Restoring Ratty - On towards summer

As we move further into spring and on towards summer, we move into the busiest time of the year for the Restoring Ratty team. The biggest event of the summer without a doubt is the June release of water voles during which the 1000th vole will be released into Kielder.
Ratty van - Joel Ireland

Image by: Joel Ireland

The voles that are going to be released have been bred over the winter at Derek Gows farm. After trapping voles in the North Pennines back before Christmas, then only keeping those under 160 grams as they would most likely not survive the winter, then breeding and feeding them down in Devon, the release is the final part of the process. In order to prepare for the June release, myself Kelly and Graham spent numerous days driving round remote parts of the forest looking for suitable water vole habitat. As always we were joined by the two faithful spaniels who were extremely happy to spend the day bounding around the heather and burns.

Signs of water vole - Joel Ireland

Now that we are getting further into the year, it is time to begin surveying for water voles again. This is undertaken over parts of the forest where voles have been previously released as well as areas where no releases have taken place. By looking for signs that indicate the presence of water voles, such as droppings, burrows and runs we can work out how the population is faring and if there are any areas that should be focused on in future releases. As I quickly found out, it always helps to carry a stick when wading through burns as some of the submerged rocks are very slippy. One of the volunteers, Dave, had a heart stopping moment as he nearly found out the hard way.

Ratty trail - Joel Ireland

We have also been busy installing the “Ratty Trail” which takes visitors on a tour from Kielder Castle around the surrounding area with numerous brass rubbings and information about water voles. After Kelly and I had dug in all the poles, Graham and I had the task of gluing the rubbings to the poles. Despite nearly getting my hands stuck together and also struggling to find the middle of the maze, we got the trail finished.