On the way in to the course we spotted a little sparrow peering out of a nest box. He was there for quite a while just watching the world go by. After a morning listening to Darren Tansley, an incredibly articulate and knowledgeable man responsible for the Riversearch programme, telling us about the basic ecology of water voles and showing us pictures of habitats and field signs, we headed off to see for ourselves. First stop was a hide looking out across a man-made lake on the reserve. We looked to see if we could see any water voles from this area. We saw lots of birds including coots, moorhens, little grebes, tufted duck, mute swan and cygnets, pochard and mallard.
|The view from the bird hide|
|Water Vole burrows in the bank|
Water voles are rather unfortunate to have numerous predators who will attack them from the air, the land and the water. The voles have evolved a range of escape tactics which can often be successful; they also breed very effectively and quickly. Populations of water voles in Essex, and across the country, have dropped considerably and the biggest culprit is believed to be the mink. A female mink is small enough to get into the voles' burrows and take any animal living there.
|Darren telling us about feeding stations|
|Water Vole poo - like brown tic-tacs!|
We also found a few latrine sites where there were small piles of vole poo which look a lot like brown tic-tacs. One site we found had a feeding station, a latrine, and just above it there were 3 burrow entrances. Unfortunately we didn't hear the familiar 'plop' sound of the voles vanishing form our footsteps.
|More vole poo - latrine|
|Abbotts Hall Farm|
|Abbotts Hall Farm - pond|
|Abbotts Hall Farm - beautiful poppies|