Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Water Vole Watching

The past couple of weeks I have been visiting the Itchen Navigation watching and photographing Water Voles to gather information towards one of my Woodlife Diploma assignments

Each time I visit my eyes have become more tuned to the water voles and their habitat. I have had locals ask me what I’m photographing, when I tell them water voles they ask “do we still get them here?”
I then show them some photographs of the day or simply point out the burrows on the opposite side of the navigation with a water vole sat there munching on a nice juicy reed. The response is normally I thought that was a rat or they plainly just didn’t see it.
This makes me chuckle as this particular part of the Itchen is called “Water Vole way”

So apart from getting some nice photographs of the water voles I went in search of actual signs of their presence. Water voles will use latrines to mark out their territory so I really wanted to find some of these territorial markers. Now a lot of these latrines are in and along the banks in the reed and sedge and can be quite difficult to get to without wading through the water and although I found scat I didn’t find a latrine. Apart from also not wanting to disturb the water voles the level of the Itchen had risen a lot so any chance of recent latrines could have been under water, still something else for me to look for next time.

Water voles also use feeding stations. At these feeding stations you can find strips of reed or sedge where the water voles discarded the non succulent parts of the plant. I could also feeding signs all around in the vegetation, reeds cut off at a 45° angle made by the water voles bright orange incisors.

Where the water level hadn't raised above the mud I also found some water vole prints.

I have spent a lot of this time just watching and for the most they forage for food and sit around eating, waters voles will eat up to 80% of their body weight in food each day. But every now and then you get some excitement, water voles are territorial and when one strolls into another’s territory a rough and tumble normally ensues. 

The picture above is a little deceiving, it looks like the two are up on their back legs having a good look around when in reality they are in a full on rough and tumble with the water vole at the front about to retreat back into the water.

Another great day at the along the Itchen Navigation...

Now I need to get that assignment done......

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Woodlife Trails Diploma Weekend

I spent the weekend just gone at Hatfield Forest on a Woodlife Trails Diploma Weekend with some of my fellow students demonstrating verbally and practically some of the skills that we have already learnt. The skills that we successfully demonstrated were then awarded to us. The Diploma Weekends are always a relaxed affair unlike some courses that you attend that make you feel as if you are being crammed with lots of info in the shortest possible time.

Most turn up with their minds and movements running at around 90MPH, a busy week at work, rushing around getting things done, battling through the traffic to get to the course and then just as if someone has enabled the limiter you slow right down and start to immerse yourself in to the Forest. The calming effect of the Forest washes over you and your set for a weekend of good company and learning.

On the Sunday we were on our way back from the obligatory cuppa and bag of chips at the National Trust cafe when a Fallow Doe and her Fawn were spotted some way off the track into the trees.
I was carrying my camera with the 400mm lens attached and I could see mum muzzling the Fawn. Mum decided to go for a walk leaving the Fawn sat on its own. Not wanting to distress the Fawn we all stayed back on the track whilst Pablo very carefully went in for a closer look. He skilfully managed to get within metres of the fawn without disturbing or distressing it.

I don’t think he will mind me mentioning that when he returned back to the group he was emotionally affected by the experience. Pablo has been tracking for a long time and tracked many animals so it was great  to see that even your mentors still get affected by what they are teaching, this shows they still have a real passion for what they do..

I can only hope that one day I will have a similar experience.

Cheers Guys..