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Tales of the River Bank...Oh..and he's not a RAT!

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posted by Keven Law alias law_keven on Friday 26th of June 2009 07:33:46 PM

Highest Explore Position #429 ~ On Saturday June 27th 2009. Water Vole - British Wildlife Centre, Lingfield, Surrey, England - Sunday June 21st 2009. Click here to see the Larger image Click here to see My most interesting images Tales of the River Bank ~ ~ ...:) Well, after another day off yesterday...I'm back I went out for a few drinks after work, to celebrate one of my colleagues retiring, by the time I got home I was a little worse for ware, lol....I don't drink much these days, so I'm a bit of a light weight..:)'s another one of my captures from my trip to the British Wildlife Centre last Sunday...This is a very rare capture of these lil guys...I've been to the centre around 6 times now...and have only ever seen the Voles twice...the first time for about 20 seconds...this time I managed to get several minutes, which made a change..:)) They are dying out in Britain and every effort is being made to help them re-establish themselves back into the British countryside....I did my bit last year, by clearing loads of weeds n rubbish by the side of a riverbank in South London, some of you may remember..:)) They are also quite small and move very that's another problem with trying too capture a half decent image..:( OK...well, it's a very hot and sticky night here in London village, despite me having the window wide's not doing my allergies much good though I can tell you..:(( Oh well...I hope everybody is having a wonderful evening, sorry if I don't manage to get around to visiting your wonderful streams tonight, I'll try to play catch up over the weekend...I promise..:)) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ~ The European Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius formerly called A. terrestris) is a semi-aquatic mammal that resembles a rat. In fact, the water vole is often informally called the “water rat”. Some authorities consider the Southwestern Water Vole in the same species, but it is now generally considered a distinct species. Water voles have rounder noses than rats, deep brown fur, chubby faces and short fuzzy ears; unlike the rat their tails, paws and ears are covered with hair. In the wild, they survive for 5 months on average; most do not survive a second winter. In captivity, they normally start to deteriorate in condition as they approach their third winter; becoming thinner and losing much of their fur, nearly all die during their third winter. Appearance ~Water voles reach 140–220mm in length (5–9 inches) plus a tail of 55%–70% of this. Adults weigh from 160–350 g (6–12 ounces), juveniles weigh less but must reach around 140–170 g (5–6 ounces) to be able to survive their first winter. Species name ~The binomial applied to the Water Vole is Arvicola amphibius, it was formerly known by the junior synonym A. terrestris. The confusion stems from the fact that Linnaeus described two species of Water Vole on the same page of the same work. Those two forms are now universally considered the same species. Musser and Carleton (2005) recognized A. amphibius (Linnaeus, 1758) as technically correct because the first source to unite the two forms that Linnaeus had treated separately into a single species chose A. amphibius as the valid name. Since A. amphibius and A. terrestris are literally tied in when they were named, priority is determined on the basis of the decision of the first reviewer. This reviewer used A. amphibius to refer to both forms. The species is more widely known by the synonym A. terrestris which for many decades was treated as the valid name. There are three species in the genus Arvicola; A. amphibius the Northern Water Vole, A. sapidus the Southern Water Vole and A scherman the Montane Water Vole. Range ~ The water vole Arvicola amphibius, also known as the Northern water vole, is found in much of Great Britain, northern and central Europe and in parts of Russia. There is another water vole found in northwestern United States, and southwestern Canada. Some sources classify the North American water vole as a separate species, either Microtus richardsoni or Arvicola richardsoni. Habitat ~ In Britain, water voles live in burrows excavated within the banks of rivers, ditches, ponds, and streams. Burrows are normally located adjacent to slow moving, calm water which they seem to prefer. They also live in reed beds where they will weave ball shaped nests above ground if no suitable banks exist in which to burrow. Water voles prefer lush riparian vegetation which provides important cover to conceal animals when they are above ground adjacent to the water body. Areas of heavily grazed and trampled riparian habitats are generally avoided. Water voles may be displaced by the introduction of riparian woodland and scrub as they prefer more open wetland habitats away from tree cover. As well as frequenting typical lowland wetland habitats dominated by rank marginal aquatic vegetation, water voles are also just as at home in areas upland 'peatland' vegetation where they utilise suitable small ditches, rivers and lochs surrounded by moorland up to 1000 m asl (e.g. northern Scotland) In Europe and Russia, they may venture into woods, fields, and gardens. They live under the snow during the winter. Diet ~Water voles mainly eat grass and plants near the water. At times, they will also consume fruits, bulbs, twigs, buds, and roots. In Europe, when there is enough food to last water voles a long time, water vole "plagues" can take place. Water voles eat ravenously, destroying entire fields of grass and leaving the fields full of burrows, during these plagues. Food remains alone are not a reliable indicator of the presence of this species, as other smaller voles can also leave remains of large grasses and rushes. Breeding ~The mating period lasts from March into late autumn. The female vole's pregnancy lasts for approximately 21 days. Up to 8 baby voles can be born, each weighing around 10 g (one fifth of an ounce). The young voles open their eyes three days after their birth. They are half the size of a full grown water vole by the time they are weaned. Behaviour ~ Water Voles are expert swimmers and divers. They do not usually live in large groups. Adult water voles each have their own territories, which they mark with faecal latrines located either near the nest, burrow and favoured water's edge platforms where voles leave or enter the water. Latrines are known to be a good survey indicator of this species, and can be used to gauge abundance of animals [9] They also scent-mark by using a secretion from their bodies (a flank gland), however this is not normally detectable during a field survey. They may attack if their territory is invaded by another WaterVole. Conservation ~ The water vole population in the UK has fallen from its estimated pre-1960 level of around 8 million to 2.3 million in 1990 and to 354,000 (other source: 750,000) in 1998. This represents a 90-95% loss. It is still declining dramatically, the most recent estimate for 2004 is around 220,000. This decline is partly attributed to the American Mink, an aggressive predator of the vole, together with unsympathetic farming and watercourse management which destroyed parts of the water vole's habitat. On 26 February 2008 the UK Government announced full legal protection for Water Voles would be introduced from 6 April 2008. Consequently, the water vole is the UK's fastest declining mammal and efforts are under way to protect the water vole and its habitat from further destruction. One aspect of water vole conservation in the UK is focussed on non-linear habitats such as reed bed which support extensive networks or metapopulations. Other areas supporting healthy populations of water voles are large conurbations such as Birmingham and London and some upland areas where American Mink are scarce. Across the UK the Wildlife Trusts and other organisations are undertaking many practical projects to conserve and restore water vole populations. Water voles have recently returned to Lindow Common nature reserve in Cheshire, UK, after many years of absence. The reserve rangers credit this to conservation management, which included thinning of woodland. There are also indications that the water vole is increasing in numbers in UK areas where the European otter has made a return. The otter predates on the American Mink.

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