|Brown Rat numbers increase 2003|
four years, Brown Rats are once more in evidence at
Eakring Flash. Potentially once again creating the basis
for problems with the existing (and extremely fragile)
Water Vole population and breeding wildfowl at the site
Brown Rats were an initial problem after the site's creation in 1997 and their population during the following year rose to almost epidemic proportions. It was possible at that time to stand at almost any point around the site and be surrounded by Rats moving about within the growing vegetation. They certainly had an affect on the fledging success rates of breeding birds during 1998 and many young must have perished. Many people may not realise that Rats are extremely agile and are quite adapt at climbing shrubs like Hawthorn for the berries during Autumn and are quite capable of reaching bird nests. Surprisingly (and thankfully) the population vanished without trace the following year and Rat sightings have been very low until this year. Now they're back and in good numbers.
It can safely be said that Rats are everywhere, but the overall population is prone to various forms of predation and numbers are kept down. Post-cereal harvesting sees Rats become more obvious and sightings greatly increase, once much of their cover has been removed during the harvesting process. They also spread to other sites throughout the area, feeding on overspilt corn and at Eakring Flash, numbers have stayed after being first noted throughout September. These are liable to form a sustainable population and are likely to affect the Water Vole numbers here, competing for both food and nesting burrows.
The primary cause for the Rats to remain here can be indirectly linked to shooting which now takes place regularly throughout the Winter months. Each week, a large amount of corn is put down along the eastern-side of Eakring Flash to attract wildfowl. This has also brought with it the potential Rat problem and during recent months, Rats have frequently been seen feeding on the corn at the water's edge.
It remains to be seen just what affect any large Rat population will have on the breeding birds and Water Voles at Eakring Flash during the 2003 breeding season.