It's July, but would you believe it? Dismal weather this week and that makes it hard to get out and about and consequently that has been reflected on the lack of anything worthwhile to Blog about. This afternoon though, it looked like it may brighten up just a bit so I made the decision to travel over to Seaton and specifically Black Hole Marsh to see if I could photograph the Water Voles that have been reintroduced there. They are showing very well and I it's a species that I haven't seen for 30 years or so. Until this introduction they were thought to have become absent from both Devon and Cornwall. They are doing well by all accounts. I walked up the track towards the Tower Hide and there, "low and behold" was a Water Vole. It was feeding on grass, sat half in the water, very cute and reminiscent of a pet Guinea Pig and about the same size.
I guess if you are from the USA or even other parts of Europe you my not immediately grasp the importance of these pictures. They show a rodent which is of course related to the Brown Rat that we all loath (even myself). But this animal, once so familiar to us all in the UK, is now struggling to hold on to it's existence. Several factors are in play, the release of the North American Mink by animal activists caused havoc in our countryside and the Water Vole was particularly affected. In fact it was wiped out wherever the Mink held territories. Fortunately Otters are now doing much better than they were and Otters are thought not to tolerate mink, in comparison, a smaller member of the weasel family.
But back to this afternoon because in the end quite a story developed. It was fun to do a bit of people watching. To be frank I dislike public hides and wildlife reserves, usually there are too many people and quite a lot are not there for the same reasons as me. I just dont get it, because people come dressed as though they are out for a day at the races or something similar. Now that is their choice but it usually impacts on other people around them. This afternoon for example, the Water Voles could only take so much and when another lady in a bright blue jumper arrived, then enough was enough. There was even one duo of quite serious birders equipped with state of the art gear, yet one of the two, in spite of green trousers and green hat, had a BRIGHT red jumper. Why do that, surely they must realise that wildlife and particularly birds can definitely be approached much easier if you are wearing subdued clothing. This is illustrated by the following.
After an hour of waiting for more Water Vole to show, and now on my own, a young Water Vole eventually came out to feed. This was a very pretty animal and half the size of the adult seen earlier.
After starting to feed, something spooked it and it darted away. A few seconds later a Stoat came out of the brambles and slid in to the water, obviously looking for Voles. It was a very young stoat with a diagnostic black tipped tail. I couldn't believe what i had seen and when it it reappeared out of the ditch again, I tried to get a picture. Then I saw it again a few feet further away, now there was a splash and It had a vole in it's mouth I am sorry to say! It all happened so quickly I didn't get a photo which was the only disappointment of the day.