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Friday, 15 January 2016

Student Visit to Riddy Wood

Students from Reaseheath College’s Game Management course have been in Riddy Wood this week carrying out a range of jobs and tasks which have not only been a great help to the project but have helped them gather the data they need for their next deer management assignment.

One of the things the students do as part of their ‘Introduction to Deer Management’ studies is to assess the population of deer in a given area and write a management plan accordingly. While they were in Riddy Wood they were able to observe the damage done by deer to coppice woodland;

A hazel stool coppiced one year ago which has not been protected from browsing by deer and other pests. 

These observations gave them a very rough idea of the density of the deer population in the area and helps them set suitable objectives in their deer management plan. They were also able to take part in some of the coppicing and learn how to protect coppiced hazel and ash stools from browsing by deer, hares and rabbits by ‘brashing’ over with hawthorn and blackthorn branches.

A hazel stool coppiced at the same time as the one in the picture above but which has been protected by a screen of hawthorn brash, this one has produced stems of over seven feet in height in one year. 

They also managed to erect a high seat and clear a vantage point to help with the culling of deer around Riddy Wood.

One of the banes of the woodland manager is the introduced grey squirrel which will strip bark from twigs and branches to line their dreys and even ring bark trees. Not only that buy grey squirrels also aggressively predate birds nests and are responsible for the theft of eggs and chicks from nesting birds. The students were able to do some ‘drey poking’ whereby the dreys of the hibernating squirrels are poked or shaken to bring down the squirrels and the squirrels are then shot.

Grey Squirrel Drey
A Squirrel Drey
By Rosser1954 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Students after a successful squirrel hunt, can you see the Chinese Water deer hanging in the background ready for dinner?

As a group they were able to answer for five squirrels over the course of their two days in the woods.
While they were staying in Riddy Wood they were able to see Chinese Water Deer and Reeves Muntjac and we also managed to record footage of a range of wildlife moving around within feet of their camp site on a trail camera. Among them this stoat which gradually moved his rabbit pray from one woodpile to another over the course of a day and which may well be the same stoat who’s half-finished meal of woodpecker Richard found the other week.

Richard will be sharing more videos of the deer and other wildlife that he has filmed in Riddy Wood recently before too long. Check out his youtube channel for some excellent wildlife videos. 

The student also found a deer skull and despite the fact that it had obviously been laying in the woods for a long time they were able to identify it's species approximate age and sex, see if you can too;

One of the very first posts on the Bushcraft Education blog was about ageing deer from their teeth and if you want some clues check out that post here.

First correct answer giving species, sex and age (juvenile, young adult or old) in the comments wins a bow drill set.

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