This week we have continued to radio track our voles on all sites to add to our longer term dataset on movements post-strimming. We have also had a chance to start creating maps of the vole’s home ranges before strimming took place. Each time that we track a vole, we take a GPS reading of its location. We can then use all of the location data that we have built up over time for voles on a particular site and add them as points to a map using GIS (Geographic Information System) technology. At first, formatting the data in the correct way and getting to grips with the QGIS software was a learning curve but we now think that we have it (mostly) figured out!! We sourced maps of our study sites from OS OpenData and then overlaid our vole GPS data, trapping range (black ellipses) and prospective strimming range (black squares). We give each vole an individual colour so that we can distinguish its movements.
Post-strimming maps are still a work in progress but when they are finished it will be very interesting to compare the pre and post strimming home ranges. It will allow us to visualise how the voles may have changes their movements as a result of the vegetation removal.
In the field this week we have seen predation of a vole from one of our sites. The vole disappeared from its usual location but we managed to pick up the signal from its collar away from the river and followed it into a patch of woodland. After 45 minutes of sifting through leaf litter at the base of a tree we managed to retrieve the collar! It is impossible to tell what type of animal predated the vole but due to the woodland location a bird of prey would be a fair guess.
We also attended the first lecture in the Oxfordshire Mammal Group’s winter talk series: A dormouse in the hand by Paul Chanin, President of The Mammal Society. It was a great evening and lovely for us to meet some fellow mammal enthusiasts! It was also very timely, with the first black dormouse being recorded in the Blackdown Hills on the very same day.
Charlotte and Emily
For more information on this project or to donate to this work, visit our Appeal page or the WildCRU website. You can also keep up to date with this project on Facebook and Twitter. And for more cute pictures of water voles, visit Andrew Harrington’s website http://u0000vs933onpn8m.photoshelter.com/gallery/The-dark-water/G0000KcrP4sU1uGs/