Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Country Park in February

Exposed water vole burrows in the bank
Otter spraint

Water vole prints
The sides of the stream are looking very bare, but there's a lot of mammal activity in the park. Fresh mole hills, lots of rabbit droppings and fox scat, plus these water vole footprints and the usual otter spraint under the bridge. You could see burrows in the bank sides, too.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Management of watercourse banks: what do water voles need from councils?

Some notes by Malcolm Monie of the Whitchurch Water Vole Group:

Ground vegetation
When to cut?
• Ideally August or September. This allows some regrowth before winter
• Do not cut the same bit more than once in two years. Water voles like to use semi-permanent runs in the vegetation.
(Note: Environmental Stewardship Entry Level option EB6 allows cutting mid Sep - Feb)

Where and how to cut?
• Cut one bank only or if other bank unsuitable for water voles cut 20m, leave 20m uncut.
• Leave a 10-15 cm height of vegetation to provide some cover
• Leave 30-50 cm margin along water’s edge uncut to provide cover for water voles to move along the edge of the watercourse
• Operate machinery from top of bank to avoid trampling burrows which are nost vulnerable near the water’s edge.
Note: Close-mown vegetation should ideally be 3-5m and certainly no closer than 2-3m from the ditch or 1m from the top of the bank. Herbicides should not be used within this zone adjacent to a watercourse.

Overhanging branches and shrubs
Too much shade will prevent the growth of suitable ground plants to provide watervoles with the food and cover that they need. The animals will move through such areas but cannot feed or breed there. The removal of low overhanging branches and dense shrubs or scrub is beneficial.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Scant signs

Buzzard in the trees next to Grocontinental.

Water vole latrine

Checked out the fields near my house and, barring this single latrine, there are as yet very few signs of water voles. I don't doubt they're there, though.
Developers and councils please take note: if you commission, or accept the findings of, an environmental survey scheduled during the winter months, it's not worth the paper it's written on.