While walking the farm trail by the banks of the River Tern on Friday the 13th February a few years ago, I was very fortunate to see a water vole on some debris in the middle of the river. The vole saw me at almost the same instant and plopped into the water making for the bankside while still submerged, where it would reach its burrow and safety. The water vole is the largest British vole, about the size of a rat, and is sometimes called the water rat. It is very different when compared to a rat, having a blunt snout, tiny ears and a far shorter tail. Also, unlike rats, it is active by day and almost exclusively feeds on waterside plants. Nesting takes place in waterside burrows with the entrance under water and rising along the length of the burrow to the safe, dry nesting chamber.
The water vole can be up to 8 inches (20 cm) long (head and body) with a fairly short tail of less than 5 inches (12cm). It has long, glossy, chocolate brown fur that hides its ears. It falls prey to herons, owls and pike as well as mink, so it is no surprise that it is very wary and easily scared as well as being quite rare nowadays, which makes my very fortunate sighting all the more important and presents even more proof of how essential Fordhall is in so many ways – lucky Friday 13th!
David Proctor, Shareholder and regular Fordhall wildlife spotter and volunteer
Water vole photo courtesy of Derek Crawley, Staffordshire Mammal Group
This article was first featured in the Spring 2021 edition of the Grazer magazine. For more info and to subscribe, visit: