Hainault Forest Website

Written and Designed by Brian Ecott


Food and Poo

WATER VOLE Arvicola terrestris

Above left: Water vole garden. Arrowed are droppings, grazed reed and reed pieces. April 1975. River Roding.

Above right upper: Closer look at the latrine area. The droppings have rounded ends and are smooth and cylindrical 10 - 12 mms long and are deposited away from the main area.

Above right lower: Cut pieces of reed show that they are wasteful feeders.

Left: Water vole feeding on rush Juncus sp. Note the grazed rushes arrowed. April 1976 Theydon Bois pond.

Left: Look under wild rose bushes. During the winter months when there is less vegetation look for piles of rose hip seeds. Who has been feeding here?

Above: The tiny nuts or seeds have been bitten and the inside eaten.

Below left: This is a close up of a pile.

Below right: Here is the same picture.

1. The nut is gnawed and the inside is empty. There are several in the picture.

2. The arrows show discarded fruit flesh and fruit hairs.

The WOODMOUSE Apodemus sylvaticus has been feeding here. The BANK VOLE Clethrionomys glareolus would have eaten the flesh and left the nuts. Both get the rose hips by climbing the bushes.

Acorns eaten by Woodmice. The widest end of the acorn is chewed to release the kernel.

Woodmouse cache including 1. Acorn, 2. Beech cupule (this contains the mast). 3. Beech mast - this is a triangular nut  opened from one end or 4. have two sides stripped off. 5. Cherry stones,  6. Hornbeam nuts and 7. Hawthorn nuts.

Cache of Hornbeam seed under a tree. Each one has been opened by a Woodmouse.

1. Rosehip seeds and 2 Beech mast cache eaten by Woodmouse.

Cherry stones eaten by a Woodmouse. A small hole is gnawed generally at one end and the kernel is scraped out by its incisor teeth.

Hazel nuts gnawed by a woodmouse. The teeth marks can be seen. Hazel is increasing in the Forest and Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve.

Hazel nuts split by a GREY SQUIRREL Sciurus carolinensis. The squirrel cracks the nut in half by biting it between its upper and lower incisor teeth resulting in teeth marks in both ends of the shell.

If a tree stump is available a Squirrel will use it as a table. Here a squirrel has been feeding on acorns.

Grey squirrel poo on a gate post at Weald Country Park. The largest is 10 mm long.  31st March 2011.

An old log is used as a table for a grey squirrel to feed on Horse chestnuts or Conkers in Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve.

In Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve a Squirrel has stripped the scales from pine cones starting at the base. Its reward are the oily seeds at the base of each scale.


Above: Grey squirrels will often strip bark off tree branches especially on sycamore. The bark is used to furnish their home, known as a drey which may be high in a tree in summer, and close to the trunk in winter.


Right: This young holly shoot has been eaten by a RABBIT Oryctolagus cuniculus. It will remove bark on young saplings which is why new tree plantings must be guarded by an individual sleeve around them until they have grown sufficiently. In this picture the teeth marks are clearly seen and go from side to side. The is also done by the BROWN HARE Lepus capensis.

 The Brown hare was often present in Latchford meadow, but now is more likely to be seen in the Woodland Trust's Havering Park farm fields and surrounding areas. Although it does use a latrine area, a solitary dry poo composed of grasses is often encountered. The dropping is large than that of a Rabbit.

RABBIT scat. Rabbits have regular latrines near field edges 

A hole amongst a rabbit latrine area is worth investigating. In this case the hole had been dug by a Dung beetle, a dropping placed in the hole and an egg laid on it. Look for these on Cabin Hill.



Scatology is the name given to the study of SCAT which is another name for poo or droppings.

Some animals have special names given to their poo such as



SPRAINTS of Otters

FRASS of Caterpillars

DUNG of Horses and Cattle

Bat droppings can be found in the visitor centre, by fire places and on window ledges. The are very light and easily blow away in a slight breeze. They are composed of undigested food remains of flying insects and appear as a miniature crinkled chip as opposed to mouse droppings which are more solid.


FOX Vulpes vulpes droppings or castings are generally black when fresh with a distinctive odour. They are left on grass tufts which is a way of marking their territory and are pointed at one end especially when containing feathers and bones.

These two pictures are of a BADGER Meles meles latrine. The Badger digs a shallow pit to deposit the scat well away from its home or sett. Unlike the domestic cat badgers do not cover over their scat.

FALLOW DEER Dama dama The Fallow buck fewmets (droppings) are bottle shape, pointed at one end and hollow at the other and can be joined together.

MUNTJAC DEER  Muntiacus reevesi like to feed on bluebells (above) and honeysuckle and can be a problem in ancient woodlands

FALLOW DEER Dama dama, droppings and urine in snow The Fallow doe fewmets are pointed at one end and rounded at the other. See also inset. Compare with Fallow buck above. Because of anatomical differences the doe deposits urine at the same spot, whereas the male's urine will be in front of the droppings. 24th January 2013.

Possibly a Sparrow hawk has plucked a Finch on this log. A Jay has been caught by a predator, possibly a Sparrow hawk. Note the blue striped feather (1) a primary covert.

This poo was left on a standing log-pile about 1.2 metres up. The poo measures 10cms in length and is pointed at one end. It is obviously a mammal but what?

Above: A picture taken on the grassland by the Lake on the 25th February 2007. It shows jelly, black eggs and some hard tubular structures.

Above right: A close up showing a mass of black eggs. On examination it shows the ovary, oviduct, albumen and masses of eggs of a common frog Rana temporia.  Below left: Frog albumen.

Middle and far right: Two photos sent to me by correspondent Eddie Barber in Devon in January 2009. who had found similar things. It has been suggested that a Heron might be responsible for leaving the remains.

Recommended reading: Mammals of Britain - their tracks, trails and signs (1973) by M J Lawrence & R W Brown (Pub. Blandford) 

Tracks and Signs of Birds of Britain and Europe (2003) by R W Brown, J Ferguson, M J Lawrence and D Lees (Pub. Christopher Helm)