By Glenn Norris
February is largely a calendar-planning and report-writing month for ecologists, desperately trying to get everything finished before birds start forming territories and the first invertebrates hit the spring blossom.
For me, I finally finished the Malling Down orchid survey report, which I started on my first day at the Trust back in July 2019. Overall it was a good year for common species such as Common Spotted-orchid and Pyramidal Orchid as they’ve maintained high populations since changes in management from 2008. Musk Orchid is also a regular on the reserve with more individuals seen the year after I did my fieldwork, which is great news.
As well as this, my calendar is almost fully booked with surveys up until late July which is very exciting, but also comes with terrifying nightmares and nervous sweating. Thankfully I had a distraction in the form of a camouflaged green box.
I love camera traps. They allow us to record wildlife at any time of day and without disturbance from humans which allows a far greater insight than stalking. The feeling of excitement when you’ve collected a trap and just want to get that SD card in to your computer is second to none.
I haven’t used a camera trap since I was working in Scotland in about 2014 so I was especially excited as memories of gambolling Pine Martens and lolloping Otters came to mind. Once imagined, it’s hard to get these hopeful thoughts out of your head, so for the entire nine days the trap was out at Butcherlands (near Ebernoe Common) I probably wasn’t the best person to be around.
As should have been expected, I didn’t get any images of Otters or Pine Martens (shock) but plenty of other cool stuff. Evidence can be seen throughout Butcherlands of several mammals in the form of scat, prints and feeding signs, but there’s something special about seeing them going about their business unperturbed by human presence. Foxes, Badgers and Roe Deer were all present as well as a Rabbit and some flushed Mallards.
Perhaps most peculiar though was a pet dog running across the camera at 2am. No human walked past the trap so this continues to creep me out, particularly as I’ll be starting the early morning breeding bird surveys there in the next few weeks.