Monday, 28 February 2011

Putting out the Welcome Mat

Construction going on in the same field as the water voles. Council planners have stipulated the work must not come any closer to the bank than ten metres.
Ditch with piece of wood thrown in.

But closer inspection of the plank reveals a latrine. It's always worth checking floating junk if you think water voles might be in the vicinity.
Water vole footprints further down the ditch, towards Grocontinental
It's helpful when the first latrines appear, because colonies don't always stay in the same place from year to year so it can take a few weeks for me to work out where best to set up my camera. And there's no surer sign of water vole activity than droppings - it's like the animal's putting out its front door mat.
The water voles in the field near Grocontinental seem to wake up earlier than the ones just across the railway line, so there are three latrines in this ditch already and I'm hoping to get my first vole sighting here next month. However, Grocontinental are busy with some building work not far away, so I hope the brook stays uncontaminated and undisturbed.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Des Ong's Lovely Voles

Active already, apparently! For more gorgeous water vole photos, go to

Anxious Year Ahead

One of the frogs in my pond gearing up to breed.

Water vole footprints on the Edgeley Road side of the field near Grocontinental

Latrine from the same ditch
This should be a happy time - first proper field signs appearing, and spring getting ready to unfurl. But this year will be the one where the council decides whether to re-designate two wildlife-important fields from their current 'green space' status to 'for development'. It shouldn't even be a consideration.
Because not only does this have catastrophic implications for the water voles, it's extremely serious for the people of the town, too.
Currently this very marshy land soaks up water like a giant sponge. It's a natural storage or holding tank for the surrounding area. However, if these fields were to be drained and concreted over, and additional water from new household or industrial use added to our natural, often torrential levels of rainfall, the likelihood of many Whitchurch homes flooding looks like a cert.
And anyway, what developer would want to go to all the expense and time of getting in ecological experts to assess the land, trap all the voles, keep the voles safe while the houses are built, have ecological experts guide the developer to reinstate the water course to a standard where it was suitable for the voles to return? Which of course would have to be done by law.
I absolutely can't imagine a less suitable place for building. So you have to hope commonsense prevails here!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Reading the banks

Field off Edgeley Road, location of burrow/slipway photos below.

Erosion reveals this old burrow in horizontal cross section.

Slipways or trackways running into the water from burrows.

Occupied burrow

Droppings at the railway bridge by Homebase, but are they rat or w-v? Both animals tend to make use of this handy brick!

Still a few weeks too early for real signs to emerge, I'd have thought, though a fortnight of days as warm as today would wake the water voles up I'm sure. But even in the absence of breeding latrines and ostentatious feeding stations it's not too hard to see where the w-vs have been active. There are occupied burrows, for instance, with nibbled grass round the outsides, and lots of slipways into the water. Have to say, though, these don't always come out so clearly in photographs; they're actually more obvious in the field.