Up until 2002 the Reservoir Basin, and Blue Beck in particular, had been home to a regionally important population of water voles, as was confirmed by a survey by the Yorkshire Mammal Group in 1997 when a training day was held for the Yorkshire Otter and Rivers Project.
In 2002 the Internal Drainage Board dredged and reprofiled the banks of Blue Beck for it’s length, despite the presence of obvious water vole nests, dumping the dredgings on the banks at the same time destroying some long-standing Tansy Beetle habitats in the process. Despite protests nothing was done about this, flood management being the controlling factor over the Wildlife and Countryside Act. As additional scrapes were introduced, including some long ones parallel to the Barrier Bank, it was always hoped that the water voles might somehow return as the management became less invasive.
In the spring of 2015 our ecologist, Martin Hammond, thought he recognized signs of water vole grazing but without any tell-tale latrines. We then asked if the Yorkshire Mammal Group would survey the area again, which Ann Hanson and colleagues kindly offered to do. Throughout the summer of 2015 brief observations of the rafts they’d placed showed little sign, but with the growth of plants around, they was difficult to observe but then in late July 2015 real signs were seen. First an individual thought he’d seen a water vole splashing into one of the new scrapes, and then Ann checked again – a massive latrine and droppings on the rafts.
The monitoring will carry on through the summer, and it’s planned that a mammal trapping event will be carried out for the public, and to give us some further data into what small mammals might exist on the site.
So, if anyone sees any little wooden rafts pegged down around the area, or even squares of roofing felt that were layed as part of the reptile surveying, can they please leave them alone. We did have a few illegal fox traps set the other year, but rather than touching anything inform us and we’ll check anything out, as it might well be official.