Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Why you'll never find water voles living in a stony-bottomed stream

I've been watching a water vole swimming below the surface for the last half hour, and noting how, when the vole feels threatened, it kicks up a cloud of mud to hide itself (see second picture down) before slipping into an underwater burrow. A mud or silt screen is a really important defence mechanism, so it's crucial for good habitat.

I include a photo of a new burrow that's appeared over the last week - note the neatness of the entrance and the grazing around it.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Voles, Hedgehogs and Toads

Toads at the Winding Hole, Whitchurch canal

A short voley reprise: fur is brown, nose is blunt, feet dark, ears small and tucked-in, tail brown and hairy, and (if you can get a glimpse of them) the front teeth are orange.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

More about the Plank

 The brook as it goes through Greenfields Reserve

 Latrines: on rubbish, on a 50 degree slope, and on a rock.

 Prints in the country park above, and below under the railway bridge near Homebase.

Edgeley Road vole

The platform worked a treat as the vole sat and ate the apple rather than running off. However, I would always take leftovers home with me as food planted in an exposed place might make the voles more visible to predators.

Friday, 23 March 2012


The water vole platform I made last week has quickly been adopted for latrine purposes, and here's a vole stepping onto the plank to get a piece of apple I left. Note the very thick, water-repellent fur.

Monday, 19 March 2012

First Water Vole of the Year

Always a joyous moment. It was dropping dark and the vole was hidden in long grass so the photos aren't up to much, but it was nice to put the camera down and just watch. Earlier in the day I'd found what I presume is this vole's latrine, plus a lot of footprints on the bank nearby. Nothing's yet using the plank, which is further upstream, so I'll keep a watch on this lower stretch for now.

Sunday, 18 March 2012


Went just now to check on the Edgeley Road voles and spotted this little chap. It's the first time I've ever seen a weasel in the wild. Weasels would take water voles, but they're part of the natural UK predator-prey balance (unlike non-native mink which can wipe out a w-v colony). So I felt thrilled and privileged to see him.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Not for the Squeamish - Life and Death at Greenfields

 Celandine is out

 We lost count of the water vole burrows at Greenfields reserve. Each hole is about the diameter of a Pringles tube.

 Typically starry water vole prints under the concrete bridge. We also found two otter spraints here.

 Water vole droppings up by the viewing point.

My brilliant litter picker - the best piece of voling equipment I possess.When vegetation's chopped into substantial lengths like this, there's no confusion with daintier field vole feeding. This is definitely water vole.

 One of about a dozen dismembered frogs we found along a 150m stretch inside the reserve. Otter?

 Couldn't resist this picture of my own garden frogs and spawn. 7 clumps so far.

 Water vole prints along Edward German Drive.

 'Vole-scaping' of the banks at Edward German Drive.

 Fairly sure this is a water vole print at White Lion Meadow, near Tesco. However there are a lot of rats here so it's sometimes hard to be sure.

Renewing my water vole platform as last year's rotted in the water and fell apart. It's a length of thin board with four pieces of dowel screwed into the corners so as to provide a bit of anchorage against the bank. On the top side is a short nail (covered here with a bit of plastic for safety) on which I can stick a piece of apple: this is an experiment. In previous years some unsporting voles have nabbed their apple slices and swum off immediately, so my hope is this year's voles might hang around while they have their photos taken.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Still Waiting

Water vole starry footprints

Neatly trimmed water vole burrow, about the diameter of a Pringles tube.

Common newt in my pond

We're still getting frosty mornings here so the frogs are holding off on spawning and I've still only seen one water vole latrine yet. Plenty of vole paw prints, though, and new burrows appearing every day. So I hope the first sighting isn't too far away now.