Sunday, 13 November 2011

Small mammals on Whitchurch nature reserve.

Field vole.

Bank vole - slightly browner coat, slightly longer tail.

Wood mouse.

A closed trap usually means there's something inside.

Carefully separating the two chambers. The animal can be in either the front or the back one.

Bait and bedding used.

Release! (Always into the same area where the mammal was found.)

Small-mammal survey at Whitchurch County Park (Greenfields Nature Reserve). The Longworth humane traps yielded seven out of ten positive results: three bank voles, three wood mice and a field vole, though at Whitwater fishery there were also shrews and a toad!

The traps were baited with moist apple, carrot and raisins and peanuts, and also casters which you need in case a shrew enters the trap. Soft grass and mossy bedding is added to keep the animal warm. The traps are put out the first night and left open, then set the second night and checked early the following morning. Longworth traps separate into two chambers: separation is done carefully over a bucket so the mammal can be contained whilst its species is checked.

Lots of small-mammal captures mean a healthy ecology so it was great to see so many on the reserve. I was especially interested to compare the field vole and bank vole as they're very similar in size and shape.

Handy tick list added later after discussion with friends on the Wild About Britain website:

Field vole (top)

short tail (1/3 body length),
grey/light brown coat,
ears tucked in behind long shaggy hair,
long shaggy hair on back

Bank Vole (bottom)

Long tail (1/2 body length),
redish brown/grey coat,
ears stick out
Tidy fur
Partially larger eyes

Both are evolved to fit their separate niche in the environment.

(Many thanks to Dogghound for this.)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Country Park

zicrona caerulea

Candlesnuff fungus

Shaggy parasol

Field vole feeding and droppings.

Spraint is in the middle of the photo. As is often the case, it's glittery with fish scales.

No obvious evidence of water voles, but otherwise the nature reserve is thrumming with life. A walk to check on the Dexter cattle this afternoon yielded sightings of a goldcrest, a red admiral, a grey squirrel, a field vole and four types of fungus. There was otter spraint under the bridge, and the pond dug out a few years ago by Whitchurch Water Vole Group is full of field vole feeding stations.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Funky Fungus

Crested Coral

Armillaria (mellea)

Two clumps of Amethyst Deceiver.

Beautiful autumn colours and shapes in a beech wood near Heptonstall, Yorkshire.

Friday, 23 September 2011

End of the Season

Adult vole, off Edgeley Road

Juvenile vole (note large feet)

Latrine at Black Park Road

I checked Black Park Road and the stretch near the railway bridge and found a few signs which makes me think the colonies here have also had a stable year. The back of Waylands Road is so overgrown I can't get down to investigate, but if there are voles at the Homebase end, and voles at the Edward German Drive end, there ought to be voles in between.

In summary, then, all the areas I monitor seem to have done well in 2011 except for Brick Kiln Farm and Mossfields (the back of Saddler's Walk): both sites suffered through lack of rain, I suspect. There's been some sort of incident or crash on the Prees Branch Canal nature reserve too: my bet there is mink, and who knows whether that site will recover. On the plus side, the Country Park's made a strong recovery and I've seen more water voles there than ever before. Even though we've had very few sightings for White Lion Meadow, I believe there's still solid vole presence there but the lushness of the vegetation nowadays hides the banks and the stream. There could be herds of voles under there!

These chaps pictured above will probably be my last sighting of the year as it's getting too cold to sit still by the stream for long, and anyway the voles tend to move underground as winter approaches. So as usual, this blog will go into semi-hibernation till the spring, when I'll start again with a round-up of news on all the local colonies.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Grocontinental, and Edward German Drive

Female water vole in the field off Edgeley Road (adjacent to the Grocontinental colony).

The Grocontinental ditch runs by the tree line.

Yes, there's a stream under here! Fantastic cover keeps the voles safe and gives them plenty to eat.

Part the vegetation to find grazing. Remember to cover up again afterwards.

Feeding station.

More grazing (click to enlarge). Can also be field vole, though, so check for latrines.

Old latrine with dried-out droppings. It's always worth checking old bits of wood.

The lorry park is very close to the banks.

Fresh water vole droppings, at the Edgeley Road end of the water course.

Lorry park on left, cement factory on right, stream in the middle.

Finally managed to battle my way down the public footpath at the back of Waymills Industrial Estate to check on the Grocontinental voles. I was able to find latrines and feeding right along the whole stretch up to the cement factory, which is a relief after the diesel discharge from the lorry park earlier in the year. Interestingly, though, the one section where I couldn't see any evidence of water vole presence was where the diesel was at its worst, pooling and contaminating the banks. Such pollution seems to have a definite detrimental effect lasting for months. Another concern I'd have is the amount of rubbish finding its way into the stream from Grocontinental's lorry park. Some may have got blown in, but some of it's clearly been chucked over the fence. It would be nice if the firm did a litter pick from time to time.

Later in the day I checked on Edward German Drive and there were plenty of feeding signs there, too. So I'm happy that these two colonies have had a stable year.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Saving Species on Radio 4 is here!

The programme aired this morning, and the link is: The piece about Whitchurch Water Vole Group comes about 16 minutes in.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Getting Colder

GCN at Brown Moss

Brown Moss Toad

Not sure how many more nights of voling there are left in the year. It's getting pretty cold to sit still on the bank with my camera for any length of time.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Winding up the year

Wee field mouse who jumped in our bird food bin.

It's the time of year when I check up on all the local colonies and see how they're doing. So far I've had a look at the field behind Saddler's Walk, or Mossfields as it's known, and also at Mike and Carolyn's voles out at Steel Heath. In both cases there was some feeding but no obvious latrines: I suspect both ditches have suffered through lack of rain this summer. However, there clearly was some water vole presence, so that's encouraging.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


This sparrowhawk landed in our garden yesterday tea time and was so busy devouring a starling I was able to get within arm's length of her.

Friday, 2 September 2011


Juvenile water voles like this one above must weigh between 140-170g to survive the winter.