The vole story of mice and men

WILDLIFE enthusiasts were given an insight into the food chain for birds of prey at a nature reserve during a live mammal-trapping demonstration.Visitors to Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve were shown how the population of rodents was monitored to ensure regular meals for the hawks and owls which hunt and breed there.

WILDLIFE enthusiasts were given an insight into the food chain for birds of prey at a nature reserve during a live mammal-trapping demonstration.

Visitors to Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve were shown how the population of rodents was monitored to ensure regular meals for the hawks and owls which hunt and breed there.

Staff at the reserve positioned traps overnight to catch and measure creatures such as bank voles, short-tailed field voles and wood mice, before releasing them back to their woodland or grassland habitats on Sunday.

Nigel Middleton, conservation officer for the Hawk and Owl Trust which created the reserve, said the high proportion of bank voles would mean a good year for tawny owls - two of which were recently caught on video cameras inside a purpose-built nesting box.


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He said: 'All of the British species of owls rely on small mammals for prey. Tawny owls tend to eat bank voles and wood mice, while barn owls prefer short-tailed field voles.

'In good bank vole years the population of tawny owls goes up, so the numbers of small mammals reflects the population of birds of prey.

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'It is crucial we know what the numbers are. We have got a good bank vole population so the tawny owls you can see on the screens in the visitor centre are going to be well fed.'

The animals were caught using Longworth traps, which comprise a nest box packed with bedding and food, and a trapping tunnel with a sensitive trip bar to close the door as the creatures enter.

Earlier, the visitors also saw a display of bird-ringing to record the movements and size of its feathered population. Volunteer Phil Littler, a ringer for the British Trust for Ornithology, ringed birds including blue tits and chaffinches caught in a fine-meshed 'mist net'.

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