Friday, 13 July 2012

The Hunters and the Hunted

It’s funny how some of my blogs seem to write themselves without any pre-planning. Today’s is a case in point.

Today I returned to Tophill. My primary targets were the otters, but the only one I “saw” actually sped past me under water, leaving a trail of bubbles as it brushed the submerged weeds. It didn’t surface until almost out of view! So much for that.

It wasn’t a total loss at North Marsh, as I was able to see two Water Voles and three Wood Mice that seem to have taken up residence under the hide. Both could have made tasty snacks for the Otter!

My next planned targets were the Barn Owls, so off I went to North Scrub and Hempholme Meadows to see if I could find the resident pair. As the weather was fine it was almost a given that I would find at least one bird. As it was, both the male and female birds were out and about looking for mice and voles for their fast growing brood. They gave me some great views.

On the way back to the car park for a welcome cup of tea, I came across an unusual sight in ‘D’ woods. I had been watching a pair of Blackcap when my attention was drawn to another Wood Mouse climbing a Red Campion that had gone to seed. It was a bit of a struggle for the mouse, but eventually it reached its goal, secured one of the seed pods for itself, and climbed back to the floor. Luckily Barn Owls tend not to hunt in the woods!

After a cup of tea it was on to the south end of the reserve. The next target species was a Grass Snake. The weather was just perfect – a chill wind with intermittent sunshine from the breaks in the cloud. As expected there were a number of snakes of different sizes sunbathing on the various hay bales placed around the reserve. Some were a bit sluggish, but others that had really warmed up zipped off into the undergrowth as soon as I was spotted.

On the path to Watton I found a number of tiny Common Toads. Had they not moved I probably wouldn’t have seen them, and covered them with my size ten’s. Part of this year’s spawning, I couldn’t help wondering how many would escape the intentions of the Grass Snakes and survive to breed next year.


  1. Hello,

    I think all your 'Wood Mice' pics are actually Bank Voles - tail is much too short for Wood Mouse (or Harvest Mouse, and too long for Field Vole), and pelage is the wrong colour for Wood Mouse - the rusty red is characteristic of Bank Vole.


    1. Hi Richard,

      Have just picked up your comment - sorry for the delay in responding.

      I bow to your greater knowledge. My assessment was based on the ears rather than the tail. Nonetheless the sight of a creature climbing a plant stem in search of seed pods was terrific.

      Please keep reading the blog and commenting.