Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spring Water Vole Patrol

It is with some relief that I have finally got my Romania blog posts finished off. It took much longer than anticipated as there were many photographs to go through. So now I can get back to what I have been doing in the UK this year and have lots of interesting images to bring you that include water voles, hares, green woodpeckers, ospreys and kingfisher. The water voles and green woodpeckers I have put quite a bit of effort into this year and enjoyed every moment of it. So I will start the ball rolling with some spring Water voles.

Regular readers will know that I started photographing water voles last year, thanks to being show some locations by Kate the very knowledgeable vole expert. Many thank once again for showing me the world of water voles to which I have become a lifelong fan :). Unfortunately I did not have time to put much effort into this last year, and so thought I would try a bit harder in this one at the same canal site. It is not the easiest site for photography due to various constraints but I always like a challenge.  My plan on this long-term project was to spend my time this year thinking about techniques and approaches to improve the images and importantly learning more about the voles. I am hoping to put all I have learnt this year, which has been a great deal,  into a final concerted effort next year to hopefully realise the virtual photographs in my head.

My first visit was back in April, which was mainly a reconnaissance visit to check the voles were still present. My main concern was that an American mink may have found the colony and wiped it out. As I pulled into the parking area all my fears subsided as there sat on the far bank on the canal, in the early sun, was a water vole nibbling away on some grass. A promising start but those photographs were the only one from that visit, although I did spot a couple more voles and there were several typical signs of activity.
 As you can see in the photograph below. The water vole is on top of some fabric which has been used to repair the bank in this section of the canal and one of the reasons why the vole thrive here as they are able to gnaw through the fabric to make their burrows. Obviously this is something they are not able to do on the more usual concrete canal banks! Other key reasons why they are present is an undisturbed far bank of the canal, the lack of mink and also importantly the maintenance of a buffer strip of vegetation between the canal and adjoining agricultural fields. It shows that a few simple vole-friendly measures can greatly assist in providing suitable habitat for this rapidly declining mammal. Depressingly national survey results released last week showed there had been another estimated 20% drop in the water vole population, although I think part of this result may be due to marked reduction in surveying effort.

Given that the spring had been so delayed by the cold conditions I did not visit the site again until early May, when I figured there would be more activity, and undertook a further two morning sessions during this month before having to head off to Romania. These sessions proved productive and I managed to capture a good number of water vole images but was also starting to get a better handle on their behaviour and routines. I must admit I have become addicted to water vole photography which I find very relaxing, although does require some patience, and it is always a real pleasure to watch the antics of these very endearing animals.

A selection of images from these Spring sessions are shown below.

Just about to drop into the canal with that characteristic 'plop' which I am constantly listening out for.

There are very few places for the water voles to sit at water level in the canal. This one is a perched on an old rusty bolt.
Appearing through a hole in the fabric.
Swimming along like a mini beaver
and taking some dry grass back to burrow

I have witnessed the water voles eating some unusual vegetation, in this case some ivy which I always thought was fairly inedible.
It is now time to introduce you to one particular vole which I have been watching in particular and learning its routine and with which I spent a good deal of time during the late summer observing and photographing. So expect to see some more photographs of it in a future water vole blog post.


Fallar said...

You photos are always on very high level, but "Appearing through a hole in the fabric." is simply... perfect.

miki58 -Jarosław Kaczmarek said...

Pieknie pokazany ,sposób przekazu prawie naukowy ,super .Pozdrawiam

The happy wanderer. said...

They do appear to be appealing litle animals,so good to see they are surviving well at this spot.

Anonymous said...

Great shots, wonderful little animals.
Well done on your hard work to photograph them; good to see shots from somewhere other than the usual honeypot sites.

Pawanna said...

Very nice pohtos!!!!

Rich Steel said...

Many thanks for the comments. It is always more rewarding when you have to work for your photos than just turn up and pay someone else for their efforts to get your images.




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