Water Vole Day

Water Voles (Arvicola amphibius) are native to the UK and have been protected since 1981 by the Wildlife and Countryside act.

There has been a massive decline in Water Vole numbers since 1900 and by 1990 we had lost 90% of our water voles. In some counties where there has been recovery programmes some increases have been seen, but numbers are still struggling and spotting a water vole can be quite difficult.

The Water vole is a mammal and the largest vole in Britain. They are sometimes mistaken for Brown rats and in the book Wind in the Willows, Ratty was actually a Water Vole. Water voles have a life span of 1.5 years but are often predated long before that. They are roughly 20cm long, their tail can be another 11cm.


Water Voles live in holes which tend to be 2-3cm off the water and can be found along riversides and shallow streams. They prefer water ways with steep sides and plenty of vegetation. Bare patches, where feeding has taken place, will show that Water voles have been present recently.

Another sign of Water Voles along the river bank will be droppings the size and shape of a Tic-Tac. Water voles leave dropping to mark their territories.

Water vole sniffing

Recently I was kindly invited to see some Water Voles in Gloucestershire.

It was good to have someone with local knowledge to point out where to look and the common behaviour of the water voles.

Just as the group of us had finished talking about where to look and that these particular water voles were used to people and dogs passing by, there was a small plop and right in front of us was a Water Vole hurrying along the side of the bank. I got my camera ready and started taking photos as it was a great opportunity to get some amazing close up shots. Unfortunately the Water vole climbed up in to the foliage and we lost site of it.


Where the water vole had disappeared the foliage suddenly started moving differently, rather than swaying in the wind like the surrounding grass and nettles, the Celandine flowers were being tugged away and vanishing before our eyes. We could just make out a little brown face amongst the foliage.

While I was taking photos, my mum filmed.


Thanks to Iain Green for hosting the day, and to Jo Cartmell for all the water vole expertise. It was a great experience and lovely to see Water Voles so close up in the wild.


About Alex White - Appletonwild

This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. My passion is for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. This year my debut book "Get Your Boots On" was published I am a keen amateur photographer. All the photographs on this blog are taken by myself unless stated otherwise. I am a member of A Focus on Nature, the network for Young Nature Conservationists, BBOWT, The Oxon Mammal group and The Oxfordshire Badger Group. You can also follow me on Twitter @Appletonwild Instagram appletonwild
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9 Responses to Water Vole Day

  1. ramblingratz says:

    Lovely photos and footage. It has been many years since I saw a water vole in the wild. I hope that we can save and restore their habitats so that they can make a comeback.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. josephinecartmell says:

    An excellent, informative blog about these all too rare charismatic water dwellers, Alex! Great images. Very impressed with your mum’s filming, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Alex, for a lovely post that is so supportive of these beautiful creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fiona Topp says:

    Thank you Alex for your informative write up of the amazing Watervole day. The photos are super and I look forward to following the blog and sharing with my family. Best wishes, Fiona.


  5. Sue says:

    Thanks for an interesting post, we don’t have these animals in Australia. I enjoyed seeing your photos and the video. The vole looked quite cute when it looked at the camera from amongst the foliage, and it was funny watching it eat the green plant in seconds!

    Liked by 1 person

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