Water Vole Training at Tewinbury with Josh Kalms from Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust
April 20th 2021
Revivel members that attended the training were Ian and Beth Hall, Kathryn Mackenzie, Craig Johnson and Catherine Wilmers
We met up at 1.0pm at the car park and Josh took our names etc. He recommended having a stick and hat for climbing through the undergrowth and parting the reeds. He took us into the reserve.
Josh explained about voles in Hertfordshire and that mink have taken over many of the vole burrows as they can squeeze into them. So there are not many places where they live. He explained about mink rafts, how they work and catch mink and that HMWT have a number so RevIvel could have a couple to spread around. Once a mink is detected by its tracks on sand or clay on the raft, a trap can be set. The mink is often caught soon after. He also said that voles are like Mars bars for barn owls, foxes and other predators!
Then he explained to us the difference between a rat and a vole. A rat is a bit bigger and has its toes pointing in the same direction compared to a vole which has its side toes splayed out. The water vole has ears half hidden by its fur and a rounded front of face; the rat has a pointed face and more prominent pinkish ears. The rat has a long tail without hairs, the vole tail is about 2/3 thirds its body length. Rat droppings are larger and usually pointed at one end.
Water voles typically eat reeds and sedge, cut at an angle (about 45 degrees) with their teeth. Josh led us to a known area where there are signs of water voles and showed us the chewed vegetation ‘feeding station’ and the nearby ‘latrine’ with poo a bit like ‘tictacs’ but bigger, 12 mm long by 4-5 mm wide. Sometimes the vole will trample on the droppings and spread them out to mark its territory. Bank vole droppings are much smaller.
Vole populations can grow fast in a year as one female can produce many offspring. They need a lot of vegetation for cover and a supply of water, still or slow moving.
Josh said he would be delighted to come to Ivel Springs in Baldock and Radwell and help us survey to see if we have water voles.