Monday, 23 August 2010

Water voles

Today I managed a few hours out with the camera (a rare occurrence of late). I decided to follow up on a tip off from a fellow photographer & birder about a local water vole population. Now I was told this information a couple of months ago, but due to other commitments was unable to visit until today. As I parked up in the rain, I wondered whether it would be a fruitless search. I decided to go on a recce to try to pinpoint this elusive species. After finding a likely spot overlooking a small weeded pond, I sat & waited. Not for very long, mind you. Because after only a couple of minutes, one of these delightful & charachterful creatures, treated me to cracking show, only a few metres away. Then further along the bank, another, and then another.

Without wasting any more time I went back to the car & got out the 600. Over the next hour, the sun came out & voles were busy going about their business all along the bank in front of me.

The Water vole (Arvicola amphibius), is widespread around Europe, living in the banks of slow moving rivers, streams and other waterways. The waterside burrows of these strong swimmers have many floor levels that hinder flooding, as well as nesting chambers and a food store for the long winter months. Although water voles are a quick meal for many predators, the UK population suffered a catastrophic level of predation by the American mink & sadly is a rare sight these days. Water voles are often mistaken for rats, but have a blunter, shorter snout, smaller rounded hidden ears & furry tails & feet. Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows', was actually a water vole. In the wild they seldom live past two years old.

Many thanks to James for the information, they really are cracking little animals!

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