I have been looking for water voles for a while as I love these little creatures and have never seen them in the wild. I had seen a report on the local wildlife trust website saying that they were present on one of their reserves, so off I went. Several visits later and still no voles, although there were plenty of signs (burrows about the size of a Pringles tube just above the water level with a neat lawn outside, tic-tac sized and shaped poo at various points, vegetation gnawed at a low level).
Ever the patient chap I was willing to keep trying but a random conversation made all the difference. I had bought my wife a wildlife photography course for her birthday and the guy who took the course had some fantastic water vole pictures. When asked, it turns out he knew of a site about 500 meters from where I had been waiting. We visited the next week to scope out the area, and in a space of an hour saw two water voles foraging not more than 10 meters away, totally unfazed by our presence. After several visits (some successful, some less so) I have managed to get some great shots. I have also seen a kingfisher and weasel, although both too briefly to get any pictures. It goes to show that talking to people and getting local knowledge can make all the difference to getting good shots. I am always open to sharing my sites, as was the chap above, but often you will find that people are quite possessive of their good locations.
Tips for photographing water voles:
Research their behaviour and where to find them, they are more active in the morning and late afternoon, but I have seen them throughout the day.
They love relatively steep banks with vegetation which they nibble down near their burrows to create a neat lawn area.
Wear dull coloured, rustle free clothing.
Get low (wildlife pictures look great if taken at the animal’s eye level), they are often fairly oblivious to you being there, I have had one swimming along directly below me without a care in the world.
Late August is the best time of year to catch them as the riverbank vegetation starts to die back and they are quite active at this time.
They are about all year round as they do not hibernate.
Enjoy watching them as well as photographing them, they are charming creatures with real character.