Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Sometimes all you get is...

How do I know it's a water vole? Partly because I got a good view of it as it passed under the bridge, but also because this is typical w-v behaviour - hugging the bank, but keeping submerged. Rats prefer to swim with their heads out of the water, and fish wouldn't keep close to the side like this (not that we have any sizeable fish in this section of the Staggs Brook). So all right, no contender for Wildlife Video of the Year, but definite proof there's still vole action at White Lion Meadow.

PS To compensate for my inadequacy, here's a really good video from a colleague on the Wild About Britain forum: http://my.opera.com/Ukwildlife/blog/water-vole


Wednesday, 23 April 2008

I was wrong! Hooray!

Just been watching this little chap from the car park bridge. It goes to show once again, there can be voles without field signs.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

There doesn't seem to be any activity at all at White Lion Meadow, even now the weather's warmed up. Makes me wonder whether the voles I saw a couple of weeks ago have been eaten.
But there's plenty of activity on the Prees Branch canal - There were two sightings there this morning, I see fresh feeding every time I go down there, and there've been no more signs of mink. In addition, my friend Dave has sent me photos of a water vole latrine he spotted at Whixall Moss this weekend. So let's hope the breeding season gets going now and the colonies have a chance to build up and expand. Maybe they'll come back to White Lion Meadow later in the spring or summer.
http://www.newhythe.blogspot.com/ - See the bottom photo of Sunday 20th April's post for an incredible climbing water vole!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Canal again

Went down to check the rafts again and found this scat, which I'm almost certain is brown rat. Nasty though it is, I thought it was worth a picture just to show the difference between rat pellets and water vole - voles' are rounded at both ends, Tic-Tac- shaped.

There was plenty of fresh water vole feeding, too. In the centre of the picture above (click to enlarge) is a massive pile of cut reeds. I found two new areas of activity along the canal since Saturday, which is really encouraging.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Mink: very bad news for water voles

Went for a walk down the Prees Branch Canal today, and it looks as though there's at least one mink in the area. I found what I'm pretty sure is mink scat, and then there were bones on the second raft.
My fears were confirmed when I met the lady who lives in the cottage at Waterloo and she said her fish pond had been raided. So I'm waiting to hear from SW about what to do.
There was evidence of water vole feeding and a fresh latrine (the two pics below) but for how long can this population survive if there are mink about?

Friday, 11 April 2008

An awful lot of weather we've been having lately

I gather water voles aren't too bothered by snow, but they don't seem to like the rain much. In the two and a half years I've been looking for voles here, I've never once seen them come out in showery weather. It's also pointless checking for field signs after a downpour as prints, latrines and chopped grass all get washed away.
According to the forecast and we seem to have another week's worth of wet, so this blog's probably going to be quiet for a little while. Meanwhile I'll count siskins and greenfinches on my feeder, and watch my tadpoles developing.
Roll on the spring sunshine!

Friday, 4 April 2008

This was a large adult which swam off down the brook towards the culvert and seemed to go into a pipe, though that seems unlikely. Maybe it went into a burrow near the pipe, that I couldn't see.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Spot the Vole

It's the ripples that usually give them away. I think this is a different, smaller vole from last Friday's.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Rats and Weil's Disease - taking precautions

I was talking to some girls last night about making sure they washed their hands after they'd been in contact with water from the brook, and it seemed like a good time to post another reminder here about Weil's disease (leptospirosis). This is a bacteria-carried illness that can kill you if it's not treated in time, and you can catch it through exposure to rat urine. It can enter the body through cuts or the lining of the nose or throat - so if you got your hands wet and then bit your nails, you could swallow some - and the symptoms start off as flu-like.
So always wash your hands if you've been mucking about in ditches or streams; don't eat or drink while you're there; if you have cuts or grazes, make sure they're covered with a waterproof dressing and don't let them touch the water.
More information here: http://www.iphe.org.uk/health/weils_disease.html