Something's happened at the brook - I don't know what - but there are suddenly no voles or signs of voles. I've watched for hours this week, even getting up at 5am one morning, but there hasn't been anything except lots and lots of rats. And in any case, with the breeding season well established we should be seeing more voles, not fewer.
I had a long chat with a man from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust this morning about the fluctuating vole population on the famous Cromford canal, and he says that there is a chance the voles might come back if the balance of the brook changes, if maybe the rats can be discouraged. I suppose it depends on whether the voles have been eaten, or simply moved upstream.
The Whitchurch Water Vole team starts surveying soon, so we should start to get a clear picture of where the colonies are still going strong around the town.
To say I'm upset is an understatement, but then this is a lot of what nature-watching's about, unfortunately. Water vole colonies are fragile, and even in the best of circumstances wax and wane and peter out. As long as the overall picture for the area is healthy, that's what matters in the long run.
So there's going to be a necessary change of direction for this blog, concentrating less on one specific area and looking more broadly at water voles. I'll continue to monitor the car park stretch of the brook, and fingers crossed the voles can be encouraged back as the summer population peaks.
I'll keep watching.