Sunday, 26 May 2013

Things you might see on a picnic

 The second of two Edgeley Road voles from this afternoon.

 Above, three Edgeley Road latrines and below, a feeding station.

 Azure damselfly

Large red damselfly

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Four Sites

 Vole, latrine, burrow and feeding at the railway bridge by Homebase

 Latrine (and trolleys) at White Lion Meadow

 Great habitat at Steel Grange - we found droppings, feeding and burrows.

Edgeley Road vole

This morning I visited the colony near Homebase, and immediately spotted the vole in the top photo. There were plenty of burrows, and though I didn't get down into the water channel and have a good poke about, the feeding signs and droppings were obvious even from the top of the bank.

Next I took a walk into town and glanced over the bridge in the main town car park (White Lion Meadow) to see this latrine laid out on a stone. So it looks as if there's at least one breeding female on that site.

Then this afternoon I went with a group to Steel Heath to examine good and bad water vole habitat. The bad habitat was a ditch too overshadowed with trees to have any useful vegetation growing underneath, and even in the patches where the trees thinned out, the bank had been poached by horses in the field. 

Just a few hundred yards away, however, was a friend's garden where an open stretch of brook ran through and there was lots of cover and food for voles. After a little searching we found droppings, feeding, burrows and trackways. The landowner here, as on the first site I visited, is nature-savvy and doesn't use chemical sprays or over-strim the riparian vegetation. It's always heartening to meet wildlife-guardians like these.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Out at Coton

 Water vole from Edgeley Road

 Reed NOT eaten by voles - end cut straight.

 Reed eaten by water voles - 45 degree cut at the end

 Advanced poo-spotting

 Ideal habitat

 Albert looks down a burrow and comes nose to nose with a vole

Very freshly dead water vole. We don't know what killed it.

A positive day's surveying out in the Coton/Whixall area. We had three live sightings, and found evidence of water voles across the three lots of land we examined, some areas being richer than others. Three ponds we looked at had voles living in them, even though some of the banks were quite shaded. 

The ditches proved more variable: where there was plenty of vegetation and no weeds had been sprayed, the voles were active and happy. But where the ditches had been dredged and the cover removed, and there was evidence of herbicide use, the results were poor. Careful management of the land is crucial if we're going to help this animal survive, I think.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Winning your poo-spotter's badge.

Spotting water vole droppings is a really important skill for surveyors, since it's probably the most unambiguous sign of the animal's presence. Latrines, eg photo 2, are often fairly easy as clumps of pellets tend to stand out (unless they've been well-trampled, in which case look for a small patch of soil that's differently-browner than its surroundings). But individual droppings are tricky to see against a bare bank. Can you see the poo in photos 3 and 4? Once you've spotted a place where water voles like to come and mark, then that's a good place to wait with your camera.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Suddenly, latrines!

The three photos above show fresh water vole latrines

Rather upsetting to find a dead vole on the bank, but whatever's killed it has pretty much eaten it all up. 


Tree creeper

Courting hedgehogs.

The latrines have been late coming, but suddenly they're to be found all over the place which means breeding's under way as females mark off their territories. I've witnessed a bit of fighting too.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

White Lion Meadow 2013

I knew the water voles had retuned to White Lion Meadow, the main town car park in Whitchurch next to Tesco, because I'd seen a latrine by the bridge (second photo down). But it's always nice to get an actual sighting of an animal, as I did just now. The first sighting for WLM this year, in fact.

Took the opportunity to have a stroll along the brook at Edward German Drive too, but couldn't see much activity yet bar a few droppings on a stone (fourth picture) near the road end.