recent article about badger culling a controversial decision made in recent weeks.
I spoke to 2 local residents and Sheila Watters, Sandford Heritage Community Group Secretary, about the herd of deer commonly seen around Holton Lee, The Admiralty and Holton Heath roundabout. Reports have come in January and February this year. Lots more sightings are probably unreported.
Sheila spotted a small group of 4 deer in the fenced area of the Admiralty on 9th January. In this group was a magical white deer that she had reported in the Autumn 12 sightings. Looking into this the advice on our magical white variations is that these are probably 'cream' (Late at night they may appear white) and the scientific term is 'leucistic' and not the more unusual albino.
Talking to experts we concluded these are probably Sika deer from the fact they herd in large groups. Sika were introduced to Britain around 1860 from the Far East and include several sub species however in most cases wild roaming ones in Britain are the Japanese variety. Sika deer have distinctive white glands on the hind legs and this time of year a reddish to yellowish brown coat(at night this looked greyish brown to me) that will show more spreckles of spots in the summer. Sika Deer occupy the reed beds around the Parish's edge of Poole Harbour. It maybe these herds form a biological link to our neighbouring parishes of Upton and Lytchett Minster along the reeds or do they stay around Sandford?
Please send in any sightings of the herd or the cream leucistic deer and a photograph would be excellent to confirm they are Sika Deer(Cervus nippon) to email@example.com.
We were lucky to spot and point out to my boys a group of what we think are Sika Deer at the Holton Heath Business Park Roundabout one Sunday night in January half an hour after dusk. We saw a group of 15 hovering a few metres from the side of the road including a leucistic deer. The Sika deer preferred habitat is commonly coniferous woodland and heathland. They can also emit a range of sounds from a bleat to a high pitched scream when alarmed!
In February one of the leucistic deer was seen killed on the side of the road. Please be vigilant when driving at dusk where there might be deer. As as well as the loss of the animal it is a significant collision to you and your vehicle to hit a deer. There are reports of 2 or more of the cream deer before this animal was lost so again any more sightings let us know to see if one has survived.
Sika Deer at Arne were part of a research project by Bournemouth University some years ago as I recall and John Wright confirms. Perhaps this could be updated? The Arne study found deer do not aimlessly roam but individual groups get to know their own patch very well and stick to it. So it is highly likely we have a group knowing this Sandford patch and logically this maybe to be sure of food sources in winter.
Deer are culled in some places to keep in balance with impact on vegetation and if managed in the right numbers have potential use for land management. John Wright has spotted up to 100 at Holton Lee including the cream ones.
European Hedgehog(Erinaceus europaues)
Hedgehogs will start to emerge now and it is useful for our understanding of their behaviour and possibly even changes in the seasons and weather to know your sightings, where and when as hedgehogs came out of hibernation.
Hedgehogs are coming out as their preferred food source increases with insects coming out from laval stage, they consume all manner of bugs, worms, caterpillars, snails and even bird eggs.
If you don't spot or hear Britain's only spiked mammal (ok 'mammal with spines') Lena Ward one of our local retired Ecologists has photographed a hedgehog scrape and droppings so turn nature detective and Bear Grylls style tracking expert!
Email in what you find!
Birds and animals are now warming up too ready for breeding and in this unfolding food web are the emerging butterflies.
Has anyone seen their first Brimstone or Red Admiral in Sandford? Any idea when? These are the two first to appear in the UK.
Bournemouth Naturally have produced a fact sheet on Red Admirals and the Project Officer Heather Dixon has is allowing us to reproduce it here.
Report the Sandford Goes Wild 5!
Also making use of the increasing food supply are sand lizards on our heaths, one of the 'Sandford Goes Wild ' 5 we hope you will make time to report and the males will be striking in the summer in their breeding colours.
Please send in your wildlife reports to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01202 642787. Date, time, creature and any supporting information like weather and if at all possibly a video recording or image is really useful. The Sandford Goes Wild 5 are: Toad, Frog, Sand Lizard, Hedgehog, Glow Worm.
You can build up 'expert' points on I-Spots, send any reports to Nature of Dorset or register with Living Record. Both Nature of Dorset and Living Record feed their results into Dorset Environmental Records Centre and other initiatives like Dorset Dragonflies. I know I will be making the time to set up as an ad hoc reporter myself as signs of spring defy the -3'C temperatures I currently feel as I write this near Easter.
Credit: information on local Sika Deer population John Wright(any errors or ommission my own); British Deer Society www.bds.org.uk; deerstudy.com; www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/European_Hedgehog; www.dorsetwildifetrust.org.uk/badger-cull2011