MammalWeb Newsletter January 2023

Published on January 31st 2023

MammalWeb Newsletter January 2023

Hello and welcome to the January issue of the MammalWeb Newsletter! Wishing you all a very happy New Year and hoping that you have all enjoyed some crisp winter weather.

Much of the British Isles may have been covered in snow - but, if it returns, the biting cold does have a silver lining - it gives us an opportunity to see the tracks and signs left behind by any wild visitors! In this issue, we’ll be talking about just that: an overview of some common tracks and signs for winter spotting. As well as this we have a spotlight on birds, some tips for capturing small mammal footage, and an overview of the stats for all of 2022! Plus, as always, a list of upcoming talks and events and our monthly Camera Trap Quiz.

We love hearing from you - so if you have any comments, queries, insights, or suggestions for next month’s newsletter, then please contact us at info@PROTECTED


December 2022

Sequences uploaded Sequences classified
4606 4710

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects. 


December 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to December's top ten spotters! We very much appreciate everyone's hard work. 

Position User
1 PetaSams
2 Jotorre
3 Localherping
4 Sophie
5 Visanat
6 Checchi
7 Florian
8 Rustyknight07
9 Mike King
10 Joshin272

 

2022 Roundup

2022 was a great year for wildlife and conservation. In last month's newsletter we covered some of our achievements over the last year; this month we're going to spotlight what some of you have been busy doing! 

Below is a roundup of the stats from 2022, alongside some of the more frequently spotted animals.

 

Number of New Spotters 441
Number of New Trappers 74
Sequences/Videos Uploaded 62357
Sequence Classifications 802
Number of New Projects 104

 

A massive Thank You to all of you who have contributed to trapping and spotting throughout 2022! You've really contributed some fantastic data and we can't wait to see what is uploaded and classified in the next 12 months. 

Below is the list of our Top 10 most identified species from 2022:

 

Ranking Species No. Classified
1 Red Fox 5099
2 Roe Deer 4801
3 Rabbit 4573
4 Hedgehog (Western) 3497
5 Grey Squirrel 2970
6 Badger 2492
7 Woodpigeon 1915
8 Blackbird (Eurasian) 1775
9 Mouse (unknown species) 1611
10 Wild Boar or Feral Pig 1503

 

With the exception of the Wild Boar, these are all common species that are found in a wide range across both urban and rural habitats. Interestingly, the Red Fox is in the number 1 position as our most classified species last year. This could be for a number of reasons; the widespread presence of the Red Fox across not only the British Isles but across Europe, as well; the common placement of camera traps in garden spaces, which foxes are known to frequent; or even the bias from camera placement and species monitored in specific projects being classified through MammalWeb. The Wild Boar or Feral Pig taking the number 10 slot is more surprising and could be down to projects such as the Highlands Rewilding project that is using camera traps, in part, to monitor the presence of these animals on-site.

 

 

On the other end of the list, nine out of our ten LEAST classified species are bird species. These are: Dunlin, Long-tailed tit, Osprey, Red Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan), Tree Pipit, Tree Sparrow (Eurasian), Brambling, Common Tern, and Red-breasted Merganser. This could be due to the size and speed of birds - particularly smaller birds like the Tree Sparrow or Brambling - being tough to capture without bird-specific camera placements. It's also possible that classifications might represent identification errors. An osprey is possible but buzzards and sparrowhawks are more frequently seen in camera trap footage, and classification errors are not uncommon among the rarely sighted hawks and raptors. The only mammal in our list of LEAST classified species is the Hazel Dormouse. The Hazel Dormouse can be found in the south of England and Wales and is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN list for these countries. The scarce populations of Hazel Dormouse could be the reason for low classification numbers however number 9 on our most classified species is Mouse (unknown species) - so, on the positive side, there could be plenty of Hazel Dormouse footage out there that's just particularly tricky to classify! For reference, each of the species in our bottom ten was only been classified once in 2022, and we cannot yet rule out mistakes in any of these cases. 

Once again a huge Thank You to everyone who has contributed to MammalWeb in any way over the past 12 months. 2022 was a great year for camera trapping. Let's make 2023 even bigger!

 


Small Mammal Camera Trapping Tips

If you’ve been keeping up with Winter Watch this year you may have spotted the Greater, White-Toothed Shrew making an appearance. As we’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, these small mammals have only recently been recorded in the UK and are at risk of becoming an invasive species. With the reports so far being over 200kms apart, monitoring on a national level is the best way to ensure we’re not missing any sightings of Greater, White-Toothed Shrews.

There are a few ways you can help with this, and one that may appeal to you as a MammalWeb contributor is small mammal camera trapping! We’ve got a few tips for you here on how to best capture small mammals, based around creating a Littlewood box for small mammal camera traps.

 

Images of the front and exterior of a Littlewood box for small mammal camera trapping, taken from the guide to making one here.

The Littlewood box consists of a wooden box frame, roughly 40x 16cm, with a clear plastic top to allow daylight in. The camera trap is fixed to one of the ends of the box by bungee cord with the other end left open to form a tunnel in to the camera-trapping area. This open end is how the animals will get in.

Image of the camera attachment to the Littlewood box by bungee cord.

A +4-focus lens is fixed onto the front of the camera trap with blu-tack in order to get useable footage for identification at such a short range, and the flash is dulled by layers of packing tape over paper.

Bait such as birdseed and dried mealworms is placed in the box about 30cm away from the camera.

This setup allows for good footage of small mammals via camera trap, which is a great alternative to live trapping, a much more intensive method that can have detrimental effects on the animals being caught and released.

Example images of footage from a Littlewood box for small mammal camera trapping

A more intensive guide to building a small mammal camera trapping box can be found here, and a link to the open access article describing the methods and findings of the Littlewood box can be found here.

When looking at footage, the key ID features for the Greater, white-toothed shrew are their long tail hairs and white teeth, although the latter may not be visible in camera trap footage. Their coat is reddish-brown on top with a grey underside, and they have prominent ears.

Left: Image of a greater, white-toothed shrew by Rudmer Zwerver, Right: close-up image of the greater white-toothed shrew dentition, note the white teeth rather than the red-tips present in our native shrews. Both images downloaded from the Mammal Society

Another way to contribute to the hunt for the greater, white-toothed shrew is by examining owl pellets. If you happen to come across any owl pellets in the wild, dissect them to examine the remains within. Our native shrew species all have red-tipped teeth, so if there are any shrew remains with teeth that are pure white then they belong to the GWS.

Image: Common Shrew, with key ID features labelled. Note the red-tipped teeth and compare to the white dentition shown above. 

Please record any shrew sightings through the mammal society’s free Mammal Mapper app, and upload any small mammal camera trap footage to us at MammalWeb. As always, if you have any further queries or need assistance with the process, send us an email at info@PROTECTED - we're happy to help.

 

Birds in the Spotlight

Although we focus on the mammal side of things, the footage classified by our wonderful citizen scientists often captures other species as well. Namely, birds! The British Isles have a wide variety of bird species, some more common than others, and these are frequent visitors to our screens via the multitudes of camera traps placed by you.

The RSPB have been hosting the Big Garden Birdwatch over the last weekend in January, so this month seemed like the perfect time to give our birds sometime in the spotlight! Keep an eye out through the RSPB for the Birdwatch results, they're a fantastic resource for looking at population trends over the years. 

Most common birds classified (of all time):

 

Ranking Species
1 Blackbird (Eurasian)
2 Woodpigeon
3 Pheasant (common)
4 Great Tit
5 Jay (Eurasian)
6 Carrion Crow
7 Robin (European)
8 Magpie (Eurasian)
9 Chaffinch
10 Song Thrush

 

An unsurprising top ten there, as all of these are common garden birds, but what a wonderful selection there is! Below we've got some great examples of footage of these species, as well as some extras we couldn't miss out.

 

A collection of corvids with Jay (top), Magpie (middle), and Carrion Crow (bottom).

Two Great tits conversing at the entrance to a nestbox (top) and a Wood Pigeon looking perplexed at the camera (bottom)

And for a little bit of extra bird footage: a Grey Heron (top), a Woodcock (middle), and a lovely Common Buzzard (bottom).

For camera trappers who are also bird enthusiasts, there are a few ways that camera traps can be set up specifically to get a closer look at the birds in your garden. If you set up the trap with a good view of a feeder this often works; however, loose feeders will swing in the wind, triggering the camera and rapidly filling up memory cards. To avoid this, consider focusing your trap on a stationary feeding area like a bird table, or modifying your hanging feeders to minimise swinging.

A note on avian flu: much of the UK is being affected by avian flu. This is predominantly affecting seabirds and poultry, with far fewer cases involving garden birds. However, the government guidelines do err on the side of caution. While it is perfectly fine to continue to put out food for garden birds, the recommendation is that any feeders and birdbaths are regularly cleaned and disinfected. More information on the full government guidelines can be found here, and tips for cleaning feeders can be found here.

 


Winter Tracks and Signs

Snowy ground and frosty mornings are perfect for spotting tracks and trails left behind during the nighttime wanderings of our native mammals. Although the animals themselves may be seldom seen, these tracks can show us what wildlife shares our spaces. Reading tracks and signs can also give us hints towards good locations for camera trapping as areas that have frequent animal ‘roads’ through them will no doubt be high-activity sites.

But how do we decipher these tracks? When looking at a set of tracks in isolation it can be difficult to distinguish one set of prints from the next. There are a few tips for distinguishing between, for example, feline and canine tracks, which can often be less distinct to the untrained eye. It is also important to look at other signs around the tracks, is there scat? Hair? All of these elements can help to uncover what species has been travelling through the area. 

There are as many different mammal tracks as there are species - so, here, we're going to look at some of the most distinctive that you may find throughout the British Isles.

 

A good example of a canine track, with the clear 'x' between the toe pads and visible claw marks forming points at the toes.

Canine tracks have four toe pads and a double-lobed palm pad. In dogs this ‘palm pad’ is significantly larger than the toe pads, but in foxes it is of similar size.

Canine tracks have an ‘x’ or ‘h’ shape passing through the pads but fox tracks tend to be roughly 3x5cm whereas dog tracks vary wildly in size. Foxes walk in clear, straight lines, so a straight line of tracks with a frequent ‘double register’ from the back paws walking over the front prints would point towards a fox trail rather than dog, as dogs will generally move in a more scattered, meandering manner. There are also often claw points visible in canine prints, as their claws are non-retractable.

A plethora of feline prints, note the three-lobed palm pad and no claw marks.

Feline prints have four toe pads with no visible claw points showing as their claws retract when they walk. The space between the toe pads and the palm pad is more ‘c’ shaped, and the palm pad has three lobes rather than the two on a canine print.

Domestic cat prints are the most common feline prints in the UK; however, in some areas in the highlands, it is possible to find wildcat prints. Wildcat prints these are generally not distinguishable from domestic cat prints in isolation, and further identification methods (such as camera trapping) may be necessary for identificstion. Ultimately, Scottish wildcats have been subject to so much interbreeding with domestic catsm that genetic analyses might be the only way to decide which of these any individual should be assigned.

Badger tracks (left), and Eurasian Otter tracks (right), showing an example of the variety between mustelid species, athough no visible tail-drag can be seen in the image of otter tracks.

 

Prints from the various mustelid species across the British Isles are quite distinctive, ranging from the almost bear-like badger prints to the tiny star-shaped prints of a weasel. Badger prints are the most distinctive as they look almost like miniature fist prints with distinct claw marks. Otter, mink, and weasel tracks are more like each other. For these species, size can sometimes be a good indicator, but often among smaller mustelids other methods of identification may be necessary. Look for other animal signs nearby and inspect the negative space between the tracks as well. Often when it is particularly wet you can see the distinctive tail drag between otter tracks.

 

Image of fallow deer tracks, note the narrow and pointed shape.

In contrast to all of the above, ungulates like deer and sheep leave entirely different tracks altogether. All show a cloven hoof print, but those of a deer tend to be narrower and more pointed at the top than sheep. Deer tracks will also be found in a variety of habitats, primarily woodland, whereas sheep in the lowlands tend to be in fenced-off areas.

There's plenty to see out there at this time of year, so next time you go for a walk why not keep your eyes on the ground for part of it! There are some more handy tracking guides here, and even a fold-out ID sheet from the Field Studies Council here. If you find some good tracks, you can always try making a plaster cast with this handy guide from the RSPB. 

 


Talks and Events

Below are some events and talks coming up. With a mixture of in-person and online events we hope there is something for everyone to enjoy. For even more opportunities, be sure to look at reserves and sites local to you.


Mammal Fact of the Month

The fastest growing mammal tissue is deer antler! Antler, unlike horn, is made of bone and goes through an annual growth cycle. A typical cycle for most species will start with the growth phase (kicked off by increased testosterone production), during which the antlers are covered in velvet - a layer of furry tissue that provides the growing bone with ample nutrients. The antlers will stay 'in velvet' until the bone underneath is fully hardened, after which the velvet will be shed and the deer will be in 'hard antler', ready for the rut. The deer will then keep the antlers over winter and cast them when testosterone levels drop in spring. Growth will start again almost immediately, and the cycle begins anew. The seasonal cycle depends on species, with some species growing and casting more than one set of antlers in a year!

Fallow buck with impressive palmate antlers


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to everyone who managed to identify the female Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) in last month's camera trap quiz! Red deer are one of the two deer species native to the British Isles, and in this case the female can be identified by the two-colour patterning of her coat, lack of distinct tail or rump markings, and 'buff' beige rump patch, rather than the smaller whiter patch present in roe deer.

We've got a topical quiz for you this month, have a good look and let us know if you spot the species hiding in the image!

Remember, if you enjoy the camera trap quizzes and want to try some more, we do one weekly on our social media! These are posted across our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

 

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MammalWeb News HC Newsletter template

Published on December 31st 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter December 2022

Hello everybody and welcome to the December issue of the MammalWeb Newsletter! We hope that the festive period has been enjoyable for all and that it has given most people a much-needed opportunity to unwind.

As the stark winter weather has well and truly taken its hold over the UK, and our wildlife has slowed down, migrated somewhere warm for the winter, or gone into hibernation, our great outdoors can seem slightly barren and lifeless and motivation to get outdoors can wither. However, there are still golden nuggets of hope provided by what winter wildlife we do have, such as the captivating murmuration’s of starlings at dusk and the sound of foxes barking in the night.

In this months newsletter, we have gathered some highlights from the past year that the MammalWeb team are particularly proud of. As well as this, we have an update on the status of the Greater White Toothed shrew in the UK and a festive competition to show our gratitude for the excellent work of our avid contributors. We also have some important information about website changes and alterations to our Terms & Conditions. Finally, as always, we have a list of exciting upcoming talks and events, our Monthly Mammal Fact and Camera Trap Quiz!

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like us to include in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at info@MammalWeb.

November 2022

Number uploadedNumber classified
30485202

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects. 


 

November 2022 Spotters League

Congratulations to November's top ten spotters! We very much appreciate everyone's hard work. 
PositionUser
1saeedbinkaiban
2Pilar Clapers
3BunnyRose
4gcsmith
5RustyKnight07
6gaymansam
7MartaPS
8Mike King
9vivcoy
10Quinngrace_10

Highlights of 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, there are many achievements to reflect on and champion from the year that has passed. We would like to emphasise that the input of our amazing contributors is paramount to the success of the project, and therefore express our gratitude to all those who have contributed since the project’s inception. The following are a few achievements we are particularly proud of from the past year:


Festive Competition!

In recognition that this is a time of year for giving, we are going to be giving away 2 camera traps as belated Christmas presents to our avid spotters. Every classification that you submit between the 25th of December and the 25th of January will count as one entry into a prize draw.  So, the more sequences you classify, the higher your chances are of winning! After the 25th of January, we will draw the 2 lucky winners at random and contact them to arrange the delivery of their camera trap awards.  Good luck spotters!

Site Updates

Our incredible website designer has been working on some site changes to improve the usage of the MammalWeb website. Including:


 Updated Terms & Conditions

We have just updated our terms and conditions to note that site locations will now be shared with biodiversity repositories, to 3 decimal places of Latitude and Longitude. The relevant section (italics) of the updated T&Cs is as follows:

How we get the personal information and why we have it
Most of the personal information we process is provided to us directly by you for one of the following reasons:
Communicating with you;
Identifying locations of sites for ecological research purposes. If you provide location data, you accept that we can share location data of wildlife records to three decimal places of Latitude and Longitude with the National Biodiversity Network (NBN), Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) or other biodiversity data repositories. Administrators of projects for which this should not happen (for example, if the data from those projects are already provided to the NBN or GBIF) should notify us accordingly.

Greater White Toothed Shrew Update

As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the Greater White Toothed shrew, a non-native shrew species to the British Isles, was discovered in Sunderland in September 2022. The identity of the shrew species was confirmed using eDNA testing carried out by Ecotype Genetics and Swift Ecology Ltd. Since, a number of records of shrews have been reported, including a report of a dead shrew in Nottinghamshire that has been confirmed by experts as highly likely to be a GWT shrew. These two records are over 200km apart, highlighting the importance of the monitoring of small mammals nationwide.

Although the GWT shrew is not yet known to be invasive in Britain, as any new-found non-native species, it has the ability to become invasive. In Ireland, the GWT shrew is known to outcompete the pygmy shrew, negatively impacting it’s populations. Therefore, it is important to determine the extent of the GWT shrew’s distribution throughout Britain and ascertain whether it is having an impact on the abundance of pygmy shrews. As such, we would like to encourage as many people as possible to use camera traps modified for small mammal trapping, baited with mealworms, casters, or similar, in order to determine the occurrence and relative trapping rates of different shrew species in different parts of the country. 

A project has been set up for the monitoring of shrew populations. If you would like to contribute to this project but don’t know how to get started, please get in touch with us by email. If you would like to read more about the discovery and recording of the GWT shrew in the British Isles, you can read this press release by the Mammal Society.
 

Image by Rudmer Zwerver downloaded from the Mammal Society

Talks and Events 

Below are some upcoming events and talks for you to enjoy around the UK. If you’re eager for even more wildlife events, there are plenty more opportunities for outdoor learning and activities advertised on the Wildlife Trusts event page for the coming months.

Mammal Fact of the Month

Sea otters have the densest fur of all animals, often having upwards of 2.5 million hairs per square inch of skin. That makes sea otter hair around a thousand times more dense than human hair. Otters need such a thick coat as they are the only marine animal that does not have a layer of blubber for insulation. They rely completely on their dense and spiky fur to insulate their body, by trapping a layer of air against the surface of their skin. When grooming their fur, sea otters blow bubbles of air into their coats which are held in place by the barbs on each strand of hair. Interestingly, sea otters can spend up to five hours each day grooming their pelts!

Image by Doug Meek on Shutterstock

Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to all of you who located and identified the animal as a stoat in last month’s camera trap quiz! Stoats have a distinguishable elongated body, similar to that of a weasel or ferret, with a black tipped tail, orange fur and a distinctive bounding gait. Stoats are native to and widely distributed throughout the UK due to their non-specialist habitat requirements.

This month we have a wintery camera trap quiz for you. Let us know what species of deer you think is galivanting in the snow in this image and be sure to check the answer in next month’s newsletter!

Remember, if you enjoy the camera trap quizzes and want to try some more, we do one weekly on our social media! These are posted across our TwitterInstagram and Facebook accounts.

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MammalWeb Newsletter November 2022

Published on November 30th 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter November 2022

Welcome to the November issue of the MammalWeb Newsletter! For many of you the first frost is already here, and winter is well on its way to our wild environments. In some ways this may seem like a quiet season for the natural world, but our habitats are as busy and bustling as ever - although perhaps missing some familiar faces for a few months! 

It's definitely feeling like the season to hibernate, but the pressures of the festive season are already setting in. In this month's newsletter we talk about hibernation and torpor - the ways that mammals across the British Isles shut down for the winter, and how they prepare. As well as this, we've got links to an article about camera trapping to conserve the Eurasian Otter, a list of exciting upcoming talks and events, and - as always, our Monthly Mammal Fact and Camera Trap Quiz!

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like us to include in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at info@PROTECTED


October 2022

Sequences uploaded Sequences classified
4168 4710

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects. 


October 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to October's top ten spotters! We very much appreciate everyone's hard work. 

Position User
1 Thornandez
2 Ryce
3 Moose
4 cferrari
5 PetaSams
6 efarrell
7 Sprocket46
8 kY3
9 Luko
10 Porthbean22

 

Congratulations to Graham Smith

Many of you will have met Graham Smith at MammalWeb events in the past. Graham is the lead scientist at the Animal and Plant Health Agency's National Wildlife Management Centre, and has been on the steering group of MammalWeb since its inception. In his day job, Graham is heavily involved in many highly topical issues concerning wildlife, including disease contingency planning and the management of invasive species. We're delighted to note that Graham's decades of work on wildlife management, as well as his work with MammalWeb, have recently been recognised with an Honorary Professorship at Durham University. Congratulations Graham!


Preparing to Hibernate

Image via Peter Warne on Flickr

Some of you may be spending this month rushing around to prepare for the swiftly approaching festive season, stockpiling food, gifts and other necessities for staying comfortable and cosy over the holidays. However, we humans aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure of the winter rush. Many of our mammal species here in the British Isles are stockpiling resources of their own before they settle down to sleep through the winter.

Here in the British Isles we have three main mammal groups that go into a true hibernation: bats, hedgehogs and dormice. These mammals slow their metabolism and body temperature right down and go into a state of extreme inactivity. They do this to preserve energy while food is scarce and difficult to access. These mammals need to stockpile these energy sources beforehand, eating in what seems like a state of excess called hyperphagia, and building up essential resources of fat to keep them going through the colder months.

Rather than hibernating, animals like squirrels and badgers pass the winter months in a state called torpor. Torpor is similar to hibernation, and is often referred to as ‘walking hibernation’ because animals that go into torpor over the winter are adapted to waking more frequently with changes in the weather. For squirrels, these periods of wakefulness are used to find and tuck-in to their famous food stores or caches, buried in preparation for the colder months. Badgers, on the other hand, will use this time to hunt; their opportunistic tendencies mean that they will take any food that is readily accessible to them, which frequently includes earthworms, nuts and fruits.

Although hibernating wildlife are more than able to find their own food, there are ways that you can help over the winter. Consider putting un-frozen water out in a bird bath, or leaving piles of logs, leaves and other detritus in the corners of your garden for hedgehogs, toads and invertebrates to settle down in over the winter. If you’re looking for a larger project, you could even build a hibernaculum, specifically designed for amphibians and reptiles to hibernate in. The RSPB have a simple guide here, or there is a slightly more complex one here from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

Nature of Scotland Awards

Sammy, Sian, Russell and Phil recently braved wild weather to head to Edinburgh for the awards ceremony for the Nature of Scotland awards, run by the RSPB and NatureScot. Thanks to everyone who voted for us in the Citizen Science category! Competition was very stiff and, in the end, we lost out to very worthy winners: the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, which has been running since the 1970s and has attracted many tens of thousands of contributors. Frankly, it was an honour to be listed alongside the other projects. We were also beaten to the top spot in the Innovation category, losing out to "Generation Restoration" – an excellent project investigating the best ways to restore Scotland's seagrass meadows. Overall, it was a fun evening – and thoroughly uplifting to hear about all the shortlisted projects, spending an evening focusing on so many positive stories about nature. You can check out all the winning projects here.


New Publication

An evidence-based approach to identifying resting sites of Eurasian otter Lutra lutra from camera-trap and field-sign data

A paper by Melanie Findlay and colleagues has recently been published, focusing on camera trapping as a key method for locating otter dens or ‘resting sites’. The Eurasian Otter is the only otter species present in the UK, and is protected by both UK and European law. In theory, this extends to their resting sites; however, this can be difficult to enforce, as these resting sites are hard to identify without a means of gathering evidence. This paper outlines research using examination of both camera trap data and field sign to pin down ways of gathering concrete evidence to help with this identification and further protection of otter resting sites.

Otter resting sites are characterised by the length of stay, with otters staying in these sites for hours rather than minutes. Distinction was also made between ‘spraint’ sites (primarily for scent-marking) and latrine sites (primarily for defecation), a distinction that has not been previously recognised.

The full paper is available to read here through Wiley Online Library.

Image by Alana Dewar, Member of IUCN / SSC Otter Specialist Group


Monitoring shrews: we need your help!

Britain is home to three native species of shrew: the common, pygmy and water shrews. Recently, however, the greater white-toothed shrew has been detected in northeast England. In light of this, we would like your help with monitoring shrews.

The greater white-toothed shrew is native to Southern Europe and North Africa; however, it has proven invasive in Ireland, where its successful expansion threatens the native pygmy shrew. The management of invasive species demands their early detection and, as such, we would like to encourage as many people as possible to use camera traps modified for small mammal trapping, baited with mealworms, casters, or similar, so that we can build up a better picture of the occurrence and relative trapping rates of different shrew species in different parts of the country. We might expect records of the potentially invasive shrew to be particularly abundant in the area highlighted on the map below. However, we are interested in shrew records from across the country, in order to have baseline data to help explain any impacts.

We have set up a project for shrew monitoring.If you would like to contribute to this project but don’t know how to get started, please get in touch with us by email.

Image GWTS (c) Ruth Carden

We might expect the greater white-toothed shrew to be most likely to be found in the area indicated on the map.

More on Britain's shrews can be found on the Mammal Society's pages.


Talks and Events

Below are some events and talks coming up. With a mixture of in-person and online events we hope there is something for everyone to enjoy. For even more opportunities, be sure to look at reserves and sites local to you, there are many opportunities for wreath making and other festive activities in the coming months!


Mammal Fact of the Month

The harvest mouse is the smallest rodent in the British Isles, weighing as little as a 2p coin. On top of this, they are the only mammal in Britain that can actually use its tail as a fifth limb! This prehensile tail is used to cling on to grass stems and other structures in their environment while climbing. Although classed as ‘least concern’ globally by the IUCN red list, they are in decline throughout the UK. Because of this they are on the list of ‘Biodiversity Action Plan’ or BAP classified species,  with the intention of reversing this decline. If you are interested in helping harvest mouse conservation, there are training opportunities listed in our ‘talks and events’ section above.

Image via Sonia Johnson on Flickr, note the demonstration of that prehensile tail!


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to all of you who identified the pine marten from last month's partial body shot! One of the mustelid species native to the British Isles, the pine marten was once widespread but is now primarily found in Scotland. They have a characteristic white 'bib' marking that is so distinctive it can be used to identify individuals of the species.

Here’s our image for this month, let us know what and where the animal is, and be sure to check the answer in our next newsletter!

Remember, if you enjoy the camera trap quizzes and want to try some more, we do one weekly on our social media! These are posted across our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

 

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MammalWeb Newsletter October 2022

Published on October 31st 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter October 2022

Welcome to the October issue of the MammalWeb Newsletter! We hope you've been enjoying the spookiest month of the year, and taking the opportunity to look out for wildlife. Many of our mammals will be winding down for the winter, particularly small mammals like squirrels that hibernate during the colder months, but there's still plenty to see! Remember - tracks are easier to spot on frosty ground, so keep your eyes peeled for signs of our furry friends.

Coming up in this month's newsletter we have links to articles from Pen-Yuan Hsing and Sian E. Green. Plus, nature-based news from across the UK, as well as some seasonal folklore, and tips for disposing of this year's pumpkins in a nature-friendly way. As always, we've got our monthly mammal fact, and a new camera trap quiz to test your knowledge!

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like us to include in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at info@PROTECTED


August 2022

Sequences uploadedSequences classified
34334456

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects. 


August 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to August's top ten spotters! We very much appreciate everyone's hard work. 
PositionUser
1Deacon
2NWKCP
3RustyKnight07
4Christian
5olivia.wadd
6Otter_Spotter
7Jotome
8TerriM
9simone.roverelli
10vine cottage


New Publications

Camera trapping with photos and videos: implications for ecology and citizen science

We are excited to share a new paper from our very own Sian E. Green and colleagues, "Camera trapping with photos and videos: implications for ecology and citizen science". The paper covers a camera trap survey undertaken in the Forest of Dean, with the intention of comparing the accuracy of IDs submitted for footage that was either still images or videos.

The camera traps were deployed for 4 weeks on a systematic grid throughout the site, with parallel cameras set up to record both video and images of the same subject. The footage from this was uploaded to MammalWeb and classified by our contributors, porentially including you, our reader!

The extent of engagement and accuracy of identifications were compared between the photographic and video datasets.

The result was that citizen scientists more accurately identified the subjects in video footage (95% accuracy for video vs 86% accuracy for photos). Participants were also more likely to offer additional information or ID features, like sex and age, from video footage.

The paper is freely available through the zoological society of London’s Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, and can be read here.

Sian E. Green also wrote a detailed twitter thread outlining the publication, which can be accessed here.

 

Large-Scale monitoring: the potential of a citizen science camera trapping project in the UK

Pen-Yuan Hsing’s paper Large-scale monitoring: the potential of a citizen science camera trapping project in the UK, which was mentioned in September’s newsletter, is now available to read online through the British Ecological Society.

The article explores the role of large-scale wildlife monitoring projects and emphasises the importance of them in light of the biodiversity loss happening worldwide. MammalWeb is used as an example of an organisation and platform that can be used to implement this large-scale monitoring; this includes an overlview of MammalWeb’s evolution as an organisation.

The article is freely available, and can be read here.

Mammal News

Bison in the UK

The Wilder Blean project in Kent has had some exciting news in the form of a Bison calf! The project has seen the reintroduction of wild bison as ecosystem engineers to the English forest as part of a wider rewilding project. Three bison were initially released, with the newborn calf arriving this October. This is the first wild bison born in England in thousands of years! The project is hoping to monitor the impact of woodland management by large herbivores, with the addition of Exmoor ponies and wild pigs to come in the future.

Read more about the Wilder Blean project here.

The Attack on Nature

Organisations such as the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts have highlighted concerns around what is percieved as the UK Government’s ‘attack on nature’. This refers to the potential stripping back of- and, in some cases eliminating- legislation that deals with the protection of nature, including the Habitats Regulations. This comes in part from the push away from the EU, and loss of the environmental laws and regulations that stem from the EU as an organisation.

If we look at the impact of EU legislation, the UK was heavily involved in the development of these regulations; consequently, many people - whatever their views on brexit - see this as a retrograde step. Research has demonstrated the positive impacts of EU legislation on wildlife throughout Europe. One example is migrant birds, protected under the Birds Directive. Some species are vulnerable during cross-country migration, and individual site-based nesting protection may not be enough to ensure their safety. Overall, species listed for specific protection under the Birds Directive have fared better than species that are not listed. Morover, the improvement of the fortunes of listed species can be timed to the adoption of the Birds Directive in different areas.With climate change a growing issue, we need to look at protecting our wildlife on a global scale, and using wide-reaching legislation as a safety net for vulnerable species.

Plans to ditch important legislation are compounded by the proposal for ‘investment zones’ - areas of industrial advancement that do not necessarily need to conform to the current sustainable planning systems in place for the protection of nature and habitat.

Since the RSPB’s initial press release, Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister, and so our understanding of where the government will go with their development plans and environmental legislation has become unclear. Unfortunately, however there are no signs for improvement on the proposed legislative rollbacks.

The initial RSPB press release can be read here.

For those of you who wish to read more here is an article on how EU legislation protects bird species, Assessing the Performance of EU Nature Legislation in Protecting Target Bird Species in an Era of Climate Change

 

New MammalWeb communications intern

Hi I'm Lucy the new MammalWeb social media and communications intern! I am a recent Conservation Biology masters graduate from the University of Sussex and I am passionate about wildlife conservation and working to protect the planet. I'm super excited to be involved in such an interesting project and I'm keeping my eyes peeled in the camera trap footage for my favourite mammal, the otter!

Seasonal Spotlight

Frightful Folklore

‘Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog…’

The quote is, of course, from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but what are the magical properties of animal parts? There is a theory that animals were historically associated with certain qualities or parts of the body, and that they could be consumed or otherwise used with ritual purposes to heal afflictions of the associated area. For example, folkloric history includes the use of toads to cure ailments of the throat. However, the British Isles and beyond are full of tales of monstrous mammals.

You may have heard of the Selkie, a Scottish folk creature that turns from a seal to a woman, and cannot change back if her skin is stolen, or of Black Shuck, the ghostly apparition of a dog that roams the East Anglian countryside, but here we are taking a dip into the folklore of some common mammals that have a spooky side.

The White Hart

Appearing everywhere from Richard II’s heraldry, to Beowulf, to the oldest pub in Edinburgh, the white hart is a reoccurring emblem in mythology across the isles. With ‘hart’ being another name for stag (coming from the old English ‘heorot’), the white hart is a male deer. Commonly a red deer, but more commonly a fallow buck - particularly as these are more commonly white.

Mythology surrounding white deer is found across the world. A White Stag in Celtic mythology is a creature of the Otherworld, and symbolises that the border between worlds is thin or that ‘otherworldly’ things are afoot. In folklore from the British Isles the white stag is often conflated with horned gods such as Herne the hunter or Cernunnos, and even with other mythological symbols like the unicorn.

The thing that ties all tales of the white stag together is that it cannot be caught; in some instances it leads people between worlds, or represents fate; in others, the catching or trammelling of this mythical beast can have dire consequences. JRR Tolkien plays with this theme in the Hobbit, where travellers through a menacing forest come across a white hart and attempt to shoot it, an action that has immediate and disastrous effects.

 

Black Cats

While the black cat of folklore is certainly Felis catus, the domestic cat, there are plenty of black cats in the wilderness to fit in with our theme! (Even if we do have to go slightly farther afield than the British Isles to see them).

As it stands, we know of 13 species of wild cat that exhibit melanism, with the most famous being jaguars and leopards - the melanistic colourations of which are more popularly known as ‘black panthers’.

But what is melanism? In short, it’s a genetically-driven trait that manifests as an increase in the ‘melanin’ pigment that is significantly higher than the norm. This can be seen throughout the animal kingdom, and more common examples to us in the British Isles may include fallow deer, grey squirrel and fox.

Melanism in cats is generally more common in moist forested areas, which is perhaps why the black panther remains as the famous choice. However, in recent years there has been internet buzz about sightings of rare melanistic Canada Lynx.

In any case, contrary to what the stories might say, it is most definitely lucky to have a black wild cat cross your path!

 

Blood-Drinking Bats

Bats are often toted as a symbol for Halloween and the macabre, but where does this connection come from? Bram Stoker is often given credit for this due to his novel Dracula, with the titular vampire transforming into a bat to flee from the window of one of his thralls. There is also the connection to ‘vampire bats’ - bats who exhibit hematophagy, or drink blood. Blood-drinking bats are often the most commonly discussed in popular culture, but there are only three species out of over 1,000 that actually fall into this category. These three are the common vampire bat, the white winged vampire bat, and the hairy-legged vampire bat, all of which are only found in the Americas.

On a simpler note, the nocturnal nature of bats lends itself to associations with all things spooky and, as the autumn nights close in and the sun sets earlier it is much more common to see them flitting around in the dusk. It has been suggested that as earlier cultures held bonfires to celebrate Samhain (modern Halloween’s Celtic inspiration) insects would be attracted to the light, and bats would be attracted to the insects, and so an association was born. Another theory surrounds the fact that October falls within the season where bats can be seen swarming around hibernation sites.

These are just a small snippet of the spooky animals that haunt the season, for those looking to read further theres an article here from the Scottish Wildlife Trusts about Bats and Halloween, and a fantastic resource for book recommendations on myths and folklore here from the organisers of the popular social media event #folklorethursday

A plea for your pumpkins

It’s the time of year again when many of us will be carving pumpkins to decorate our homes and delight trick or treaters (or scare them off in some cases!), but it’s worth thinking about what to do with your pumpkin once the event is over. There are tips and tricks floating around the internet, suggesting leaving them out for wildlife; however, this is definitely not recommended. Pumpkins aren’t a native species here, and while some animals may enjoy having a nibble they could make others severely unwell. As with orange skins and banana peel, there are some fruits and vegetables that are best left to the compost bin.

An article here from Forestry England presents some creative solutions for leftover pumpkins, including creating pumpkin face masks and donating leftover pumpkins to zoos for enrichment.


Mammal Fact of the Month

To celebrate the news at Wilder Blean, we’re focusing this month’s mammal fact on European bison! Bison are easily identified by their distinct silhouette, particularly their shoulder hump. They are the heaviest native land mammal in Europe, with the potential for males to weigh up to a whopping 1000kg.


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to everyone who identified the Jay in last month's quiz! The jay is the UK's most colourful corvid, sporting spots of bright blue wing feather.

This month we've got a tricky one for you - try and identify this animal based on the partial body shot!

Remember, if you enjoy the camera trap quizzes and want to try some more, we do one weekly on our social media! These are posted across our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

 

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MammalWeb Newsletter September 2022

Published on September 22nd 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter September 2022

Welcome to the September issue of the MammalWeb Newsletter! As summer is coming to an end and the nights begin to draw in, it might start to become more difficult to stay connected with nature. A recent survey ranked Britain at the bottom out of 14 European countries for connectedness to nature. With it's positive effects on mental health and environmental action, we want to keep people engaged with the natural world. In the coming months, when getting outside may be more difficult, engaging in projects like MammalWeb is a great way to stay connected with nature!

Coming up in this month's newsletter we have some exciting publication news from the MammalWeb team highlighting the contributions of all our members. We are also advertising for another intern so keep reading if you are interested in becoming more involved with MammalWeb. Finally, we are excited to announce that MammalWeb has been shortlisted for a Nature of Scotland Citizen Science Award as well as an Innovation Award, included in this newsletter is more information about the awards and how you can vote for MammalWeb in the Citizen Science category!

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like us to include in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at info@PROTECTED


August 2022

Sequences uploadedSequences classified
39336551

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects. 


August 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to August's top ten spotters! We very much appreciate everyone's hard work. 
PositionUser
1Deacon
2Otter_Spotter
3SophieLu98
4brinmar2000
5PetaSams
6NWKCP
7Christian
8RustyKnight07
9GretaO
10vivcoy


MammalWeb and the Nature of Scotland Awards

We are absolutely thrilled to report that MammalWeb has been shortlisted in the annual Nature of Scotland Awards! It is a testament to the efforts of all our contributors that we've made it to the finals in both the Innovation and Citizen Science categories. The Citizen Science award will be decided by popular vote - so please consider voting for MammalWeb, here, before voting closes on 4th October. 

MammalWeb was announced as a finalist in the Innovation and Citizen Science categories at a ceremony at the Scottish Parliament in early September, the first in-person celebration for the Nature of Scotland Awards since 2019. 

On 17th November, the finalists will gather at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre to enjoy a night of celebration, where the winners of all 10 categories will be announced. 

The awards ceremony, now in its 11th year and co-sponsored by NatureScot, will be hosted by wildlife presenter Iolo Williams and radio and TV presenter Arlene Stuart. They will recognise the individuals and organisations making a difference in their local communities, businesses and schools to support Scotland's wildlife and special places.

Anyone with an interest in nature is welcome to attend the awards. If you would like to attend the awards dinner with members of the MammalWeb team, please let us know by emailing admin@PROTECTED before 23rd September. You can find out information on tickets for the even here


Volunteer with MammalWeb

We are looking for an enthusiastic volunteer social media and communications intern to join our team! The role will involve creating interesting and engaging social media content and support regular communications with all MammalWeb participants. If you're interested in being more involved with the MammalWeb project and looking to increase your communication and social media skills then do take a look and get in touch with us at info@PROTECTED if you have any questions!

Desirable skills/knowledge

Example tasks


MammalWeb Publication

We are excited to share that a paper by Pen-Yuan Hsing and colleagues, entitled Large-scale monitoring: the potential of a citizen science camera-trapping project in the UK, has recently been accepted for publication in the journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence. The paper will be freely available online via the journal website shortly. 

The article highlights the importance of large-scale monitoring in the face of global biodiversity loss and how camera trapping and citizen science projects can achieve this. For UK mammals especially, that are often elusive and nocturnal, camera trapping can be an invaluable tool for monitoring populations across large areas and over long-term timescales.

The role of citizen science projects like MammalWeb cannot be overlooked. Engaging members of the public in scientific research provides a wealth of data that would be unachievable without the contributions of many people, and our contributors are recognised as an author on the paper. However, established citizen science projects often focus on conspicuous and easily identifiable taxa like birds and butterflies, with mammals often omitted. Our paper highlights the benefits of MammalWeb in filling this gap, as well as describing the growth and achievements of MammalWeb since its inception.


Talks and Events

Below are some events and talks coming up. With a mixture of in-person and online events we hope there is something for everyone to enjoy. For even more opportunities, the Wildlife Trusts have events up and down the country; see their website for more information.


Mammal Fact of the Month

Britain is home to two species of seal, the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) and the common seal (Phoca vitulina). Despite its name, the common seal (also known as the harbour seal) is much less abundant in British waters than the grey seal. One notable difference between the two species are their reproductive behaviours. While common seal pups are born in summer and can swim within hours of being born, grey seals give birth in autumn and their pups remain on land for 3-4 weeks until they have lost their fluffy white coat and begin to swim. 

Common seal (left) and grey seal pup (right) - both images via Flickr


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to everyone who identified the American mink in last month’s camera trap quiz! This invasive mustelid has become established in Britain after escapes from fur farms, and now poses a threat to our native water vole and ground-nesting seabird species on which they feed. 

Here’s our image for this month, let us know what bird you think this is, and be sure to check the answer in our next newsletter!

Remember, if you enjoy the camera trap quizzes and want to try some more, we do one weekly on our social media! These are posted across our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

 

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MammalWeb Newsletter August 2022

Published on August 27th 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter August 2022

Hello and welcome to August's issue of the MammalWeb newsletter! We're entering the dog days of summer now, and hopefully leaving some of that heat behind us. Autumn is being heralded by the appearance of some seasonal favourites across the spectrum of nature, from fungi like chanterelles and boletes, to red rowan berries and the hard antler of stags. For now though we're still in summer so sit back, read through this month's edition, and enjoy the last of the sun!

Coming up in this month's newsletter we have information on how the UK's mammals are affected by the recent heatwaves, some activities integrating nature into back-to-school life for any kids with post-holiday blues, and some fantastic volunteering opportunities with the British Ecological Society! Plus, as always, we've got a list of upcoming events, our monthly mammal fact, and camera trap quiz.

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like us to include in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at info@PROTECTED


August 2022

Sequences uploaded Sequences classified
4751 3482

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects.  This is the third month in a row during which uploaded sequences have outstripped classifications. We are working hard on ways to streamline the classification process, mostly using artificial intelligence. In the meantime, if you know of anyone who might like to help out our contributors by joining MammalWeb and helping with a few classifications, please do spread the word!

 


August 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to July's top ten spotters! We very much appreciate everyone's hard work. 

Position User
1 NWKCP
2 TerriM
3 Miquel
4 Mike King
5 RustyKnight07
6 brinmar2000
7 TheFirstSnowdrop
8 vivcoy
9 gcsmith
10 Pilar Clapers

Drought and the UK's Mammals

Most of us have experience of this summer's heatwaves - and some of you may have felt the effects, be it sunburn, dehydration or even heat-stroke. However, the unprecedented heat is having continued effects on our landscape here in the UK, as well as the animals that call these islands home.

The recent drought conditions here are a consequence of the changing climate, with human activity causing the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at an unnatural rate. Alongside creating the cause of this accelerated climactic change human actions have exacerbated the symptoms, in this case excessive heat.

Some environments are better equipped to deal with heatwaves than others. For example, woodlands and riparian areas with dense foliage and bodies of water create shady spaces with cooler air, whereas cities full of high-rise buildings and tarmac act as heat sinks. These are of course two extremes, but they give an idea of how different habitats can make or break the conditions for the animals that live there.

But what is drought exactly? What does it mean outside of hosepipe bans and brown grass? Drought is an event characterised by the lack of available water, typically due to high heat and low rainfall. One key way that drought can affect animals is through lack of water availibility; this is, however, just the tip of the (receeding) iceberg. 

If someone were to describe the impacts of drought on our landscape without giving context, we may be tricked into thinking they were talking about the dead of winter: dying vegetation, hard ground, little available food. On top of this, however, these animals must deal with the lack of water and extreme heat. 

Desiccated vegetation, a primary symptom of drought, means that there is less food available for grazers and insects, which has a knock-on effects on those animals that eat them. The hard, dry ground also means that earthworms and other soil-dwelling invertebrates remain in moister soils and out of the reach of insectivorous mammals. This is why during a heatwave we may see badgers, hedgehogs and even moles traversing the grass in our gardens during the daytime – a rare sight for these typically nocturnal animals. The lack of food availability has forced them to move outside of their daily cycles - which, in turn, leaves them more vulnerable to the heat.

Changes in cycleic events are important impacts that can be seen in many places across our ecosystem. Blackberries ripening and dropping a month or two early (in a desperate bid for the plant to save water) may not look like much but come autumn those berries will be sorely missed by birds and other animals stocking up for winter.

Over extremely long periods of exposure to drought environments behavioural changes may lead to the evolutionary processes of adaptation. However, the current climactic changes are happening too swiftly for our animals to be able to adapt.

The golden woodland full of water bodies and shade may be rare, but we do have opportunities to replicate it. Recent media appearences by experts at Natural England have emphasised the benefits of beavers, who modify landscapes so that they retain water even during drought periods, decelerating water loss and ameliorating soil loss when the rains eventually arrive. There are also actions that individuals and land managers can take, even on a small scale. By building wildlife ponds regardless of size and having plenty of foliage and shaded areas in our gardens, allotments, and other areas of land, we can help give mammals, birds, and invertebrates a place to shelter from the sun and combat dehydration. Even placing shallow dishes of water can help, ensuring that there is a way for any unlucky animals that fall in to climb out again. This becomes especially important in those urban areas, where – just like us – the local animals may really be feeling the heat.

Guides to building wildlife ponds can be found here and here, as well as some other tips on helping animals in the heat here.

 

You can read more in this article in the Guardian covering the recent drought conditions in England.


Bringing Nature Back to School

We hope you all enjoyed the Summer activities spotlight in last month's newsletter! As schools across the nation are either back in session already, or gearing up for it, we're following up last month's segment with a cure for those back-to-school blues. 

Trees for Life, a rewilding organisation based in Scotland, have a selection of fab activities over on their website, everything from scavenger hunts to maths worksheets! Perfect for bringing nature into the classroom. 

The RSPB also have lots of wildlife activities perfect for this time of year. If you were inspired by the drought information in this newsletter then you and the kids can even make a mini pond, perfect for learning about wildlife as well as giving it a helping hand. 

It’s the perfect time of year to go looking for mushrooms, berries, and other spots of colour in the undergrowth! See how many different species you can find. Why not make a field journal documenting your finds? Drawing them or even just taking a picture (or both!) can help you to remember how to identify them next year.

Remember that when taking photos of plants, fungi and even animal sign, it's important to consider multiple angles and take multiple photos, ensuring that you can see all of the identifying features!


Volunteer with the British Ecological Society

About the Project:
Thanks to funding from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, the British Ecological Society (BES), in partnership with MammalWeb Ltd. and SMASH-UK, is delivering a schools outreach project in the North-East of England, running until March 2023. We are working with over 40 primary schools in the region, as well as providing training to 50 aspiring environmental educators in the process.

The project is delivering green transformations of school grounds through wildlife-friendly activities. This is being achieved through a combination of teacher training events, pupil workshops, and wider input from BES staff. By encouraging the green transformation of school grounds, we hope the project will open up the wellbeing benefits of nature to those currently least able to access them.

How to get involved:

As part of the ‘Connecting schools to nature in North East England’ outreach project, the British Ecological Society is excited to announce that applications for volunteers have now re-opened via the link below!

Volunteers who take part in this project will receive group and personal training plus career development sessions, experience in schools outreach and science communication, and access to a range of exclusive training and networking opportunities. You can read more about the project on our website here or by downloading the project brief

Applications are open to anyone based in the North-East who is interested in schools outreach, wildlife, or science communication and education more generally.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team at outreach@britishecologicalsociety.org for further information. Thank you & we hope to see you onboard the project very soon!

Register your interest here!

 


Talks and Events

September is gearing up to be a busy month for nature lovers! With everything from free talks from the Natural History Museum in London, to in-person Beaver watching at Loch of the Lowes. 


Mammal Fact of the Month

Brown Hares have long been considered an iconic UK species, represented everywhere from pagan mythologies, stories of Boudiccan haruspicy (a process of divining the future in entrails), to Alice in Wonderland. However, despite their presence in British folklore and fiction, they are not one of our native species. They are thought to have been originally introduced by the Romans and have been in the UK for over 2000 years. They are - like rabbits - considered a naturalised species. In fact, of the Lagomorph family that contains both hares and rabbits, our only native species is the Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus), which is typically found on heather moorland, and is classified as near-threated on the IUCN Red List.

MammalWeb footage of brown hare (left) and mountain hare (right)


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to everyone who identified the grey squirrel tail in last month’s camera trap quiz! It was a tricky one, hidden away at the side.

Here’s our image for this month, have a go at IDing the mystery animal in the picture, and be sure to check the answer in our next newsletter!

Remember: if you enjoy the camera trap quizzes and want to try some more, we do one weekly on our social media! These are posted across our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

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MammalWeb Newsletter July 2022

Published on July 26th 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter July 2022

Hello and welcome to July's issue of the MammalWeb newsletter! We hope you are enjoying the summer and managing to keep cool in this unprecedented heat. With summer in full swing, it's a great time to see wildlife, especially insects like butterflies and visiting birds like swifts and swallows. If the extreme temperatures weren't a clear sign of our changing climate, the arrival of species such as bee-eaters certainly are; bee-eaters are birds that usually live in southern Europe and Africa, but have recently been breeding in southern England. 

Coming up in this month's newsletter we have a roundup of MammalWeb from the first half of the year, as well as a feature on wildcat identification. With summer holidays in full swing in Scotland and just starting in England and Wales, we also have some fun nature-based activities to keep younger mammal enthusiasts busy over the holidays. We would also like to introduce a new sub-project in our squirrel monitoring project, and, as always, our monthly mammal fact and camera trap quiz at the end of this newsletter. 

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like us to include in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at info@PROTECTED


June 2022

Sequences uploadedSequences classified
117155835

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects.  


June 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to June's top ten spotters! We very much appreciate everyone's hard work. 
PositionUser
1kaff07
2RustyKnight07
3brinmar2000
4Mike King
5LSB
6Jotorre
7FlowCountryFella
8PetaSams
9Tryptophan
10ARyan


Six Month Round-Up

With 2022 halfway through already, we wanted to have a quick round-up of MammalWeb so far this year. We have had an amazing 40255 sequences uploaded between January and June and 52798 sequences classified! We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to MammalWeb so far this year it's been great to have so many new and returning participants take part. 


Wildcat Identification

Last month, we highlighted the progress made in the conservation of Scottish wildcats by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park's breeding programme. This aims to release wildcats into the Cairngorms National Park in 2023.

Following on from this, we wanted to highlight some of the key differences between native wildcats and domestic cats. Wildcats are very elusive and are currently restricted to small areas in the highlands of Scotland. Therefore, location can be the first way to rule out a wildcat sighting. On MammalWeb, clicking the "Location" button while spotting will display the area the footage was captured. If this is in northern Scotland, it has the potential to be a wildcat!

One of the biggest difficulties in identifying wildcats, and one of their biggest threats, is hybridisation with domestic cats. With so many wildcats being the product of hybridisation, it can be very difficult to assess the number of individuals remaining in the wild, with estimates ranging between 35 and 400. Wildcats differ from domestic cats as they are larger and stockier, with a blunt tail with a black tip and black rings. Hybrids, however, may have features of both domestic and wildcats.

A recent publication - Novel criteria to evaluate European wildcat observations from camera traps and other visual material -  highlights the difficulties of classifying wildcats by image alone. Here, the authors put forward a method of identification, developed by the Italian national wildcat project which involves categorising individuals on a scale from "domestic" to "wild" based on phenotypic traits. This avoids simply categorising individuals as wild or domestic and instead allows a more nuanced identification system that may help distinguish wildcats from their domestic relatives, and hybrids between the two. This system categorises individuals into 5 distinct groups, ranging from C1 being confirmed wildcat by genetic analysis and group 0 being clearly domestic cats. The intermediate groups (C2-C4) represent animals that show features of wildcats and, depending on the quality of image and morphological features, categorises how likely the individual is to be a true wildcat. On MammalWeb, it is usually enough to flag a cat as either a wildcat or wildcat-domestic hybrid; typically, members of the Scottish Wildcat conservation projects will know details regarding the cat's categorisation. 


Mid-Wales Red Squirrel Partnership

We would like to introduce the newest Squirrel Monitoring Project on MammalWeb. This project focuses on squirrels in mid-Wales. 

The project is led by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and uses un-baited ground cameras to capture red squirrels in the Tywi valley. This population has survived in commercial forestry, far from other populations, so sightings are sparse. Camera trapping is, thus, an ideal surveillance tool. 

The project has also been capturing lots of other species, so it's an exciting project to get involved with to see what you can spot! If you would like to find out more about the mid-Wales squirrel project you can visit their website or Facebook page. Please also join in with classifying the project on MammalWeb - Squirrel Monitoring.


Summer Holidays Activities

With summer holidays just around the corner, or already started, we thought we would put together some ideas of activities to get your kids involved with nature over the next few weeks. 

The Big Butterfly Count is happening from 15th July - 7th August. If you want to get involved all you have to do is choose a spot to watch butterflies for 15 minutes and record what you find on the Big Butterfly Count website. This is a great opportunity to put your butterfly ID skills to good use and contribute to real research. Butterfly Conservation have a handy ID guide here and more information on taking part on their website. 

A great way to learn about the animals on your doorstep is by looking for what they leave behind. Tracks, droppings, feathers and other signs of life can be great ways to identify local species. You can create your own wildlife tracker (inspired by this one via RSPB) by filling a tray with damp sand and leaving out a bit of pet food overnight. The following morning you can identify what animals have been attracted by the food. The Young People's Trust for the Environment has some great footprint ID guides on their website and the RSPB have some more here.

Footprint images from RSPB Wildsquare animal tracks guide

Engaging with local wildlife doesn't have to be all about animals. Flower pressing can be a great way to learn about wildflower identification and get creative at the same time! Flower pressing is as easy as collecting some flowers (making sure you have permission to pick) and layering them between layers of newspaper inside a heavy book. These can be left out to dry for a few days until the flowers are dried and flat and can then be turned into art! You could also create a herbarium, documenting the plants you can find in your local area. The Natural History Museum website has more tips on flower pressing.

Finally, why not use the summer holidays as an opportunity to get your kids involved with MammalWeb! Searching through our camera trap images can be great fun for people of any age, and we have some Test Yourself quizzes and animal ID guides on our website to get practicing before submitting your identifications as a spotter. 


Talks and Events

There are lots of events and talks happening this summer to learn about nature in your local area or online! Below are a few from local wildlife trusts and the field studies council that we thought were interesting.


Mammal Fact of the Month

We have 18 species of bat in the UK, all of which feed on insects. Elsewhere in the world, bats also eat fruit, nectar, fish, pollen and of course blood! The way in which bats here feed on insects can help with their identification. For example, Daubenton's bats feed on insects on the surface of water and are seen skimming low over ponds, while pipistrelles have erratic flight patterns as they catch insects in mid-air. For more information about UK bat identification and conservation see the Bat Conservation Trust website


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to those of you that spotted the tawny owl in last month's camera trap quiz. This was a difficult one without being able to see the front of the animal.

And here is our camera trap quiz image for this month. Let us know if you can spot what's hiding in the picture below and come back next month for the answer!

Remember: if you enjoy the camera trap quizzes and want to try some more, we do one weekly on our social media! These are posted across our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

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MammalWeb Newsletter June 2022

Published on June 28th 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter June 2022

Hello everybody and welcome to the June issue of the MammalWeb newsletter! It’s really warming up across the country now, and calving season is underway for many of the deer species we have here, both native and non-native.

Included in the newsletter this month are the June sequence stats and spotter league, the winners of our Pine Marten classification competition, an update on upcoming Beaver releases and some information on SavingWildcats’ incredibly exciting breeding programme! There is also an update on MammalWeb’s work with the Frankfurt Zoological Society for a project focusing on protected areas in Ukraine. As always, we also have our monthly mammal fact and camera trap quiz!

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like to be included in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at info@PROTECTED


May 2022

Sequences uploadedSequences classified
92496019

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects.  


May 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to April's top ten spotters! We very much appreciate everyone's hard work. 
PositionUser
11bachA_sanblas
2heatherfortune
3TerriM
4Mike King
5RustyKnight07
6gcsmith
7Jotorre
8Kelly
9vivcoy
10exdreddedcath

 


Pine Marten Competition Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our pine marten classification competition, Balázs Lukoczski and Amy Johnston! As first prize Balázs won a camera trap; our runner up Amy won a copy of Johnny Birks book ‘Pine martens’. We hope you enjoy your prizes! We would also like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has submitted classifications to the Forest of Dean Pine martens project. This project is different to our others as it has the extra challenge of trying to individually ID pine martens. Every classification submitted to this project will help us understand how well this type of project can work on MammalWeb and whether it is possible to collect ecologically meaningful data on pine martens using this method. All footage from this project has now received at leas one classification, but additional classifications are always beneficial so if you are interested please do give it a go!


Beavers in the Cairngorms 

To follow on from last month’s focus on Rewilding in the UK, there has been an update in the status of beaver reintroduction throughout Scotland. On the 10th of June the Cairngorms National Park Authority announced that they would be reintroducing the Eurasian beaver, Castor fiber, to the Cairngorms. Soon after, RSPB announced that a group would be translocated to Loch Lomond NNR. This would mean that for the first time since the 16th century beavers would be at home in both of Scotland’s national parks!

The Cairngorms National Park Authority have spoken out about taking a proactive role in the project, taking the lead with the introduction of the species into their new habitats. The Cairngorms National Park contains the catchment areas of major rivers such as the Dee, Spey and Tay, and it is intriguing to think of the impact these busy little ecosystem engineers will have on the waterways within the park.

Read more about Scottish beaver reintroductions and rewilding through the RSPB and Scotland the Big Picture.


MammalWeb in Ukraine

The Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and a number of Ukrainian national parks and nature conservation areas have teamed up with MammalWeb. The goal is to build long-term commitment to the processing and management of camera trap data for protected areas in Ukraine. MammalWeb allows protected area scientists and staff to undertake effective camera trap work, coordinated by FZS, to monitor the amazing diversity of mammal wildlife and contribute to international initiatives. MammalWeb offers the flexibility they need to upload and classify photos at the pace they need. The protected areas are focused around the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine, and everything from moose and bison to bears and beavers can be spotted in these unique mountain forests.

As Russia invaded Ukraine, many things became more difficult for protected areas and their staff. Currently, protected areas are managing displaced people seeking shelter in administration buildings or villages in the Carpathians. FZS continues to provide management, scientific, and financial support to these areas and their new challenges, assisting with the important protected area work that is required now and into the future.

This conservation work of FZS and the Ukrainian protected areas is supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the International Climate Initiative, and the Support to Nature Protected Areas in Ukraine project co-financed by the German government through KfW Development Bank

Adam F. Smith, PhD Student / Researcher, University of Freiburg / FZS

You can read more about Frankfurt Zoological Society and the work they're doing on their Website, as well as instagram, facebook and twitter.


Good News for the Scottish Wildcat

Saving Wildcats, an organisation based out of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park, are currently reaching critical stages with their very exciting conservation breeding programme. The Scottish wildcat is Britain’s last native felid, and wild populations are highly threatened by issues like habitat loss and hybridization with feral cats. Saving Wildcats are working to remove threats facing wild populations of cats, but are also focusing on an intensive ‘breeding for release’ programme, with hopes of releasing Wildcats into selected areas of Cairngorms National Park in 2023.

 

To date, since mid-May, the breeding centre has welcomed a fantastic 18 Scottish Wildcat kittens, with the latest litters (two sets of five kittens) being born early this month!

Image: SavingWildcats

You can learn more and follow the project through their website, as well as facebook, twitter and Instagram.


Mammal Fact of the Month

Britain’s smallest bat, the Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), is so small that it weighs roughly the same as a pound coin. However, it can fly at roughly seven metres per second. Common Pipistrelles are one of three Pipistrelle species in the UK, alongside the Soprano Pipistrelle and Nathusius’ pipistrelle. Up until the late 1990s the Soprano and Common Pipistrelle bats were considered the same species!

Image: S Charlton

Learn more about the UK’s bats at bat conservation trust.


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to everyone who correctly ID’d the nuthatch in last month’s camera trap quiz!

This month we’re looking at some after-dark footage. Let us know if you can spot and ID this particular predator!

Remember if you’re enjoying the camera trap quizzes and want to try some more, we do one weekly on our social media! These are posted across our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

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MammalWeb Newsletter May 2022

Published on May 25th 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter May 2022

Hello and welcome to the May issue of our newsletter! As we come to the end of spring, you may start seeing more young around; birds will start leaving their nests, mammals like bats are becoming more independent, and leverets are emerging from hiding. You might also come across roe deer fawns lying up in cover, waiting for their mothers to return! 

Coming up in this newsletter, we have some information about MammalNet Ireland, the newest addition to the MammalNet family, a feature on some of the rewilding projects happening across the UK, and an exciting update on a new publication by Sammy, one of MammalWeb's PhD students! We would also like to welcome a new volunteer to our team and, as always, our monthly mammal fact and camera trap quiz are at the end of this newsletter!

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like to be included in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at  info@PROTECTED 


April 2022

Sequences uploadedSequences classified
65338529

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects.  


April 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to April's top ten spotters! We appreciate everyone's hard work. 
PositionUser
1Otter_Spotter
2stevenbradley
3PetaSams
41bachA_sanblas
5TerriM
6RustyKnight07
7Rochesterj
8Davies
9Luko
10vivcoy

 


MammalNet Ireland

MammalNet Ireland is the newest sub-project of the MammalNet family, hoping to harness the potential of voluntary citizens for mammal monitoring in Ireland. This will involve the people of Ireland in this fantastic Europe-wide citizen-science project. MammalNet Ireland will allow different volunteer groups and stakeholders across the whole island of Ireland to catalogue Irish mammalian biodiversity, and to understand what and where species are found. Of particular interest to the MammalNet Ireland project is the distribution of deer, urban foxes, and the expanding distribution of the pine marten to their former haunts. MammalNet Ireland is calling all interested groups or individuals to contribute to this initiative! You can keep up to date with the project via their Twitter @MammalNet_IE


Rewilding in the UK

While Britain was previously home to a wide range of animal and plant species, many of these have been eradicated locally, largely as a result of human pressures such as land use change, and persecution. It is often disheartening to think about the loss of native biodiversity but, thankfully lots of projects are working to reintroduce some native species and rewild areas of the UK to reverse some of the effects humans have had.

The Highlands of Scotland are one of the places most often talked about in rewilding projects. The Highlands are home to some of the wildest landscapes in Britain and are remote enough to begin reintroducing species without anthropogenic factors causing too much disturbance. However, even these areas  face opposition from those who argue that carnivore reintroductions would harm livestock. Groups advocating for the reintroduction of large carnivores like wolves and lynx are working to change public perception of such animals. These carnivores would be introduced to manage deer populations, which graze on saplings, preventing the regrowth of the Caledonian forest that historically dominated the highlands. You can read more about potential lynx reintroductions here. Bunloit estate are also running a rewilding project on the shores of Loch Ness, which you can find out more about here, you can also contribute to classifying species at Bunloit with MammalWeb here

Further south, Knepp estate in West Sussex is leading the way for rewilding in England. Once an intensively managed farm, the owners of Knepp are working to return the area to nature, not by conserving individual species but by leaving nature to take over and establish itself naturally. As a result, Knepp is now home to species such as turtle doves, purple emperor butterflies and as many as 13 bat species! Knepp continues to prove that once-intensively farmed land retains the potential to let nature thrive again, if managed with restoration in mind. 

Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of reintroductions for conservation in the UK is the reintroduction of beavers. Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) have been reintroduced to both England (Devon) and Scotland (Argyll and Tayside), and there is potential to reintroduce them to Wales via the Welsh Beaver Project. It has been argued that beaver reintroductions damage farmland and forestry but these charismatic rodents act as ecosystem engineers, building dams which divert rivers, creating natural wetlands that, in turn, provide homes for invertebrates, birds and fish. They also provide natural flood management solutions by creating these wetlands. More information on their reintroduction and benefits to ecosystems can be found on the Rewilding Britain and RSPB websites. 


MammalWeb Journal Article

We're excited to announce that PhD student Sammy, along with colleagues from the MammalWeb team, has a new paper published in the journal of Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation! The paper is open access and available to read here. Below is a brief overview of the paper as well as some of our favourite images from the survey!

Back in 2018, PhD student Sammy conducted a large-scale camera trapping survey in North-East England. The survey area covered 2725 km2 and included the whole of County Durham, plus areas of Gateshead, Sunderland and Darlington. In total, 50 camera traps were rotated around 109 pre-determined random sites. The survey generated almost half a million images and many of you have helped to classify those images on the County Durham Survey project on MammalWeb. 

With the data from the survey, we used a method called Camera Trap Distance Sampling (CTDS) to estimate densities of eight mammal species. CTDS was first proposed in 2017 and is an extension of traditional point transect distance sampling which is a commonly used method for estimating abundance of many species, especially birds. Our study is one of the only studies to use CTDS over a large area and in a heterogenous landscape. We are also the first study to calculate densities not only for the whole-survey area but also within four specific habitats. We found both survey-wide and habitat-specific density estimates largely fell within previously published density ranges and our estimates were amongst the most precise produced for these species to date. In the paper, we discuss the need for careful consideration of practical and methodological decisions, such as how high to set cameras and where to left-truncate data (i.e., how close to the camera we would expect to get meaningful numbers of images for each species). Ultimately, we highlight the potential for CTDS to be used on a national scale. We discuss how the method could be integrated with a citizen science approach in order to improve national-level mammal monitoring in the UK.

We would like to say a huge thanks to all the MammalWeb contributors who helped to classify images from this project! To date, 14,921 classifications have been submitted to the project on MammalWeb. Without your help it would have taken the team far longer to classify all the images, so we are very grateful for all your contributions!


New MammalWeb Team Members

As you may know our communications intern Caitlin Cross recently left our team to start a graduate job in ecological consultancy. We would like to thank Caitlin again for all her help and enthusiasm over the past year and wish her all the best of luck in her new job. Rowan Knox will be stepping in to help with our monthly newsletters as well as our social media accounts!

Hello, I'm Rowan. I am currently studying Wildlife and Conservation Management at SRUC. My main interest is in carnivore ecology as well as preserving the native habitats here in Scotland. I'm very excited to be working with the MammalWeb team, and look forward to sharing any interesting tidbits in the mammal and conservation world with you all!


Events and Talks

Do you fancy catching up with conservation and learning more about our native wildlife? Below are a handful of upcoming events that might be of interest! Most are online, but in-person events are once again becoming possible as restrictions ease, so please do check that you can attend before booking!

Over lockdown, a large number of organisations made talks and webinars on a variety of different topics. These are still available to watch online. Click on the links below to find out more.


Mammal Fact of the Month

While rabbits and hares may appear similar to rodents, they are actually part of a distinct group, lagomorpha, which contains rabbits, hares and pikas. These similarities are the result of convergent evolution, where distinct groups have independently evolved similar characteristics. The same can be seen in similarities between the shape of dolphins and sharks, both being streamlined for swimming while originating from two very different evolutionary pasts. 


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to everybody who correctly spotted the grey squirrel in the April camera trap quiz below! 

We get all sorts of animals caught in our camera traps. This month's camera trap quiz is testing your bird ID skills, do you know what species is pictured here?

If you enjoy our monthly camera trap challenges, why not follow us on social media for more? We can be found on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!

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MammalWeb Newsletter April 2022

Published on April 19th 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter April 2022

Hello everyone and welcome to the April issue of the MammalWeb newsletter! Spring is well underway and lots of species are becoming more active as the days get warmer and longer. To celebrate, we are running an exciting Easter competition for contributors to our pine marten project to win a camera trap! 

Coming up in this newsletter we have some information on a new MammalWeb project that is looking for spotters and an update on some findings of another camera trapping project. We also have a feature on birds’ nests as they are busy building this time of year. If you follow us on social media you will know that we are looking for a new volunteer and there is more information on that here too.

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like to be included in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at  info@PROTECTED 


March 2022

Sequences uploadedSequences classified
63975928

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects.  


March 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to our top ten spotters! Well done to all, your hard work is always appreciated. 
PositionUser
1TerriM
2RustyKnight07
3PetaSams
4DurhamMonitor
5Jimmytheeel
6Mike King
7leszek.sabat
8agnegald
9gcsmith
10Petra128

 


Forest of Dean Pine Marten Easter Competition

Our Forest of Dean Pine Marten project is nearly complete but we need some extra help to get us to the finish line. In order to thank everyone who has participated in the project so far, and get those final classifications in, we are running a special Easter competition. For every classification submitted to the Forest of Dean Pine Marten Project between April 15 th and May 1 st you will receive a ticket to be entered into a prize draw. The lucky winner will receive a new camera trap and a runner up will win a copy of the excellent book ‘Pine Martens’ by Johnny Birks.

To be in with a chance to win you need to have an account registered on MammalWeb, then go to the ‘Forest of Dean Pine martens’ project, either via our ‘Projects’ page or select it from the drop-down menu on your Spotter page and start classifying. You can choose to classify photos, videos or a mix of both from this project. If you have not classified from this project before, you will notice it is a little different to other projects on MammalWeb as, not only are we asking you to identify the species you can see, but also whether you can identify different individual pine martens. This can be tricky, but is possible as each pine marten has unique markings on its ‘bib’ (the area of creamy coloured fur on a marten’s chest). Look carefully and you will see the edge of the bibs can be very uneven, and some martens have patches of dark fur within their bib. When spotting for this project you will see a list of different ID codes (e.g. FD03) for different animals known to be in the study area.

Clicking on one of these will bring up more information and other images of that animal to help you with your classification.

Trying to ID a pine marten to individual level takes concentration and can be time consuming; therefore, for each classification you submit that contains an individual ID, you will receive a bonus ticket for the prize draw. For tips on pine marten classification visit the project page or see our PDF guide

If you believe you have found a pine marten that is not one the ID options available, please classify it as a ‘New pine marten’. If you cannot ID an individual (e.g., if you can’t see the bib markings) please classify it as ‘Unidentifiable pine marten’ - but, if you are able to tell if it is male or female, please still add that information. If you have narrowed it down to a couple of individuals but are unsure you can always select the individual you think is most likely but add to the notes box other individuals you think it might be.

We will announce the winner on our social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and in next month’s newsletter. If you have any questions, please contact us at info@PROTECTED. Best of luck - and get spotting!


MammalWeb Communications Intern

As you might know, our social media and communications have been greatly improved over recent times by the hard work and creativity of volunteers. We recently said goodbye and thanks to Tom Wright and welcomed Libby Chapman to the team. We can now annouce that Caitlin Cross is also stepping down to concentrate on her new job in ecological consulting. Huge thanks to Caitlin for all she has done over the past year - and we wish her all the best in her new job!

In light of Caitlin's departure, we're now looking for an intern to work with the MammalWeb team over the next six months to help with our communications efforts! The intern will help communicate with MammalWeb participants and the general public via email (including our monthly newsletter), our website, and our social media. 

The ideal candidate will have 

The internship will be fully remote. We expect the time commitment for this role to be between 2-4 hours per week. The role is very flexible – the work can be done at any time to fit around your other commitments. Although there is a minimum commitment for this role, we are very happy to support anything extra you would like to do/create for your own personal development. This could be things such as writing extra blog posts, making videos or infographics, or getting involved with other public engagement projects. 

You will be joining a small team working closely together on the MammalWeb project, and will be supervised by researchers active in the fields of ecology, conservation, citizen science and public engagement. Through this internship, we aim to provide a valuable experience working in conservation and science communication. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer a salary for this internship, however we will be happy to provide references at the end of the placement and support you in developing your CV if you wish.

If you are interested in applying for this role, please email info@PROTECTED with a short statement about why you wish to apply and your suitability for the role. Please email by Friday 22nd April 2022. If you have any questions then don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Camera Evaluation and Density Modelling

During the summer of 2021, APHA conducted a large camera trapping project across five different areas in the Forest of Dean. The aim of the project was to trial new remote camera technology alongside different methods of camera trapping to estimate population densities of five mammal species found in the Forest of Dean: wild boar; roe, muntjac and fallow deer; and red fox.

We used three different methods of camera trap placement, each over a total of 14 days, to help identify the best method of estimating all five of the chosen mammal species. Firstly, we set out the cameras in a random un-baited grid pattern, with 12 cameras set in each of the five areas. Secondly, we set up 10 baited cameras using hessian bags, maize, peanuts, and raspberry jam, which were attached to trees. Lastly, in each area we set up 10 cameras on lure sites using stakes coated in a specific attractant for wild boar. Comparing the photos captured using each of the three different methods across the same area will allow us to estimate the most effective way of targeting a chosen species but also investigate how the methods used might influence both the animals themselves, and our calculated density estimates.

This project captured images of a wide range of UK mammal and bird species, generating a vast quantity of photo data. With such a large data set comes a great opportunity for people to get involved as citizen scientists and participate in a current research project by helping to tag photos of specific species. Going through camera trap data like this can also be fascinating to gain an insight into the lives of some species that may be otherwise elusive.


Thamesmead Small Mammal Monitoring Project

The Thamesmead Small Mammal Monitoring Project is now open to all spotters. This project has been set up by North West Kent Countryside partnership, in partnership with Peabody, as part of Peabody’s biodiversity action plan for Thamesmead. The purpose of this plan is to increase biodiversity in Thamesmead and foster community engagement with local wildlife and green spaces. One element of this work includes encouraging local people to contribute to biological records and get involved in citizen science.

Our small mammal monitoring box was built by one of our volunteers and has been deployed on school grounds as well as a local nature reserve. Over 6,700 images have been uploaded to MammalWeb and the people of Thamesmead could do with a little help to classify them all. So far, we’ve seen a surprising variety of small mammals, some larger mammals such as foxes and squirrels, and various birds.

Thamesmead is an urban area, with low rates of biological recording and many residents are unaware of the variety of wildlife sharing their neighbourhood. We hope that by offering ways to engage with local wildlife online as well as in the field, we can reach a wider audience and increase the amount of biological data being collected about the area. By involving schools in the project, we hope to give children a glimpse of a hidden world and inspire them to make space for nature in their urban world.


Birds Nest Building Behaviour

Spring means warmer temperatures and longer days. It also initiates the reproduction of many species. In temperate environments, like the UK, animals must time their reproduction to coincide with their food availability and to occur in a suitable temperature range. This causes many British species to have their offspring in spring. 

While most mammals have live-born young that develop within the female, egg-laying species like birds, have to provide their eggs with a suitable environment to develop properly. Birds' eggs must be kept in a very narrow temperature range (36-40oC) - this is where the nest comes in! Birds nests are crucial in providing the eggs, and chicks, with a microclimate suitable for proper growth and development. Nests protect offspring from the physical environment, by keeping them warm and dry, but also from predation by camouflage and physical protection, such as building inside nestboxes or tree cavities. 

This is a coal tit nest built in an artificial nestbox. It is made with grass and moss with animal fur and feathers lining the cup, providing lots of insulation to the eggs which will soon be incubated by the female to begin developing into chicks.

Nest building has long been thought to be a fixed ability of birds, with the general understanding being that nest design remains unchanged throughout a bird’s life. However, recent research has shown that many factors can affect nest design. Birds will build bigger, better insulated nests in colder environments and will adjust the timing of nest building based on temperature, in order to coincide with peak food availability. It has also been shown that birds will change their nest design based on previous experience. Captive zebra finches will build nests with more material if they were previously unsuccessful in a breeding attempt, and experienced weaverbirds build more tightly woven nests than inexperienced birds, all indicating there is a learned component to nest design. 


Events and Talks

Do you fancy catching up with conservation and learning more about our native wildlife? Below are a handful of upcoming events that might be of interest! Most are online, but in-person events are once again becoming possible as restrictions ease, so please do check that you can attend before booking!

Over lockdown, a large number of organisations made talks and webinars on a variety of different topics. These are still available to watch online. Click on the links below to find out more.


Mammal Fact of the Month

Hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) can shed part of their tail to escape predation. This is called partial tail autotomy. The tail of these animals can also help identify them as they are fluffy, unlike the tails of many other small rodents. 

Photo from Frank Vassen via Flickr.


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to everybody who correctly spotted the grey wagtail in the March camera trap quiz below! This was a difficult spot, so well done to anyone who found it!

What can you find in this month's camera trap image below? If you enjoy our monthly camera trap challenges, why not follow us on social media for more? We can be found on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!

 

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MammalWeb Newsletter March 2022

Published on March 21st 2022

MammalWeb Newsletter March 2022

Hello everybody and welcome to the March issue of the MammalWeb newsletter! We are very excited that the first signs of Spring are here, as it means longer days and slightly warmer temperatures! As we progress into Spring, the activity levels of most native mammals will increase, and those of you with camera traps out should expect to see an increase in the amount of footage that you capture!

Included in the newsletter this month are the February sequence stats and spotter league, a summary of the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 report, some camera placement top tips, and a research feature from PhD student Holly Broadhurst. As always, we also have our monthly mammal fact and camera trap quiz as well as some events and talks coming up in the next month!

We love hearing from you, and if you have anything that you would like to be included in next month’s newsletter, please get in touch at  info@PROTECTED 


February 2022

Sequences uploadedSequences classified
37309708

 

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb Britain project, and our other public projects.  


February 2022 Spotter League

Congratulations to our top ten spotters! Well done to all, your hard work is always appreciated. 
PositionUser
1TerriM
2DuhramMonitor
3emma_hummingbird
4Amy Josette
5RustyKnight07
6Jimmytheeel
7herefordstu
8gcsmith
9Jottore
10Helen0B#3

 


State of Britain's Hedgehogs 2022 Report

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 report was released at the end of last month, detailing the latest trends in national hedgehog numbers. Below is a summary of the report, but you can read the whole thing here

Hedgehogs are one of our most loved native species, and their historic decline is well documented. Yet, the data collected for this report between 1981 and 2020 from five ongoing surveys has shown that vast differences between urban and rural populations are becoming increasingly apparent.

In urban areas, the matrix of gardens, amenity grassland and other green space present is thought to be a refuge for hedgehogs, and populations appear to be recovering. The picture is hopeful, but it should be remembered that any recovery starts from a low baseline at the end of a long period of decline.

In stark contrast, rural populations remain low. The report suggests that 30-75% of hedgehogs in the countryside have been lost nationally since 2000. The results vary across regions however, with the largest declines seen in the Eastern half of England. More research is required to fully understand these numbers and to get a more precise measure of how hedgehogs are faring.

To help hedgehogs in the area where you live, here are some top tips:

  1. Create access into your garden with a hedgehog highway in your fence or wall
  2. Leave out supplementary food and water – wet or dry meat-based cat or dog food can be left out (these are high in the protein needed!)
  3. Avoid using slug pellets and other harmful pesticides
  4. Record any hedgehog sightings. You can submit camera trap footage to our site (learn more on how to do this here), or for visual sightings, you can record them on Hedgehog Street’s BIG Hedgehog Map, iRecord, or MammalMapper 

 


Trapping - Camera Placement Top Tips

Want to give trapping a go but not sure where to start? Or perhaps you already have cameras out but are looking for a few tips regarding placement? Here are our top tips for this month:

  1. The first and arguably most important thing to consider when placing a camera trap is to make sure that if you are putting it in an area that is not your property, you have the landowner’s permission. This will prevent any upset, or perhaps confiscated equipment, later down the line!
  2. Take some time to get to know the area well, look for signs of use from wildlife (tracks, prints, faeces for example). You may also want to take some time to quietly observe the area – a lot of species are creatures of habit and with a key eye you can locate key feeding or commuting areas.
  3. To cover the most ground, aim the camera along (rather than across) any runs, tracks or areas of interest.

If you have any further questions about trapping, please do not hesitate to get in touch by emailing info@PROTECTED


Using Environmental DNA (eDNA) to Monitor Mammals

Below Holly Broadhurst, PhD student at the University of Salford, discusses her latest research, comparing the effectiveness of camera trapping and eDNA survey methodology for research purposes. Thanks to Holly for such an interesting read!

"Imagine monitoring mammals without seeing, hearing, or even knowing that they are there. Sounds bizarre, right? There is DNA scattered around every natural environment as all species continuously shed organic material in the form of hair, skin cells, faeces, and urine. Scientists can isolate their DNA from environmental samples such as water from rivers, lakes and ponds, soil, and from the air! This is called environmental DNA or eDNA for short. Environmental DNA can be applied to a whole range of environments and can provide a snapshot of the mammalian communities which live in them by identifying multiple species simultaneously from one environmental sample. It is a technique that can detect the presence of elusive species, or those that are not known in the sampling area. It also has a use in enabling us to map the spread of non-native species.

Despite the power of eDNA for monitoring mammals, many limitations remain. Group-living and abundant species within a habitat are easily detected using eDNA, but those that are less abundant, such as some carnivores, or solitary need a little more work to detect them reliably. So, to test the efficiency of eDNA for monitoring mammals, the species detected can be compared with other reliable surveying methods such as camera trapping, and that is what I am doing for one of my PhD projects! Camera trapping is a well-established method for capturing mammals in real-time and has the amazing benefit of capturing natural behaviour through images and videos. However, when used for research, camera traps may unintentionally target, or miss, certain species depending on how they are positioned. For example, if a camera is placed on a tree, it may miss the smaller mammals that are running around below such as mice, voles and hedgehogs. This is where a combination of each method could be highly useful for building a picture of the entire mammalian community.

For my project, camera traps were set up along rivers and streams in Assynt, North-West Scotland, which is home to a diverse community of mammals, including water shrews, water voles, pine martens, otters, and weasels. At each site, footage was collected from any animals that triggered the cameras, and water samples were collected and filtered to isolate the DNA for laboratory analysis. The DNA sequences in the water samples were then matched to a database to discover which species are living around those sites. The mammal species identified from the camera trap images and eDNA samples were compared to help us find out if eDNA can become an established monitoring method.

Previous research in this area has shown that eDNA can match or outcompete camera trap surveys in the number of species detected and the amount of effort that is put into surveying. We are now comparing eDNA on much larger scale and over different seasons to further validate this.

eDNA would very much complement, not replace, traditional surveying methods - we still love to see the mammals our cameras capture! Environmental DNA has the power to extend evidence-based species distribution maps, but there is still room for improvement as we move into a new era of DNA-based methods."


Events and Talks

Do you fancy catching up with conservation and learning more our native wildlife? Below are a handful of upcoming events that might be of interest! Most are online, but in person events are becoming preferable again as restrictions ease, so please do check that you can attend before booking!

Over lockdown, a large number of organisations made talks and webinars on a variety of different topics. These are still available to watch online. Click on the links below to find out more.


Mammal Fact of the Month

Chemical communication is very important for Muntjac deer. As such, they will use the preorbital glands on their forehead to mark prominent trees and branches. Males will scent-mark more than females, and dominant males more than subordinate ones.


Camera Trap Quiz

Well done to everybody that correctly spotted the kingfisher in the February camera trap quiz below! Despite its signature blue and orange colouration, it blended in well and was tricky to spot. It was sent in by one of our members, and definitely kept us on our toes! Did you see it?

Our camera trap quiz this month was also sent in by one of our members. Let us know if you can spot anything hiding in this image. If you come across any tricky sequences feel free to send them to us at info@PROTECTED or on social media, and test the team's ID skills!

If you enjoy our monthly camera trap challenges, why not follow us on social media for more? We can be found on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!

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