THEY are an endangered animal immortalised as Ratty in Wind in the Willows.
But they have been discovered in a rather surprising place – a stream next to a giant supermarket.
Water voles usually prefer quiet areas and are rarely seen. Some nature lovers spend years trying to photograph them.
But Bryn Green, of Chidham Close, Havant, had a tip-off he would find them in the stream running alongside Tesco, off Solent Road, Havant.
His patience paid off and he captured the creatures on camera.
Mr Green said: ‘I saw a programme on television about a man who had been trying to photograph them for years.
‘I’d heard they were at the stream by the side of Tesco that goes under the motorway, from a man I trust. I had never seen them myself though.
‘One day I decided to try. It was about 3pm and I’d been waiting a while before I spotted them swimming with vegetation in their mouths.’
Mr Green, 74, and his wife Hilary drop everything to film wildlife.
They say they prefer pictures of wildlife to having photos of people up in their home.
Mr Green added: ‘I was really happy to be able to see and photograph the water voles.
‘Some people look at them and think they’re rats but they’re actually very different.
‘They only eat vegetation and must have clean water to live in.
‘Unfortunately a lot were killed when American mink was let loose by animal rights protesters. But luckily the numbers are coming back up again now.’
Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery is encouraging landowners and householders to do their bit to help reintroduced the endangered water vole to the River Meon.
Mr Hollingbery, a keen fisherman, went to Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve to learn more about an initiative helping the much loved riverbank creature.
Hundreds have been released from the site in Titchfield and DNA tracking has shown they have travelled as far as the River Meon in as little as six weeks.
‘I can remember marvelling at seeing my first ever water vole when out fishing and I have been rather fond of them ever since,’ said Mr Hollingbery.
‘So it’s a good news story that they are back up and running in the River Meon.’