Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Mustelid Contingent


Water vole
Adult rat - the relative sizes

It was a surprise to pick up this stoat on the trail cam. This makes the fourth mustelid I've seen in the field (if you count finding otter spraint as a 'sighting'). I've also seen weasels and a polecat here. All these predators will eat water voles, but because they're native and in the balance, vole numbers stay buoyant. The worry is if mink invade, because they are non-native carnivores and can wipe out whole colonies of water voles in a matter of weeks.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

More Pink

Spotted this elephant hawk moth by the main town car park. What a beauty! Meanwhile, half an hour's sitting by the stream showed up three voles, two adults and a baby. The adults could be distinguished from each other because one had a scar above its eye. I like the image of a vole shaking itself dry after swimming.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Pink Butterflies and Yockings Gate

Cinnabar moth resting and in flight

 Terrific habitat

Yockings Gate water vole

Thrilled to spot a water vole at Yockings Gate, the first for years. The vegetation's now grown back after severe dredging and the dumping of some chemical bins that looked very dodgy, and the banks and water seem healthy. I was also pleased to see this cinnabar moth as they're such vibrant, beautiful creatures. I can understand why some people think they've seen a "pink butterfly" as, when the moth's wings are open, it does look that shape.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Strongest Proof Yet that Water Voles Eat Snails

Vole with an injury above its eye.

Found this nibbled snail shell in the middle of a water vole feeding platform. That's no guarantee a water vole left it there, but while I was watching, one came and picked up the shell briefly and dropped it. I've still never actually seen voles of any species eating meat but I've come across so many snail shells in water vole areas, I really think they do. Pregnant female water voles have been recorded as eating fish.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


I was interested yesterday to witness an adult water vole using its tail to hang over the edge of a bank. Its haunches were on the grass but its front half was over the water, only its tail hooked round a twig held it firm. I've not seen that before.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Meanwhile on Prees Heath

 Baby water voles, like puppies, have huge paws.

Edgeley Road voles and latrines. below, images from a walk on Prees Heath

 Tiger Moth, possibly Ruby.

 Small heath and Silver Studded Blue butterflies

 Yellow Shell moth

 Amazing camouflage by this shield bug

 Four-spotted Chaser

Yellowhammers - we saw two and heard others singing. Also heard skylarks.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A Sad Goodbye - a Colony Wiped Out by Mink

The wildlife photographer Richard Steel has been following a colony of water voles at Acton, Cheshire, and taking the most wonderful photographs like the ones above. But he contacted me a few days ago to say that all the water voles are now gone. He was worried at the end of last year about the presence of mink, and sure enough, this year the colony had been wiped out. He'd found mink scat, and seen a dead moorhen in the water. Tellingly, there were no ducklings on that stretch of canal either. Acton Marina had been home to a strong and busy population of animals, but now there's nothing left at all.

It is so important that we trap and kill mink when we know they're about. To do nothing is to walk away whistling from a man-made ecological disaster, and to sign the water voles' death warrant. All we can do from this incident is learn a lesson.

You can see more of Richard's heartbreakingly beautiful photographs here:

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Canal Edging - what's Good and Bad for Voles

 Male beautiful demoiselle

Back at The Narrowboat pub today to take another look at those canal banks. The sections with steel shuttering/palings up against the soil are useless for water voles because you can't make burrows in metal. But I'm pleased to say there are stretches of the canal where, although the banks have been reinforced, it's with a waterproof fabric and wood, around which the voles can work. The photos show how they've swum underneath the wooden railing and made themselves little shelters between the wood and grass.

Another way of helping water voles to at least travel along sections of shuttered or concrete canal in safety is to install coir rolls along the bank sides, as the wildlife trust have done here: