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News article created on 26 October 2015

Great Nature Watch: The results

A record number of people have taken part in our campaign to track and reverse the national decline in water voles.

Water vole sat on grass Water vole

Six months ago we asked the public to join the battle to stop one of the country’s best loved and most threatened species, the water vole, from going extinct.

Our analysis of water vole sightings, dating back to 1970, had highlighted an inexorable decline in the species over the last 45 years.

The British public responded and took to the country’s waterways to spot and submit sightings of water voles, among other species, as part of the Great Nature Watch campaign.

428 water vole sightings

Water voles were the most spotted species, with 428 recorded sightings across the country, demonstrating that the waterways provide excellent opportunities to see these shy and elusive species of conservation concern. The second most spotted species was the kingfisher with 180 sightings, third was the heron with 167 sightings.

Mark Robinson, national ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, says: "This was a fantastic citizen science experiment. The high number of people who took part and the extensive number of species from such a variety of habitats spotted, demonstrates what a diverse and accessible place our waterways are to experience nature up close.

"Having received such a high number of water vole sightings is really good news and knowing where they are distributed is fundamental in helping the Trust’s experts monitor them, and maintain and protect their habitats to help halt their decline. That’s why these records are so important to the Trust for all species, and we want people to continue to submit sightings."

163 different species

The campaign received nearly 4,000 sightings from 866 individuals in total, of 163 different species on the canals and rivers across the country, between May and October 2015. Other significant sightings included the number of Little Egret recorded. This small white heron is a new phenomenon; it is a new coloniser to the UK from the continent, only arriving in the late 1990s largely due to the warmer weather because of climate change.

The survey also showed sightings of several species of bird that are of conservation concern, such as the Red List Bittern, Common Scoter, Reed Bunting, Starling, Yellow Wagtail, Dunlin, Lapwing, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Linnet and Marsh Tit, demonstrating the value of the waterways to species that are suffering severe declines.