Water Voles in the Garden of England

Posted on October 2, 2013

At long last I’ve finally got around to visiting Kent in the hope of getting some photographs of stunning Water Voles. Immortalised as the famous Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s book, The Wind in the Willows; these little guys are in fast decline across Britain. Water Voles were once widespread, but numbers fell by upto 90% in the 1990s as a result of habitat loss and also predation from such species as the non-native American Mink. There are still some strongholds across the wetland habitats on the eastern England fens and Somerset levels among other places. I visited an area which has reintroduced Water Voles through amazing habitat management and constant upkeep allowing you to get some fantastic views. The usual kit for most of my wildlife work is always outdoor clothing and possibly a hide; but this time it was chest waders! Lying down in all sorts of positions in the water, isn’t the comfiest for any length of time, but it was definitely worth it though to get the low down, intimate angles I was after. Also, an angle finder (basically a upside down periscope) for my camera helped me shoot from a low position without the need to have my eye up to the camera viewfinder, this made for a much more pleasant position.

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

It was a real pleasure to spend a day in the presence of these little critters. Water Voles are mainly active and feed for an hour or so, then sleep; then an hour later they’ll emerge again to do some more foraging. This provided some fantastic diverse views of them. When they’re active, other than the sound of running water all you can hear is the crunching sounds as these guys don’t stop munching away.

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

Up to two thirds of their body weight they have to consume every day, it’s an astounding figure and one I would definitely struggle with. Through management of the site, they are obviously more used to people’s presence than regular out in the sticks wild voles, but it still doesn’t make it any easier photographing them. You still need to sit quietly and wait patiently as with any other species of wildlife. Water Voles have amazing sense of smell and their eyesight functions mainly on movement, so as long as you don’t make any fast gestures or shuffle around to much, then they tolerate you.

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

 

Water Vole – Arvicola amphibius

Here’s a short compilation of clips from my day with Water Voles (turn on HD)

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