Monday, 29 June 2009

Comedy Blackbirds

Effective camouflage!

Why do blackbirds adopt such a strange pose when they're sunbathing? Here are two at White Lion Meadow, plus some new mallard ducklings (let's hope they last longer than the last brood), plus a water vole latrine and feeding.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Summer in the Country Park

Rabbit City

Meadow Brown

common spotted orchid

water vole latrines
The evening being so beautiful, I had a walk round Whitchurch Country Park and found plenty of evidence of water voles. It was especially concentrated round the bridge crossing at Greenfields Rise, a fact I make special note of because this area's sometimes talked about in terms of 'development'. Under the concrete bridge, the one within the park boundary, there are the usual otter signs. Further up, towards the culvert, there are water vole latrines, which is excellent news as a survey in 2006 showed little activity in this area. However, a working party's been visiting regularly and their management of the brook's banks has clearly made a big difference!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Voles in harmony

From White Lion Meadow just now: water vole latrine next to field vole droppings. I've seen several field voles there this summer, and a few days ago, a wood mouse swam across the brook.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

My friend Shirl

Here's a post in appreciation of my friend Shirl, who works as a volunteer at Cromford, monitoring the water vole colonies there. As you can see from the top picture, she takes some amazing wildlife photographs, and has kindly let me use one or two on my blog. Recently, when I confided to her that I was worried about the lack of sightings at White Lion Meadow car park, she told me, 'Look for latrines: if there are latrines, then the voles are all right.' And tonight I hopped down under the bridge and found fresh water vole droppings straight away.
I also include a snap of the maintenance work done by North Shropshire District Council. This is sympathetic strimming: a good wide margin left for cover/feeding, and the opposite bank not touched at all. It is well worth taking time to contact your local council if you know there are water voles in an area they maintain. I've found the people at the NSDC maintenance and pest control departments hugely helpful and accommodating.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Water Voles on 'Blue Peter'!
Two minutes forty-five seconds in. The item concentrates on captive breeding and release, but also points out the key features of water voles. It's a nice piece. I wonder if the farm is Derek Gow's? (See links.)

Monday, 15 June 2009

At last, a photo


Thanks to John and Rosie for the photo

Alarmed woodmouse, in the ditch near Grocontinental
Another day spent anxiously watching a hatching dragonfly, except this story doesn't have a very happy ending. The dragonfly seemed to get stuck with just its head out - was in that state for eight hours - and then disappeared, exuvia and all. Presumably a bird took it. We've seen three other empty cases, plus there's at least one other live nymph in the water, so all's not lost, but it seems a shame that after two years preparing for adulthood, the dragonfly should fall at this last hurdle.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Happy to be wrong

Dead dragonfly we found floating in the water - maybe a female Emperor?

Nymph climbing the reed in preparation for splitting. Or not.

Dragonfly nymph in the water

("You ain't seen us, right?" - adult frogs in my pond)

Froglet in the brook at Edward German Drive

Various latrine shots - click to enlarge.

Went down to the car park this afternoon and glimpsed a vole almost straight away. As I was trying vainly to get a shot, a man walked past and called to me that he'd seen one there last Sunday. So fingers crossed they'll be back out and posing soon.
Last night I followed a tiny stream though a field near my house and found the banks to be absolutely full of latrines - almost too many to count - so that must mean a very healthy colony. It's nice to know somewhere's doing so well.
Today's excitement was the finding of a dragonfly larva clinging to one of the reeds in my pond. I was convinced I was going to get some fantastic shots of the adult dragonfly emerging, but all that happened was it sat for half an hour, then slipped back into the water. Sigh.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Temporarily voleless

I don't know what's going on at White Lion Meadow. We've only had one sighting in the last month, and even taking into account the lushness of the vegetation, that doesn't seem right. I've found a little bit of feeding, and there's still the areas of squashed grass, but that's all.
So photos of actual voles may be hard to come by for a while. Instead I give you: w-v droppings from the ditch near Grocontinental; an empty dragonfly-larva case (exuvia) from my pond; and this young fox who waited patiently for me to sort my camera out before moving on. He may have been hoping for a bit of the apple I was eating!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Briefly, between showers

A water vole-sized burrow at Waylands Road, with grazed watercress in front

Water vole poo - the coin's a 5p piece

Grazed watercress and field vole droppings

Baby blackbird

I tried to make use of this fine evening by staking out the ditch near Lidl, but all I saw was field voles. They move so much faster than water voles - they dart nervously about, whereas unalarmed water voles amble, and sit for long period eating.
A quick poke round the back of Waylands Road, though, revealed water vole latrines and field vole droppings. Our surveys have shown many times that the two can live side by side.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Back on the case

Had a quick check of the main sites this morning, but a showery day coming after a prolonged period of heavy rain isn't the best time to go looking for voles or field signs. White Lion Meadow, like everywhere else, is getting pretty overgrown and it's hard to see much at all, but there are still areas of what look like vole-flattened grass along the banks (third photo down), and a quick check by the pipe revealed feeding.
The most interesting news is some sightings in this unpromising ditch by Lidl (last picture). The vegetation's been heavily grazed, and when I went to look last night I saw a small mammal disappearing into the undergrowth, though I couldn't tell whether it was a baby water vole or a field vole. Lots of twitching grass, though: there's clearly busy activity of some sort down there.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Postcard from the Canaries

A pod of bottlenose dolphins, off Tenerife

Madeiran wall lizards

Unidentified sea fish, Vigo, Spain


We saw clouds of Painted Lady butterflies in Lanzarote
More on the friendliness of Madeiran lizards here: