So after some excellent detailed 'gen' from Lee & Joan, Rob and I decided last night was as good a night as any to travel an hour south to Latimer and the River Chess. This first picture was taken from Latimer Bridge, made famous in November 2006 for the Purple Heron which I twitched and was actually my first ever visit to the site. The photo does not do justice to the beautiful clear water.
We set off east along the river and picked up some nice birds, with Kingfisher, Hobby, Red Kite and Little Grebes recorded.
We then reached Mill Farm bridge near Chenies Bottom
I then put my bins onto my first ever Water Vole! It had come out of the reed line about 30 yards downstream from us and started to feed out in the open. We were both surprised how big it was. Started checking the well rehearsed ID features in my head - nice blunt nose, no sign of any ears, chesnut brown fur, union jack underpants. I managed to get these 'record' shots off before it popped back into the reeds. (note this is my pocket camera on full zoom!)
A few moments later Rob thought he saw the backside of an animal swimming away downstream, I then thought I saw a nose out of water. But alas that was it my first and only encounter with a Water Vole that evening - all done in under 2 minutes. (I've seen lifer birds for less!) What was also nice was the vole was firmly in Buckinghamshire.
We continued on heading east and into Hertfordshire. We finally reached the Water Vole watch point at Frogmore Meadow Nature Reserve, but another mammal was on view -
We finished up at the Ford near Valley Farm at 20:45 and decided to head back. On our return we added four Little Owls on various fence posts and at least two Tawny's calling from the woods above Latimer.
With it nearly dark we decided to try our luck round at Sarratt Mill Bridge and the water works. Again even in the dark this section looked like classic Water Vole territory. But we couldn't pick anything up with the infra-red torch. A few bats were on the wing and this time I had my detector. Soprano Pipistrelles were about the best on offer.
After some weird slip road/access road closures at juntion 18, we finally managed to get onto the M25 for the hour long journey north. A great evenings wildlife watching. The Water Vole took my English mammal list to 33.