Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Water Voles and Clouded Yellows

Water Vole, Arvicola amphibius
Saturday  was a busy day which started when favourable skies sent me to Newhaven on an unsuccessful search for Long-tailed Blues. This continental immigrant is a rare occurrence this side of the channel, but with a number of sightings in the southern counties and egg-laying confirmed six weeks ago, there is an expectation of a home grown generation emerging any day. There is plenty of the larval food plant, Everlasting Pea in the area. I called in at Mill Hill to conduct my butterfly transect and recorded just seven Meadow Browns and one Adonis Blue.
Everlasting Pea, Lathyrus latifolius
Newhaven ferry
  I then headed to Amberley where Water Vole researcher Rowenna Baker ran an excellent Water Vole course with fellow enthusiast Pete. After a fascinating account of Water Vole ecology and problems faced by Britain’s most endangered mammal, we walked to a local habitat where we found some latrines and feeding stations of the local Water Vole population. We then checked the traps used by the researchers to gather essential data about this elusive vole. We found three specimens, a male, female and juvenile, all of which had been previously captured. When the results of this research have been analysed, important new information will be available to assist in the conservation of the endearing creature.
I have early memories of Water Voles swimming in the duckweed covered drainage ditch beside the holiday home my family visited every year at East Wittering in the 1950s. I was pleased to hear that this Selsey population survives in a healthy state. In the 1960s I used to fish the Grand Union Canal near Uxbridge and often saw Water Voles swim by. Little did I know that this common sight would become a rarity. 
Mark Colvin has written an informative account of the Water Vole here:

Water Forget-me-not, Myosotis scorpioides
Pete with Water Vole, Arvicola amphibius
Water Vole feeding station - trambled lawn and eaten reeds and grasses with 45 degree cuts
Water Vole habitat
Water Vole latrine
Water Vole paths in duckweed
On Sunday I attended a club dig, but in spite of other members finding hammered coins, I failed to turn anything up.

On Monday the weather was favourable so I returned to Newhaven and this time checked both the fort and the tide mills areas. I searched hard for a few hours and met a local butterfly enthusiast who had seen a number of Long-tailed Blues in his garden. I saw Small Heaths, Common Blues and a male and female Clouded Yellow. On the way home I did another Mill Hill butterfly transect which gave me Adonis Blue 1, Meadow Brown 13, Small Heath 1, Small White 1.
Corn Sow-thistle, Sonchus arvensis and Hoverfly, Syrphus ribesi
Field Madder, Sherardia arvensis
thanks to Doug Thompson for the id.
Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
Common Field Speedwell, Veronica persica
Newhaven fishing boat
Everlasting Pea, Lathyrus latifolius
Small White, Pieris rapae
female Stonechat, Saxicola torquata
Wasp Spider, Argiope bruennichi
Wasp Spider, Argiope bruennichi
underside of Wasp Spider, Argiope bruennichi
Clouded Yellow, Colias croceus
Mullein, Verbascum thapsus by Tide Mills
Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus
Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas and Treble-bar, Aplocera plagiata


  1. ID for flower - Sherardia arvensis (or Field Madder). See close-up at

  2. "Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys"
    --- looks like a Field Speedwell to me (Veronica persica)


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