A Right Royal Year For Canal Creatures

Kingfishers, newts, toads and otters, have all been spotted in record numbers on Britain’s canals and rivers in this year’s national Waterways Wildlife Survey. Sightings of these much-loved British species have soared, with records of our celebrated river royalty, the kingfisher, jumping by more than 200%.

Following last winter’s harsh weather we were concerned that some species, and in particular kingfishers, could suffer. I’m delighted that we’ve had so many records of kingfishers from across the country this year. The results really show the resilience of nature and the importance of our canal and river network in providing vital shelter and food for a wide variety of wildlife.

That these four species in particular have been sighted more than in previous years is a testament to the huge improvements in water quality and habitat management that we, along with local communities and partner organisations, have worked hard for. They are all great indicators of a healthy and thriving ecosystem.

More than 40,000 sightings were recorded this year by nature-loving members of the public. In Staffordshire there were over 20 sightings of kingfishers (including one in Stoke-on-Trent, showing the waterways are great places to see wildlife even in urban areas) with high numbers of bats, herons, dragonflies and bumblebees also recorded along with sightings of otters, buzzards and barn owls. The region also brought numerous sightings of classic water, garden and woodland birds.

Nationally, the survey revealed that sightings of mink have dropped by 36% on 2009 records.

The decrease in the number of mink being seen could be related to the recent increase in the number of otters in the UK, as our native otters out-compete mink for territory. This may also be great news for the UK’s fastest declining mammal, water voles, which often make a tasty meal for the predatory and aggressive mink. In fact, we have seen another slight increase in the number of water voles sighted compared to 2009.

For more information on British Waterways’ Wildlife Survey 2010 results and to see the winners of this year’s accompanying photography competition, please use the link below.

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