Water voles are fighting back
SOME visitors to RSPB Saltholme recently have been very fortunate to spot one of our rare and elusive mammals.
It’s the water vole, which suffered one of the most serious declines of any British mammal in the 20th Century. When I was a lad I can recall the occasional “plop” of a water vole entering the water as I strolled along the banks of a stream. But I haven’t seen one for years. The last was maybe ten years ago, swimming nochalently in the River Leven at Great Ayton.
Numbers in Britain have been reduced by around 90 per cent, with that perennial introduced pest the American mink being named as the major culprit. Other causes are loss of habitat and pollution.
Fortunately there has been a fightback during the last few years, with
■ several charities introducing mink elimination programmes. Water quality has also been gradually improving.
Saltholme officials have encouraged water voles to visit their special feeding platform at the Wildlife Watchpoint, which is where Mark Walpole took this photo.
While water voles are always a delight to behold, the beauty is that they are active during the day, which gives nature lovers a better chance of spot- ting them. Another bonus is that they do not hibernate, so it’s a year around chance.
If you are walking near water and hear the familiar “plop”, even if you don’t spot the water vole, then it is always worthwhile informing an interested conservation group who may be able to take steps to support this particular animal.
And, on the subject of supporting wild creatures, make a note for your diary. Sunday, August 7, is Hen Harrier Day and personally I think it’s a very important day. I was fortunate enough to spot a male hen harrier last year, at Hurworth Burn Reservoir, and the memories will live with me for the rest opf my life.
But hen harriers are being illegally shot, hunted and trapped to the point of extinction in England. Eighty per cent of the birds which have been tagged since 2004 have “disappeared”.
It’s important that ordinary people gain a voice to try to save this beautiful bird. A groundswell of public opinion can bring about dramatic change.
The nearest Hen Harrier Day awareness event to us is at Saltholme, and runs from 10.30am to 1.30pm. There will be special speakers and the more people who attend the better it may be for the hen harrier.
Eric would like to hear from readers about what they have seen. Email him at eric.pay[email protected]