Water Voles of the Cromford Canal

[size=12]We spent a fantastic day out on Sunday along the Cromford Canal where we know that Water Voles (Arvicola amphibius) live - we saw many last year in the Autumn.

So when the day dawned with bright sunshine and a good forecast we set off for Ambergate train station car park. A quick walk along the busy A6 found us at the start of the Canal where we walked towards Cromford looking out for the voles along the way.

This area is one of the last remaining strongholds in Derbyshire for the water vole. Water voles are animals which have diminished very rapidly in the county, as they have elsewhere in Britain. This is largely down to two things - the destruction of its habitat and predation by mink. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has put many observation traps along this canal so that they can watch for the presence of mink - this is helping towards conserving and protecting the voles.

Water voles are widespread around Europe and live in the banks of slow moving rivers, streams and canals. They make waterside burrows which have many floor levels that help to prevent flooding, as well as nesting chambers and a food store for winter. Water voles are a meal for many predators but the UK population suffered a catastrophic level of predation by the American mink.

Water voles are quite often mistaken for rats and in fact Ratty from The Wind in the Willows was actually a water vole.

It wasn't long before we saw our first vole was happily munching on a reed on the opposite bank of the canal. We watched it for several minutes and then it swam across the canal to our side where it sat for a second before disappearing under the water and back across to the other bank!

We saw probably 8 or 9 during the day with the best sighting at the canal bridge at Whatstandwell train station where unusually we found a vole eating greenery but not reeds. Not sure of the plant but you can see the remains of a leaf in one of the photographs!

All in all a very good day