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Old dry stone walls, what wonderful things. I was making a couple of drawings where a wooden gate joined such a wall, and taking a few back-up photographs when a vole poked its head from a crevice in the wall. It had the reddish colour of a bank vole, a common enough little mammal and no doubt there are scores of them nearby us, unseen and busy with their lives. This one peered at me with its small, dark eyes and as I aimed my camera it was suddenly gone. Not to worry, I had gained a useful photo of black spleenwort fern and wall pennywort, and the vole was snugly away in its home.
Bank voles are good climbers and about 1oz (28g) in weight. It has a chubbier appearance than a mouse and a short, furry tail. It is often about by day, tending to run and scurry, rarely leaping and bounding. Between April and September, inclusive, there may be four or five litters each with four or five babies, Bramble thickets, hedgerows and woody scrub areas are its favoured habitats and it is common in country gardens.
Each bank vole occupies a home range and does not normally venture more than 55 yards (50m) from its nest, with males tending to range more widely than females. Populations build quickly in mild years with ample food availability but the mortality rate is high and about half of those born die in the first few months in wet, cold weather or are predated upon. Adults may live for 18 months to 2 years. Their diet is seeds, berries, nuts, fruit, fungi and green plants.
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