The biggest event for the Restoring Ratty team was the water vole conference which took place in Hexham on the 11th and 12 of October. The conference attracted delegates from all over the country and there were excellent talks from several speakers, including Graham Holyoak, one of the Project Officers on the Restoring Ratty team, Derek Gow from Derek Gow Consultancy, whose motivational speech certainly woke everyone up and William Morgan from Aberdeen University providing insight on how voles population structure works. There were further talks on a wide range of subjects from on the risks of disease from translocation to mink presence and control. The second day of the conference saw workshops in the morning followed by a trip up to Kielder Forest in the afternoon which showed the delegates water vole release sites and signs of water vole presence.
Shortly after the conference, water vole trapping took place in the North Pennines with the help of Derek Gow Consultancy.The aim was to trap water voles weighing less than 160 grams, due to the fact that they would probably not survive the winter, take them down to Derek Gow’s consultancy in Devon where they would hopefully mate and release them back into Kielder in the late spring and early summer. Unfortunately, only one water vole was caught, this is most likely as a result of poor weather over the trapping period, especially the first two days when traps were being set, meaning that the voles would have stayed inside their burrows.
As I mentioned in my first blog, I am a keen wildlife photographer and high on my list to photograph was the red squirrel. Dan had grown used to me bringing my camera into the hide at Kielder Waterside whenever we filled the feeders but without success. Finally I was able to photograph these charismatic animals one weekend.