Hainault Forest Website

Written and Designed by Brian Ecott

BE A NATURE DETECTIVE

Tracking

FIELD VOLE Microtus agrestis. Above left is an area of grassland. A closer look shows several ridges of grass one of which is marked by a red spot. Field voles eat the base of grass stems which fall to create tunnels under the long grass. Slightly to the left of the red spot is an emergence hole which is shown in close up in the top right picture. Parting the grass ridges shows the extent of the tunnels (above) which go from the field to a nearby bush or tussocky area.

BANK VOLE Clethrionomys glareolus. Above left is an old log. Carefully lifting logs it is possible to find small mammals, lizards, beetles etc. Under this particular log was a Bank vole nest made of hay and eaten beech nuts and other nuts.

Mouse forepaw showing four toes.

Mouse hind foot showing five toes.

This is the normal toe numbers for mice and voles.

Shrews have five toes on fore and hind feet.

Far Left: Woodmouse tracks hopping in the deep snow, with most of the tail showing. 

Near Left and Top Right:

Field vole track in snow, small tail showing and note the entrance to a grass tunnel

 

 

WOODMOUSE Apodemus sylvaticus tracks in light snow on a wooden seat in the forest. Footprints and tail marks can be clearly seen.

Above left: Water vole run on bank of River Roding. April 1975 and above right: the run delineated.

Water vole footprints  River Roding April 1975

Captive Water vole

MOLE Talpa europaea. Common throughout the forest especially in grassland areas on Cabin Hill.  Rarely seen, burrow underground feeding on worms. They come to the surface at intervals to deposit the soil from their tunnels into heaps or molehills.

Above left: Look out for scratch marks of the GREY SQUIRREL Sciurus carolinensis on beech and hornbeam trunks Generally three (occasionally 4 or 5) parallel lines made by the hind foot (above centre). Above right: Grey squirrel fore print shows four toes and two heel pads arrowed.

RABBIT Oryctolagus cuniculus tracks and prints.

Far left: A rabbit hops in the snow in the direction of the arrow. To hop it places its two forepaws together and then leaps forward with the two hind feet. This gives the appearance of three holes in the ground - see also the next photograph. Near left: The rabbit is running. The two fore feet are moving separately but the hind feet are still together. Above: Rabbit forepaws on the heathland showing four toes and claw marks. The hind foot not illustrated has five toes. Below: Escape tunnel under brambles.

Badger Meles meles fore paw (left)  showing the long claws used for digging. Hind paw (right) claws are shorter.

Left: Badger fore paw.  Center two:  Badger paw prints in sand at Hainault. Note the large pad and five toes and also the absence of claw marks. Right: Badger print in mud at Hainault.

A dropped ball of bedding material about the size of a football collected by a Badger who shuffled backwards with the bedding clasped to the chest.

Left: The DOG track in snow is registered. That is left foot is placed in the mark of the left fore paw and the right hind in the mark of the right fore paw. This can clearly be seen in the photo. Above: The track of FOX Vulpes vulpes is much more straight and purposeful and the right/left shift is barely seen.

Fox prints in mud. The upper print shows four toes and is angled right, whereas the lower print shows more than four and is almost registered. They are angled left and are the left feet.

Muntjac Muntiacus reevesi. Each slot is a perfect register i.e. the left hind foot is placed into the mark made by the left fore-foot and similarly with the right feet. In the right-hand photo the stride is the distance between the two sets of left feet and is 30 cms. The word slot is used to describe a deer's foot print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In deep mud the two dew claws of the Muntjac, which are higher up the foot, may show as tiny marks behind the slot. Above right: The slot of Muntjac may be asymmetrical with the outer cleave or toe better developed. This is a right foot.

Fallow deer Dama dama occur occasionally in the forest and small herds can sometimes be seen in The Woodland Trust's Havering Farm Fields. This photo was taken along Cavill's Walk. Fallow slots normally register and in this picture the lower slots are apart which suggests that the animal was trotting. The stride is much larger than the Muntjac and the human footprint alongside is 28 cms making the stride approx. 84 cms

Almost registered. This is the slot of a Fallow deer Dama dama. This photo was taken on Dog Kennel Hill footpath behind the visitor centre. The slot is 6.5 cms long. 

Track of sheep - the prints have rounded tips and sides which distinguishes them from deer. 

Plaster casts can be made of any animal slot or footprint. Requirements are a receptacle for mixing plaster of Paris and water together with an old spoon. A circle of cardboard is placed around the slot or print and filled with milky plaster and left to set which takes about 40 minutes. The cast is carefully lifted and in a day or so when perfectly dry can be cleaned. The cast is the appearance of the underside of the foot. To make an actual copy the cast can be covered with surgical gauze and the whole thing painted with several layers of latex adhesive from a DIY store.

Left and above: Here is a Muntjac slot and trail on 25th March 2011 near the New North Road entrance.

Five slots were found and plaster casts were made. The left and right slots can be seen and a note of each position was noted.

Below is a completed cast of the right foot showing the outer and inner hooves. After thoroughly drying the cast will be cleaned and a latex copy will be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page awaiting completion

BIRD TRACKS

Above left: Disturbance of leaves by a bird such as a BLACKBIRD foraging for insects and grubs under the snow.

Above right: Walking bird in snow such as a PIGEON

Far left: Track of COOT - three toes forward and the short hind toe is angled right or left.

Middle: Track of COOT. It has put its feet together and flown. Other tracks here are a hopping bird - feet together, and a walking bird. Can you spot them?

Right: A hopping bird (moving downwards in photo). It is making a zigzag trail as it finds tufts of grass coming through the snow. At one point the snow is too deep and the bird steadies itself by flapping its wings which leave an imprint in the snow (arrowed).

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)