Visit these top spots for a water vole encounter to remember.
1 Cardowan Moss, Glasgow
Scan the ditches around the wetland section of this reserve for black-furred water voles. This melanistic form is more common in the Scottish Highlands.
2 Cromford Canal, Derbyshire
Set off from the car park at High Peak Junction, and cross to the canal. This is a very popular location for wildlife photographers.
3 Barton Broad, Norfolk
This Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve lies in the valley of the River Ant, a water-vole hotspot. You might see otters here, too.
4 Rainham Marshes RSPB, Essex
The ditches on this popular reserve in East London host a thriving water-vole population. Check the wooden feeding rafts positioned along the banks.
5 Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
There are several reliable sites for water voles here, the most popular of which is Mill Pond. If you’re travelling up through the gorge, it is on the left-hand side, just past Cox’s Cave.
6 Arundel WWT, West Sussex
Spot the reintroduced water voles from the reedbed walk or, in summer, take
a trip in one of the silent electric boats.
7 Askham Bog Nature Reserve, Yorkshire
The boardwalk footpaths make this reserve very accessible. Follow the path to the pond where you will come to a viewing area with a bench – then just sit and wait for the voles to appear.
8 Cors Caron National Nature Reserve, Tregaron
Follow the raised boardwalk, suitable for wheelchair users and pushchairs, across the peat bog to search for water voles. Otters and polecats might also be spotted.
9 West Sutherland, Lairg
The watercourses in the Assynt area support sizeable water-vole populations. Voles also inhabit the surrounding area, including the mountainous terrain to the south.
10 Sandown, Isle of Wight
Head to the metal bridge on the Wetland Walk; from there, let it guide you along a network of waterways where riverbanks have been constructed to encourage water voles.
THE VOLE-HUNTER’S GUIDE
Look for these telltale clues that will reveal if water voles are in your area.
Water-vole burrows are about 7cm wide – roughly the same as a Pringles tube. Since the voles dig upwards from below, the entrances are tidy, without spoil heaps on the outside. The grass around the entrance is often nibbled short to make a ‘lawn’.
Among the species’ most reliable field signs, water-vole droppings are shaped like Tic Tacs but slightly larger, at about 8–12mm in length. They range in colour from olive to black, depending on freshness. Both sexes deposit piles of droppings to mark territory.
3 Feeding signs
Search for stems of grasses, rushes and sedges consistently cut at a 45° angle. The offcuts are often left stacked in small piles.
Water-vole prints are a similar size to those of rats, so can be tricky to identify, but there is a ‘starry’ shape to a water vole’s paw as the outermost toes splay out on both sides.
Water voles push tunnel-like paths through long grass on banksides, and make muddy slipways leading into the water.