Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Wind In The Willows.....

So my day started well, with a warm walk through early sun across the fields and down into my favourite wood where the Charcoal Burners were at work yesterday. We had two issues to overcome 1) a huge branch had come down from one of the oaks which we had to skirt round and it was while we were skirting that Pop took exception to an ENORMOUS German Shepherd she found on the other side. Deciding to overlook the fact that she is tiny wee and the GS was about thirty times her size, she shot in and proceeded to tell the poor big dog exactly what she thought of it in no uncertain terms. That girl is fearless. Teddy couldn't decide whether he should back her up or run and find me and get help and while he dithered I got her on the lead and all was well- I expect the GS will have nightmares for a few days but otherwise no harm done. Pop's all mouth and no trousers and anyway, she is essentially a well brought up girl. 2) half-way through the walk, Ted developed a poo problem, which was disgusting and not something I will elaborate on. 
  
We went up to see Albert, who is still leaved (phew) and was sporting a flock of Linnets as adornments. They were making a racket. There were also a handful of flutters decorating the grasses at his feet. We stopped for a bit and had a chat before turning for home, at which point TED rolled in a pile of fox poo he found in the grass :-( Pops, looking extremely smug when I told him off, grinned broadly when I added that he'd be having a bath in the garden when we got home.

Now, usually, on our early morning walks I leave the camera at home, but it was very insistent that it came with us today so I brought it along. As we came back through the meadow it became evident why it had been so determined to come. First a dark-green fritillary (which I have never seen in that particular meadow before) and then a black-tailed skimmer (type of dragonfly) appeared and proceeded to pose prettily for pictures....



I took some shots of the countryside and of the Abbey, which was looking all romantic nestled into its summer scenery.....


Two Hot Dogs
 





When we got back, both the dogs had shampoo and sets in the garden, which they were thrilled about. We also dealt with Ted's poo problem and then he went and rolled in all the dirt in the greenhouse, so he had to have another bath. Poppy (watching damply from a safe distance beneath the picnic table) clutched her sides and fell about laughing while Ted cast her a reproving look.

I left them both drying off and took myself off to the River to look for water voles....which (as you'll know if you've stuck with my various posts recently) I have yet to actually see.

It was a GLORIOUS day and I felt very spoilt to be spending it by the quietly flowing river beneath the dappled shade of weeping willows with not another single soul about.....


OK (I said to the River). Here's The Thing. I'm here. I would like to get to know you, and for you to know me. I think you are very beautiful and I'd really, really, really like to see some of your water voles today, if that's OK, so will you show me where they are please? I promise I will look after them.

Five minutes later the River sent me his reply: a Kingfisher flew up the water straight past me. It's the best view I've ever had of one- they are truly spectacular birds. And then two minutes after that a moth appeared.
 
Scarlet Tiger
OK (I thought). We're on!
 
There were numerous Banded Demoiselles flitting about, both boys and girls, Very Pretty....

Male
Female
And also, equally pretty, but as we now know, Deadly Poisonous, Hemlock Water Dropwort (which I gave a Very Wide Berth after Saturday's Rash And Panic incident)......


There were Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods, Large Whites and Black Caps and I heard a Reed Warbler (I think). There were also masses of water vole signs. Most of the bank was lined with them. Runs, feeding stations, burrows, latrines.

I was a Good Girl: I spent the first forty minutes diligently recording all of these on my some-what bodge-it-and-scarper-production hand-drawn map (with the high-tech addition of grid references and lat/long which looked a tad incongruous beside my scribbles) and Resisted The Temptation to do what I really wanted to do, which was to throw all my tools to the floor and go and look for voles.

After the recording was done I felt I'd earnt the right to stop, so I took myself off for a walk to explore the extent of this section of the river, getting challenged by a NT employee on the way (which was a good thing, because they do keep a tight watch on poachers here). On the way back, I discovered a prominent latrine (a log) near a bridge, so there I sat down to wait for the voles.

And less than a minute later she appeared.....





I could have burst with happiness and was very tempted to Do A Celebration Dance, but I controlled myself, because she would probably have disappeared and that would have been too sad for words. So I sat still, hardly breathing, and just took millions of photographs instead, smiling all the time.

They are charming, adorable creatures, every bit as fantastic as I'd thought they would be, and it was worth all the times I've paced various rivery environments in recent weeks and not seen them, for this one time when I finally, finally did :-)

I watched her for as long as she remained there, then got up and wandered back up the river, very pleased (under-statement, I was elated) and not expecting to see anything else all day. But then there was another one! As I got the camera out to take a pic of the opposite bank, a soft chewing noise from the region of my feet made me look down and there, right next to me, was a THIRD vole! She sort-of glanced up at me then carried on eating for a while before she popped through the reeds and disappeared.

I was in SEVENTH HEAVEN, smiling so much my face hurt.

I carried on up the river, vaguely looking for the Kingfisher, and stopped to take some pics of the Hemlock Water Dropwort, when the River gave me a nudge and there, right opposite me, was a FOURTH vole.

He sat on his pile of grasses tucked in the bank munching away for ages, so I was able to fill the camera with pictures :-)






Spotted!

And, unconcerned by my presence, he continues lunch

For once, I have Run Out Of Words, so that seems like a Good Place to leave things.

Thank you, River: you Made My Day :-)

CT x
 


24 comments:

  1. Smashing pictures especially of the water vole. Thanks for sharing them.

    Jean x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jean and welcome to CTales. Thank you for the comment and the follow. Hopefully many more water vole pics to come over the summer... :-)

      Delete
  2. I can feel your vole joy from here! What gorgeous photos, and what a smashing day's wildlife watching!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am fairly bursting with it, Kate! And in no small way indebted to your marvellous blog, your beautiful pics of wvs have kept me going these past few weeks. It was soooo fab to see them for real today (know you'll understand this) :-)

      Delete
  3. I cannot imagine how happy you were, over the moon and then some I expect, but I am grinning from ear to ear just reading this and being happy for you! And the voles of course! So great that you captured them on camera, and now you know where they are hopefully they will appear again! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww, thanks honey :-) It's been a super dooper day and I am still smiling (having bored the whole family rigid about it since they all came home). Really hoping to see the voles again, and hoping even more that their river remains free of mink, who have wrecked havoc on wv pops (95% loss of wvs over recent years due in part to mink) because they can get inside the burrows. x

      Delete
  4. Fabulous, aren't they gorgeous.
    We used to watch them a long time ago alongside the river at Bibury in the Cotswolds. And then one year the river bank was completely cut back and they were no more. I couldn't believe it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so interesting Jess- habitat loss and poor river management have both been highlighted (along with predation by mink) as contributory factors in the decline of water vole populations since 1900. Sounds like you saw it in action. Thankfully, I don't think that kind of riparian management would happen now- we understand the causal factors so much better.

      Delete
  5. I have this image of you combusting then going up in a puff of smoke when you saw the water vole, how you managed to keep the camera still is a wounded. I'm so happy for you, and you managed to get some great photos too. It's so good you saw so many, and all the other thing you saw as well, what a great day..
    Amanda xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's pretty close to how I was feeling Amanda :-) I had the camera resting on part of the bridge, else it would have wobbled like mad ;-) Fab day, the memory of which will stay with me for all the rest of my days xx

      Delete
  6. I'm so glad you've seen a water vole - great photos. I would have been so excited :) I notice someone else mentions seeing them in the Cotswolds - my last sighting was there near one of the Slaughter villages. So sad they way they have declined so rapidly in recent decades but it looks as though they are doing well near you!

    The walk you go with Poppy and Teddy looks beautiful by the way - very peaceful and scenic!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm still smiling this morning, and now feeling very protective of them and worried that they'll be alright.

      It is a beautiful walk- the dogs and I love it, they know the way like the back of their paws. This morning they disturbed a tawny owl, who was very disgruntled indeed and swooped off across the field with an irritated flick of his wings! :-)

      Delete
  7. Amazing photos.. how wonderful that you got to see the water voles.. no wonder you're still smiling.. I would be too! :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are fantastic little creatures and they've really suffered over the past century, so I was absolutely thrilled to see so many of them :-)

      Delete
  8. Congrats on spotting the water voles, and on getting such great pictures! Your dog story made me laugh. I think all small dogs think they are Big dogs. And why are they all so fond of rolling in smelly stuff?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too much smelly stuff.... I don't think they will ever learn. T'was a complete joy to see the voley folk :-)

      Delete
  9. I think I have seen a water vole once and once only, it looked like an old sock going across a small stream.
    Briony
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. L and I saw another one today on another river. My Vole Radar must be Fully Operational now.... xx

      Delete
  10. Some lovely finds anyway.... but to finally see your water vole(s) is just amazing! Really pleased for you.:-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow! I have never seen a water vole ever. Deep envy. My son once took part in an Oxford University survey, trapping them, weighing them and releasing them in an area of riverside where they were monitoring the population. He ended up with a very soft spot for them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was my first water vole experience ever, and then today my son and I saw another one, swimming across a different section of the river. They are such fantastic creatures, I do feel very blessed and hope to see more. I think this is a love affair that will last a lifetime, so I can really understand your son feeling the way he does about them.

      Delete
  12. Great little animal! Ratty is my favourite character in Wind in the Willows!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne =

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are fantastic creatures- I could happily spend hours watching them :-)

      Delete

Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x