Saturday, 31 May 2008

Prees Branch again

Went to check the rafts again (nothing except rat prints) and found plenty of feeding all the way along, plus a very fresh latrine. The yellow flower is flag iris, which I've heard water voles love and sure enough, while I was poking about nearby, I heard the characteristic plop of a vole dropping into the canal. The banks were swarming with common blue damselflies, too.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Visiting Hedgehog

Couldn't resist a picture of this hedgehog who appeared in my garden last night.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

An Invitation

Anyone local to Whitchurch who's interested in learning how to do water vole surveying can join our next day out on Tuesday June 3rd. You can get the details by contacting Malcolm Monie here: Whitchurch Water Vole Group
Another lovely video from a pal in the Wild About Britain forums:

Friday, 23 May 2008

Yockings Gate and Black Park Road

Tonight's sighting (well, glimpse) at White Lion Meadow above, but I also decided to take a stroll up Yockings Gate, where I saw several water voles last year. I waited fifteen minutes but saw nothing, and couldn't spot any obvious signs either, eg feeding stations or burrows; then again, I was trying to see from quite a distance as it's private land and you can't go climbing down the banks willy nilly.
So I travelled downstream a little to Black Park Road - and couldn't believe how much feeding's going on there! (See top pic.) There's obviously a really healthy colony in that little stretch, which is terrific news.

Water Voles in your Garden

Here's a post especially for those who like water voles and gardening.
Firstly, a great set of tips from a site called 50 Connect on how to make your garden more attractive to water voles: .
Next, a link about the award-winning water vole-friendly garden shown at the Chelsea Flower Show this year:
And lastly, a great article by Simon Barnes in the Times which really captures the joy of water vole watching:
Great to see people coming at conservation from another angle like this.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Hijacked by Dormice

Went out with a group from Cheshire Wildlife today to check dormouse boxes. The procedure goes like this: stuff a clean hanky or cloth into the entrance hole, then gently open the lid a fraction and peep in. (We found lots of birds on nests and also a bank vole: in previous years there've also been bats and wood mice.)

If there's a dormouse, the wildlife people take the box off the tree and put it into a large clear plastic sack, so they can get the dormouse out without it escaping. They pop it into a little cloth bag and weigh it, then pass a scanner over the animal to see whether it carries a microchip. If it does, they return it to the box (probably while it's still asleep at this time of year).

If it doesn't, they take it to the vet who's out with them and he anaesthetises the dormouse, quickly chips it, weighs and measures it, sexes it, gauges its general health and takes a swift DNA sample. The whole procedure takes less than ten minutes, and the anaesthetic's so light that the mouse is coming round towards the end. Then it's returned to the same box it came from.

This colony's been monitored for ten years now, and though the results today were on the low side, the boxes will be checked again in the summer and numbers may well have gone up.

Came home to find this sparrowhawk on my lawn. Plus my neighbour tells me we have swifts nesting in our roof, and last night I saw two bats flying round the garden. The pond's full of common newts, too.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Vole's Eye View

The water level's very low at the moment, so even the minnows are making quite dramatic ripples. That, coupled with blackbirds rooting in the long grass, have me grabbing for my camera like a fool every few minutes. But here's tonight's vole, swimming and feeding.
The top photo shows the brook from under the bridge: a vole's eye view. It really is a beautiful little stretch of water.

Sunday, 18 May 2008


The two photos immediately above are of feeding down at the Prees Branch Canal. Still nothing on the mink rafts, which is great news.
The top two pictures are from White Lion Meadow this evening: a really big feeding station (centre of pic) and one of a pair of voles that were having a terrific fight in the water (bottom edge of pic, to the left - click to enlarge). One followed another downstream, sent it scurrying into the bank, then swam back to its own burrow. They are very territorial animals, hence all the marking with latrines.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Two voles tonight

Well, it's a bit since we've had a latrine.
Both the top photos show the water-resistant quality of the vole's fur. One shake when they climb out, and these animals are more or less dry.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Tonight's vole, plus I also offer this photo of a very cross collared dove that dropped down my chimney this morning. Still, it's saved getting the sweep in this summer.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Maybe they're getting a little bolder. This one tonight swam up and down quite happily while I stood and watched it from the bank.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

What councils can do to help water voles

The second pic down shows sympathetic management if the Staggs Brook banks by North Shropshire District Council. Just the very top edge of the vegetation's been strimmed, near the path, and the rest left alone to provide cover for the water voles. NSDC also avoid using chemicals such as pesticides near the water.
Finally managed to get a couple of clear photos of the voles living by White Lion Meadow car park currently. I've been trying for a fortnight now, and only getting flashes of tail disappearing under water, or nose being withdrawn into burrow. I was beginnning to wonder whether these were 'imported' voles from futher upstream who weren't used to the noise. Picture three shows clearly the splayed toes that leave the distinctive starry prints, and picture four, the furry brown tail.
The last photo is of more feeding signs - floating bits of leaf, chopped at an angle. Geese and other water birds leave sections of reed lying in the water like this, but the clue that this is vole and not our resident mallard is the 45% cut.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

View from a bridge

I noticed this evening that the trackway I photographed last night had been turned into a feeding station - note the lengths of chopped reed lying about half-way up. Did log a sighting but it was this lunchtime, and once again, no picture.
While I'm here, can I say how nice it is to chat to all the people who come and talk to me and ask questions while I'm watching for voles on the bridge. *waves*

Monday, 5 May 2008

A vole and a trackway

Again, not a fantastic picture of a water vole, but all these photos on this blog are for records only. The trackway immediately above is another kind of field sign to look out for.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Two voles

They weren't for coming out and posing, but I did manage to get this shot of one peeping through nettles. (It may help if you click to enlarge.)

Feeding frenzy at the Prees Branch canal

We've been checking the Prees Branch canal religiously (thanks, Joan, Rosie and John!) but no more sign of any mink, which is excellent. I went down today and there were water vole feeding signs along the whole length - lots and lots of piles of chopped up reed, still-growing stalks cut off at an angle, plus the odd broken-into snail shell. I couldn't spot any droppings, which is a pity, because there's supposed to be some calculation whereby you can tell the number of females by counting latrines. But there's obviously a fair number of water voles along that stretch.
I include a photo of some prints taken today at White Lion Meadow, which I'm fairly certain are w-v. Couldn't resist the picture of wild violets, either!