Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Little starry feet




I've posted before about the characteristic star-shaped footprints water voles often leave in soft mud. The second photo down shows the splayed toe formation of the hind foot very clearly (as modelled by "Spot").

Ditch


Finally managed to get a photo of one of the voles that live in the ditch near Grocontinental. These are the ones who use a nasty old bit of polystyrene (top photo) as a latrine!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Whitchurch Country Park and Greenfields Nature Reserve



Wildlife volunteers planted these apples for the water voles.


Click to enlarge and see all the cut-off stalks - classic water vole.







The steps through the woods which volunteers installed earlier this year.















.
My friend at White Lion Meadow.
.

I was astonished and dismayed to hear a local councillor refer to Whitchurch Country Park this week as "a complete disgrace". Volunteers have been working all year on the nature reserve, installing steps and handrails, a cattle drinker, a pond, information boards and seating, amongst other improvements. I wrote earlier this year about the amazing diversity of wildlife to be found around this area of the Staggsbrook, and the richness that leaving a small wild area creates. Today, for instance, the place was full of butterflies, even though we're into autumn, and there's still water vole feeding to be seen. I can't tell you how beautiful the place is, and how many people enjoy visiting it.

Friday, 26 September 2008

My little friend again





Oh, and a baby newt from Brown Moss yesterday.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Nippy

And now in motion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhbEqfEFxQw

Juvenile






Tell-take cuts show water voles have been feeding here.

A young vole with a little white patch on its head. If it survives the winter, this individual should be easy to recognize next spring.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Sunshine!


Like the Muller advert




Several people have asked me whether Shropshire's like the Muller tv advert currently running: well, yes, it is. Went for a walk this beautiful evening to check out the ditch near Grocontinental, and the place was alive with long tailed tits, piping in the hedges. I found, too, this water vole latrine in a place where I hadn't seen one before. Makes up for the fact I entirely failed to snap the vole I saw at White Lion Meadow earlier.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The importance of field signs

Click to enlarge - he's in the top left quarter of the shot

I know, I know, so much poo lately. But I hadn't seen a vole at White Lion Meadow since Thursday, so this latrine was good to see. I was getting ready to go when a vole showed itself briefly, and I managed just to catch it peeping out from the opposite bank.

Hedgehog again

This is actually a different hedgehog from before, though possibly from the same litter. I watched it eating and was impressed by how sharp its teeth were. This is definitely a little carnivore.

Comparison of field vole and water vole latrines

The same brook where I saw kingfishers on Saturday.

Nibbled snail shells near water vole feeding

Water vole latrine, old droppings and fresh

Water vole latrine

Field vole latrine (plus feeding)

Small toad

We did a survey of a farm in Whixall today, which is the furthest out we've gone from Whitchurch - we're trying to find out how far this meta-population extends below the town. As usual we found lots of evidence of field voles, so I include a photo for comparison.
.
Lots of water vole latrines, plus feeding on reeds, fallen crab apples and possibly snails. All of it was fresh, too, as the brook had flooded recently. The habitat is ideal, and the farmer, who is really cool, says he'll try and clear out a ditch to provide even more space for the voles to expand into.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Kingfishers

Just about caught this kingfisher as he flashed past.


Went to check the rafts and found feeding all along the Prees Branch Canal, plus a lot of droppings on the raft at the Whixall Marina end. I was struck by the variable size of the droppings - it looks as though a whole family of water voles, from the huge to the tiny, has been using this same place as a toilet.
.
On the way back I stopped at the bridge by Greenfield Farm on Ossage Lane and saw two kingfishers and what might have been a water vole. Worryingly, I read in the local paper that NSDC have given planning permission near here to some people who, a few years back, were fined £3,000 by the EA for polluting a water course with dog excrement.
Obviously this is a development which will need monitoring, as it could prove a real threat to the wildlife in the brook.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Lessons in hedgehog

Too wet for voling tonight, so I give you this juvenile hedgehog who's currently living in our hedgehog house. He needs to put quite a bit of weight on before he hibernates - he should be over two pounds/a kilogram to get through the winter - so every day of eating counts. I'm feeding him cat food (NOT fish flavour, and not the gravy stuff either, and definitely not bread and milk) and I've put plain water down as they drink a lot. I've also put a wooden ramp leading into my pond, so if he falls in he can climb out again. Lots of hedgehogs die in garden ponds, unfortunately, not because they can't swim but because they can't get back up the banks.

Here he is in motion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIyNSxN7qOY

Something else I didn't know: they're not that keen on slugs or snails - they'll eat them if they're starving, but otherwise their preferred diet is worms and beetles. Slugs can give them a fatal parasite, apparently.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Actvity

They're active on both sides of the bridge at the moment. Not that I'm complaining, but it does make it tricky to spot what's going on. I could do with eyes in the back of my head.

Monday, 8 September 2008

A Vole of my Own

I've had to lighten the photo massively as everything was getting dark, but this was the second vole of the evening. The storm we had the other night has swept a lot of the watercress away, and the level of the brook is high. This makes spotting voles a lot easier than it's been for weeks.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

More on this ditch

A water vole from the London Wetland Centre (picture copyright Laurence Arnold)

The ditch on the other side of the culvert - stacks of feeding here.

Great spotted woodpecker drilling a telegraph pole

Goldfinches

A fresh water vole dropping

I had a sighting here yesterday afternoon, though it was only a flash because this ditch - like everywhere - is lush with vegetation which keeps the voles safe from prying eyes. There's a lot going on in this field: I heard the goldfinches and the great spotted woodpecker before I saw them.
.
Because my own voles are proving so tricky to photgraph at the moment, I've asked permission from Laurence Arnold to post a few of his superb photos on this blog. All Laurence's pictures were taken at the London Wetland Centre: http://www.wwt.org.uk/centre/119/London.html , where next month a Water Vole Symposium is going to be held: http://www.environmentjob.co.uk/index.cfm?page=viewad&ad=15836&title=Environmentjob.co.uk%20posting%3A%20Event%3A%20Water%20Vole%20Symposium .
.
Water voles feature in all the regional wetland centres: http://www.wwt.org.uk/text/703/.html so if there are no wild voles near you, you could always take a trip to one of these nature reserves.