A water vole? Really?

A water vole? Really?

Water vole by Tom Marshall

As part of 30 Days Wild my grandson Jacob and I have decided we will both do something each day and Jacob writes it on his poster calendar each night before bed.

So far we have had bats in the bedroom (yes really!), swallows in the stables, lots of fledglings in the garden but Jacob has made THE biggest discovery.

We took a walk at Hesketh Out Marsh on a warm, sunny day, picnic packed, binoculars and bird book at the ready and away we went. We turned right from the car park and walked along the bank to see in the distance a lot of wading birds…note to self - bring the proper binoculars, not Jacob’s toy ones, so back to the car we went.

We set off again this time with the proper bins and went left. A gentle breeze made the walk so pleasant and we stopped to sit on the bank and watch the little egrets and redshanks feeding. Shelducks flew over our heads to land gracefully in the water, the landing of a big heron was not quite as elegant. An avocet picked its way through the mudflats sweeping through the shallow water with its well-designed bill enjoying lunch, as we were too. We could hear the peep-peep of oystercatchers overhead and watched them through our binoculars, Jacob checking each bird we saw in his book. Such a lovely way to spend an afternoon getting wild with my grandson.

We headed back stopping to chat to a couple who were watching a small but very noisy bird on top of a tree. We swapped notes and agreed as it was tree sparrow-like, it could be a corn bunting. We reached the car and sat on the tailgate to have a drink and chat about what we had seen, what Jacob would write on his calendar. As I packed the car ready to go, Jacob was leaning on the fence overlooking a dyke bordering the nearby farmland.

A mallard landed in the dyke joining his family of ducklings following mum along. Jacob called me over and pointed to a hole in the bank opposite. He said he was watching the duck when he heard a plop below him and saw a “mouse” swimming across the water, climb out and go into the hole in the bank where the bits of grass were. I questioned him and he said it looked like the bank vole that lives under the shed in our garden, but it was bigger, it was brown and it was longer when it was swimming because of its tail.

Was it a water vole? I’ve just volunteered to do some survey work on water voles as I know they have been spotted locally, but has Jacob just spotted what I’m going to be looking for? Are they here as well? I was more excited than him.

I checked my Wildlife Trusts Nature Finder app and showed him a picture of a water vole, yes that’s what it looked like! Really? I was more excited than him!

This was the little creature that I knew as Ratty from Wind in the Willows. The same little creature I was desperate to see. We stood for ages watching and waiting to see if ‘Ratty’ reappeared, but sadly he didn’t and reluctantly I agreed to head home.

Had Jacob seen a water vole? Really? I think a return visit is in order just to check….