Special interest groups
An unfortunate coincidence - at about the same time as the Otter Group October meeting was happening at Five Acres, a local farmer found a dead otter between the Trust HQ and the A30. The good news is that on the same day, during forays to various sites in the locality, otter signs were found on the Kenwyn and Allen, and also at Devichoys and Bolingey.
Two meetings have been arranged for early 1997, to which anyone who has an interest in otters is very welcome: on 8th February a walk through superb otter country alongside the Tamar from Endsleigh to Horsebridge; and on 8th March a meeting at Five Acres when Trevor Renals (Environment Agency), plus microscope, will explain the mysteries of spraint analysis. See the diary of events for further details.
Important - change of recorder
Owing to family commitments, Hilary Marshall is relinquishing the job of recording otter sightings and signs as from the end of 1996 and Derek Lord is assuming the mantle. Therefore please continue to send 1996 records to Hilary Marshall, Meadowside, Virginstowe, Beaworthy, Devon, EX2 1 5DZ, and from I st January 1997 to Derek Lord, Old Farmhouse, Pentireglaze, St Minver, Wadebridge, Cornwall, PL27 6QY.
Many thanks to the intrepid Hilary for her input and enthusiasm during the past two years.
If you have an interest in otters, and would like to become a "spraint spotter", there are a number of areas in the county which need covering. If the idea appeals, please contact me on
Why a Mammal Group.?
Birds have an army of twitchers, birdwatchers and professional ornithologists to record their numbers and behaviour. Plants have many champions, but mammals, as a group, are often under-recorded - hence accurate numbers, especially of small mammals, are not available. It is as important to record mammals as any other wildlife group, so that their
numbers can be monitored and any decline detected early, before the problem becomes acute. If otter numbers had been monitored earlier, their decline would have been noticed long before it was.
English Nature, the Mammal Society and the People's Trust for Endangered Species are trying to do something about mapping the mammals of Britain. The Mammal Society, for example, has for about ten years had the National Dormouse Monitoring Scheme. This year the Society has done work on surveying harvest mice, a project in which Trust volunteers have had a hand. Actually more than a hand, when one of them sank deep into a swamp!
To do complete surveys of as many species as possible, many volunteers are needed, so there is a clear need for a Mammal Group within the Trust, not necessarily confined to Trust members. Those who already have a particular interest can still concentrate on their specialism. In fact they will be an asset to the group in sharing their expertise.
With so many special interest groups it seems a pity that furry creatures with a big '~aah" factor do not have their own enthusiasts.
NB You don 't have to be an ezpert to join the Trust 's new Mammal Group - please call HQ to register vour interest
OK, have it your own way, you did see a humpback whale...
This summer has seen the bottlenose dolphins spending a lot of time along
the north coast of Cornwall. The now famous Benty has been seen often, but numbers have usually been below 12 animals. On 2nd August they were in St Ives Bay, but they were not alone.
Brother and sister Graeme and Sarah Bailie of Hayle spotted one of the rarest Cornish wildlife sights ever when they saw a large black whale surface about six times, blowing as it swam eastwards, through and finally out of St Ives Bay. Their father took a video which showed it to be a humpback whale, and only the second record of a live humpback seen from the coast of Cornwall in this century. Humpbacks usually raise their tail flukes high out of the water for their deeper dives and this one didn't, perhaps because the bay is too shallow to allow a deep dive.
The Trust is always interested to hear of whale and dolphin sightings, which can be phoned to me on (01736)711783.
The Seal Group has now collected full breeding figures for grey seals using sea-cave sites in West Cornwall for three consecutive years. In 1994 there were 21 births, of which 2 died. In 1995 there were 18 births, of which 4 died. In 1996, despite violent post- equinoctial seas, there have been 15 births, of which 3 died. 1996 saw the return of all 4 females identified in the 1995 season to breed again at the same sites used last year and, in one case, on the same date.
Moulted seal pup on a sea-cave beach - about to face the outside world and its many hazards for the first time. Photo: Stephen Westcott