A look back at our field notes from August/September 2014
Often when we’ve searched for wildlife, especially shy or endangered animals, you need to put yourself in remote, quiet places – and wait. So, it was a nice surprise to quite literally stumble upon these water voles whilst taking my parents border collie for a long walk. When we saw them again the next morning – an unexpected mini-project emerged over the following few weeks.
We heard the characteristic ‘plop’ of a water vole entering the stream and then watched it motor across to the far bank, out of sight. With a bit of further investigation we discovered signs of their ‘latrines’ and then several possible entrances to burrows.
Once you know their regular haunts, and manage to spot a water vole – they are surprisingly conspicuous. They like to eat at the same place, and these guys weren’t too concerned about moving around in a quiet manner either. We watched them noisily climb up to the top of tall nettles – causing the bush to visibly shake as they attempted to reach fresh green shoots.
Our vigils on the opposite bank of stream were often rewarded with views of 3 individual water voles. Although these 3 were mostly confined to a 20 metres stretch of the bank – each appeared to have their own patch. And on occasion when their paths crossed, brief but quite vicious fights broke out. The water vole with grey flecks on its fur (above) was particularly grumpy!
Luckily for us, on this small section of Moors river on the edge of the New Forest, England, they were also used to a degree of human disturbance. A path ran parallel to their stream – and it is regularly busy with dog walkers, cyclists and the odd frustrated golfer from the adjacent course trying to retrieve a lost ball. Although we watched them flee for cover as soon as the noisy threat appeared, they would quickly return.
These water voles were almost certainly descendants of 300 released during 2 reintroduction projects in 2011-12 – more here
John & Belinda
Taking Photographs of Water Voles
As always available light was a challenge. It was often misty in the early mornings, and this section of river was in shade until the sun rose high enough to clear the surrounding trees. Most mornings were too dark and the voles were gone by the time conditions were right. We still enjoyed watching them though.
The lowest ISO I achieved was 800, but we had a good position on opposite bank and 70-300mm was enough to get these images without too much cropping.