Sunday, 28 January 2007

This is what we're up against

All right, this one isn't actually in the brook, but plenty do make it down there and then if they're left for weeks, as happened over Christmas, they become embedded and have to be hauled out by Welsh Water. And repeatedly dragging heavy trolleys over the soil banks damages water vole habitat, which is the point I put to Tesco's manager, Ian Webster.Still waiting to hear about the progress of this request, and about the situation with the railings.

The brook facing towards Tesco's

View of brook

New camera

Treated myself to one with a zoom lens. These prints are directly under the bridge on the Centre North East side.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

So when are they coming out?

Lots more prints, especially by the bridge. Are the voles coming out just at night? because there's obviously plenty of activity going on.

The water level's low at the moment.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

You can see vole footprints all along both banks near the bridge (where I've marked with a red dot).

Thanks to NSDC's Ray Raymond, while I'm here.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Tesco Trolleys

A very positive meeting with Tesco's Ian Webster and Chris Dimaline this morning. Both of them are behind the idea of coin-release trolleys, which would not only protect the brook but I'd imagine would be a lot less hassle and expense for the store to boot. But they have to request them from 'their boss's boss'. I told them that if there was anything I could do to help their application, they were to let me know.

More worryingly they mentioned the idea of extra railings being erected to stop the trolleys being pushed in, but I don't see how that work can be carried out without it disturbing the voles, which is obviously against the law. The Environment Agency would have to be involved. So I did make this point, and Chris is going to get back to me about it.

If the trolleys were coin-release, no railings would be needed, of course...

Saturday, 13 January 2007


What was I saying about latrines? Pretty sure there's one here, on the left. Rat droppings are pointy at one end whereas vole ones are rounded, like those of guinea pigs. This little pile is at the bottom of the right hand bank as you stand on the bridge facing away from Tesco's.
More starry prints all the way along both sides.

The Team

Just filled a black bin bag with what was immediately around the bridge. Yuk. Strong wind and rain carries debris down to the area, and the foul weather's also meant I've missed a few weeks litter-picking so the mess has really built up. The grass, brambles and nettles have mostly died back and every sweet wrapper, every discarded receipt is on full view.

Anyway, it's slightly better now, and on the field signs front there are some good clear hind footprints in the mud on the car park side, about six feet upstream of the bridge.

(Gordon Woodroffe, in The Mammal Society's booklet on The Water Vole, says field signs virtually disappear over the winter. But it's been so mild we've had blue tits looking in our nest box! Latrines don't appear till the breeding season, apparently, and as for feeding stations, eating will be taking place mostly underground till the vegetation gets away again, I'd have thought.)

Thursday, 11 January 2007

While I wait for this damn rain to stop...

I've been away, but today I managed to set up a meeting for next week with one of the managers at Tesco's to discuss the trolley situation. Watch this space.

Also contacted North Shropshire District Council to ask whether their pest control officer could come and look at removing the rat I've seen skulking around the road end of the brook recently. Brown rats can drive out voles and will eat young and even adults, so now would be a good time to trap any rats while the voles are still mainly below ground and before the breeding season starts.

Great display on Whitchurch water voles in the library!

Friday, 5 January 2007

Time for a tidy-up

It's been so rainy I've not been able to go down for several nights. The brook's not too bad for litter just now, though it's starting to build up again on the Tesco's side - I'll try and do some kind of clear-up at the weekend, weather permitting. The trouble is, once a few people start chucking stuff, more join in.
A few prints on the banks and at least one active-looking burrow, but it's hard to tell how much real vole presence there is at the moment.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Starry prints

So where are the voles at the moment? The brook's looking wintry and sad, and I haven't seen a vole since November 5th.

But water voles don't hibernate, so although they spend much less time above ground, they are about, as the footprints above show. The way to differentiate between a vole and a rat print is to look at the shape: the toes on a vole's back feet are splayed out in a star-shape. (Excellent photos of this on the Whitchurch Water Vole Group website - see links). It's good to see these prints appearing regularly in the absence of actual vole sightings.