Sunday, 5 April 2009

Activity at the Prees Branch Canal

I had a report of a mink-like animal a week and a half ago in the fields by the Prees Branch nature reserve. I checked at once and found nothing. But today I found this otter spraint (top photo) on the tow path. The distinguishing feature of otter poo is that it smells fishy/not unpleasantly scented/of jasmine tea. It's a really distinctive odour.
Otters are a mixed blessing for water voles. They do predate on voles, but on the other hand, they're native and so their impact balances out (a mink will go through a colony of water voles like a blow-torch through butter). More importantly, otters drive mink out, and will kill them. I was sent a photo just this week of a mink that had probably been dispatched by an otter, but I won't post it here as it's pretty gruesome.
Hearteningly, there was a lot of water vole feeding (photos 2-5) right along the whole length of the canal, and I was interested to see an example of a water vole leaving droppings on top of food. I knew field voles did this, but I've never seen it in water voles.


Dave said...

Good spraint, the fish scales are really visible. Otters mostly eat fish but will take the odd water vole. but the healthy WVs should be quick enough to dive into their burrows, the other thing they do is swim along the bottom kicking up muck to create a sort of underwater smoke-screen. Otters are too big to enter a WV burrow but as you know the female mink is thin enough to slip in and out leaving the WV pretty much defenceless.

Kate said...

Yes, that's all true. There was nothing apparently voley inside the spraint, just fish bits. The only time I've seen digested water vole parts it was in a fox dropping (oh, and I've seen one killed by a cat).