Friday, 26 April 2013

rescuing ratty...


Dear Ratty from The Wind in the Willows, wasn't a rat at all, but a rather lovely water vole - many people still call them by their old name of water rats or even just rats. You'd be forgiven for not knowing what a water vole is, as they are a species that in our lifetime has declined by over 90% in the UK, which is comparable to the decline of the black rhino in Africa (who gets a lot more PR!)

I was fortunate to be taken out yesterday to search for the elusive water vole and see some of the important nature conservation work to reverse the decline of this species and prevent it from extinction. It was a lovely day so we stopped on a bridge for a picnic whilst dangling our feet in the cool water.


The water vole lives on the riverbank, a vegetarian he bothers no one. Unfortunately he is predated by the American mink and his decline can be attributed to the minks release from fur farms years ago. He has also suffered from habitat degradation, for example cattle being allowed to drink from rivers, resulting in poached river banks destroying valuable water vole habitat.


On the picture above you can see how the riverbank on the right has been poached by cattle and collapsed, over time the river has widened and lost vegetation. A new fence has been erected to stop further poaching and the old riverbank line reinstated by using stakes and faggots made from coppiced wood, in time this will be the riverbank as the vegetation fills in the gap. The good thing is these improvements benefit other species such as the brown trout, white clawed crayfish, kingfisher and otter too - so it isn't about single species conservation, it's about the bigger picture.

Unfortunately we didn't see a water vole, but found its poo - a sure sign that they are there, thanks to the miles of riverbank restoration work by the National Trust, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, local volunteers and farmers.


3 comments:

  1. Oh Emma this is such a thrilling post. Not only is this project heartening and there's clearly evidence that the water voles are very much alive, but the little river fence is so beautiful and it shows that countryside crafts and old ways of land management are being saved too.

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  2. I've just stumbled across your blog and absolutely love it - I'm a sucker for lovely photographs! By the look of it you're not too far away from us either!

    Brooke xx

    ThisCotswoldGirl.com

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  3. Did you take those photos? They're amazing!
    http://poetryandproseseventh.blogspot.com/

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