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Showing posts from April, 2015

Rafting Water Voles

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Two weeks ago I was at YWT Skerne Wetlands nature reserve for a conservation work day. We set up water vole rafts in some of the ponds. Mink rafts record footprints, but these simplified versions for water voles detect their presence by collecting droppings. When spaced out along a water course they can indicate individual water vole territories.

Securing a water vole raft to a stake
The rafts are left for a fortnight
Last week we returned and were pleased to see that several of the rafts had a good sprinkling of droppings, indicating a healthy water vole population.

Water vole droppings on a raft
As they are crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk) I went back last night to watch and photograph the voles. It was a sunny evening with little wind, so conditions were ideal. I put some small pieces of apple on one of the used rafts, then sat on the opposite bank of the pond and waited.

A raft baited with apple
After half an hour or so, I heard noises coming from another pond behind me. I look…

The New Badger Watching Season

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At last, it’s getting warm enough in the evenings for me to consider badger watching again. In previous years, following the autumn dispersal to neighbouring setts (and possibly road casualties), my local sett has started the year with up to four badgers in residence. This year there are six, a mixture of mature adults and some of the six cubs they had last year. The cubs are now fully grown of course, so it’s quite difficult to tell who’s who. If the clan produce another six cubs this year, the sett will be rather crowded! So far, there is no sign of any and I wouldn’t expect to see them until the end of April or early May.

The badgers grooming and picking up the last of the peanuts
On Saturday night I had a long wait for the first badger to cautiously emerge from the sett. Once it had started on the peanuts I’d left out, three more badgers appeared in quick succession. It was totally dark by then, so all I could really see was the picture on the flip-out screen of my camcorder, with i…

Amorous Adders at Allerthorpe

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Yesterday we had our regular monthly conservation work day at Allerthorpe Common. When we arrived, we found two adders on the bank of a ditch down the side the reserve. They were a few feet apart at first, but the male soon found the female and they became entwined. It was difficult to see exactly what was going on, but they were obviously mating.

The female warms up in the sun
Adders multiplying
During the winter we brushcut a large area of birch scrub. Our task yesterday was to recut the stumps and treat them with glyphosate, so they won’t grow back.

The herbicide is dyed blue, so we can see where we’ve been
It was the first reasonably warm, spring-like day we’ve had. Four buzzards circled overhead for a while and chiffchaffs were chiff-chaffing all day. We heard a great-spotted woodpecker drumming and a green woodpecker making its distinctive ‘yaffling’ call. I found my first seven-spot ladybird of the year, one of the signs of spring they’re recording on the ‘Big Spring Watch’.

Seven-sp…