Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Meanwhile, across the County Border

After a bit of willow.

Swimming off with a willow leaf

Adult seeing off a juvenile

Above-ground water vole nest (we think)

Latrine underneath a bridge

Ducklings are a good sign that mink aren't about

Brilliant morning surveying the canal near Acton Marina, Nantwich, with the team from Cheshire Wildlife Trust. This survey was unusual in that we couldn't access the bank we were investigating at all, so it had to be done remotely, through binoculars. However we did make out burrows, floating bits of feeding, a lawn and at least six actual voles so there was no doubt about positive presence! We're also pretty sure we could see a water vole nest, which is something special (normally nests, woven from lengths of folded grass, are underground in chambers leading off burrows). Lastly, under one of the bridges we saw otter spraint. I've found spraint on the Weaver, which isn't too far away, so I wasn't surprised.

There are a few issues with habitat here: a lot of the canal sides are stone or concrete or metal piling, unusable for a burrowing animal. However, there are enough stretches where the bank is held secure with a kind of mesh, and that seems to suit the voles just fine. They go under it and over it and push it down and gnaw holes in the material. They also use the cracks in between the bigger stones. And fortunately the fields behind are fenced off with a good margin of untouched cover, so their bank is virtually undisturbed. Though there is a lot of boat-traffic, that doesn't bother the voles at all and we were able to watch them without any difficulty.


womagwriter said...

Sounds like a good morning. Glad to hear voles are appearing in all the right places this year.

Anna Simpson said...

Sounds like you had quite a nice day.
I've not seen a water vole for almost a year now unfortunately, they seem to be in decline where I live in Derbyshire.
The photograph at the top of this post where the water vole is handing on to the willow made me giggle :)

Kate said...

Thanks. Any reason for the decline, Anna? Anything that can be done to halt it?

*Waves at womagwriter*