Water Vole Release: Phase 3

Water Vole Release Project Phase 3: 2014 programme of events

Spring Surveying

water vole surveyor pointing out a water vole latrine
Surveying showed lots of water voles signs, including latrines like this one – photo courtesy of Nick Upton

With 2014 quickly passing, surveying was carried out from Tues 29th Apr to Thur 1st May.  Our team managed to cover all the areas we needed and were lucky not to get too many rain showers.  We enjoyed a hard earned lunch at the Weir Cafe on the final day, and our photographer, Nick Upton, has been covering the project to help keep a pictorial record.  Good field signs have been recorded mainly where the water levels are stable, and with breeding season under way their numbers will only increase.  Expect to hear the trademark ‘plop’ off the riverbanks.

BIFFA are helping fund us through the Landfill Communities Fund and for this we thank them on what is going to be a great year.

We’ve had a few people mention they’ve seen watervoles during the winter and on the 15th Mar 2014 I managed to get a glimpse of one at Rodds Bridge along the Bude canal.

Informative Talk

Westland Countryside Steward Water Vole Talk from Derek Gow at Bude Parkhouse Centre, Bude, Cornwall
Derek Gow presenting the talk on water voles at the Parkhouse Centre, Bude

We held an informative talk at The Parkhouse Centre, Bude on the 7th May 2014.  The hand-out that accompanied the talk is available for download here.

Water Vole Release

With continued monitoring of the river catchment using mink rafts the 2014 release phase was started on Friday 20th June 2014 where 200 water voles were released into the catchment.  We were glad to accept the help and support of a small team from the Environment Agency, Bodmin.  Cages were deployed at three sites on what was a warm and sunny mid-summer day.  Coverage of the project continued with Dr Nick Upton providing professional photography.  It was great to see the public whilst out and about and answer questions on what we were doing.

 

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This water vole was part of the soft release – photo courtesy of Nick Upton
John Duncan of WCS hard releasing a water vole into the reeds from a cage
John Duncan of WCS hard releasing a water vole – photo courtesy of Nick Upton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next few days the cages were checked each morning and fresh apple and carrot fed to ensure they didn’t go hungry.  Exit boards were installed on the third day to allow the water voles access to the outside world.  We generally find once they are given the opportunity to leave the cage they are gone.

Soft release water vole venturing out into its new home - Photo courtesy of Nick Upton
Water vole cages are checked and fresh food replenished
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Exit boards were fitted onto the cages so the water voles could venture into their new home – photo courtesy of Nick Upton
Soft release water vole venturing into its new home - Photo courtesy of Nick Upton
Soft release water vole venturing into its new home – Photo courtesy of Nick Upton
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This water vole was part of the hard release into the River Neet – photo courtesy of Nick Upton

After the summer survey was undertaken, 75 water voles were released onto a private lake, taking the total number of water voles released in the Bude catchment to approximately 550.

Preparing for the water vole release
Preparing for the water vole release
Left to right: Alastair Driver (Environment Agency), a water vole and Emma Cox (Westland Countryside Stewards)
Left to right: Alastair Driver (Environment Agency), a water vole and Emma Cox (Westland Countryside Stewards)

This should be the final release now of the project so now we need to ensure regular surveying is carried out to check on how they are surviving.  Please do get in touch if you would like to help out with this.

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