November 2012

Field trip to look for mammal tracks and signs, with Denise O’Meara and Andrew Harrington.

About 20 members gathered in the car park at Brandon House Hotel, New Ross on Saturday 10th of November. We were greeted by Denise and Andrew, both representatives from the Mammals In a Sustainable Environment (MISE) project.

MISE is a new project funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the Ireland Wales Programme 2007-2013 (INTERREG IVA), and sets out to foster involvement of communities in Ireland and Wales in mammal conservation. The nature of the Welsh/Irish collaboration allows the sharing of skills and expertise across the cross border regions. Monitoring and conserving biodiversity is increasingly being recognised as critical for sustainable development. Small and medium sized mammals are key components of most ecosystems but can be difficult to monitor due to small numbers, elusive and or nocturnal behaviour, but the development of non-invasive survey techniques coupled with DNA analysis can help monitoring. Fieldwork in Ireland is largely carried out in Waterford but will also involve Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Wexford, Dublin and Wicklow. For more info about MISE see www.miseproject.ie (copied from the MISE website)

A short drive brought us to Great Island where the river Barrow meets the river Suir. Here a hedgehog tunnel, bait pots and track tunnels were hidden at the side of the path. We all passed these monitoring stations without noticing them.

 

Hedgehog tunnel

Andrew got a hedgehog tunnel (left) out of the bushes which had been put there the day before. The tunnel got a few visitors as the picture (right) shows footprints of possible hedgehog and other small rodents.

This tunnel is simple to make yourself. You will need a plastic sheet (election “poster” sheet), 2 A4 paper sheets, an ink pad with nontoxic water based ink and material to position the papers and inkpad. Fold the plastic sheet in a triangular shape after having put some bait in the middle, use tinned meat (dog food). Hide the whole tunnel in the bushes of where you think hedgehogs are present. A successful tunnel will show footprints of hedgehog(s) and other mammals visiting your tunnel.

Other monitor stations and how these work were shown to us:

On the left Denise is showing us a bait pot (peanut butter is used here as bait). It looks a successful one with mouse droppings. These droppings will be collected and sent to the Waterford Institute of Waterford for further DNA analysis. These samples will give information to us about: population size and structure, gender assignment and genetic diversity of the species.

Some stoat monitoring stations (pictures at end of this report) were checked out for foot prints but no success. We were made aware of strange smells we smelled at different places. This “burning rubber” smell was from a fox.

 

 

At the jetty we had a look at and smell (a pleasant jasmine tea smell) some otter scat (poo). This scat was put in a sample bag for further analysis. Other signs of otter activity were found here as well: footprints in the mud and scraping of mud. A short walk along the shore brought us to some otter burrow signs. During this walk mink poo was found as well. This was collected in a plastic bag and passed around to those who wanted a sniff to find out the difference with the otter scat they smelt before. And sure, there is a difference, yuk!

For the Mammal lovers in the club, this was a good day out, despite seeing no mammals.

On a personal note I would like to see more MISE activity in our county Wexford, and I can recommend visiting their events.

Stoat foot print monitoring station.

 

Inside a stoat foot print monitoring station.

 

 

 

Bait pot “in action”