Sunday, 5 September 2010

Lavington Heath and Heyshott

This was part of a 3 area investigation over 3 days last week spending 2 nights at a secluded campsite which had itself produced a cluster of sightings a few winters ago.I must say that living on the open downs and coming here the countryside looks simply gorgeous with the post-war planted coniferous forests slowly giving way to patches of original heathland with it,s purple heather,nightjars and hobbys that we don,t get back home.There is sand to walk on here not soil and with the remaining woods underplanted with rhodedendrons it offers near perfect cat habitat.I say near perfect because it seems there are no active cats here at present but there is 4 miles across the forest at West Lavington where the country is more mixed.I have leafleted on signposts,asked around,put the word out,nothing,but Heyshott was the scene of multiple sightings of a labrodor sized cat only last december.I have thought that these dense woods offer warm winter cover away from harsh winter winds but it does seem that bigcats shun these places in the warmer months favouring instead the ancient broadleaved wooded farmland further inland like that are around Midhurst.This mixed habitat offers offers far more of a variety of prey not available in the evergreen woods or heathland which although pretty hold little game.Of course not all bigcats are the same but i,ve found the rule of thumb with bigcat needs are prey and dense lying up cover but and this is a big but,the dense undergrowth in oak and similar woods dies off in winter and so can,t supply the shelter needed.There is little to hide the cats from the animals they hunt and the wind whistles through so the coniferous woods would be a more enticing option in winter.To prove my point the sightings in the area last winter include Heyshott,Tillington and Goodwood with Iping a bit further west these are all areas of dense coniferous forest (Goodwood has the massive Charlton and East Dean forests) and all these areas have produced sightings only rarely in summer.Even Jevington and Friston forest in the east of the county 50 miles away,again warm coniferous woods,historically turn up their sightings in the colder months even when fewer people are about to see them.A pattern here?There certainly is,year on year it,s the same with evidence gathering and sightings from witnesses producing cats in a lot more possible areas in summer and then with the onset of the colder months the old winter holding areas crop up time and time again.What is certain is that there are more options for prey in the wildlife rich broadleaved mixed farmland areas during summer and so bigcats are far more likely to position themselves closer to these food sources which would account for the evidence of them being there.As i say,it,s all change in winter and the cats with warm dense,coniferous forest in their territorys will move into them.Not this simple?Well the herds of fallow and family groups of roe deer do themselves favour these woods far more in winter and evidence of deer carcases found here then also points to bigcats moving in and preying on them.Some of the other bigcats in other parts of the county do not have coniferous woods in their territorys i know,but where they do,they use them,in winter.....

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