This week we have been thrown back into the vole action, trapping and radio collaring at each of the three new 300m sites that we pre-baited last week.
Monday was spent re-baiting and setting all of our carefully laid traps with a full compliment of hay, apple and carrot. Our sites are incredibly beautiful, even the one with the impenetrable wall of vegetation is a pleasure to be at once a path had been worn through.
Tuesday of this week will be forever remembered as Vole Day. No fewer than 28 voles had sprung our traps overnight, leading to a fantastic morning of processing vole after vole. Harry and Merryl valiantly manned the anaesthetic station, carefully PIT tagging, recording and radio collaring all mature voles, while we scurried along the trap lines retrieving voles and replacing traps. We trapped a large number of juveniles, which not only means that voles here on the upper Thames are thriving, but also left us with huge grins and lots of “Awwwws” – they really are very cute. We even found one trap housing two voles, an indicator of just how many voles are present in such a short stretch of river.
We have continued trapping throughout the rest of the week, re-capturing many of our PIT tagged juveniles and a few that avoided the traps that first night. Traps are pinned open during the day and then re-baited and set in the late afternoon, to avoid trapping voles during the heat of the day.
We have also started to radio track the collared voles at these 3 sites to build up an idea of home ranges prior to vegetation removal. Harry, who has been the research assistant on this project from the outset, has trained us well and we are both becoming confident with our tracking skills. Once we have an idea of where each vole’s territory lies, are able to find them within minutes. There is always one, though, that has gone wondering!
We have also pre-baited our last experimental site ready for trapping next week. The traps that we use (supplied by the Environment Agency) work very simply: a treadle across the trap, just in front of the hay and bait, is triggered when the vole runs through, dislodging a long metal prop pinning the trap door to the ceiling. The door then falls and is caught by the door rim, preventing the vole from pushing its way out.
Next week will be our final week of trapping at our last experimental site and at a new control site. We will be collaring and tracking the last voles and preparing for the next stage of the project, the vegetation removal. Busy busy!
Charlotte and Emily