Friday, 12 June 2015

The River Voles

I've been to see my Old Friend The River this afternoon. The River and I have an understanding. That is, I do not expect to see everything every time I visit and in return, he lets me sit on his bridge, dangle my legs over the edge, watch the water and Be Content.

Every time I visit I whisper a prayer to the Water Gods (because that is only polite) and every now and then, by way of an answer, he lets me into his Deeper Secrets.

It's an accord we've worked out between us over the weeks and months that we've known one another, and although I was a little slow to pick it up I've got it now.

Of all the creatures that call this River home ( Banded Demoiselles, Tiger Moths, Sticklebacks, Trout, Swans, Reed Warblers, Swallows, Red Kites, Peregrines, Kestrels, Buzzards, Grey Wagtail, Long Tailed Tits, Gold Crests, Herons, a Wren and a Stoat all live there, or thereabouts) the ones I get most enraptured about are the Kingfishers and the Water Voles. 

I see the Kingfisher reasonably often. He often flies up the river and lands in a tree nearby to eat his fish. The Voles I have seen on only one occasion last summer. I know where their burrows, latrines and larders are. I know that they exist the length of this section of The River, and that there is a healthy population here. But the small furries themselves are surprisingly elusive.

I had a feeling this morning that I might just be lucky and see the Voles again. An ephemeral sense of something lingered on the air when I got up, and there was a feeling of expectation down by the bridge that stayed me just a little bit longer when I would have got up and gone homeward.

Good Job Too.....



Water Voles have suffered a 95% population decline in this country over the last 100 years. American Mink released from fur farms in the 1980s have wrecked havoc on these small brown furry souls, whose burrows are not mink-proof. The vole's natural predator is otter, but as they've evolved together down through the centuries the vole's burrows are too small to admit otters so they had some refuge from them. Not so with mink. The other problem has been habitat loss- the hard engineering of river banks of the last twenty/ thirty years has stripped the voles of cover and places to burrow.

Thankfully, these problems are being addressed, and the River Keeper for this river is a wise soul who manages the waterway for both fishermen and wildlife and as a result has both otters and voles present, but (so far and long may it remain that way) no mink.


I saw four voles today. The first three were all Very Busy plopping in and out of the water, swimming up and down the banks and not really pausing for very long. But the fourth, whom I glimpsed as a small brown furry back half-obscured by weeds, sat munching her way through the vegetation for ages, allowing for both observation through bins and photographs :o)
There are lots of pictures, but I don't suppose you'll mind, knowing me as you do :o)

 



















I took masses of photos because I'm never sure when I see one of these wonderful creatures whether it will be the last time!

The swans have had Children again....

 
The Banded Demoiselles are out....


As is the Comfrey...


And the uber poisonous Hemlock Water Dropwort...


And somewhere along The River (perhaps under the bridge) the Grey Wagtails are feeding children...


Happy Days, even with the pitter-patter of raindrops falling on the water. Voles don't mind the rain, and neither did I :o)





Here's to a Lovely Weekend for One And All.....


From CT and The Water Voles :o)

26 comments:

  1. I just adore these little chaps, after The Wind in the Willows my heart was lost to them. Do you know what measures have been taken to eradicate the mink? Have a lovely weekend CT. x

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    1. I am putty in the paws of Water Voles :o) Trays (some floating on water) are laid with squidgy material to get footprints to ID mink, then they are trapped and removed. Have a great weekend too xx

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  2. What a beautiful stretch of river and what fantastic photos of this most elusive animal. I've seen water voles only once and that was 1999 in Norfolk on How Hill nature reserve. I never forget these sightings as they are so rare. I must find out if we have a local population. I hear reports of mink attacking cygnets so probably not. You've had a stellar week for wildlife spotting. One unforgettable morning we had a kingfisher in the pear tree looking longingly at the pond which has always been fish-free. I was cutting back the marsh marigold spent flower heads yesterday and out jumped a tiny frog. It always amazes how high and far little frogs can jump, he was like a rubber ball! Your badger post yesterday was wonderful too.

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    1. I think ours is one of very few rivers not to have mink. It would be lovely if yours was also mink-free. Water voles can and do live in less than pure chalk streams though- muddy ditches near car parks, they don't seem too picky!
      Lovely to hear about your Kingfisher and froglet. So pleased you enjoyed the badgers yesterday :o)

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  3. Oh My Goodness you are so lucky to live in such a wonderful place. I envy your today and yesterday. First badgers and now voles ? the cuteness is just too much.
    There are never too many photos of such beauty !

    I love lighting bugs we don't have them were I live. Japanese son and family know about this and on one trip they took me to a bridge late one night that has been adopted by the kindergarten class at a near by school. They draw pictures and hang them on the bride of their fireflies.
    Then late at night in the reeds and grass hundred of fireflies blink the late evening away.
    I want a bridge to adopt.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Nature has been especially kind this week :o)

      I do envy you the fireflies experience- we're glow worm surveying next week so hopefully I may have some pics to share of them. Have a lovely weekend :o)

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  4. What gorgeous photos of the river, and the water vole is wonderful. We had a lively family discussion the other day about whether the thing scampering around a muddy rubbish strewn ditch right next to us was a rat or a water vole the other day. It got quite heated. Me and the eldest said rat. Other half shouted water vole. I should find my very blurry photo and post it on my website and maybe you could tell me that I'm right... Wishing you a top weekend. CJ xx

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    1. Scampering is the clue- water voles don't in my experience, but rats do, so I would suggest you and your eldest were probably right. More scientifically, voles have blunt faces and rats pointed, which may be more of a clincher in your photo. Have a great weekend too xx

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  5. Such a lovely stretch of water so different to ours in Oz.

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  6. Great post, super photos CT.

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  7. Lovely post and how wonderful to be rewarded with such a lovely sighting, they are so cute, great to know they are still there.
    I hope one day I will get to see one.
    Amanda xx

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    1. I do count my blessings each time I see them- Lord knows how many times I've walked that stretch of the river and not seen 'em! xx

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  8. Tales From The Riverbank? You write with such a wonderful poetic style. Said it before you should have your own television or radio programme CT.

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    1. Thanks Dave, that's very nice of you to say so. Hope all's well.

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  9. A beautiful river and great photos of the water voles - its good to know you have a flourishing colony nearby :) Glad to read you saw badgers too on your second attempt :)

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    1. I thought of you, while we were watching the badgers, remembering your badger watching outing last year/ year before (?). Such a wonderful experience, and then followed hot on the heels by the water voles. I am feeling very lucky :o)

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  10. So happy for you!!!! They voles are amazing aren't they, so many wonderful photos!!!!! Definitely a great day on the river!! xx

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    1. They are such beautiful little creatures, mesmerising to watch. I could sit there for hours with them :o) xx

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  11. Looks like a beautiful spot to while away the time waiting for voley to make an appearance - and lucky you, it did. They are so cute! :-)

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    1. It is one of the loveliest rivers in the country- a proper Chalk Stream. xx

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  12. how exciting for you! aren't they just the loveliest little things? thank you for sharing those photos....absolute magic!

    that is certainly a moste beautiful river..i'm glad to hear that you two are Friends. and how wonderful to be such a thing as a River Keeper!! who can imagine such a job!

    xo

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    1. They are really rather lovely. And the river is a special place too xx

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