Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Photos above showing the lovely rounded shape of a vole.

Feeding station and droppings at Mossfields.

Vole which had been damaged, probably by fighting. It looked healthy otherwise and was eating well and swimming about, but I haven't seen it for a fortnight. It's either died or found another territory.

Had a look at a few sites now we're coming towards the end of the season. Obviously the field off Edgeley Road's been the hottest spot for water voles in Whitchurch, but it looks as if White Lion Meadow's also done OK as the stone under the bridge has had a latrine on it all summer. I looked further up Edward German Drive but couldn't see anything; then again, the vegetation's too thick to get right down the bank so I may have missed some signs.

Mossfields (the back of Saddler's Walk), amazingly, hasn't dried out despite the hot weather, and the voles there seem to be doing well if the amount of feeding is anything to go by.

Greenfields Nature reserve is a mystery. Again, the vegetation there is so thick I can't get down to the water to see what's going on. Crossing my fingers that colony's held up this year, and that the few voles left at the Prees Branch Canal manage to re-establish themselves next summer.

The Grocontinental voles look to have recovered well; I had a sighting there yesterday.

I need still to check on Black Park Road and the Railway Bridge by Homebase, and will do within the next week or so.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


 Above: large adult with a scarred nose, probably from fighting. Below, a juvenile water vole. 

The time of year has come when water vole populations will be dispersing. For the dedicated vole-watcher, the sudden drop in sightings can make it look as if some tragedy has befallen the colony, but in reality numbers have probably thinned out in the main due to juveniles going off to seek new territories.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Postcard from Ravenscar

 Grey seals

 Common Blues and a Peacock at the Wold Lavender Farm

 Roe deer

 Broad-bodied chaser


 Fox moth caterpillar

 Swallow has words with a house martin


Slow worms

I can really recommend a holiday in Ravenscar, near Whitby, if you like UK wildlife. The adder and slow worms were personal firsts, and I saw lots of butterflies and dragonflies too. It was especially pleasing to get such good views of seals and a yellowhammer.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Some Amazing Wildlife at Mile Bank Road

 Masses of Great Crested Newts at Mile Bank Road

 Looks like just a big old pile of rubbish, but it'll be full of amphibians like this toad.

 Great Crested Newts under these polystyrene tiles.

 Brown Hawker. The site is full of dragonflies feeding on the butterflies.

There's a proposal for a housing development on a brownfield site on Mile Bank Road, Whitchurch. The developers seem keen to get public feedback - a good sign - so I thought I'd go up to the site myself and see what was going on, wildlife-wise.

Although the place looks fairly grotty, with derelict buildings and stretches of open concrete flooring, it's actually teeming with animals. Straight away I found a huddle of ten Great Crested Newts, and a common toad under some iron sheeting. Insect-wise the place is full of butterflies due to the forty or so buddeleia bushes, and feeding on the butterflies was the most amazing range of dragonflies. There are three ponds/boggy areas that are great for all sorts of creatures. At the bottom of the site I found what could have been water vole feeding too - we do have historical records for this area.

So while it's great that developers are looking to use brownfield sites instead of greenfield, there may still be sensitive ecological conditions to be observed. The presence of legally protected species doesn't on its own mean a development will be blocked, but it does mean there will be strict rules that the builders have to adhere to. I'd be interested to see what the developer's ecological report shows up.

For myself I'd be keen specifically to know how the wet area for the newts is going to be incorporated into the new proposals, and how water drainage from the houses is going to be managed. I'd also hope to see the same number of buddeleia bushes restored in the final planting scheme, perhaps with the original bushes being offered to local gardeners if the alternative was to chuck them away. The pile of old rubbish also needs to be dismantled with extreme care as a digger going in and shifting the lot in one go will almost certainly kill the animals living underneath.

I've entered the newt record on a national database and written to both the developer's consultants and the council to let them know about the site's wildlife-value.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

When Voles Grow Bold

 baby water vole

About this time of year, when numbers peak, you do sometimes get one individual who's a little bolder than the rest and will approach very close. This vole came up to me yesterday and bit my boot; today it tried to take my apple, but I hung on and ended up hand-feeding it. At no other time in the year could I hope to do this, nor am I on such familiar terms with any other colony. But the habitat on this particular site is so rich and the vole population correspondingly so dense that I think it must affect group character.

This field is also full of butterflies, more than any other site I've ever come across.