Tuesday, 15 July 2008

New Area




Well, not really new, as Rosie Rees saw a water vole here two years back, but it's nice to know they're still there. This is the railway bridge by Homebase, where I peeped over the stone sill hoping to see a latrine - which there was - and as a bonus got four voles: three babies and an adult. It's very overgrown there, but also very quiet as the lane which runs parallel with the brook is a private driveway. Ideal, then, for water voles.
.
I crossed over the road and under the railway bridge, and went down the little track that leads to the back of Waylands Road to see if there was any activity there. This is serious dog-walking territory, so you have to be extremely careful where you tread, but even so I managed to ascertain there's a lot of feeding going on in that short stretch (see photo directly above). To me that's interesting, because one side of this section is brick wall, so the voles only have limited bank-space for their burrows. Apparently that's enough!

12 comments:

womagwriter said...

Wonderful photos, as always. That little guy in the middle - is he feeding on that leaf or cutting it off to use for something else?

What do watervoles eat?

Kate said...

Almost certainly feeding, as s/he's too young to be making a nest.

Water voles are always billed as unfussy vegetarians: they eat over 200 different species of plants, but they especially love iris and thick reed. They also eat willow leaves, crabapples, some roots and bulbs, and at White Lion Meadow I see them felling a lot of nettles. They'll even climb trees and bushes to get at the buds sometimes.

But I've also found caches of watersnail shells that I believe are water voles feeding stations, and they're on record as eating crayfish and even occasionally small fish.

They're such adaptable animals, it says a lot that they've been driven to the brink of extinction like this.

Nik's Blog said...

Blimey! They're resourceful, aren't they!

And it does say a lot, how desperate things have become for them, in spite of it.

Nik

Kate said...

Terrifically resourceful, and prolific breeders.

If they're given a proper chance, they should be able to re-establish themselves, but that depends on key issues like mink control, sympathetic council planners, and responsible landowners. The water authorities also have a part to play. And, of course, the general public reporting sightings of water voles, otter and mink.

Everyone working together is what these animals need.

Nik's Blog said...

Yes, and fingers tightly crossed that that's what they get; they've a better chance with people like you doing what you're doing for them.

Quick question, how likely are they to live by canals?

Nik

Kate said...

Very likely indeed - we have a good colony near Whitchurch on the Prees Branch Canal. In fact, there used to be a magazine for waterways enthusiasts called 'The Vole', and a lot of sightings come from people on narrowboats.

However, it depends on how the banks are constructed. If there's steel shuttering (piling) down the sides, that makes it impossible for the voles to burrow. That said, I was amazed they live in a stretch of the Staggsbrook with a brick wall down one side. I'd say as long as there's one bank with good cover, that might be enough.

Nik's Blog said...

Right, that settles it. Once I've reacquired mobility I shall be on canal vole watch.

Nik

Kate said...

Whareabouts are you based? You could ask your local WT where the known colonies are, and work around those. (Although that's not to say there aren't hidden pockets of water voles up and down the country. it would be nice to think so.)

Nik's Blog said...

I think I might do. I've had a quick google but the only thing it's thrown up for the whole area dates from 2006 and is twenty minutes away; estimated population of 16 then. I think I need to look into it a little deeper...

Nik

Kate said...

Oh, please do. The more records we have, the better equipped we are to work out a rescue strategy (or Biodiversity Action Plan, to use the proper term!).

Nik's Blog said...

I will keep you posted!

womagwriter said...

Thanks for the detailed answers, Kate!