Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bedfordshire Roads

I’ve been going stir-crazy here. I haven’t been out in the countryside since my last post over a week ago now. Things have been really busy after the holiday and a series of migraines haven’t helped (I only normally suffer just a few times a year for no more than a day).

It’s at times like this that I’m particularly scouring the local verges whilst driving to and fro. It really is a fascinating way of catching up with those mammal species that are only rarely seen during the day. And today I caught up with two of them.

Driving to visit someone at Bedford Hospital this morning I came across this dead Polecat in the driveway of a long-gone business on the Ampthill-Bedford Road. It did seem very small with shorter fur and a bit more white on the facial features than I’m used to seeing so I decided to bag it up for further examination. I went to the driver’s Reception of a local concrete factory and asked if they had a couple of plastic bags for a Polecat corpse…not the sort of request they get every day! I’ve dropped it off at Richard Lawrence – our Mammal Recorder’s – workplace so that he can have a look at it when he gets back…apparently they’re used to receiving corpses! I think this is probably a particularly small young female rather than a Polecat-Ferret hybrid, so it will be interesting to see what Richard thinks. If Richard can get a photo and pass it on, I’ll upload it over the next few days.

Over the past few years I’ve come across the following Polecat corpses on the road:

20/7/2003 – Barton By-pass.
24/9/2004 – A600 Shefford-Barton Road.
25/3/2005 – B655 Hexton.
26/5/05 – Husborne Crawley.
6/3/2007 – A600 Shefford-Barton Road (almost exactly the same place as the individual above).
10/6/2007 – A6 Silsoe-Barton Road (lactating female).
25/9/2007 – A6 Silsoe-Barton Road (the same place as above – a young female)

Of course, my most exciting sighting was 30th May this year when I watched the three very-much-alive Polecat kits from the Woodland Hide at College Lake Nature Reserve in Herts (I've written about the encounter under that date)!

And species number 2: This afternoon on a visit in the opposite direction…to Barton-Le-Clay…I came across this dead Mink close to The Grove Restaurant on the A6. There was a well-vegetated ditch with a shallow water-course nearby. I’m fairly confident that it’s another young female.

UPDATE (Wednesday).
Richard e-mailed and informed me that the Polecat corpse was crawling with ticks today. I must have picked it up relatively soon after its demise and, now the blood has started to clot, the ticks are looking for a new home...ugh! Anyway, it's been put into a freezer to deal with them and will be examined in a few days. Both Richard and I are feeling itchy...I hope Carole doesn't find out about this or else she'll never go in the car again! :-)

UPDATE (March 2010).
Richard is a very busy man, but has now been able to examine the corpse properly and share what he thinks. He writes, 'Unfortunately it was a Hybrid, there was just too much paleness on the face and body. It was also very small but looked adult, I couldn't be sure of the gender due to the damage to the abdomen. I collected some of the ticks for ID but they are all nymphs which present more of a challenge!'

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. I've not seen a polecat myself but my wife saw one crossing the road in Barton this summer. I'm jealous now!

    Like you, I spend perhaps too much time looking at road casualties. There was a corpse on the road between Flitwick and Woburn a few weeks ago that looked very much like a polecat from its size and colour, but unfortunately I couldn't stop for a closer look and when I was able to return it had been squashed out of all recognition.

    Still, it sounds as if polecats are definitely making a comeback in Bedfordshire. Hopefully I'll come across a live one myself one day!