Ratty returns to canals

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A waterways wildlife survey today revealed a huge increase in sightings of the elusive water vole.

British Waterways said 89 voles had been spotted making their home on inland waterways this year, twice as many as last year.

Most of the sightings of the UK's fastest declining mammal were on the Kennet and Avon Canal which runs between Reading and Bristol.

The water vole, immortalised as Ratty in Wind in the Willows, joins almost 300 different species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and other mammals recorded this year.

Rare butterflies, otters and a porpoise were among the less common of the 42,500 sightings recorded, while mallards, Canada geese and swans were the most popular.

British Waterways said it had been a good year for sightings of its survey's focus species the bumblebee, as a warm start to summer meant that a healthy number were spotted taking advantage of waterside wild flowers.

There were also numerous sightings of kingfishers - an indicator of good water quality and a healthy ecosystem.

Dr Mark Robinson, British Waterways' national ecology manager, said: "Canals and rivers are ideal wildlife corridors that support a vast array of wildlife, including bats, newts and otters.

"Whether you are in the middle of a city, or somewhere more remote, you are almost guaranteed to see some exciting wildlife on the waterway. If you look a little harder you might even see something rare or unusual.

"It is particularly encouraging to note the number of water voles spotted this year. Each record helps us to monitor, protect and preserve the amazing biodiversity found on our waterways."

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