Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The Nature of Britain, BBC1, 9pm, Wednesday Oct 31st

Just a reminder to those who can access the West Midlands tv region that the Whitchurch water voles will be featured on BBC 1 tomorrow night. They'll be part of the local projects slot, towards the end of the programme. (If they show the volunteer group, I'll be the one wearing pink-flowered wellies.)
Sighting at 5pm this evening, near the trolley which is still there and now getting very clogged up.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Meanwhile, on opposite sides of the bridge...

Well blow me, water voles eat snails.

Took a trip to the Prees Branch canal to check the rafts: more minky prints, unfortunately. Hope SW will get on the case next week.
We also found several water vole latrines, some evidence of feeding - and some interesting food choices. I didn't know till I just checked now that water voles eat snails, but there were piles and piles of empty ramshorn shells, often near cut grass and vole droppings. There were also little piles of acorn shells: do water voles eat acorns too?

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Two rubbish photos this evening: you can take your pick! There was also a very poor video of some grass moving on the bank, but I shan't inflict that on you.
Been seeing voles all week near Tesco's.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Worrying Tracks

Checked the cartridges at the Prees Branch canal today and saw what looked like mink type prints. We've reported them to the Wildlife Trust and are waiting for their thoughts.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Trolley Advice

I received this comment to one of my posts, and it's worth a post of its own, I think.

Wonderful blog.
I have been trying to get trolleys removed from the Stockport stretches of the River Mersey, Tame, and Goyt. Here the problems are considerable, they are thrown in near the town centre, but any flood, or build up of debris tends to push them further downstream. Those that I can see tend to collect just below the weirs. The Mersey runs BELOW the town centre for about 1/2 a mile, and there is undoubtedly a storeful of trolleys there waiting to be pushed out downstream of the shopping centre.
Removal of these trolleys is admittedly difficult, due to very inaccessible banks. I have attacked via my local councillor and by direct letters to Tesco, Sainsbury and ASDA, but have gained little ground so far. Any advice that you might have would be appreciated.
For most of my life these rivers, and in particular the Mersey and Tame have been polluted to a disgraceful extent, but recently the water quality has rocketed. I have now, in a six month period seen, IN STOCKPORT! dippers, kingfishers, mink, goldeneye, goosanders, etc, etc. Fish , especially chub abound, although it surprised me to see them still there after the river has been in one of its very heavy floods. There were some very interesting footprints in the mud yesterday..I don't know whether they are mink (probably), or dare I hope for it: otter. Wonderful, but I would much rather see the kingfishers perched on the tree branches, rather that the trolleys.
I did see your voles on TV...and maybe that program in itself helped with the trolley removal. ASDA in Rochdale, 20 miles from here, was fined 8000 pounds for trolleys in the river Roche, and now employs a company to remove them within a day. I hope to achieve this in Stockport. I include my email if you might be able to offer trolley removal advice.

So, firstly, thanks, and well done on all the amazing sightings (except for the mink, of course!). I was watching yesterday a video clip of an otter sighted in the middle of Edinburgh: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7050878.stm and you hear reports all the time these days of rivers which are cleaner than they've been for decades. I think people are finally wising up to the need to look after our wildlife spaces - though there's still a lot of work to be done.
As for advice on how to get supermarkets to take responsibility for their trolleys, I can only say what's happened to me. As you'll see on this blog, I first approached my local store back in December 2006. My argument was that installing coin-release trolleys would massively reduce the problem, if not stop it altogether (we have four other supermarkets in our town, all with coin-release systems, and you never ever see any of those trolleys loose).
The managers I've spoken to have always been polite and sympathetic, but made it clear they don't have the power to make decisions about re-fits. They say they've been passing my comments on to the appropriate departments. Those departments, though, haven't seemed to want to take any action, so that's why I've turned to the Environment Agency. The EA is a huge organization, and it's important to locate the correct department, ie one that has the power to act. In my case this turned out to be the Environment Management office, who now at least have a dialogue going with the supermarket.
Having dated photographic evidence, and records of how long trolleys are allowed to stay in the water, is useful, especially if those photos clearly show the store's logo.
The bottom line is, the law is being broken. Under the Water Resources Act 1991 it is "an offence to knowingly permit polluting or solid matter to enter controlled water" and the Environment Agency can take enforcement action, such as the fine you mentioned. In the special case of White Lion Meadow, a second law is also relevant, that of the destruction/disturbance of a theatened species' habitat: http://www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/index.php?section=watervole:law , which means that the act of dragging the trolleys out is as harmful as their being allowed to sit and clog up. In other words, trolleys just should NOT be going in the water.
If you do approach the EA - and I've found them terrifically helpful - I'd recommend sending copies of any correspondence to the supermarkets involved, at a local and a central level. It's courteous, and you may find the stores wanting to take recommendations on board before things get to the stage of being fined.
Wildlife aside, in these days of increased flooding it's especially important our waterways are kept as clear as possible. We all benefit from a clean and healthy environment.
Good luck!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Monday, 15 October 2007

The trolleys are gone and I don't know whether it's the action of Tesco or the EA. Whoever sorted it, this chap below says thanks.

Sunday, 14 October 2007


This is the state of the brook at 3pm, Sunday Oct 14th. Looks like we could be shaping up for another 14-trolley winter.
What's worse is that this is all just the tip of the iceberg. If I posted every time a new trolley went in, or every day a trolley was left there - or if I showed any of the trolleys cluttering up other sections of the brook - this blog would be nothing but photos of trolleys. The number of days when even this one small stretch is clear is tiny in comparison to the number of days of the year Tesco trolleys are in the water.
And, somehow, these endangered little animals struggle on...

Friday, 12 October 2007

BBC video of our Albert looking for voles at Whitwater fishery, behind Wrexham Road

Here's tonight's vole, but there's also another trolley and the old one hasn't shifted, so it's busy clogging up with rubbish. Wonder what the BBC would say if they came back and filmed now?

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


If you were watching tonight's episode of The Nature of Britain, you'll have seen footage towards the end of these very voles! It was a preview clip, and I think the main piece is schduled for Wednesday October 31st. Terrifically exciting for the Whitchurch Water Vole group (link on the right) who've been working hard for eighteen months now, monitoring and recording and protecting and creating new habitat.


And I had a sighting this evening as well!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Brown Moss newts

Baby newts ready for hibernation, each about two inches long - photographed at Brown Moss. The vole below is at White Lion Meadow car park again. As is the trolley!

Monday, 8 October 2007

Good news from the EA: they were on the case last week re the sewage, and it's sorted. And cogs are in motion re the trolleys.
Saw a vole this evening, but it was too dark to take a decent photo.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Turn up the volume to hear chomping


I so need to work out how to change focus on my camera! Still, managed some shots of a vole in watercress, plus this lovely fly agaric toadstool on the bank. No problems at all when my subject's static.
I'd like to be able to finish there, positively, but there's another Tesco trolley in the water (so we were two days free of them), and also I've had a report that last week some raw sewage was discharged into the brook. I'll report this, but it's so disheartening to hear.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Twilight vole

White Lion Meadow car park again.

Checking for prints on the Prees Branch Canal

Both clay tracking cartidges showed prints, but we're not sure what animal left them. On the bottom two it looks like the tracks of some small rodent, possibly mouse, because there are teeny mouse-type droppings.
The top cartridge seems to show larger prints, but they're quite confused. Mink? I sincerely hope not. There was no scat, or other evidence. I also found these droppings (top right) further down the bank which I thought at first were water vole, but I now think could be rat as they're a bit long and pointy.
Field signs will be getting scarcer this time of the year. I'll go back and check the rafts sooner, before the prints have had time to get smudged.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007


Can you see him? Talk about blending in.
(Clicking on the photos enlarges them, if you're struggling!.)