Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas from a busy bird feeder

Voles will be back in the spring, we hope.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Cold Autumn Skies

Great Tit

Blue Tit
And a busy busy bird feeder. As well as the above we get long tailed tits, jackdaws, greater spotted woodpeckers, rooks, collared doves, wood pigeons, wrens, stacks of house sparrows and starlings, dunnocks, greenfinches, chaffinches, goldfinches, siskins, pied and grey wagtails, blackbirds, fieldfares, robins and sparrowhawks. While obviously none of these is rare, numbers of certain species (eg sparrows) are down and need all the help they can get.

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Importance of Log Piles

Everything but the bird feeder seems to have quietened down with the cold weather. However, a gentle poke around our very modest garden log pile turned up this frog, hunkering down for winter (you can be sure I covered him up again). The logs were packed with invertebrates, too. Lots of amphibians shelter underneath planters and in stone walls/brick piles. It's best not to be too tidy if you like your wildlife.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Deadly Enemy

Took a walk round Whitchurch Country Park, checking the bridge for signs of otter, water vole or mink. There was nothing at all, only very possibly a tiny bit of w-v feeding, but it could have been field vole. Just outside the park, however, there was mink scat on the kerb stone of the canal by the lift-up bridge. This isn't great news.
It's my sincere hope that the Wildlife Trust will put some system in place whereby mink are prevented from coming onto the reserve off the canal. Otherwise the water voles in this area - if they come back after this year's massacre - seemed doomed again.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

End of the Season Vole

Bye till the Spring!

Burrow leading directly into the water.

Small feeding station.


Classic starry footprint.

Multiple prints - look a lot like rats', but the droppings give it away that these are water vole.

It's becoming too cold to sit and wait for voles to come out, so this will probably be the last w-v photo of the season. I thought I'd round off with some pictures of the main field signs, courtesy of the colony off Edgeley Road.
2010 hasn't been a bad year generally for water voles in Whitchurch, though the Country Park's suffered a population crash due to predation by mink. I don't know how long this stretch will take to recover; a lot depends on how healthy the colonies are on either side. I'll be watching carefully next spring and summer to see what happens.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

White Lion Meadow Update

Feeding at Edward German Drive - slanted chewed-off stalks.

Feeding at White Lion Meadow.

White Lion Meadow in October 2010
When I began this blog, it was mainly to chart the fortunes of the water voles who lived by the main town car park, an area known as White Lion Meadow. Back in December 2007, the brook looked like this: However, it's become increasingly overgrown which means it's been a lot harder to spot whether the voles are there or not. For this reason I early on broadened the scope of the blog to look at other colonies around north Shropshire, concentrating on Whitchurch and Whixall. This year I've focused mainly on the fields adjacent to Edgeley Road, a colony which is particularly strong, and one that's critical to the overall health of the Whitchurch water vole meta-population.
However, a quick check tonight reveals at least some feeding going on at WLM, and I think it is water vole rather than field vole. There's feeding too along Edward German Drive, and burrows and slipways, so the signs are that colony has done OK this year.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Debbie's Voles- Update


Just this V shaped nibble is a water-vole giveaway.

Below, two feeding stations.

I've posted before about my friend Debbie's water voles, the ones that live by the railway bridge near Homebase: . Now, because it's coming to the end of the year, I've been doing a tour round of known colonies and it's cheering to see the ones here obviously still doing well. A few hundred yards further up is the Black Park Road colony, also fine.
The guinea pig is Debbie's too, and I post it because I was struck by how similar the general blunt shape of the face is to a water vole's. This is a useful comparison when trying to explain to people how water voles are very much not rats. (Guinea pig droppings are also very simlar to water voles' - can be a handy reference point if you're training up surveyors!)

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Hugh the Hedgehog Man

Me with a bit of field vole feeding


Fun day out meeting Hugh Warwick, hedgehog-enthusiast and journalist and author of the charming book A Prickly Affair: My Life with Hedgehogs. It had been raining all morning and, though I'd told him with supreme confidence we'd be tripping over field signs, when we got to the field we found that all the latrines and most of the feeding stations had been washed away. The place I normally sat to watch for voles was under water.
So we set up camp on a different, drier stretch, and had barely unfolded the camp stool when a water vole appeared and fed very near us, followed by another ambling further up the bank. I think the rising water levels had actually worked in our favour because the burrows were probably unusable in the short term, forcing the voles up onto the surface.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Advantages and Disadvantages of Flash

September sky


Water vole footprints
I know what I am in terms of photography: enthusiastic and persistent. I just point and shoot and leave the automatic settings to do the rest. When light levels are low, do I use flash or not? The clarity's so much better with than without, but you do get that 'evil eye' effect. Surprisingly, the voles don't seem to mind the flash going off in their faces.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Look Right, Look Left

Fewer sightings at this time of year, but the voles are still active.

Friday, 3 September 2010


This water vole knows I'm watching, I think - she keeps raising her head and sniffing the air. (I'm assuming it's a female because this is probably her latrine she's standing on.)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Saddlers Walk: Masses of Water Voles

Two (fighting) voles in the field off Edgeley Road
Below, water vole signs at the back of Queensway

The field at the end of Hatton Way, behind Queensway/Saddlers Walk. Ditch is at the treeline.
Or I should say, masses of poo. I don't think I've ever seen so many latrines in such a short distance, so the ditch must be home to a lot of water voles (latrines mark territories of breeding females). Stacks of feeding, too. You'd be lucky to get an actual sighting here, though, as the vegetation's mad and the water scant, hardly enough to swim in even for a small vole. But it clearly suits the voles' requirements.
I make no apologies for posting all the photos I took because this field's being considered by Shropshire Council for development, and this is clearly another very important Whitchurch colony.