The Water Vole — Christine Gregory — 4th April 2016

Christine Gregory has lived in Youlgrave for the past 25 years observing the life of Bradford Dale and its sur­round­ings.  Since her career as a lec­turer she now is a writer, pho­to­grapher and artist.

In 2010 her book Brown Hares in the Derbyshire Dales was pub­lished and she gave a talk on the sub­ject to Probus last year.  This was much enjoyed and she was asked to give a talk on Water Voles when her latest book became avail­able.

Christine is a bril­liant pho­to­grapher and her talk is struc­tured by show­ing superb pho­to­graphs of not only water voles but other anim­als and birds that impact on them.  On the basis that there is much ignor­ance about water voles, she began by explain­ing what they are and why they are a spe­cies as endangered as the hedge­hog.  They are one of the largest voles in the UK and are often mis­taken for the brown rat.  Females are 8–9” long and males about 10” long.  They live in bur­rows close to water and their diet is almost totally veget­arian.

It is feared that over the past 7 years their num­bers in this coun­try have declined by 80%. Whilst Barn Owls, Kestrels, Pike and Stoats prey on Water Voles, the main pred­ator is Mink.  30% of a Mink’s diet is Water Vole.

During the 1990’s when Otters were in steep decline, it’s thought that Mink num­bers increased and caused the Water Vole pop­u­la­tion to plum­met.  It is hoped that where Otters get re-established that Water Voles will also return.  Christine showed maps of the River Trent region to illus­trate where the south­ern and east­ern areas are now com­pletely devoid of Water Voles.  There may be evid­ence that Water Vole beha­viour is chan­ging and the anim­als are spend­ing less time in their bur­rows as that is where the Mink kill them.  They are also increas­ingly inhab­it­ing upland streams.  Streams and ditches around Stanage  Edge is an example.  Her talk was par­tic­u­larly per­tin­ent for Stumperlowe Probus as many of the places referred to are well known to many of the mem­bers.  Her talk was very enter­tain­ing and inform­at­ive.