Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Tailing off



I'm getting fewer sightings now, even though it's not even September. Tempting to start worrying about the impact of the polecat, but really I think it's just the usual autumn dispersal as, firstly, this is a pattern I've observed over the last six years and secondly, I'm still counting lots of freshly-attended latrines. It's possible the adults who were so forward a couple of weeks ago, climbing on my boot and investigating my bag, have been predated as I've not seen any sign of them for a while. But there are plenty of youngsters still about, including a very small vole not long out of the nest - I'm guessing not much older than five or six week at the most. As you can see from photo 5, he's only about the size of a nettle leaf.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Native Predators


Greenfields water vole survey: these tiny mud-coloured droppings (lower right) are what we're looking for

...and this is where we're looking, in amongst this vegetation. Needle in a haystack doesn't come close.

It's helpful when animals leave their scat on prominent places

as this Grindley Brook otter has done.

I was watching for water voles and seeing none when this polecat slunk past on the far bank. All mustelids will take a vole if they get the opportunity, and there are already weasels and otters recorded for this stretch. However I'm hoping the polecat doesn't impact too far on the Edgeley Road colony. There are good vole numbers here, at least.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Life Expectancy

Much squabbling again tonight. The voles are dispersing, juveniles being driven off to find new territories by their parents, and it's a sobering thought that the adults I'm seeing around now are unlikely to make it through to the spring.

Water vole life expectancy is just five months, due to high predation of young (and, I imagine, nests being lost to floods). But even voles who make it to full size almost always die during their second winter. Late-born juveniles which are too small, less than 140g, will also fail to make it.

That's why these last weeks of summer are so precious, and the first sightings of the following year so joyful.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Closer Yet

"Mind where you put your feet, madam."

Water vole lawn outside a burrow

In high density populations, water voles tend to be braver than in lower density ones. Since the field off Edgeley Road is absolutely packed with voles, they're sometimes very bold indeed, provided you stand perfectly still. Even so, the flap of a pigeon flying past will send them fleeing - they're extremely wary of any bird in case it turns out to be a heron, large corvid or a bird of prey.