Thursday, 27 May 2010

Rivers Roden, Weaver, and that little ditch by Grocontinental

The River Roden at Tilley

Female Beautiful Demoiselle, on the banks of the Roden (thanks to Wild About Britain for the ID confirmation).

The River Weaver by Nantwich baths.

Otter spraint under a bridge in the middle of Nantwich.

Took a walk along two rivers recently: the Roden at Tilley, and the Weaver as it passes through Nantwich. The former showed lots of evidence of field voles and some marvellous damselflies, and the latter had otter spraint and prints under both the bridges I checked. Water voles have been seen on the Weaver here, too. But the vole photos above are from the much less impressive ditch near Grocontinental.
Latrines and burrows in Whitchurch Country Park, but still seeing rats at White Lion Meadow, despite the pest controller's best efforts. They must be super-rats or something!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Voles Getting Busy

Voles from the ditch near Grocontinental.

Feeding and latrine in the field off Edgeley Road

Rat poo (left) and water vole poo (right)

Feeding station at Black Park Road.

Water vole dropping at the end of Waylands Road, next to the railway line.

Tiny bit of fresh feeding at White Lion Meadow - but still getting rat sightings.

This folded leaf contains a newt egg.

Common newt in our pond - we're still looking out for our Great Crested!
Lots of activity at Black Park Road (feeding), in the field off Edgeley Road (absolutely LOADS of latrines suddenly) and in the ditch near Grocontinental (three sightings in the last two days). I've also found water vole droppings and feeding at the end of Waylands Road, under the railway bridge by Homebase, despite the rats. Even at White Lion Meadow there's a little bit of feeding going on.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Vole peeps out...

...of this burrow

Grazing in the ditch near Grocontinental.

Almost trod on a water vole tonight: I was just bending down to photograph a burrow from the Edgeley Road end of the ditch near Grocontinental when the occupant poked its head out. The photo's poor but I post it because it was such a magical moment.
Further up the ditch I had another sighting, but also this skull left on top of a fence post which I think is water vole, even though the teeth aren't as orange as usual. My guess is the vole was taken by a bird of prey.
I watched the new vole burrow and throw out spoil, which was a surprise as I understood spoil heaps were more associated with rat digging. A short walk to end the evening showed latrines and burrows at the railway bridge by Homebase.
Best news of the day: we have great crested newts in our pond!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Friday, 14 May 2010

Doing Well Everywhere Except White Lion Meadow

Two adult voles, but no fighting.

Grocontinental vole feeding on starwort

Out-of-focus Grocontinental vole

The ditch behind Saddlers Walk/Queensway

Feeding station behind Saddlers Walk/Queensway

Large adult rat at White Lion Meadow

When I set up this blog, the idea was to concentrate on one water vole colony based by the main town car park in Whitchurch. This colony remains my favourite as the voles there are so friendly and don't mind having their photos taken, and it's an accessible and public place. But every year the voles struggle with rats, and this year the latter are taking some shifting. I don't know whether the water voles are still around this area or if they've moved up stream or are staying mainly underground. There was a definite water vole latrine by the bridge a week or so back, and there's a bit of feeding since but that could be field voles. So the jury's out till we get more sightings again. I'll ask the pest controller what he thinks is the best way to proceed.
Meanwhile other colonies seem to be doing well. I checked the field behind Saddler's Walk/by the cricket club/Hatton Way/Queensway, and it's bursting with feeding stations; I've never seen so many in such a short stretch. And yet the stream is barely a puddle - nothing a vole could really swim in. What there is, though, is plenty of cover. Can you guess what Shropshire Council are contemplating doing with this area? That's right: building houses all over it.
Saw two voles tonight in the ditch by Grocontinental. They didn't fight even though one passed by the other very close, so I don't know whether that means they're related.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Field next to Grocontinental

The ditch that's full of burrows and latrines

Droppings outside burrows

Water vole swims

Vole peeps out (click to enlarge)

A young vole, I think.
Not brilliant water vole photos but I post them anyway as Shropshire Council need to see the evidence. They need to know that if they do allow this land to be built on, they'll have to pay for a full ecological survey, then (assuming they somehow manage to get permission in the face of the law to allow planning consent) pay for every water vole to be trapped and looked after while the building is in progress, and then make sure the habitat is reinstated for the voles to return.
The ditch above may look ordinary but it's an important water vole colony.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Where do Water Voles Burrow when there are No Banks?

Drinker moth caterpillar

Not much bank to play with!

Trackway and droppings in the field off Edgeley Road. This 'vole motorway' extends right under the wire fence pictured above.

Latrine in the field off Edgeley Road.

Latrine in the field off Edgeley Road.

The ditch near Grocontinental - getting very busy with vole activity.

Latrine near Grocontinental. This stretch is stuffed with burrows!

Another latrine near Grocontinental.

Feeding station at White Lion Meadow. No recent sightings except for rats, but they're being dealt with and shouldn't be around much longer.

Tadpole on the cusp
In the field near my house the brook is extremely shallow with not much bank to speak of, and yet it's full of water voles. So where do they make their burrows? Well, some of them are dug into the modest ledge of soil that is available - and there are more holes in the ground this year than I've ever seen before - but others are hollowed out of the surface grass and reeds. You only have to part the vegetation lightly and you'll see covered trackways full of water vole signs running right away from the water, in some cases fifteen feet or so into the field. In the third photograph down, the trackway extends from the stream on the far left of the picture right under the wire fence on the far right. I suppose the voles need to come this far back because during heavy or extended rain, the brook floods easily. In fact the centre of this field's swampy in all weathers.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Voles Still Around at White Lion Meadow

I hadn't had a sighting at WLM since I saw the rat, and wondered whether the voles had been forced upstream or if they were just staying below in their burrows out of the way. I did immediately call in Shropshire Council's brilliant pest controller, a man who knows his rats from his voles and can remove the former without harming the latter, so I knew if the voles hung on they'd be OK. Then I went this evening and saw two very fresh latrines, so hooray. There's also a bit of feeding in the third photo down.
Couldn't resist also including these two snaps of my friends' garden hedgehog. They're a bit more picturesque than the eternal pics of poo.