Head to the riverbank to track down one of our most endangered and much-loved mammals, the water vole. Better known to some as ‘Ratty’ in The Wind in the Willows, the water vole was once a common resident of rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and other wet places. Sadly, the loss of these habitats and the invasion of mink has caused their numbers to dwindle, but thanks to the hard work of volunteers and Wildlife Trusts, water voles are making a comeback in some areas.
Where to see them
Active from April to September, spring is often the best time of year to see them because bankside vegetation is shorter so water voles are more easily seen.
Lunt Meadows has a large population of water voles.
What to look for
Look out for signs of their presence such as burrows in the riverbank, often with a nibbled 'lawn' of grass around the entrance. Water voles like to sit and eat in the same place, so piles of nibbled grass and stems may be found by the water's edge, showing a distinctive 45° angled cut at the ends. 'Latrines' of rounded, tic-tac sized and cigar-shaped droppings may also be spotted.
The collective term for (water) voles is a colony.