A great day out, part 2 - delayed
by, 26-09-2013 at 17:56 (3100 Views)
<This blog post is an immediate follow-on from my previous one, but has been delayed due to technical problems>
Steve Williams going home (see part 1) was not a complete disaster for my day. Although I could happily have spent longer with him, I had somewhere else that I needed to be.
I headed south towards the coast, aiming for Magor Marsh nature reserve, property of the Gwent Wildlife Trust. The Trust has been in the process of reintroducing water voles to the site, after they were eradicated by introduced mink some 10-15 years ago. For those of you that don't know, the water vole is the "ratty the water rat" of Wind in the Willows fame, and is an iconic native species. The Trust has spent a lot of time and effort managing the site to ensure that it was a suitable habitat for water voles, together with an extensive and ongoing program of mink trapping. Earlier this year around 100 water voles were introduced to Magor Marsh, and they seem to have done well and become established. Lots of people have reported seeing them, but I'm not one of those people.
Today, I had learned that the Trust planned to release a further 10 voles onto the site, in a new area, both as a top-up to the population prior to winter (water vole mortality rates over winter are typically 70%, often more, even without mink predation), and a bit of extra genetic diversity. So I went along.
The voles hadn't arrived when I got there, so I went for a short wander. I didn't find anything unusual, but took a picture of a common red darter dragonfly that I am rather pleased with.
When I got back, the voles were there.
The voles had to be transferred from their travel cages into two temporary holding pens, in which they will live for the next week, being fed daily by the Trust staff and volunteers. They get through a lot of apples. The vole handler (who has to be licenced) kindly posed the voles for me to take pictures. This involves picking them up by the tail, and giving them a stick to grip with their front feet. Hence the slightly unnatural looking shots.
This one slipped
Then the cages were carried off onto the reserve, where they are placed in suitable spots. The voles stay in the cages for around 5 days, before the cages are opened. The voles gradually leave the cages to find food and establish themselves in new burrows, and the empty cages will be collected a few days after that. I won't be around for the actual release, so it was nice to see these animals before they got a taste of the wild.
To wrap it up, as we were packing up, a water vole swam across a ditch in front of me, and scrambled around on the bank on the far side for a few moments before disappearing into the reeds before I could get the camera out. My first wild water vole!