Stories from the Barn
A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands
Animal Tracks Trails and Signs
Walk out to check out animal tracks, trails and signs.
Advent Calendar 7
How can you turn a family walk in Winter into an exploratory adventure? Get everyone looking for animal tracks, trails and signs. Walking in Winter time gives us all the opportunity to see things that are harder to spot in Summer. In Summer there is so much foliage that it masks lots of the signs that animals big and small, leave.
Good things to pack in a tracking kit.
Before leaving home get an explorers pack ready so that you can look for the signs that an animal has passed through or is somewhere nearby. This turns a family walk into something else and makes everyone slow down and become more observant. Good for wildlife and good for our own well being.
Notepad and pencil
Plastic see through zip bag
Tracking ID cards
Where to go to track animal tracks, trails and signs.
Anywhere, from your garden, the park, footpaths, woodlands and the seaside. Have time to spend observing, many eyes on one area is better. We all overlook things and some people are much better at spotting one type of sign than others.
Make a written record of the observation. Get an exact position by using a phone GPS or a map. Record the direction of track using a compass. Date and if you can a quick sketch. This means a complete and full record can be kept to compare sightings.
What to look for.
Animal tracks in soft ground or sand. If the area is very muddy the tracks might be muddled with other track marks so look carefully.
Signs that an animal has passed through. Hair caught on wire fencing or feathers under a tree roost. Look out for animal droppings. Some animals scoop out a hole to deposit droppings, so look for where the soil has been scraped.
Check along a fence line to see if an animal has dug under a fence. If an animal is passing through regularly, look for the trails it leaves, broken down vegetation or holes in hedge lines.
Check for discarded nut cases or nibbled pine cones. Some animals may gnaw on the bark of trees particularly young trees.
When the hedges have been cut back it is a good opportunity to see into the middle of the hedge where birds have been nesting. Approach with caution so not to disturb any overwintering animal.
Look for burrows or holes in the ground. There may be dead animal remains such as skeletons, see if you can identify what animal they belonged to by looking at the skull.
Don’t forget to look for insects as well. Can you see any spiders webs? Is anything caught in a web? Look under leaves and loose bark. Check out the holes etc in rotting wood.
Stop and listen. Sometimes you can hear animals moving through the undergrowth even if you can’t see them.