Sunday, 27 March 2011

Friday, 25 March 2011

Back in Business

Not a great photograph, but clear enough!

One or two droppings is all it takes to prove water vole presence at the back of Waylands Road (below)

Latrine on the brick under the railway bridge near Homebase. This shows that Debbie's voles are back.
Rat at White Lion Meadow, unfortunately - has been reported to the council. No sightings of water voles here as yet but they're definitely about on this site because every day there are fresh starry prints in the mud.
Just to add: was lucky enough a few days ago to see a water shrew in the field off Edgeley Road. Now they can move fast.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Wrong Voles

Early small tortoiseshell.

Burrow behind Edward German Drive. Below, four burrows in the field off Edgeley Road. They're so neat they look as if they've been cut out with a length of pipe. For scale, think Pringles tube.

Prints at White Lion Meadow. I've left them small to show scale, but you can click to enlarge.

Three droppings and some pawprints at the road end of Edward German drive.

It's not completely clear but I'm fairly sure this is a degraded latrine, by the railway bridge near Homebase.

Yet more signs: lots of footprints at White Lion Meadow, stacks of burrows in the field off Edgeley Road, burrows and droppings at Edward German Drive, and a latrine at the railway bridge by Homebase. I set up my camping stool yesterday afternoon to see if I could record my first vole sighting of the year and I sort of did - a wee field vole popped up beside me, trotted about, then vanished down the bank into the water. You can tell the species apart not just by size (baby w-vs are a similar size to f-vs) but because f-vs move in such a nervous, jerky way. W-vs, as long as they don't know you're watching, tend to amble and bumble about - though they can move like lightning when they need to!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Country Park 2011

Dead and desiccated juvenile common newt, from our garden pond.

Male chaffinch
Otter spraint under the concrete bridge.

Tons of spawn!
I'll be keeping a very close eye on Greenfields Nature Reserve (the country park) this year because last summer the water voles here disappeared due to mink predation. I have no idea whether either mink or voles will return. There are no signs of either yet, though there's plenty of otter spraint under the bridge.
There are also dozens of active frogs in the pond created a couple of years ago by the Whitchurch Water Vole Group and, along with the frogs, bucketfuls of spawn.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

An Old Friend, and an Opportunity

The blackbird that lives by White Lion Meadow (Tesco)
Fresh water vole droppings in the ditch by Grocontinental.

Field vole droppings for comparison. Teeny weeny, smaller than uncooked grains of rice.
Water vole foot prints in the ditch by Grocontinental.
A feeding station further up - could be field- or water-vole.
Rubbish finding its way from the yard of one of the industrial units

What's this pipe been discharging into the water?

Unsuitable habitat - too many trees shading the soil.
Checked on the ditch near Grocontinental and found more prints at one end and fresh droppings at the other, so it looks as though these water voles are establishing themselves well again this year. Then I followed the ditch further, crossing Grocontinental's yard, to investigate an area I'd not seen before. The first stretch looks like potentially good habitat as a lot of predators will be discouraged by the noise from the industrial units on either side, and at the moment the water level here stays pretty regular (though it may not do if a lot of new units get built - Shropshire Planning Dept need to be aware of this re application ref 11/00806/FUL ).
However, further up the water is contaminated with rubbish from one of the units, and then towards the culverted end there are too many trees to allow much vegetation to grow on the banks. The habitat could be improved by felling some of the trees to let more light in, and asking the owners of the industrial units to take more care in how they dispose of their rubbish.
An opportunity to extend and strengthen a water vole colony here!

Monday, 7 March 2011

When Voles Grow Wings

Moves like a vole, is brown as a vole, but isn't a vole.

The ditch near Grocontinental, featuring...

...a latrine by the bridge
I'm sure these are water vole prints and not rat - White Lion Meadow
It's still too cold to go out watching for water voles, but the evening was so nice I couldn't stay indoors so went in search of field signs. There are water vole footprints at White Lion Meadow (near Tesco), another latrine in the ditch by Grocontinental, and new burrows at Edward German Drive and the field off Edgeley Road.
Thought I'd had my first sighting of the year! - but it turned out to be this wren. I can't tell you how many times I've confused wrens and voles, given they're often found in the same location and creep about in the same way. I've even seen wrens come out of vole holes. Most annoying.