Monday, 16 February 2015

Poo and other interesting things!

I have come across some interesting things over the past few weeks when I have been out. I may not have seen the animals but I have seen lots of signs of them. And the great thing is that it is becomes a bit like a detective game to try and deduce what animal the poo has come from or what animal is likely to live somewhere. It's great fun!

I work in an office but I am very fortunate that the building is on a 23 acre site with mixed woodland and fields and a river running through it! So at lunchtimes I wander about with my camera and there is evidence of a lot of activity at the moment. In the past I have seen red deer, woodpeckers, a tawny owl, herons, red squirrels and we have a resident stoat that is very good at stealing eggs!

Anyway out and about I found a pellet. At first I thought it might be fox poo as there is definitely rabbit hair in it and evidence of bone fragments. However it does not have a pointed end like a fox poo should have and on looking at some pictures in my book "Animal Tracks and Signs" it looks more like an owl pellet and possibly that of a short eared owl.

Possible Short Eared Owl Pellet
Possible Short Eared Owl Pellet
Following that great find, I was out on a local fell with my dog when I found loads of poo. At first I thought I had found fox poo but the first bit I found was cylindrical but not pointed at one end, which is characteristic of fox poo. So, I did wonder if it could be a buzzard pellet. The great find in this poo however was the claw or nail which was protruding out of it. Pretty amazing really - and more evidence that this is the poo of a larger animal.

Possible fox poo or buzzard pellet
The next bit of poo I found had tiny little mammal bones in it. I am guessing this is the vertebrae of perhaps a mouse or vole. Again this could have been fox poo or perhaps a pellet from a bird of prey. I was having great fun and then thought that I maybe it was a bit odd to be poking around in poo and regurgitated food- but it is so fascinating!

Tiny vertebrae found in poo!
The next bit was definitely more characteristic in shape of a fox poo as it has the pointed end. 
Carnivore shaped poo - pointed at one end
Back in the grounds at work I saw signs of carnivorous activity. Below is evidence of a something attacking a pigeon and it looks like the pigeon definitely lost. This could either be a fox or a sparrowhawk.

Pigeon feathers - possible attack by sparrowhawk or fox
And across the field there was rabbit fluff. I don't think this one got away either as there was more fur and bones not too far away....

Rabbit fur
So there is definitely all kinds of activity going on around the grounds! The other interesting thing I have found is evidence of digging and this could be an omnivore or a herbivore. It looks like some roots and bulbs  have been dug up here for some tasty nutrition. I wonder if this animal was disturbed as these were left behind or could there have been some nuts cached here by a squirrel... as I said it's like a detective game. I couldn't find any more clues as to what had been digging but probably a herbivore of some kind!

Evidence of digging activity

Also on my wanderings I have come across signs of nibbling, this time of cones and nuts. The first pine cone I came across looked like it had been plucked and I think it is a woodpecker that has been eating this one. The next cone is a fir cone and has had a very good nibbling to it and this is more likely to be a squirrel. It is great to compare the two.

Pine cone eaten by woodpecker
Fir cone eaten by squirrel
Other signs of nibbling I have found have been of nuts. Below is an acorn which may have been eaten by a mouse or a bird. Also on one of my local walks some of my neighbours put out hazelnuts for the red squirrels and I often find their empty shells!

Acorn eaten by mouse or bird
Also when I am out and about I have found lots of evidence of mammal runs and holes in the grounds which are most likely to be homes. The tiny holes I guess belong to mice or voles. At one of Cumbria Wildlife Trusts's reserve Eycott Hill, I have seen many small rodents running for cover as you walk along - it is a great sight seeing them darting about.

Possible small rodent home

Possible rabbit hole with my foot to show the size of the hole
Possible rabbit hole
Mammal run in and out of a field
Mammal run
The other fascinating thing that I have found is hair on a barbed wire fence. I have ofter found hair in this area and it is always similar and in a similar place. It is quite wiry hair and it is white with black/brown hair mixed in it. Also the height of the barbed wire indicates a certain size of animal that is crawling under it. I am pretty certain that this is badger hair but I have yet to find some tracks in the mud to help with the evidence or even some poo wold be good!

 Badger Hair

So it just goes to show that lately I have had some great days out looking at more animal signs without actually seeing any animals! It really is like a detective game and the more signs you can see such as poo, tracks, hair and feathers the more you can deduce from what is in the area. It is a great way to spend half an hour or a whole day!


Bang, P. and Dahlstrom, P. (2009) "Animal Tracks and Signs" Oxford University Press

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