On this second week of the project our focus was on pre-baiting for our next round of trapping at three new study sites. Arriving on Monday at WildCRU to collect the traps we soon realised that it would take masterful packing skills to fit 60 vole traps into our pretty small cars! Nevertheless, all of the (now apple filled) traps managed to find their way to our first site. Aside from some interestingly placed electric fences everything seemed to go quite smoothly, 40 traps were placed and pinned open to allow the voles to get used to the presence of the traps and hopefully see them as a source of tasty treats.
Of course things could not have gone so well two days in a row… The site of Tuesday’s pre-baiting was not quite so friendly with vegetation over our heads containing every type of prickly plant imaginable. Armed with a machete we had to fight our way through the undergrowth to the river to place each trap. Despite getting stuck in the mud, stuck on top of a fence and covered in more nettle stings than we could count we successfully managed to place all of the traps and judging by the amount of tracks, burrows and latrines that we saw we have a sneaking suspicion that the site is going to be teeming with voles. This means plenty more radio-collaring and tracking next week.
Meanwhile we still needed to track our radio collared voles from last week. In order to find out how strimming might affect the voles’ movements we first need to find out where they normally are and how much they move around. To do this we aimed to get three locations per vole per day for five days, to build up an idea of each vole’s home range. We radio track the voles using the unique frequency emitted by their collar which is picked up by our aerial and receiver and translated into a beeping noise. As we get closer to the vole the beeping gets louder until we can fine tune its exact location and take a GPS location. Of course wandering around a field with a giant metal aerial has so far garnered many funny looks from passers by!
In between all of this we have found time to get involved with other local mammals and visit Wytham Woods with Dani Linton for an introduction to the Wytham Wood Bat Project and a look in some bat boxes. To our delight, we found and recorded just over twenty daubenton bats and a couple of soprano pipestrelles.
We’ll just have to wait and see what next week brings, fingers crossed for lots more voles at our new sites!
Charlotte and Emily