Monday, 25 June 2012

Why I Love Water Voles

Two babies and an adult from between 5 and 10 voles tonight. Lots of fighting, squabbling between juveniles and older ones telling the little ones off.

I try not to coo on this blog, to keep it cool and scientific, but I think the top photos especially show the true appeal of the water vole.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Latrine Special!

Below: two posts showing smaller, lighter field vole droppings nest to bigger, darker water vole pellets.

Occasionally you'll find droppings on sturdy leaves.

Discarded fence posts are a favourite place for water voles to set up latrines.

It's rare for water voles to poo on their feeding sations, but they do sometimes. Field voles do this regularly.

If a latrine's old or it's been trampled down, it can be very hard to spot.

Water vole swims towards trail cam.

Aside from actually seeing a water vole, droppings are the least ambiguous field sign so they're great to see when you're doing riparian survey work. Latrines mark territory, and the larger ones are made by females. Males do make smaller latrines, further apart because theit territories stretch further.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

If you live within striking distance of Ellesmere

One of John Harding's Cromford voles.

Come and hear Hugh Warwick and me talk about wildlife and books at the Boathouse, Wednesday evening.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Fantastic day's wildlife spotting

Water voles from Edgeley Road

Below, photos from a morning at Wybunbury Moss reserve


Eyed hawk moth? emerging from its pupa.

Two common lizards. We saw five altogether. 

Beautiful grass snake.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Update on Saddler's Walk and Black Park Road

Juvenile vole, Edgeley Road.

 Two adult voles, also Edgeley Road. This colony is very busy.

Otter spraint and water vole droppings, Black Park Road.

Feeding station, Black Park Road.

The Staggsbrook as it passes near the railway bridge, Black Park Road. Very little water visible due to the lushness of the reeds.

The ditch behind Saddlers Walk/Hatton Way, or Mossfields as it's known. Last year there was very little water and the vole signs disappeared.

Now there are dozens of feeding stations here along the whole L-shaped length of the ditch, suggesting a decent colony.

It's very heartening to see how these two colonies are doing this year. I'd say there are more field signs than I've ever seen in these particular areas, and the otter presence is a bonus. Hatton Way/Saddler's Walk is interesting because of last year's apparent desertion, plus what looks like dredging having gone on over the winter.. Dredging can be disastrous for water voles if it's done wrongly - it needs to be done slowly and just one bank at a time. However, the other bank is inaccessible because of a fence so that's probably what's saved the voles here. My question ins: where do these voles come from? The nearest colony I know is across the Newport Road - only half a mile but over very challenging terrain.

Monday, 4 June 2012

More on Habitat

Lots of Edgeley Road voles tonight. At least five, plus a water shrew

A water vole trackway, off Edgeley Road.

Water vole feeding station (also Edgeley Road)

I include this photo of a brook near Coton because at first glance it looks as if it would be ideal for water voles. The water's clear, not too fast-moving, the banks are soft and there's plenty of vegetation for hiding and food. But a closer look at the bottom will tell you it's no go - bare stony shingle covers the stream bed, and w-vs require silt or mud they can kick up to hide from predators when startled. Clear water makes them just too vulnerable.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Bank vole masquerading

Here's this fine fat female water vole in the top photo, then in the picture underneath a wee bank vole, both from the same ten yard stretch of stream - in fact the bank vole is right next to a water vole latrine. But it was impossible to confuse them. Even though their fur colour is similar (field voles are greyer), the bank vole's movements are super-quick and jerky, completely different to the waddling water vole. W-vs can move very fast when threatened, but if they feel secure then their gait is quite leisurely.