Water vole surveys do not normally take place in December but, with the weather in Kent staying in double figures, water voles were active all month. This allowed us to survey a section of Bells Drain for the Lower Medway Internal Drainage Board to see if water vole were present and look at options for displacing them when work takes place next year to widen this section of channel.
Despite the unseasonably mild weather, wading in a channel on marshland close to the Swale Estuary, still proved bitterly cold as Matt Mordaunt, ecological assistant discovered. Raw winds battered across the grassland restoration site and we were grateful for the hospitality of the RSPB warden who provided hot cups of tea.
Water vole were evident in low numbers along the channel and plans will now be drawn up to apply for a Natural England licence to move them, hopefully to a vacant channel on Sheppey.
The rest of this month was busy with visits to farmers across the North Kent Marshes. Working for Natural England, we are sharing the results of this years breeding wader surveys with farmers receiving Higher Level Stewardship options and discussing the best ways to manage their land to encourage more lapwing and redshank to breed. We have been delighted with the positive and flexible attitude of all the landowners involved in this scheme and will continue to work with them throughout the coming year to get the mix of water and grass just right for these birds.
Working with landowners is of vital importance if we are not to become a country where wildlife only survives on reserves. Much of our wildlife needs large spaces and interconnected habitats in order to maintain viable populations. Farmers get a poor press when it comes to wildlife and there is still plenty of room for improvement, particularly when it comes to chemical use, but many landowners are discretely doing some wonderful work for wildlife and take genuine joy in seeing creatures return to their land that they remember being abundant in their youth.