Friday, 27 August 2010

You in Your Small Corner

Last year all my sightings in the field off Edgeley Road were based around one particular bend in the stream. This year, though there've been plenty of prints showing the voles are using the bend as a thoroughfare, there have been no signs that anyone's claimed it as a territory. Till this week, and a large latrine on the bank plus some feeding. I waited twenty minutes but didn't see anything, so moved down to the lower bend where I saw two voles fighting, and then down to another stretch where I watched what might have been nest-repair or -building. Strange how colonies shift up and down, so that a spot will be favoured one year, and abandoned another.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Country Park Concerns

Field off Edgeley Road

There was a lot of water vole evidence at Whitchurch Country Park at the start and middle of the year, but I had a look last week and found very little that was definitive. True there were some burrows and 'vole-scaping' of the banks, but I could only find the one feeding station pictured above, and no latrines (the droppings in that photo belong to a field vole). No idea what this means, but I'll be keeping a close eye on the situation. There was some suspiciously minky-looking scat under the bridge last week, but the consensus seemed to be that it was on the small side and so probably belonged to a stoat. The otter spraint's still being deposited; otters (and stoats) would take water voles, but not in the devastating numbers that mink would.

Sunday, 15 August 2010



Juvenile - seems to be a warmer colour of brown than the adults

Shame this is out of focus, but it does show the pale underbelly of the vole quite well

Eating grass.

Eating apple.

Eating rosebay willowherb seeds. I normally post close-ups, but here's an adult vole from a distance, for scale.
Just watched a water vole apparently munching the seeds from a rosebay willowherb. They're recorded as eating 227 different species of plant, plus very occasionally snails, crayfish and possibly frogs. One in captivity ate a bit of fish too, but that was a pregnant female vole who maybe needed extra protein.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Most Important Site in Whitchurch?

We've always felt at the Whitchurch Water Vole Group that Whitwater Fishery was probably the most important site for w-vs in the area.
But increasingly I'm wondering whether the field off Edgeley Road, where I've had almost all my sightings this year and last, is at least as important a colony - possibly even more so given the way it links other key sites. Although the stream's barely a dribble, the swampy grassland surrounding it is more holey than a Swiss cheese and you have to be really careful where you tread for burrows and trackways. There are latrines every couple of yards, and as I walked down one short length of the bank tonight I heard four separate voles plop into the water. The stream itself forms a kind of T shape and I've only explored the stem; currently the branches of the T are so overgrown that the banks are impenetrable. All the evidence suggests they're just as heavy with voles as the rest, though.
Here's a summary of my sightings from the last few months: There've only been a handful of occasions I've been down to that field and seen nothing, so blanks on the chart just mean I wasn't around/was concentrating on another site.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Belling the Cat

Spot the vole.

Took a walk up Edward German Drive and was dismayed to see not one but two cats sitting by water vole burrows. At least one of the cats had a bell round its neck, though. It's not an infallible deterrent, but it does help. Anyway, more encouragingly there were lots of runs and burrows and some feeding all the way along.
Two voles tonight: an adult (top) and probably that same juvenile as last time (bottom).

Thursday, 5 August 2010



Squeaking adult
I've only ever heard water voles vocalise during fighting, so it was a surprise to hear this large vole repeatedly squeaking at the juvenile one. I think it was an attempt to get it to back off from the apple, though in the past what's usually happened is that the lager vole just steams in and takes the food without a sound. The squeak was very high, almost like a piping bird.
Post script: a fellow vole fan on the Wild About Britain forum's just give me this link which features a 'piping' water vole audio clip:

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Baby, Grown Up


Half grown water vole. Is this the baby from a couple of weeks ago?

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Three Voles and a Shrew

Water vole droppings planted on a mole hill, near Grocontinental.

Very trampled latrine (click to enlarge) at the far end of the field from Grocontinental.

Delighted to report the colonies in the ditch near Grocontinental are also doing OK, though it's a struggle to get to them as the nettles and thistles are now shoulder height (great for insects and birds!).
Lots of water vole activity in the field off Edgeley Road. In fact I've never heard such a racket. The shrew I keep seeing is very dark on top and almost white underneath. Do water shrews eat shrimps? Because the stream is teeming with them.