The parish supports a large variety of species, many of them very common.
The rabbit, is probably the easiest of our mammals to observe and is very common.
Hedgehogs, slow-moving and with their nocturnal habits, they are easily watched at night with a flashlight. These days, we more often see them as road causalities.
Moles, because of their subterranean nature, we rarely see, but their presence always visible by the mole hills.
Bats are much easier to see but more difficult to identify. Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight as distinct from gliding. They normally fly at night, by day and during hibernation in winter, they spend their time resting hollow trees or attics.
Common Pipistrelle: is the most wide spread and the smallest bat in Britain. It often flies over open farmland and it is the bat that most people find in the house.
Daubenton’s Bat: we often see near wooded country, where they emerge about half an hour after sunset. They fly along regular beats, for example the edge of a woodland ride.
Natterer’s Bat: is another small bat often to be seen skimming over water, and it is common along the Teme.
Noctule Bat: is the largest bat that is likely to be seen, and it has a rich golden-brown fur. Noctule Bats are colonial bats, often roosting in large colonies in hollow trees, often using an old woodpecker hole. In summer we can often hear them at a roost.
Long-eared Bat, is common in the parish where the length of its ears easily identifies it. Again it is a bat of wooded country but will roost in houses ( I have a small colony of long-eared Bats in my cottage at Barbers).
Common Shrew: of the smaller mammals, their slender pointed muzzles distinguish the Common Shrew from true mice. Active by day and night, they are often located by their high-pitch squeaking, frequently found under old planks of wood, logs and sheet iron. They make nests of in tussocks of grass or under a log, several litters of up to 5-7 young are born each year. Often caught by cats, Common Shrews are beneficial to the gardener, feeding on insects, spiders, woodlice, snails and slugs.
Pygmy Shrew: a tiny animal that is less abundant but often overlooked because of its size, it is about 9 cm long. Found in similar habitats to the Common Shrew, it hunts among the leaf litter of woods or in long grass. Pygmy Shrew must feed every few hours to survive, yet will survive the coldest winters without hibernating.
The Water Shrew: is found along well -vegetated water courses but, I have never recorded this animal in Martley Parish.
Bank Voles: are found in gardens, where they find plenty of shrubs. They are good climbers.
Field Voles: prefer grassland. They breed prolifically and are an important food source for many predators such as owls, kestrels, weasel, foxes and snakes.
Water Vole: once common along the Teme, St. Peter’s brook and the Laughern brook, it now seems to have virtually disappeared from the parish. The last record I have is along the river Teme in 1973. We have a recent record of these animals in St. Peters Meadow.
Brown Rat: common, often found around farm buildings..
The House Mouse: is common throughout the parish.
The Wood Mouse: again this small mouse is very common in the parish, where it lives in a wide variety of habitats from dense woodland to gardens. It will often enter houses in search of food. They are much browner in colour than the House Mouse.
Yellow-Necked Mouse: is very similar to the Wood Mouse, but much larger, but it is not as common as other mice. Its distribution in Britain is restricted to the Midland Counties and Wales. They are often found in houses, where it is often heard running along the attic floor.
Harvest Mouse: This small climbing mammal is the only British mouse with a prehensile tail. Once it could be found over most of the parish, but I now believe it to be extinct here.
The Dormouse: prefers the mature woodlands with plenty of scrub cover. Very shy, sleeping during the day and venturing out at night. It will feed on fruit and berries and preferring plenty of honeysuckle plants to climb on. It hibernates during the winter months.
Of the larger mammals to be found in the parish of Martley we may see any of the following species.
The Fox: is very common and seen regularly.
Badgers: who are members of the weasel family, are common and a number of badger setts are in the parish. One lady in the village, watches these animals most days from her house.
Stoat and Weasel: are common, but again not regularly observed. Other members of the weasel family, with the exception of the Pine Marten, all can be to be found within the parish boundary..
The American Mink: can often be seen along the watercourses. The first record I have of mink in Martley was back in 1971.
Otters: are to be found along the river Teme, although they are not common, however we do have a healthy population on the river. Dawn or dusk is the best time to look for them. It is possible that there may be the odd one in the Laughern Brook area.
Polecat or Foul Mart: This was probably this animal that gave the village its name. Once it was thought to be extinct in England. However, a recent survey has found them quite abundant in the Marcher Counties (Welsh borders), with records of Polecat being found dead on both the M5 and M42 in Worcestershire. They are often in farm buildings and can remain undetected for months before moving on.
Rabbit: is very common throughout the parish and probably the best known wild mammal in the countryside. The populations tend to fluctuate due too out breaks of myxomatosis and it is doubtful they will ever reach the high population level of the 1945 -55 periods.
Brown Hare: can be seen in the open field areas of the parish; one of the best viewing areas is near Hope House, while the flood meadows of the Teme also provide an ideal habitat for these animals.
Hedgehog: a common mammal in the parish, more noted as a road casualty today along with the dormouse the only mammal that hibernates in Britain.
Almost all species of deer have been seen in the parish at one time or another, but records are scarce.
Red Deer: all will be Deer Park escapees’ probably from Eastnor or Edwin Ralph where we know of Red Deer parks.
Roe Deer: appear occasionally along the Teme valley, and may be more common than thought. It is a secretive animal and always stays close to thick cover. It is probably under recorded in the parish.
Fallow Deer: have been recorded but again it is not a common animal, most appear to be just passage animals.
Muntjac Deer: are the commonest of the deer in the parish, and seem to turn up at locations quite close to the village. One was recorded feeding on the lawn at Hillend Saw mills, while they appear regularly in the Kingswood area. Other sightings in the parish have been at Horsham and Collins Green. These Deer are very small, about the size of a Badger, (85 cm). Originally from China, they were introduced into large park collections during the latter part of the 19th century. They tend to be very elusive and solitary animals, active at night, spending most of the day time in the thick undergrowth of woodlands. Often the first sign of Muntjac is the sharp loud bark, repeated every four or five seconds.
By kind permission of Brian Draper M.B.E