Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Frequency of Latrines

 Latrine and feeding at Mossfields (Saddler's Walk)

Three latrines in this tiny section alone.

Basically, the more latrines there are, the more breeding voles are about. I went down to the field off Edgeley Road to pick up some droppings to send off to the Waterford Institute for DNA testing, and it was hard to find more than four feet of bank without a latrine on it. In some cases, the latrines are only centimetres apart. The habitat there is so perfectly suited for water voles that this stretch of the brook is teeming, and perhaps too this is a boom year.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Assorted Sizes

This time of year the voles are coming in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny dark brown fuzzy babies to the large, greyer, shaggy adults. In the fourth picture down is a fairly moth-eaten vole, possibly a worn-out mother. She spent some time very closely examining a latrine, to the point where I almost wondered if she was ingesting pellets as my guinea pigs do. But it was hard to tell exactly what was going on. The youngsters remain wary of the grown ups and nervous generally, though I did have two come up to my wellington boots and have a bit of a scrap.

Friday, 20 July 2012

When Voles Don't Get On

I can't see too far round the corner of the stream from where I sit, but there's the constant sound of voles fighting, hurling themselves into the water in a strop or for fast escape. Tonight an adult came and saw a juvenile off in no uncertain terms, but earlier two juveniles had been sitting companionably so I assume they're siblings. It would be fascinating to know how they're all related.

Also good to see the local population so strong after all this rain and flooding.

Monday, 16 July 2012

When Voles Get Along

Usually an adult water vole would see off a juvenile, especially one that was going near its food. So we have to assume this is a mum vole and one of her offspring, maybe eight weeks old?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Prees Heath

Great news: my friend Rosie says she saw a mother water vole carrying three babies, one after another, from one burrow to another. I''ve never spotted this myself, though I know mums do move young when water levels rise, to higher and safer burrows. In fact there's a charming 1950s Ladybird book about it called The Sleepy Water Vole. Meanwhile I'm still getting Edgeley Road voles coming right up and either attacking my bag or my litter picker. If I clear my throat, they soon scoot off.

In non-vole news, I took a walk on Prees Heath last night and saw lots of the rare Silver Studded Blues, plus some Heath Brown butterflies, and adult and larval Cinnebar moths. It's an amazing habitat, full or rabbits and (I gather) stoats.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

During this brief break in the rain

Lots and lots of activity in this colony right now. It's very heartening to see babies and adults alongside each other, often popping up right by your feet.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A Water Vole Story

Persistent adult, after my bag.

Baby water vole


I've said before how I like to pop a piece of apple down to get the voles to stop for a photo. This isn't "feeding" as it's only ever a tiny piece, and if it isn't taken then I bring it back home with me. (Water voles never go hungry as they eat over 200 different species of plant.)

This afternoon, however, the voles decided to help themselves from my bag of apple pieces. Firstly a baby vole came and had a good sniff and a gnaw on my litter picker, but was too nervous to open the bag itself. Then an adult scrambled up the bank at my feet and went straight for it. She took three pieces of apple, one after another, scurrying back and forth. At one point we actually engaged in a short tug of war.

In the end I lifted the bag onto my lap, out of the way, and when she returned for a fourth piece of apple she seemed put out. She hunted round my feet and under my stool, and then bit my boot. I reckoned she'd had a good haul, myself.

Such close encounters are thrilling, but I need to stress these voles aren't tame and no way would I want them to be. Taming wild animals increases their risk of mortality, and that's the last thing I'd wish. What's happening here is just that the bank is so close to the water level and I sit so still and the voles are so myopic, basically they probably think I'm a tree stump or something. You can bet if I moved or spoke, they'd soon shoot off in a panic.