072 - CopyA mammal that is very common on the reserve is the European Rabbit. Not a native to the UK the rabbit was introduced to Great Britain by the Romans and also by the Normans.

Today, rabbits are among our commonest and most widespread mammals. They live underground in a system of burrows called a warren.

Rabbits are most active in the evening and at night but in areas where they are not disturbed by human activity or have become used to our presence, they are active during the day. The famous naturalist Simon King once said that the rabbit is one of the most difficult animals to get up close to and this makes it a great species to hone your field craft skills.

It is often the case that you will notice signs of rabbit activity, more than you will see actual rabbits themselves Rabbits will use regular trails between their burrows and feeding areas, which often become worn making them conspicuous. A sure sign is a pile of droppings. These are usually in a prominent place. This is a communal latrine and is also used as a territory marker.

rabbit1Rabbits eat the leaves and shoots of a range of vegetation, including crops. As their diet is often difficult to digest, rabbits eat their food twice. After a rabbit has eaten plant material they produce soft droppings. However, because plant material is difficult to digest, these droppings still have high nutritional value. So the rabbit eats these soft droppings and then produce hard pellets of waste material. Woodlice will also eat their droppings for the same reason.

Walk quietly around the reserve (depending on who else is around) and before long you will probably encounter a rabbit. I usually meet one on at the woodland edge or one of the pathways along the winterbourne stream or heart of reeds.

Their immediate reaction is to freeze. If you stand still the rabbit may also remain motionless hoping that it has not been seen. Then the nose will twitch as its checks for sent and the long ears move slightly to pick up any signs of danger. If you don’t approach the rabbit will usually move off slowly keeping an eye on your location and will soon disappear into long foliage. While wary of us humans they see many of us on the reserve and don’t see us as an immediate threat.