My lockdown walks around Lamorbey Park, Sidcup, are often interrupted by people asking what I have seen or eager to tell me about their sightings. I’m always delighted to exchange wildlife information

Last week an excited lady brandished her mobile telephone towards me and announced she had just photographed a water vole at the Lamorbey lake. Maintaining social distancing, I peered at the screen. My heart was already sinking because I knew what I would see. Sure enough the jubilant lady had photographed Rattus Norvegicus or brown rat.

She looked crestfallen when I gently broke the news. I explained the differences between voles and rats. The latter have more pointed faces with prominent sticky-up, naked ears, large eyes and long pink tails with no fur. Voles faces are more rounded with smaller, fur-covered ears, smaller eyes and shorter, furry tails. Both live in waterside tree roots or burrows.

Wild Things: A natural remedy

Rats are thriving at Lamorbey because of mild weather and extra visitors leaving deposits of bread intended for ducks.

News Shopper: Water Vole by Jim ButlerWater Vole by Jim Butler

The lady gained some consolation when I showed her a perched female kingfisher then I wandered down the lake to discover half a dozen rats seeking food on the bank. Rats eat almost anything with many emerging only at night, navigating with lavish whiskers. They are expert swimmers and climbers so waterbirds often lose eggs and young. Even tree-nesting birds are not safe from razor-sharp rats teeth which cause enormous damage to buildings by gnawing through electricity cables, wood, plastic and some concrete.

An angler waded into the lake before casting his line oblivious to the dangers of catching Weil’s disease or salmonella carried in rat urine. Bites may also transmit serious disease.

Wild Things: Two Turtle Doves

A female rat can produce 90 young annually with foxes, cats and owls unable to dispose of them all. Councils once employed a rat-catcher who used a rat trap but Bexley’s website explains they no longer provide rodent disposal services. As rats are a public health issue, parents who visit with children should ensure they leave no food on the ground then contact Bexley Council to ask what they intend doing about rat colonies at Lamorbey and Bexleyheath's Danson Park.