Today I was chest deep in a freezing cold river searching for signs of water voles!
Found along our waterways, water voles are similar-looking to the brown rat, but with a blunt nose, small ears and furry tail!
After our Young Nature Watch water vole survey (read more on my YNW page), Inés (YNW co-founder) and I decided to do one on our local river!
We surveyed 500m and found lots of promising signs of water voles!
BURROWS: First of all we found hundreds of burrows! There burrows are generally oval shaped, usually 5-8cm wide, often seen along the water’s edge and bank but with some under the waterline! They often have a ramp/slip outside the burrow, where they slide out!
Burrows at the top of the bank may have a distinctive cropped ‘lawn’ surrounding them where the voles have cut a clear path around their burrow!
FOOTPRINTS: Water voles have star-shaped footprints. Their footprints are similar to a rats, but rat toes tend to be forward facing.
FEEDING SIGNS: Diagonally nibbled stalks of grass and leaves in small piles along tunnels in long grass indicate the presence of water voles.
DROPPINGS: Piles of droppings (latrines) are used as territory markers by females during the breeding season. Water vole droppings are usually 8-10mm long, with virtually no odour. They are particularly distinctive as they are often described as having a tic-tac shape!
We also saw lots of otter signs! We found lots of spraints that were full of fish bones, scales and crayfish parts and also saw a few footprints!
We will be back soon to do the next 500m and I have also put up my trail cam opposite a burrow to hopefully get some footage of voles and maybe even otters!