Monday, 23 February 2009

The "Whitchurch Plate"

Using the Isle of Wight 'vole spoon' as an inspiration ( ) Lorcan from the Whitchurch Water Vole group's come up with the Whitchurch Plate, an overnight tracking device designed to gather evidence of water vole presence quickly. He's used a metal collar with swivelling legs at one side that can be sunk into the bank either vertically or horizontally. The plate - an ordinary dinner plate - is spread with soft clay in the same way as a mink raft, then balanced on top of the metal frame. Then you add a few bits of chopped apple and leave for 12-24 hours (maybe 48 maximum). The whole contraption's attached to a bit of string so you can pull it out easily, doing minimum damage to the bank side.
To improve the model further, we need to attach the plate securely to the collar - use a plastic plate with holes drilled in the sides and fastened with wire, maybe. We also could put a thin layer of soaked oasis under the clay to keep it moist, as the mix I spread on the test plate dried out slightly and therefore we only got muddy footprints from the voles rather than indented ones.
Still, essentially it works, and is a LOT less cumbersome than a mink raft!


Dave said...

If its a steep bank how do you get down to put them in place?

Don't forget to give them a quick wipe before serving up tea!

Kate said...

Har har!

Well, you can only put them where's accessible, but because the prongs can be swung out horizontally, they can be shoved into the bank sideways, like the original vole spoon, or like a bracket fungus sticking out of a tree. That's the theory, anyway.

Antonia said...

Great idea. It sounds like good fun, as well as being practical.

Kate said...

I've lighted on a plastic plate with indentations where I can sit some oasis. The next free weekend I have, I'll get together with Lorcan and we'll try the tracker out again.