Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Wybunbury Moss, and Hugh Warwick's 'The Beauty in the Beast'

 Edgeley Road vole

  Very established latrine, probably belonging to the vole above

The floating bog moss at Wybunbury where CWT held a survey today. There are sundew on this bit, apparently, but it wasn't safe to go near as the ground is so unstable. Stick to the paths, says the ranger.

We found no evidence of water vole, but plenty of field vole feeding stations like this one.

Tip from Cheshire Wildlife Trust: if you find an interesting field sign, mark it by tying a piece of grass round the fence.

My first ever UK snake. Helen Trotman lifted a refugium and there were two grass snakes underneath. 

And lastly, my voles in a book! Whitchurch's very own water voles get their own chapter in this gorgeous series of interviews with people who are passionate about one particular species. So engagingly written and uplifting, a real corker of a read and the perfect gift for any nature-lover. You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Beauty-Beast-Favourite-Creatures/dp/0857203959/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338318059&sr=8-1 and listen to me rave about voles on Hugh's podcast here: http://www.urchin.info/podcasts/

Monday, 28 May 2012

Otter steps

The lower photo shows - I think - otter prints coming out of the stream at Greenfields Nature reserve.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Acton again

Edgeley Road vole

On the canal at Acton. Below, a vole hole chewed in the mesh that's been installed against the bank.

Checked out the colony on the canal near Acton again this morning with some wildlife photographer friends. Quite a few sightings but not many photos as, for my camera, the voles were too far away. This evening, however, I went down to the field and the place was full of voles, including this small one investigating my litter picker.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

White Lion Meadow: when voles hide

(Edgeley Road vole - a juvenile)

I've looked a few times at White Lion Meadow, the colourfully named town car park near Tesco, but haven't seen anything other than this rat climbing a bramble. But I know the voles are there because they're leaving their carefully-cut lengths of reed neatly piled on the banks.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Another Carnivore Survey

Two voles just outside Greenfields nature reserve

Feeding with water vole droppings on top - quite unusual.

Burrow in the bank with another underwater entrance directly below.

Above, the bridge on Greenfields/Whitchurch Country Park where we found nine otter spraints, plus fox scat on the top.

Otter spraint

Speckled wood butterfly I rescued from the canal water

So lots of otter activity on this Greenfields survey, but we don't know how many individual animals produced that amount of spraint. Their main source of food so far (according to lab results) is stickleback, plus some ell.

Foxes will take water vole, but the scat we found didn't contain any obvious w-v remains.

Lots and lots of water vole burrows, latrines, feeding and a possible sighting on the day itself. This is a strong colony at the moment, though it's vulnerable to mink coming off the canal so we have to keep a close eye on it.

Friday, 11 May 2012

In the brief break between downpours...

A nice example of a water vole "lawn", where grass has been grazed around a burrow.

Footage of courting hedgehogs in my garden last night.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Meanwhile, across the County Border

After a bit of willow.

Swimming off with a willow leaf

Adult seeing off a juvenile

Above-ground water vole nest (we think)

Latrine underneath a bridge

Ducklings are a good sign that mink aren't about

Brilliant morning surveying the canal near Acton Marina, Nantwich, with the team from Cheshire Wildlife Trust. This survey was unusual in that we couldn't access the bank we were investigating at all, so it had to be done remotely, through binoculars. However we did make out burrows, floating bits of feeding, a lawn and at least six actual voles so there was no doubt about positive presence! We're also pretty sure we could see a water vole nest, which is something special (normally nests, woven from lengths of folded grass, are underground in chambers leading off burrows). Lastly, under one of the bridges we saw otter spraint. I've found spraint on the Weaver, which isn't too far away, so I wasn't surprised.

There are a few issues with habitat here: a lot of the canal sides are stone or concrete or metal piling, unusable for a burrowing animal. However, there are enough stretches where the bank is held secure with a kind of mesh, and that seems to suit the voles just fine. They go under it and over it and push it down and gnaw holes in the material. They also use the cracks in between the bigger stones. And fortunately the fields behind are fenced off with a good margin of untouched cover, so their bank is virtually undisturbed. Though there is a lot of boat-traffic, that doesn't bother the voles at all and we were able to watch them without any difficulty.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Prees Branch and Grocontinental

Baby frog, well camouflaged, near Boodles Bridge on the Prees Branch Canal.

Below, various latrines on the ditch by Grocontinental. 

Edgeley Road vole

Had a report of a sighting on the Prees Branch Canal nature reserve, so I went to check. Pretty much all vole signs disappeared from this stretch last year and we're not sure why. (I suspect mink, myself.) So today I had a good look round the banks near the bridge, but wasn't able to find anything other than a possible burrow and a tiny bit of feeding.

However, I've been in this situation before: drawn a blank on field signs, and then spotted an actual vole just as I was about to give up. The lady who sent the report in knows what she's talking about so I have no doubt there's some vole activity there. Just not the numbers we had previously. I hope the colony can build back up again this summer.

Meanwhile, in the ditch by Grocontinental, there are latrines, prints, feeding and burrows all the way along. We'll have to see how the year progresses.