Restoring Ratty - hello from Kelly

Hi everyone, Graham has been expertly holding the fort for the past six weeks whilst I’ve been furloughed. Field work can now be undertaken again so I’m back! I was ridiculously excited to return to work. As I’m sure you can all relate, searching for water vole droppings has never been so exciting, and we are looking forward to the time when you can come and help us survey again.

My first day back was a mink raft checking and survey day. We went to Scaup ponds and Archer Cleugh.  It was like re-visiting an old friend. I went to check raft number 2, and found myself having a grumble as I’ve always struggled getting up and down the steep bank without stumbling. I stopped and gave myself a stern talking to, and was rewarded at the bottom with hundreds of toad tadpoles circling the raft and a female palmate newt sheltering in the basket. I’m not skilled in the art of photography, but I thought this photo was quite arty, the clouds are reflected in the water! Graham has caught badger, otter and Canada geese on the trail camera here. 

Whilst on the subject of cameras, Forestry England have donated some to us, so we’ve been deploying them in suitable locations. Some are baited in minky areas (a tin of sardines nailed to a tree so all the gooey smelly juice keeps on seeping out and can be smelt from miles around). And others just out in areas where we’d love to capture water voles on camera. Some of the camera traps that I deployed pre-lockdown and were in great spots are now surrounded by wood rush and need to be re-located, Spring is in progress!

We found two plugged borrows around lower Scaup pond, nothing much round upper Scaup pond, and my first water vole poo of the season at Archers Cleugh pond and along Archers Cleugh burn too – result!

My hands are sore and dry after washing them rigorously after opening and closing each barrier.  Kielder has opened back up this week, car parks are open and ospreys still like fishing above the dam.

Until we meet again.