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Water Vole - River Itchen, Hampshire

Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris)

 walking along my local river I often hear the distinctive ‘plop’ of a water vole diving in the water although it is only recently 2012 that I have started to see them in areas again where I have filmed them in the past, like the navigation path along river Itchen in Hampshire.  Because water voles were almost wiped out through destruction of their habitat and especially the introduction of the North American mink, which has done the most damage. Water voles are also hunted by many other animals like herons, foxes, stoats, and cats. My local rivers now have dog dips installed by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, which are special areas with graded steps into the water for pet dogs to play in. These dog dips have been created so other areas of the riverbank can be protected from erosion and disturbance, which helps animals like water voles that burrow in the river banks. The dips are the first of its kind in the UK; if they are successful they may be used at other rivers. The last time we used the dips for my dog in Shawford in Hampshire we shared it with very young children also playing in the water.

 Water voles are delightful creatures and an animal people like to see in the wild, when one was spotted on a riverbank in Winchester close to the town everybody walking past stopped to watch. I was just annoyed I never had my camera with me, so on my next dog walk I took my camera but no vole to be seen. For many vole watchers it brings back childhood memories from the character in the children's famous storybooks "ratty” in the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. My pictures of water vole were taken along river Itchen in Eastleigh Hampshire, from old transparency scans, now ratty is back I can’t wait to take some more pictures with my new digital camera.

Water voles are predominantly vegetarians feeding on various grasses, reeds, sedges, roots and will also strip bark off some plants and small trees, they can have up to 4 litters a year, can be seen from March to September, the rest of the time is spent sleeping/ hiding underground living on stored food.