Saturday, 19 May 2007

Rafts






Anxious to discover whether the voles had moved upstream, I borrowed these vole-rafts from Malcolm Monie. They're sandwiches of plywood and polystyrene with a bolt through the middle and a loop on the top, through which you put some string to tether the raft. I used the ends of a wire coat hanger as a peg (though I obviously didn't stick it in far enough because the raft moved during the night). The idea is that, if you lay the raft during dry weather, a water vole will climb onto it and mark it in some way, either with droppings or chopped grass.
.
It rained during the night, though, so the whole thing proved to be a bit of a waste of time. The leaves on there I suspect just dropped on of their own accord. Hopeless looking for field signs during wet weather, though the print above looks likely.
.
Although there are more predators in this section of the brook - lots and lots of cats, unfortunately - there's still cover and sloping banks and plenty of food, like the flag iris above. However, I couldn't find any feeding stations or cut vegetation.
.
Anyway, just as I was feeling it was all a bit hopeless I met a dog-walkwer who said he saw two voles there last night. Then, ten minutes later, up pops this one. Can you see him in the middle of the photo above? The voles up here are much shyer, so I couldn't get very close. Just goes to show, they can be present even in the absence of field signs.
.
And on a non-vole footnote, my neighbour tells me we have house martins in the roof, and this morning I spotted our blue tits taking food into the nest box.

5 comments:

dave said...

Very small but very voley none-the-less; it’s good to see them again.

I’d heard about the rafts soemwhere but hadn’t worked out their M.O. Not as hi-tech as I’d imagined!

Kate said...

There is a luxury version (!) which is like an open-ended floating wooden box containing a 'cartridge' at the bottom. This cartridge is a rectangular plastic basket with wetted oasis in the bottom, and a layer of clay over that.

If you moor this contraption and there are voles about, they'll leave you nice footprints, as shown on the Whitchurch Water Vole site.

Kate said...

http://www.gct.org.uk/article.asp?PageId=78&ArticleId=33

Article here by the Game Conservancy Council showing the de-luxe raft in action. Plus a link at the bottom of the page to a pdf file of instructions on how to build your own.

Dave said...

Thanks for the info, Kate.

It's not quite the Kontiki, so I think I'll have a go at building that.

It looks bigger than the one on the Whitchurch Water Vole site so I guess it means you get bigger critters visiting.

I can pitch it somewhere on the Rae brook. No voles I'm afraid but reports of otters and the mal-mink - I do think the latter is often mistaken for the former if you just get a fleeting glimpse, though.

Kate said...

Let us know how you go on!