Thursday, 24 April 2014

What are these two up to?

 
I can't decide whether they're about to mate or attack.

9 comments:

Countryside Tales said...

I've not long stumbled across your blog Kate and I'm really enjoying it. Such fantastic video of the Water Voles. They are such beautiful creatures and I loved it when they started swimming! I've not seen one down here yet but am keeping my eyes peeled along the river Test. CT.

Kate said...

Are there water voles there historically? Might be worth asking your local mammal recorder. And thanks for the nice comments, which I will return with regards your own blog. I think your burrow may be field vole, but it depends how big. I think I see some grazing around the entrance?

WendyB said...

re. "I can't decide whether they're about to mate or attack"... looks like the former to me!!

I've witnessed one or two instances of vole-vole aggression along our watercourse - and when one vole feels another is trespassing it will let it know so pretty quickly. An intruder dared to go into Alpha Male's territory one day last week - and soon after both voles came zooming out across the water, from under the brambles - Alpha chasing the other through a patch of duckweed and pink blossom petals, until it had been seen off, and swam very swiftly and directly back to its own patch some distance away. (No photos sadly - camera was packed away and I'd just been about to leave, when it all kicked off!)

On another occasion I've seen two voles run into each other by the water's edge and immediately square up to each other - then a bit of fisticuffs, followed by grappling and biting, before one succeeded in seeing the other off.

Kate said...

They are very territorial. Is it an alpha male you're watching, I wonder, or an alpha female? The females defend their territories just as vigorously as the males, and set out more latrines/markers.

I photographed a vole last year with a nasty wound over its eye which I think was probably caused by fighting with a rival. They box like hares, but also use their teeth sometimes. I've never caught it on camera, but there's some great footage on YouTube including this clip by Jo Cartmell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4HahC7W6-k

WendyB said...

Gosh, I don't know - it was another observer last year who named it "Alpha Male" - it is very solid, with a dark stripe down its back - and thinks nothing of seeing off ducks and moorhens, sometimes resurfacing amongst them and sending them scattering - I literally heard its teeth gnashing on one such occasion last summer! Could well be a female then - will try to check on whether it has a blunt snout - do male/female w-vs have blunt/less blunt snouts? (as per hamsters, gerbils etc!)

Did lots more litter picking on Thursday with my willing helper - 6 bags of gunk this time, and aided by a 7ft long stick! Hope the voles and waterfowl appreciate the difference!

Kate said...

I have heard that males are supposed to have a bit of a ruff round their neck, but I've never been able to distinguish it. I think experts sex them by measuring the distance between the anus and the urethral opening, but don't quote me on that.

WendyB said...

Yes, I used to keep gerbils as a kid - and they bred like crazy - had to keep separating male and female siblings. Rather than just relying on the "males have a blunter nose" indicator, I used to pick each one up by the base of the tail, and turn them over - and I seem to recall the males had a sort of 'joined together' private area, the females had 2 distinct openings, further apart. Couldn't do that with the w-vs though!! Will look out for the 'ruff'... I usually take binoculars with me.

Kate said...

Hamsters are easy to sex, as are hedgehogs, but harvest mice almost impossible. I gather popping the water vole head-first into a Pringles tube is a useful starting point!

Countryside Tales said...

Hi Kate,

Apparently there are water voles on all of Hampshire's main rivers and they are about to be re-introduced on the Meon with a population from Swindon. Yes, I'm sure our vole is a field (short-tailed) from what I saw of him/ her :-)