Tag Archives: Ditches

Holes and (Water) Voles

Chloe Hayes Water vole project apr13 003This year a student from Hull University’s Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences, in Scarborough carried out her undergraduate dissertation on Water Voles on The Carrs. Chloe Hayes sampled a selection of farm ditches, plus the River Derwent and the Hertford, looking for field signs (latrines, burrows, footprints, feeding signs). Chloe concluded that Water Voles are definitely still present in places. On Potter Brompton Carr, the best of the farm sites she looked at, 7 out of 10 watercourses sampled had signs of this endangered aquatic mammal present.

The habitat feature that seemed to correlate most closely with the presence of water voles in Chloe’s study was the density of ditch vegetation, indicating the value of the management of drainage channels to encourage a thriving  community of macrophytes (larger plants). Her observations also suggest that ditches with well-developed stands of reeds (Phragmites) are favoured, perhaps because they offer good year-round shelter and are a popular food plant of these furry vegetarians. Higher Level Stewardship schemes on some of the sites sampled have included capital works and ditch management regimes that may have benefitted water voles on these riparian habitats. This could include for example: retaining more consistent depth and flows of water in some ditches, where water level management sluices are in place; enhancing opportunities for marginal vegetation through re-profiling or through less frequent ditch maintenance regimes. Clearly there is a case for further monitoring of aquatic mammals and the impact of wetland stewardship schemes in The Carrs near Scarborough.

The dissertation is an unpublished student project, but if anyone wishes to learn more about it, or the findings please get in touch.