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Lagomorph Survey Results 2019

Rabbiting on again about lagomorphs…

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found themselves being surprisingly productive over the last few weeks, what with our unusual circumstances of confinement… In other words, I have finally sat in front of the computer and scrutinised the results of our 2019 lagomorph surveys.

We kicked off the survey season with a trip to Leasowes Farm, under the kind permission of Emma Murray. This farm is being “regenerated”, with habitat features such as hedgerows and permanent pasture being restored to the landscape, and where Rob Havard is grazing his various traditional breed cattle all year round. Although these exciting and vital practices have only been in place since 2017, the work is already paying off: we were certainly in for a treat, spending a sunny (if not rather chilly) evening watching a group of hares frolicking about along the tussocky field margins.

This gathering clearly sparked a bit of enthusiasm to go out and look for them on our own patches, and we had 16 members taking part in the survey across the following months. Some volunteers picked a local site and walked a 1 km transect, noting some essential details on our forms so that the transect would be repeatable. Others simply submitted casual records using the form on our website. Some keen beans even did both!

In total, 17 different transects were walked, some of which were repeated in different months over the coming season, resulting in 23 forms returned. Seven of these transects recorded hares, whilst nine spotted rabbits; however, transects where neither were recorded are equally valuable in the context of monitoring surveys such as this one.

You can see how the transect locations and casual records are distributed on the map – not a bad spread for a first attempt, we think! We even have some sneaky records over the border to give to our Herefordshire friends… You’ll notice that the south-eastern half of the county is calling out for some transects, so perhaps we can fill some of these gaps in the future once restrictions are eased and it is safe once more to venture out on a lagomorph amble.

Our target is to reach 50 transects, with a nice even spread across the county, which can be repeated once a year: this method is the best for long-term monitoring. We think this is easily achievable if each WMG member completes one transect just once during the year, cleverly distributed so we can literally tick all the boxes (10 km grid squares) for the county. We’re hoping to arrange another meet-up, perhaps even located strategically close to a pub, to refresh our memories and start dishing out grid squares.

In the meantime, we hope you are able to enjoy the signs of spring from the safety of your garden and we’re looking forward to better, mammal-filled times ahead!

Charlie Long 13/04/2020

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