The garden is often visited by many a creature. Living in the countryside it is visited even more so by a wide variety of little wild animals. Of course, most go unseen to us as they scurry about the hedgerows and undergrowth.
One day I was watching and taking photos of the more commonly seen birds on the bird feeder when I looked down below and saw someone looking straight back at me as they stole the bits of nut the birds had dropped. A cute little Bank Vole.
It looked at me as if it had been caught red handed and knew so. One thing got me: it never ran off. It bravely sat amongst the leaves and grasses in the garden, enjoying a feast whilst I watched.
The Bank Vole Habitat
Bank Voles, a member of the rodent family, are common throughout Britain and mainland Europe. They are native to these areas but not Ireland. Sometime around the 1920s, however, they were accidentally introduced into the south west of Ireland when equipment for hydroelectric work on the River Shannon was brought over from Germany.
You will often find bank voles at the edges of woodlands or in hedgerows looking for nuts and berries to feast on. They especially love hazelnuts and blackberries.
Bank Voles do not hibernate so you may spot them all year round.
Difference Between a Vole and a Mouse
Voles are easily confused with mice and even more so when they are young. They both have grey brown hair. They are also similar sizes at around 6 inches long.
To tell the difference you can look into more detail at specific parts of their body.
A vole is noticeably stockier than a mouse. A mouse has larger more prominent ears and eyes.
Take a look at the tail too. A mouse has a tail about the same as the length of its body whilst a vole will have a shorter tail, around a quarter to a half its body length.
A vole has a more blunt nose than a mouse, as well.
If you have a rodent problem inside the house then that is more likely a mouse than a vole. Voles much prefer being and living outdoor in the grasses and hedges where a mouse loves to get indoors.
Difference Between a Bank Vole and a Field Vole
To complicate your rodent spotting even further there is another member of the vole family that is common in the UK: the field vole.
To tell the difference between a field vole and a bank vole you need to look at some of its body parts as well as their fur colour.
In these photos you can see the bank vole’s ears are not as prominent as a mouse’s but are still easily visible (this is so it can hear and scan for danger whilst out of the burrow). A field vole will have the same shaped ears though much smaller and partially hidden in their fur.
Looking at the fur of a field vole, it has grey brown fur all over its body, but a bank vole has more red brown upper fur with grey fur underneath.
If you are lucky enough to have more than one bank vole in your area you may be able to hear them ‘talking,’ as such. They do not just squeak, rather they chatter away and you may hear the little growl they do, as well.
Mums are known to communicate with their young litters by ultrasound.
It was a joy to spend a few precious moments with this shy little creature. Over the next few days I noticed it often came back to check under the bird feeder, and it seemed to be getting braver each time.
I left it alone to be as natural as possible. I didn’t want it to get too brave as I knew the local kestrel had been circling around a lot and didn’t want to interfere with nature too much.
If you have a bird feeder in your garden you may wish to look down as well as up too. You never know who may be feeding off the scraps.