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Visiting Snowdonia

Warden Service


Migneint Water Vole Survey

25 July 2016

Successful day at this year's Migneint Water Vole survey

On Tuesday the 19th of July, I was fortunate enough to take part in this year’s annual Water Vole Survey and training day on the stunning landscape of the Migneint, right in the middle of the Snowdonia National Park. The annual survey was once again arranged and lead by assistant area warden Bill Taylor, an expert in spotting the signs of Water Voles.

The Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris) is Britain’s largest Vole, reaching a size of around 18 – 22cm in length, with a coat of thick brown hair, and as its name suggest, is an excellent swimmer, living in bank side burrows close to slow moving water. The Water Vole is quite an elusive creature, diving into the water with a ‘plop’ when frightened, where they will swim away, disturbing the gravel bed as they do so to provide a ‘smokescreen’ for their escape.

A Water Vole

A Water Vole - copyright Pat Waring

Not only are Water Voles elusive, they are unfortunately becoming quite rare, having lost some of their natural habitat along with the fact that it is preyed upon by the non-native American Mink. The Water Vole is in fact the UK’s fastest declining mammal, a fact that makes the annual Water Vole Survey of the utmost importance.

On the 19th of July, Bill Taylor and I were joined by Natural Resources Wales staff, along with volunteers from Snowdonia Society, all of which were keen to learn about the Water Vole in order to get surveying. After receiving an excellent talk from Bill Taylor and Dave Thorpe, one of Natural Resource Wales’s expert ecologists, on the Water Vole and how to spot their signs, we all went off through the reeds next to Afon Taihirion to try and spot the tell-tale signs of the presence of Water Voles.

A Talk from Bill

A talk from Bill

A Talk from Dave

Dave Thorpe showing us what to look for

Adult Water Voles have their own territories, which they mark with latrines located near their burrows or water edge platform, where they enter and leave the water. The cigar shaped droppings found in these latrines are clear indicators of the presence of Water Voles.

A Latrine Site

A Latrine Site

Luckily our survey day was a success, with some twenty eight latrine sights recorded, which will now be uploaded to the Cofnod website, confirming that the Migneint still has an active Water Vole population, which is great news. The group also had the opportunity to see some classic Vole runs, tunnels, bankside burrows and feeding signs, as well as indicators of the presence of Field Voles, and the opportunity to observe some local birds of prey at work, including the Red Kite, Kestrel and Hen Harrier.

Looking for Signs

Looking for Signs

A fun and interesting day was had by all, thanks to the keen hands on efforts of the volunteers and the excellent talk and training provided by Bill and Dave Thorpe.

If you are interested in learning more or in volunteering in other nature surveys, including additional Water Vole surveys, then please feel free to get in touch with us –

Simon Roberts – 01766 772 241

Bill Taylor – 01678 520 626

The Survey Team

The Survey Team