Friday, 28 March 2008


If you click on the top picture to enlarge it, you'll see the water vole's tail is furry, in contrast to the rat's I photographed a couple of posts back. The smaller ears and blunter nose are also clearly visible.
And here's a video of the same vole feeding. The rattling you can hear in the background is people returning shopping trolleys to the bays!

My pond's busy, anyway

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Drove out to Whixall Moss this afternoon to check out a couple of ditches. The reason the moss is so good for water voles is that all the ditches link up to form 'wildlife corridors', which are vital if colonies are going to cross-breed and build up healthy gene stock. Isolated colonies die out eventually. However, I didn't find much definitive - just a couple of fist-sized burrows (fourth photo down) and no telling whether they were rat. I include a photo (third down) of another ditch richly populated with field voles; there must have been a hundred burrows in the short stretch I looked at, all not much bigger than a £1 coin.
I called on the way back at the Prees Branch canal, and was delighted to hear a water vole plop as I took some photos of feeding. There was a lone w-v dropping on top of the mink raft, too.
Nothing much doing at White Lion Meadow, though. Maybe the vole I saw last week has a litter of babies and is keeping underground?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The Difference Between Rats and Voles

I'd been getting worried - no sightings for a couple of weeks, and a confusion of prints that looked more ratty than anything. (The trouble is, in soft mud, rats' feet can splay out to make a print that's almost as star-shaped as a water vole's. It's very difficult sometimes to tell what's what.) Then tonight this rat, cheeky as you like. I've included a close-up of the tail to show how long and naked they are - water voles' are furry and shorter.
I was about to give up in disgust when I spotted a vole's nose peeping out from the vegetation near the bridge. The immediate giveaway, aside from the blunt nose, is the distinctive chocolate brown fur. Rats can be brownish as well as grey, but they're lighter in tone.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Admittedly not the prettiest of pictures, but I'm hopeful this is another water vole latrine. It's a fortnight since we've had any sightings but there are some possible prints under the bridge, and I've been looking in Rob Strachan's excellent 'Mammal Detective' handbook and rat droppings are definitely blacker, bigger and pointier than these.
But the only mammal I saw tonight was a rat. Disappointing after February's showing.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Things are looking busy in the Country Park, with frogspawn in the pond that Whitchurch Water Vole group created, vole prints along the bank near the cattle drinker, and fresh otter spraint under the bridge. At long last, it feels as though Spring's round the corner.

Stunning water vole photos here:

Saturday, 8 March 2008

I've been too busy to go down to the brook much this week, but here's a latrine, I think.
At the back of Edward German Drive there are currently lots of burrows, but I don't know whether they belong to water voles or brown rats. Rats' burrows often have an untidy heap of soil outside, and water voles' are supposed to have a grazed area nearby called a 'lawn', though personally I've never seen one. But these burrows are just holes, so I can't tell.