Tuesday, 29 June 2010


In-laws visiting hospital this afternoon, so I snatched half an hour by the brook to watch these two. It's tempting when taking photographs to cut the hanging grass away before you start, but I worry about removing precious cover for these much-predated animals. No good having a clear view if all your voles have been carried off by buzzards!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Water Voles and Mental Health

Big adult

Small adult

The baby again. I wonder what their relationship is to each other?
The aim of this blog was always to talk about water voles, not myself. But something has happened this week which will impact on all areas of my life, including my nature records. On Thursday my husband was involved in a very serious road accident and is currently on an HDU ward with severe multiple injuries. The doctors say he is "fixable", but it's going to be a very long haul and will involve months in hospital. The drive to see him is 50 minutes each way and I shall be visiting at least once a day, while trying to keep the household running as normally as possible for my two boys, and working as well. And I don't think even when my husband comes out that our lives will be quite the same as they were before.
When an event like this occurs, the range of emotions is vast. I've gone from numbness to elation (when realised he wasn't dead!) to openly sobbing in the hospital corridor. I've been overwhelmed by the kindness of friends, relations and complete strangers. I can't eat and I can't sleep - for now I'm fired up on nervous energy. Last night, though, after my in-laws came back from visiting, I was able to get out into the field for an hour and I found it tremendously helpful and calming to sit silently in the grass and watch my voles.
I've heard Bill Oddie talk about how important nature is for his mental health, and I feel sympathy with that. So though there may be fewer blog entries for the next months, that doesn't mean fewer voles or less vole activity, and I shall still try to have an hour here and there with my camera and my camp stool, out under the evening sky.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Huge GCN Excitement!

Finally got a picture of the great crested newt who lives in our garden pond. She still looked pregnant to me, but perhaps females always have a lumpy belly?
Two sightings of water voles tonight, one at the bridge near Homebase and one along Edward German Drive (big latrine at the former, seris of massive feeding stations at the latter).

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Fenns Moss, Bettisfield




If you turn your speakers up, you'll hear the cuckoo.

Group of eagle-eyed volunteers.

Water vole droppings

Common Blue - I can't resist them.
An important part of water vole surveying is training new surveyors, and that's what we were doing this afternoon at Bettisfield. Malcolm and Anne Monie gave a short workshop on water vole field signs and how to spot them, and then we went to examine a ditch on the Moss to see how many of those signs we could tick off. We found burrows, feeding stations and droppings, even though just a year ago there was nothing on this spot.
Three voles in the field off Edgeley Road this evening: the baby, a juvenile and a large adult.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

A Tale of Two Voles

Watched this baby vole creep forward and sniff the apple, only to miss out then to a big adult that swept in and scooped up the goodies (fourth photo down). But the younger vole was right to be cautious, and it did manage to salvage a bit of leftover after the other had gone.
A quick scoot round Black Park Road yesterday revealed loads of feeding stations, and when I followed the brook up to Yockings Gate that area now looks very promising, but it's private land so I couldn't get down to the banks and poke about. I had several sightings there in 2007, but that section was dug out fairly radically and has taken till now to recover.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Baby Vole

At last some shots of the baby water vole I was watching two evenings ago. Babies are less cautious than adults - an adult vole would have dragged this apple off to its burrow to eat out of sight. As it was, hanging grass meant that most of my shots were out of focus, which is a shame because it would have been nice to get him in silhouette. Baby voles have a distinctive shape, like an inverted comma, and are fuzzier than adults. This is my first ever shot of a juvenile.
Also had another encounter with a larger vole which passed right under my toes (I was resting my feet on a raised plank of wood). Ironically when they're that close, they're impossible to photograph.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

It's not just voles who nibble

A Large Skipper moth (I think)

Once again, admire the camouflage!

Watched a rabbit in the ditch near Grocontinental eating watercress: a reminder to myself that stripped cress doesn't necessarily mean the presence of water voles. As ever, it's the slanted cuts that tell you it's vole (and even then it could be field vole). However there are w-v latrines and lots and lots of feeding stations along this stretch which confirm the colony's still active.
A real treat last night - a baby water vole in the field off Edgeley Road. No picture to share, unfortunately.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Whitwater, and Naughty Voles

As part of a training day, we took some volunteers and ecologists round the Whitwater fishing pool to look for water vole (and field vole) signs. The banks were full of water vole latrines, trackways and feeding, and in one place we found a big group of w-v burrows set well back from the water and looking almost like a rabbit warren. Whitwater may be Whitchurch's most important colony.

This evening I went to check the field by Edgeley Road and once again a water vole raided my bag while I was sitting next to it. No photograph as it was too close to focus! All the grass around me was rustling with voles eating, and I could hear the sounds of voles further down jumping into the water. The place must be heaving with them.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Tonight's Voles

Blending in
Three voles at least tonight, possibly four. The first, shown in the top couple of photos, was in the field off Edgeley Road, and the others in the ditch next to Grocontinental.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Debbie's Voles

Good cover!

You can just see the beginning of the paler ventral fur.

My friend Debbie, who lives in a cottage near the bridge at Homebase, is lucky enough to have water voles practically on her doorstep. Here's one from this evening, a large adult with a scar on its nose. I'm especially pleased by this sighting because the last time I checked this spot, all I saw were rats.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Back After my Holiday

Two shots of the same Grocontinental vole

Latrine at Edward German Drive (near end)

Feeding station at Edward German Drive (far end)

Off Edgeley Road
It was great to get back into the fields and see how the voles were getting on after my week's absence. Two sightings tonight, one off Edgeley Road and one near Grocontinental. Lots of signs up Edward German Drive, too.