Wildlife in Fishpool Valley at Croft Castle

Serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus) flying at night at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

Fishpool Valley is home to an array of wildlife and as well as being a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its various habitats, flora and fauna, the valley also harbours the endangered white-clawed crayfish in its pools and streams. Read on for more information about the different species living in the valley and how we're looking after them during the course of the restoration project.

White-clawed crayfish

The native white-clawed crayfish is a globally endangered species, equivalent to a black rhino and polar bear. They currently live in the pools in Fishpool Valley and their primary threats include poor water quality and signal crayfish, particularly those carrying plague. The plague is transferred via spores in anything wet; dogs, ducks, wellies...anything! This is partly why we kindly ask that dogs do not swim in the pools in the valley. Dogs can also crush burrows that the crayfish make into the banks.

The white-clawed crayfish which reside in Fishpool Valley are a critically endangered species
A white-clawed crayfish in Fishpool Valley at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

On 27 September 2017, a training session was held at Croft to provide staff and volunteers with the skills and experience to be designated handlers of white-clawed crayfish during essential repair works to the dams in the valley. It is vital to have these skills in place for the continued success of the project.

Dormouse

If dormice are present in Fishpool Valley, they are likely to be at a low density or unevenly distributed, based on the findings of our Ecologist and his team of staff and volunteers. The team conducted a nut search, which provides one way of establishing dormouse presence in woodlands where fruiting Hazelnut is present. Due to the way dormice eat hazelnuts, you can tell whether a nut has been opened by dormouse as opposed to other small mammals; they leave a characteristic smooth round opening with teeth marks 'spiralling' around the rim of the hole. The Ecologist and his team did not find any hazelnuts matching this description during the course of the four hour survey, but continue to monitor the situation throughout the project with the complementary technique of dormouse tubes hung in suitable locations throughout the valley - please don't check these if you see one! We need the tubes to remain undisturbed to continue our monitoring of the presence/absence of this species in the valley.

Our Ecologist has been carrying out a nut survey to determine dormouse presence in the valley
A close up shot of a dormouse in someone's hand

Otter

Otter have been known to pass through the valley, but are not thought to be living in it permanently. Evidence of otter spraint and potential resting places have been flagged up by our Ecologist to give us a good idea of where otter are to be found throughout the valley. We have even tried to snap them on hidden wildlife cameras, but so far have only caught squirrel, deer, fox and birds on these devices.

Otters have been known to pass through Fishpool Valley
An otter by the side of a lake

Bats

Nine species of bat are known to live on the Croft Estate and several species of bat frequent Fishpool Valley, including Pipistrelle and Soprano Pipistrelle. We will be carefully assessing buildings and trees to minimise impacts on the habitat and optimise opportunities to enhance the environment for bats; creating 'edges' to the woodland and increasing the area of open water, which attracts species such as Daubenton's. In January we will be monitoring structures in need of urgent repair for presence of bats before repair work commences. Alternative roosting provision will be installed in the vicinity of the structures and natural roosting opportunities enhanced by the manner in which tree work is conducted around the buildings.

No large scale tree work will be taking place during the bat hibernation season and the creation of the 'edges' along and throughout the woodland will hopefully bring multiple biodiversity benefits, including improved foraging resources for bats.