Tuesday, 26 June 2007
Sunday, 24 June 2007
These are dead easy if you have a kit like Forsham Cottage Arks supply (see link on right). Basically it's a floating open-ended box containing a plastic basket. In the basket you put sodden oasis with a smooth layer of sand and clay over the top. The oasis stops the clay from drying out and keeps it soft.
I've built my raft so I can test for the presence of water voles. The idea is you tether the raft somewhere you suspect there might be voles, leave it a few days, and then check the clay for footprints. When Malcolm Monie tried this out he got water vole droppings as well as prints (see above).
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
If you're lucky enough to live near voles, here's a summary of what you can do to make their lives easier:
- Got a cat? Put a blooming big bell on its collar.
- Remove any rubbish including garden waste which might stop plants growing on the banks.
- Cut back overhanging branches from trees and shrubs, for the same reason.
- Leave plants near the water's edge uncut, and never use pesticide near the water or on the banks. In late summer, carefully trim back the vegetation on the banks to a height of about 10-15cm.
- Avoid walking on the bank near the water's edge in case you damage burrows.
- You can also plant things that water voles love: crab-apple, dogrose, gooseberry, flag iris.
The leaflet reminds us that 'corridors' are vital to maintaining a healthy population of water voles; colonies need to interbreed to keep gene stock strong. So even an unpromising-looking ditch can be a vital trackway connecting two groups of voles. And not all habitat will be in use at any one time, so even if there are no signs of water voles now, that doesn't mean there won't be in the future. They do move about (studies show an average of a mile).
Finally, report all sightings of water voles and mink to your local wildlife trust so they can get them on record. Ten years ago some environmentalists were saying that water voles would be extinct by the beginning of the 21st Century, and we're not out of the woods yet. But lots of people all working together can make a tremendous difference.
Sunday, 17 June 2007
Monday, 11 June 2007
Chester Zoo is one of several places - like Bristol Zoo, Wildwood in Kent, Derek Gow's water vole farm - where voles are bred in captivity to get the numbers up and with a view to eventual wider release. Blackpool Zoo has been involved in helping with mitigation procedure, providing a place for voles to stay while building work or landscaping disturbs their burrows. Personally I'd like to see UK zoos concentrating much more on this sort of project.