Restoring Ratty - Is spring on its way?

The water voles certainly seem to think so as there are signs that they are emerging from their winter burrows and it won’t be long before we start surveying the numerous burns.

Despite this, they are still evading the camera traps around the forest. We are getting great views of other wildlife such as Badgers and Foxes but no voles. Hopefully changing the locations of the cameras will lead to footage of these illusive creatures. 

One of the main tasks over the last few weeks has been the creation and installation of the ‘Ratty Trail’. Beginning at Kielder Castle, the trail will consist of information boards and brass rubbing plates. Myself and Kelly had the task of knocking in wooden directional posts. All our work being overseen by the faithful spaniel, Poppy and the Kielder school children who were making the most of the warm weather. Apart from myself tearing my trousers in a slightly unfortunate place we were able to install all the posts and hopefully by Easter the trail will be complete.

Another task has been making clay as well as new mink monitoring rafts. The new mink rafts are made from sturdier material and they will soon be deployed onto rivers and streams which have been without rafts over the winter. Making clay is an essential yet very messy and cold job. Despite my best efforts, Kelly wouldn’t allow us to make clay on Graham’s desk on his day off. The process involves mixing clay sand and water together until the resulting mixture is soft enough to capture any animal tracks. Along with water vole; otter, field vole and stoats have all been identified from the clay trays.   

Finally we found a rather igneous way of installing a visitor counter at the Ratty hide along the forest drive. Through clever positioning and securing of a simple visitor clicker; each time the hide door is closed we record a visitor!  Water vole prints have been found on the raft on the pond below the hide. Kingfishers, herons and buzzards have also been seen from the hide so it’s worth a visit.