Listed as a priority species for conservation (UK Biodiversity Action Plan). Voles can live up to a year in the wild and mainly eat grass and leaves sleeping in nests that they have built in logs, grasses and hedgerows.
A number of years ago, I took part in an event put on by the West Lancashire Mammal Group.
An Event to enable those attending to be able to identify the presence of Water Voles (Arvicola amphibius)
Sadly, with a similar appearance to the brown rat, the water vole
is in serious danger of becoming extinct.
The West Lancashire Mammal Group training was in Southport, along a stream between the Coastal road and Hesketh Golf Club.
Water Vole habitats are found along rivers, streams and ditches, around ponds and lakes, and in marshes, reed beds and areas of wet moorland.
Look out for the signs of water voles, such as burrows in the riverbank, often with a nibbled 'lawn' of grass around the entrance.
Piles of nibbled grass and stems may be found by the water's edge, showing a distinctive 45 degree, angled-cut at the ends.
'Latrines' of rounded, cigar-shaped droppings may also be spotted.
Not only were we lucky to see the evidence of their presence, we also saw a couple of Water Voles.
These large rodent are also known as...
• the ‘water rat’ or
• ‘water dog’,
...and eats up to 80% of its body weight daily.
As we observed Water Voles usually like to sit in one spot to eat, often leaving behind piles of nibbled stems and grass.
Water Voles have three to four litters each year, during spring and they can have up to five young per litter.
They are active during the day and are known for digging burrows along riverbanks, where they will rest at night.
The burrows are the easiest thing to spot
for Water Vole Presence
Once Water Voles were found in almost every waterway in Scotland, England and Wales, but it is believed this species has now been lost in around 90% of these sites.
This is, in part, due to…
• predation by the non-native American mink, as well as
• habitat loss and
• water pollution.
Since the Training…
We carried out a survey along Kirkby Brook and Simonswood Brook, next to the A506 in Kirby, Merseyside which sadly provided no evidence of Water Voles.
However, one place we can almost guarantee we’ll see Water Voles, every time we visit, is the Man-made lakes and woodland at Orrell Water Park and Orrell Top Pond.
Usually spotted under the bird feeders.
Did you know?
The Water Vole is famously known as 'Ratty' in Kenneth Grahame's classic children's tale, The Wind in the Willows.
Despite being sometimes referred to as a 'Water Rat', there is no such thing - there are brown rats, black rats and water voles.