Pete’s question: “How much of the wildlife on Wilden Marsh actually lives there continuously?”
This is a good question, but I don’t know that I have a definitive answer.
I think it is safe to say that many of the animals seen on Wilden Marsh are transient.
Take the fox as an example of typical marsh resident. I started photographing the marsh foxes at the beginning of April. Now April is usually the time when the cubs begin to venture above ground. The vixen is supposed to be weaning her cubs at the end of April, and the dog fox is supposed to be protecting them from marauding cats attracted to the cubs’ squeaking. The dog fox and vixen, whom I photographed with my phone camera, were definitely lounging about and treating themselves to a bit of good old-fashioned relaxation therapy ( http://thewildenmarshblog.com/2011/04/27/foxes-around-the-north-pond/_). So these adult foxes must have left their cubs alone in their earth, whilst they were now out enjoying an adult foxes’ jolly.
In October, the family ties begin to break down, and the foxes start to disperse in preparation for the new breeding season. So foxes are welcome all and year marsh residents that make their living by hunting and killing rabbits, pigeon, and pheasants, mostly, but they will eat any small animal that they are able to catch. Dog foxes will have to be prepared to fight to keep control of their territory ( http://thewildenmarshblog.com/2011/05/04/foxes-foxes-and-more-foxes/).
Buzzards, magpies, herons, pigeons, the green woodpecker, blackbirds and tits seem to be on the marsh throughout the year, as are rabbits and badgers. The cormorants have disappeared completely. Pheasants are few and far between now, although I did see a cock pheasant roosting in a tree last night, and I haven’t seen a mallard for over a month. I haven’t seen a great spotted woodpecker for a while, either.
The muntjac deer are difficult to see at the best of times. In the winter, when the ground cover is low, there is a better chance of catching a glimpsing of them; they move very quietly through the long grass at this time of the year. I see these small deer on the marsh throughout the year, but this doesn’t mean that I am seeing the same individuals. I think that when the they find their surroundings quiet and comfortable, they are likely to stay-put for longer. The continued presence of unleashed dogs on the marsh will drive some of the more timid muntjacs from the reserve. The bucks might move to different local areas more readily than the does.
Worcestershire Wildlife Trust is trying to encourage wading birds to nest on the southern end of the marsh. They have carried out a lot of work to make an area suitable for this purpose. Wading birds that are successfully attracted to the marsh will fly somewhere else at the end of the nesting season. This is the way it goes: you have your resident animals and you have those that come to the marsh to breed, and also those that come for their holidays.
During the November, December, January and February, a lot of different bird calls emanate from the withy wood in the lagoon field. During the winter evening when I am walking my dog through Hoo Wood, I hear coots, various owls, snipe, woodcock, mallards and teal. During the summer, when the wooded area has dried out, all these birds move out.
I hope this goes some way to answering your question, Pete. Please let me know if you require further clarification.
Most of the photographs in the side-show below were taken with a remote camera on 11th and 12th July.