Voles the highlight of allotment wildlife survey visit

Four Field Voles (Microtus agrestis) were found on Harland Avenue allotments on Friday October 9th, in the course of ongoing wildlife survey work across all of Bexley’s allotment sites that I am doing as the Bexley Federation of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners’ Biodiversity Officer. The survey is primarily concerned with reptiles and amphibians, but all identifiable species have been noted. There was also a report of a live Hedgehog from the last fortnight, and mention of the remains of  a dead one last year.

This was my second visit here, and I am grateful to the site’s own Biodiversity person, Tim Alderman, who gave up his time to come round with me.

The Voles were found in pairs under various items on the ground, along with basic cup-shaped nests.  Of the first two, one pretty much stayed put in plain sight, giving time for a proper assessment. The relative tail-to-body length, greyish rather than red-brown fur colour and habitat said Field rather than Bank Vole.

A couple of adult Frogs were seen, and a conversation with a plot-holder provided another suggestion that Slow Worm may occasionally be found on this very large site. I turned over tens of items on my last visit and could find none, even though the conditions look suitable, and the adjacent railway line provides a convenient habitat corridor. Two adult Frogs were seen, and Smooth Newts are here, but otherwise it’s something of an ‘under-performing’ location on the reptile and amphibian front compared to many of the smaller sites across the Borough.

Self Heal, Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Annual Nettle and Meadow Vetchling may, from memory, be additions to the wild plant roster here, but I would have to dig out my previous records to be sure.

Tim aims to interest other tenants in wildlife recording here, will be taking a closer look at the plants next year, and hopes to organise some Bat recording sessions at the site.

A Sparrowhawk had been seen flying near the entrance to the site on my arrival, and was later seen over King George’s Recreation Ground on my way back to Sidcup town centre.

Chris Rose

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