Saturday, 28 February 2009

Following the brook

Took a walk round town following the brook as it travels from the south west of Whitchurch - the Country Park behind Greenfields Rise - to the north east and Yockings Gate. It was interesting to note where water voles appeared to be active, and where they seemed absent.

There were stacks of prints in the Country Park, plus these droppings just by the bridge where you turn into Greenfields Rise. Unfortunately there are also a great many cats in this area, so although it's ideal habitat and a protected nature reserve, it's not good as regards levels of predation. If you own a cat, please fit a bell on its collar, and consider keeping it in at night as both strategies have been proven to lessen the impact on wildlife.

I then travelled to the south east side of Whitchurch and checked out the railway bridge by Homebase. There were prints round the brook on both sides of Station Road, and down behind Waylands Road, too.

Next I visited Black Park Road and found very little except the water course pretty much choked up (below). Earlier last year I recorded a lot of feeding here and a latrine, but there didn't seem to be anything much going on. I don't know how much free-flowing water the voles require. Could they live somewhere like this? I suppose we'll see as the season progresses. It's still early yet.

Finally I dropped in on Yockings Gate, to find it had been dramatically cleared and the tops of the banks covered with heaps of pulled-up reeds. This will be a good thing long-term, but I can't help worrying that voles may have been harmed in the process. I thought the law said you were only allowed to work on one bank at a time, to give the voles somewhere to escape to, but I don't know who's done this work. Let's hope the voles took themselves up- or down-stream, and will come back when the cover's re-grown. It's what they did at White Lion Meadow when those banks were scarrified.

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