Weasel image by Mark Hill
Many mammals, by their nature, are scarcely seen at Paxton Pits – but they are there! For most species, the best chance is around dawn or dusk, since many are nocturnal.
Paxton’s most popular mammal, and one that every visitor wants to see, is the characterful otter. Poor water quality in the Ouse Valley meant that the species was locally extinct for 30 years, but in 2002 and 2003 occasional sightings suggested that it might be making a return. To encourage them, volunteers built an artificial holt (an otter home) on the east bank of Heronry North, viewable north from Kingfisher Hide (look on the right hand bank and you should see the entrance pipes). There have been breeding otters onsite since the early 2000s and they are still spotted relatively regularly on the lakes and rivers.
At least two species of bat occur at Paxton, the noctule and the pipistrelle, and they can often be seen flitting around the reserve at dusk hunting insects between trees and over the water. The Wildlife Trust’s Education Centre appears to host a maternal roost of pipistrelles.
- Rabbits are the most frequently seen species, especially in the open, sandy areas near Hayden Hide.
- Muntjac deer are regularly seen out in the open
- Grey squirrels are very common, and a melanistic (black) squirrel of this species is sometimes seen at the Visitor Centre bird feeders.
- Foxes are often seen resting on the banks of Heronry North on sunny winter days.
- Stoats and weasels are enigmatic at Paxton, but we do receive occasional reports of both.
- Signs of badgers are found across the whole reserve, including their latrines, setts and overturned cowpats, though the animals themselves are rarely seen.
- Wood mice and brown rats are present around the lakes, the latter seen occasionally on the bird tables.
- Surveys have also confirmed the presence of harvest mice, water shrews and short-tailed field voles.