Grassland water voles

water vole holes with lawns
Does the topic of fossorial or - subterranean living - grassland water voles (GWV's) have any bearing for us in south-west London, or is this just a phenomenon of north-east Glasgow?  I went there to seek out this nationally significant population, after finding my own fossorial animals in west London (as well as seeing the One Show segment).  It was thrilling to see such abundance and listen to the work of  Robyn Stewart on behalf of the Mammal Society at  a course in Easterhouse, Glasgow.

Useful facts: fossorial animals are deemed those living >500m from a watercourse. Animals more than 150m are considered a 'transitional' population, the rest are water voles. 80% of the grasslands containing Holcus lanata (Yorkshire fog) in the north east Glasgow, contain water voles; 56% of these areas will be lost to development or infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Development site within a few metres of GWV's 
In the time outside the course, I went  exploring the M8 motorway corridor, local housing estates - including my own Airbnb - community spaces and recreation grounds.  It was difficult to take in the amount of disturbance or habitat degradation of the meta-populations from development, infrastructure projects, fly tipping, and a multitude of licensed mowing regimes, some deliberately undertaken to thawt the spread of the animal, such as at Glasgow Fort. 

Peeping through fence onto the M8 
In a park, with tower blocks looming in the background, among 'plantations of soon- to -be -installed- sewage - pipes', lots of little grey and black rumps were disappearing in between  grass stalks. Across the piste, Holcus stems could be seen wobbling and juddering as they were incised by yellowy teeth. Sward heights of 26cm seem to be favourite and  semi and unimproved floriferous grasslands, include lots of purple marsh orchids (northern?). Approaching the tower blocks it was apparent that  GWV's had crossed the road and taken up residence.

purple marsh orchid spp.

New Survey and Mitigation Guidelines are being published later this month which are a tribute to Robyn's work. To be sure of a grassland water vole presence, three signs from the following should be obtained; an oval hole, lawns, feeding remains, latrines, puddled droppings, etc.

puddled spoil

burrow with spoil heaps

'paddled' droppings

burrow clusters

45 degree cuts on Holcus

Droppings and cut stems


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