On Monday we went to Magor Marsh Nature Reserve which is run by Gwent Wildlife Trust to be trained how to survey for Water Voles. They have been undertaking a release scheme there and the idea is to get volunteers to survey how they are doing. This was organised by Alice Rees of GWT (who we had previously met at the Riverfly monitoring) and Rob from The Environment Agency.
First off we were given a talk about Water Voles, their locations and the strategic plan for their management and conservation. Then how to look for signs and what they are.
After that we headed out onto the reserve to some of the reens (the local term for dykes) to look for signs. A stretch of reen 200m long is surveyed, and we were shown how to draw and mark up a map of the reen with the correct symbols and terminology.
Magor Marsh Reserve
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The Surveyors waiting to go
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Rob gets straight in (having carefully checked where the edge of the reen is!) to look for Water Vole Activity
With his expert eye we soon have our first evidence
These are reeds that have been chewed by the Voles, they have the very distinctive 45 degree angle of cut
Then the part Chris Packham would love, Poo! He found a latrine (a cleared area) and poo
Sometimes Voles will cut down reeds to form platforms to feed on
Then even more exciting we found a burrow. These can be found along the bank and can be used as bolt holes or nests.
You can just make it out in the bottom right hand corner
The bottom of this large reed shows signs of gnawing where the voles are cutting them down to clear some space
The burrow close up
More of the burrow site
Everyone looking at what Rob found
It was a floating nest made from reeds!
This is the reen from one of the boardwalks. There is a lot of stuff to get through to find the evidence!
After checking that reen we returned for some much needed lunch. After that we split into groups and were assigned 2 reens each to survey.
The intrepid volunteers set out to remote locations on the reserve
We had reens 5 and 6
This is one of the release sites where the voles were originally released
It was a bit of a battle getting through the undergrowth to the reen (should have taken a machete!)
The end of Reen 5 ended in a lovely shaded pool
Reen 6 was located by the hay meadow, it is in there somewhere!
All in all a great day and we learned a lot. We will be returning later in the year and then next year to resurvey and check on the Water Voles progress.
As you can see we were really lucky with the weather and it was lovely to see so many dragonflies and butterflies out.
Azure Damselfly (I think!)
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Ruddy Darter (I think!)
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Thanks again to Alice Rees of GWT for organising it, we’re looking forward to doing it again.