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With the first session underway we caught up with naturalist Gill Brown and some enthusiastic young wildlife explorers as they searched for signs of mammals in the reserve.

It wasn’t long before the first clues were uncovered and Gill showed the group some tiny footprints and droppings left in homemade small mammal tunnels which had been put out overnight.

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The tunnels had been baited with peanut butter and Gill explained that this meant that the footprints probably didn’t belong to shrews, which have an insectivorous diet and were unlikely to have been attracted by the nutty snack!

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Although tiny footprints are tricky to identify, Gill took the clearest examples with her for closer inspection later. We’ll keep you updated!

Whilst heading out to the next stop, a known badger sett in the reserve, a keen-eyed student spotted two mole hills in the long grass, a great find and another species to add to the tally.

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The students were thrilled when Gill showed them the badger sett, identified by its size and the nesting material at the entrance. They were then ‘sett’ the task of scouring the nearby area for ‘snuffle-pits’, scrapes in the ground made by foraging badgers!

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Finally, Gill showed the group hazelnuts growing on the bank, and explained that finding evidence of nibbled hazelnuts on the ground is a clear sign to confirm the presence of small mammals nearby.

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All in all a great start to the day, the tally is well underway!

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Bill and Gill the naturalists

Bill and Gill the naturalists

Who are you?

I’m Bill, and I work for the National Trust at Leigh Woods, just down the road.

And I’m Gill. I’m a naturalist and this is my third BioBlitz.

Why are you here?

Bill: I’m really interested in the plants here at Tyntesfield. And I want to help the schoolchildren who are here today to learn more about the minibeasts that we’re going to encounter.

Gill: I’m hoping to find some dormice.

What has been the highlight so far?

Bill: Definitely watching one of the bird specialists catch a robin in the net we’ve set up. I’ve never seen one so close up before.

Gill: Seeing a fat-legged flower beetle. Sadly, no dormice yet – but I remain hopeful.

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