Our waterways offer great opportunities for wildlife
Why not take a few tips from
the Nature's Calendar team as we get closer to waterway wildlife.
love fresh water but are hard to spot. Photo - PA Images.|
are some great nature activities which you can take part in or near waterways
in the British Isles:
* Bird and
* Swan safari.
* Vole watching.
* Bat watching.
and mammal watching
are great places to watch birds dabbling and diving on and around the water.
out for the Dipper, a small white and brown bird which wades, skims, swims and
dives in fast-running streams and waterways.
Also watch out for Grey Wagtails,
a grey, yellow and white bird which loves streams and riversides.
landscape for both birds dabbling close to the water and perching on rocks and
boulders near streams.
But it's not just the birds putting on a show for
visitors - if you're really patient you might even see one or two small mammals
cross your path.
Here are Nature's Calendar's top tips for bird and mammal
watching in lochs, rivers and lakes:
Small mammals such as Otters, Badgers and Voles can sometimes be spotted on shorelines
e.g. Loch Leven.
* Why not look for footprints?
Badgers have five toes with big front claws and smaller ones at the back, while
foxes have four toes, leaving a paw print similar to a dog's.
If you've brought your binoculars to watch the birds, try turning them around
to use them as a magnifying glass for tracks on the ground to help you identify
* The best time of day to spot an Otter
or Water Vole is early morning or evening when they are more active in and around
the water's edge
* Try and find a spot which
already has some evidence of animal activity e.g. prints or droppings
The golden rule - stay still, quiet and be patient!
goes without saying that rivers and wetlands are great places to watch Water Voles.
shy creatures aren't always the easiest to spot, but here are a few tips for seeing
* Look along river and waterway
bank sides for small mounds of mud covered in animal poo and chewed up grass.
Keep your eyes open for Water Vole prints in soft mud. Their front feet have four
toes, leaving a star shaped pattern, whilst their back feet boast five toes.
Listen out for a distinctive plopping sound when a Water Vole jumps into the water
to avoid any humans passing-by.
chestnut-brown coloured creatures have distinctive short rounded ears and a long
hairy tail. They resemble a Rat with a blunt nose.
The Mammal Society website
provides a wealth of information about Water Voles.
Many waterway areas are good for bat
watching including the following Nature's Calendar locations:
Leven in Scotland
try country estates such as Culzean
in Scotland and Crom
Castle in Northern Ireland.
Here's a few
tips to get you started:
* It goes
without saying that night-time is the best time of day to watch bat activity.
Wear dark clothing to blend in with the landscape and stay very still and quiet
so as not to startle the bats.
* Bats can be
hard to identify during flight but there is one obvious factor - the smallest
common bat, the Pipistrelle, only measures about 25cm, while the Noctule bat has
a wingspan one and a half times this size.
If you listen very carefully you may also be able to hear some of the bats' lower
frequency calls, about 12 to 15 high-pitched squeaks per second.