Update on Photographic Wildlife Survey

07th December 2015
After more than a year observing wildlife and exploring what is happening in different parts of the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve, we have performed a review and produced a report about what has been happening so far.

Based on the fact that we have operated only with up to 6 trail cameras, we focused the survey on identifying species and their behaviour mostly only in one part of the forest. Over the summer months
(May-September 2015) we had one to two cameras in areas closer to the visitor centre to evaluate the impact of larger events and general public activities on the wildlife.


Badger captured outside the sett by one of our trail cameras

Findings and Observations Regarding Wildlife
We were able to confirm the presence of 11 mammal and a variety of bird species, including some seasonal visitors like redstarts and redwings. The positively identified mammal species include species, about which we have known all along that they are in the forest (e.g. badgers and foxes, etc.) and species, which presence is not so well known (e.g. pole cat). Over the coming weeks Barbara will produce a detailed reference document, which should be of help to the management team of the nature reserve and to other wildlife conservation projects.

The frequency of wildlife sightings is generally depending on the different species and their general as well as seasonal behaviour. It was however also influenced by our camera locations and Barbara's research for these. For example Barbara picked up on deer tracks around a veteran oak tree in August, which indicated some unusual activity. By setting up 2 cameras here, we were able to capture the mating of roe deer.



Roe deer

The majority of video clips from the area, where we focused mainly on, were of badgers (58.4%). This is based on having a trail camera located permanently close to one of the active badger setts, which the rangers helped finding at the start of the survey. Through this we were able to capture all types of badger behaviours and saw for example the badgers at this sett being very active over the winter months (January was the second busiest month; after April when cubs emerged for the first time).


Badger cubs and mum - May 2015

The most widely spread wildlife species across the nature reserve, run by Nottinghamshire County Council appear to be foxes, squirrels and mice. Our trail cameras have captured these species in all of our research areas.

Although we have had generally regular footage of foxes and the cameras recorded behaviour, which indicated that foxes would have cubs, we were only able to observe and film these at a den near the visitor centre (found by one of the rangers). An interesting behaviour we observed at this den, was that the 4 cubs appeared to be on their own for most of the day. If possible this is one of the behaviours, we would like to compare to other fox litters in the coming year.



Fox cubs - May 2015

Although we have not dedicated much time on bird observation and they have only been occasionally caught by the trail cameras, we have seen and/or recorded common woodland bird species (e.g. 4 tit subspecies, nuthatch, chaffinch, dunnock, wren, robin and tree creeper) plus different woodpecker subspecies, song thrush, jay, crow, buzzard and barn as well as tawny owl. Once again some of these species were observed across all areas, while others were seen only in certain parts of the forest. Interestingly tawny owls appear to be widespread as they have been recorded across all areas of the nature reserve, run by Nottinghamshire County Council.


Wren

Potential Impact By Non-Wildlife Activities
As part of the survey, we have looked also into any potential impact of public activities on the wildlife. In general, we believe that the public use of the nature reserve has no substantial negative impact on the wildlife
(the wildlife appears to adapt to its surroundings and avoids areas and/or times where and when disturbance occur). Saying this, wildlife presence probably would be higher if the public access would be restricted (this was actually experienced during the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease incident; when the nature reserved was closed to the public).

Although it appears that there is generally no negative impact through the public use of the forest, there has been evidence of some irresponsible behaviour, or at least behaviour not in line with the Forest Code. Negative examples of people's conduct or dogs out of control include
  • General littering,
  • People climbing trees,
  • Dog faeces not cleaned up or are left in plastic bags,
  • Fires and barbeques lit in the forest,
  • Dogs chasing freely through the forest and in at least one case chasing after deer,
  • People walking across badger setts and dogs sniffing at badger setts with at least one dog entering a badger sett half-way down.

Most people and dog owners are responsible in their behaviour and we assume in the above-mentioned cases that visitors did not have bad intentions, though in cases like littering and leaving the dog faeces behind, the people probably know what they are doing and just don't care.

Educational Aspects
Although we were unfortunately not able to meet the project objectives to the full extent, we have worked on all project aspects, and could provide information and material for some areas of the nature reserve. Throughout the year we have made information on wildlife species and the impact by non-wildlife activity as well as all video footage from Barbara's trail cameras available to the ranger team.

Furthermore, Barbara produced two films, which were shown in the visitor centre's video studio at the Major Oak Woodland Festival and as part of talks provided by Barbara to local interest groups.

Next Steps
We would like to continue the survey and hope to be able to cover the entire part of the nature reserve, managed by Nottinghamshire County Council. In this sense, we hope to gain funding for additional trail cameras and more extensive analysis work in 2016. One of the aspects, we would like to focus on in view of education is changing the image of the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve and emphasis the multitude of functions the forest has
(not only a place of human history, but important in view of the role trees play in the natural system and being a home for wildlife and invertebrate species).

Barbara has started to meet with stakeholders like the ranger team at the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre and the Sherwood Forest Trust to discuss the wildlife survey, general recommendations and a proposal for the continuation of the project.


Sherwood Forest

Watch this space ....