Water voles are Britain’s fastest declining mammal species, and a key indicator for the health of our waterways.
The last survey for water voles in Ealing was carried out in 2009 by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Commissioned by Ealing Council, the survey found five, possibly six locations with promising signs of water vole activity. It’s no wonder numbers have declined. Many of these sites have suffered habitat degradation over time. Populations that might be present could also be prone to habitat fragmentation and predation pressure.
Ealing Wildlife Group is surveying key sites in Ealing, looking for the presence of water voles. This forms a two year surveying period and feeds into the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) water vole monitoring programme. We hope to work in collaboration with Brent River and Canal Society (BRCS), Ealing Council and London Wildlife Trust on future water vole projects.
We don’t know if water voles still exist in Ealing so the first priority is to establish presence or absence. Secondly, if they are present, we want to protect them from further decline. We will need to protect and their habitats from degradation and expand their populations. Finally, if absent, we may consider habitat improvement and connectivity initiatives. In the longer term, we could also look at a reintroduction project!
Over winter and early spring 2020, we started placing trail cameras at the key sites identified in 2009. This is when vegetation is low and would therefore help us try to capture any movement.
Back in April, EWG’s founder and Chair, Sean McCormack, filmed this video. In it, Sean talks more about the project and looks for evidence on the trail cams.
The best surveying methods though are river and canal bank walking surveys. These surveys are best done in Summer and Autumn when it’s breeding season and water vole activity is at its peak. This requires trained volunteers who are out looking for field signs. Unfortunately, this has been held up due to Covid-19. We hope to get out and do more though before the end of 2020 so watch this space for updates!