The best time to look for tracks of birds and mammals is when snow has recently fallen. You can follow their routes as they visit feeding and resting sites, learning a great deal about how they use your churchyard. With care you can identify different mammals, many of which are nocturnal so rarely seen. Look out for the tracks of foxes, similar to that of a dog but more oval in shape. A fox’s front claws are parallel to each other whilst a dog’s curve inwards. Foxes also place their paws in a very straight line, looking like a single track.
You may be surprised to discover that deer visit your churchyard, look for small cloven hoof marks and nibbled rose bushes! There are likely to be many cat tracks as well giving a rounded paw print, again in a straight line.
Birds may be walking or hopping around the site, showing you how valuable this pocket of habitat is for winter birds. Look out for pied wagtail tracks, these birds run, and the feather of their long tails can also mark the snow. Much larger but similar tracks might be those of magpies walking around, again with a tail mark sometimes visible. Thrushes, finches and robins all hop, so their tracks are in pairs. If you feed the birds in your churchyard or garden you will see a concentration of tracks beneath a feeder, showing how important this is to birds when snow conceals other food.
All the best
Diocesan Churchyard Environmental Advisor, email@example.com
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