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Thread: Nature Detective - It's a Mystery

  1. #1

    Nature Detective - It's a Mystery

    It's a mystery as Toyah might sing, if anyone still remembers her. I was out walking recently and spotted a tree with some significant scoring on the trunk. I have a theory which I will expound, but might be very wrong indeed and so I would welcome all comments though I do appreciate that even photos rarely contain all the information necessary to be confident in a conclusion.

    Here are a few photos I took this afternoon. The first is an "establishing shot" showing what I believe is a willow, which is the tree with the damage, located in the middle of a ride in a commercial forestry plantation. It doesn't show the tree too clearly but is more in aid of setting the scene.

    This shot shows the tree a little more clearly and you can see the scoring on the trunk and that a lot of bark has been removed. You will also note that a number of the higher branches are broken off. What is maybe not very clear is that some of the individual scores/bark removal areas start maybe 5 feet up the tree.

    This shows the scoring and bark remove on the other side of the tree. Again what is maybe not clear is that on this side of the tree it sort of sits over a little ditch and so some of the scoring and bark stripping appears to be happening at maybe nearly 6 feet from the ground.

    This is a closer shot of the damage on the tree

    And finally a close up of the damage

    My reading of this is as follows:

    I am fairly confident there are no deer in this forest, or if there are any they are very rare visitors indeed. A few winters back we had a fall of "sticky" snow which seemed to stick to the branches of willow trees and eventually break them off and this tree looks to have suffered similar damage and so I'm saying that the broken branches are down to this. Based on this I'm putting the bark stripping/scoring damage down to hares as I believe there are a good number in this particular forest. My theory is that they did the damage when there was snow on the ground, and they were keen to get any food they could find, and this explains how they managed to start stripping bark maybe 5 feet from the ground. It was the broken branches that gave me the clue as to the possibility of snow also being involved in the bark damage and without them I might still be pondering the matter.

    Of course I appreciate that without the local knowledge it is difficult for others to form an opinion but even so I'd be interested in your views and hopefully it will also give a few members a bit of entertainment over a cup of tea.
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  2. #2
    Toyah, now there's a blast from the past from the greatest musical decade ever - the '80s!
    Any deer evidence on the ground - slots or droppings?

  3. #3

    the damage to the small branches looks like damage through weight but could also be caused by wind. willow is not very strong.

    the colour of the wood would indicate that its reasonably fresh. if it was older than lets say 6 months then the colour would be slightly greyer.

    as for the scraping damage then im at a loss. if it was hares then what was the date of the last snow? (putting them at a height to cause damaged this high up). i would expect the colour of the scraping to be greyer/paler. that damage looks to have been done within the previous 2 weeks.

    any droppings around the base of the tree?

  4. #4
    There are no droppings by the tree that I could see, though there are a fair number of hare droppings in the general area. The last significant snow we had that would seem a likely candidate would be 16 - 18 months ago as we had basically no snow last winter and the snow that broke the branches off the willows was the previous year, in other words 28 - 30 months ago, from what I can recall.

    The bark where the damage has taken place is very dry and there is no sign of sap or the like which is what gave me to consider that it might actually be quite old damage.

    There is no sign of deer at all in this forest. It is in an area with sika but I am confident they are not in residence in this forest as there are no slots, droppings, wallows, thrashed trees or other signs of sika.
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  5. #5
    "A shot, in the dark!" as Ms Wilcox said but any chance it might be squirrels? The greys around here go scatty for rising sap in the early spring and often strip bark to get at it.
    /l\ Y gwir yn erbyn y byd /l\

  6. #6
    The squirrel idea never crossed my mind until 25-06 mentioned it in a PM to me.

    I've never seen a squirrel in this forest, but would be fairly confident they are present. Some of the "teeth marks" on the tree look a bit big for a squirrel but in saying that it is hard to judge from a photo and even having seen it myself I can't be totally sure.

    One thing I should mention is that there are quite a few willow trees dotted around in this forest and this is the only one with this damage that I can find.
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  7. #7
    I agree with AdeC this looks fresh and looks to me like Sika bark stripping with there teeth and eating the bark as the sap would be rising and I'm guessing the broken branches are the Sika up on their back legs ( seen them doing it a lot in one area where there are the only deciduous trees about in blanket forestry as the new leaves come on and grabbing the higher branches as browse and as they come back down holding on and breaking them as you say willow is quite easy to snap

    I think this is now sign that your Sika have arrived or at least passed through.


  8. #8
    I'd put that damage down to squirrels. Even a fairly large Sika is unlikely to be able to reach six feet in the air to strip the bark.

  9. #9
    Not squirrels as they remove sections of bark and as they have upper and lower incisors the marks are a lot cleaner where as deer only have lower teeth they gouge then pull strips of bark off like in the pictures, my money is still on Sika.


  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Ade C View Post
    the colour of the wood would indicate that its reasonably fresh. if it was older than lets say 6 months then the colour would be slightly greyer.

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