Recent sightings Friday 16 August   Water vole toilets and the beginning of redstart season - thanks to volunteer Phil for his report and photos.

Visitors to the Wetland Discovery Zone through the small gate off Adder Alley may have noticed some small wooden platforms on the water surface in the ditches. These have been installed in the hope that they will be used by water voles which I now learn tend to leave their droppings quite prominently and often in the same place. So I am informed by our wardens that the platforms are public loos for water voles!

Friday 16th was one of those unfortunate autumnal days in August with strong winds and occasional showers, not conducive to my favourite summer pastime of observing our colourful butterflies and dragonflies. Sitting in Nettley’s Hide over lunch I’d spotted a solitary large dragonfly – the only one of the day as it turned out - and so later I went down to the Wetland Discovery Zone with the rather forlorn hope of finding a few more. However very quickly all such thoughts were banished as there on one of the wooden platforms was a water vole. Far from using this as a toilet it was using it as a table, quite clearly eating one of the large grass stems that can be found growing out of the ditch there. I managed to snatch a quick photo just before it moved away, possibly aware of my presence, but equally possibly because it had just finished its meal.

Water vole sightings seem to be more numerous this year.  All my previous sightings have been in the ditch in front of Nettley’s Hide. A few weeks ago I saw 3 water voles there, with evidence of a 4th one present and it seems likely they were a family party. This photo shows one of the voles swimming in the ditch on that occasion.

It is also worth looking out for water voles in the pond at Redstart Corner.  Despite always stopping here in season to admire the collection of dragonflies and damselflies using this pond I’ve never seen a water vole here, and yet there have been several reported sightings during the last year.

Also on Friday, in line with reports from earlier in the week, 3 redstarts (juvenile or female) could be seen on the fence going between Redstart Corner and Little Hanger, unfortunately just too distant to photograph. They were on the sheltered east side of the hedge line away from the prevailing south westerly wind. Perching on the fence they were flying out in short sorties to catch insects on the ground when their bright red tails, seen in flight, gave away their presence. As well as this fence and hedge line, the one to the west of this behind Winpenny Hide can also be a good spot to find redstarts. This photo, taken a few years ago from the small field gate at the bottom of Adder Alley, gives the idea.

The redstarts will doubtless be stopping off on their way south to winter quarters in Africa, but at this time of year they often linger for a few days to feed up for the long journey. Sightings in the past have continued into October, so for the next couple of months it is worth keeping an eye out for their brightly coloured tails. 

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