Immortalised as Ratty in book The Wind in the Willows the water vole was spotted more than twice as often as last year in the latest British Waterways annual survey.

89 of the threatened mammals were spotted, twice the number see in 2008, with the most spotted in the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Rare butterflies, otters, a porpoise and even an alligator snapping turtle were among the less common of the 42,500 sightings recorded, while mallards, Canada geese and swans were the most commonly seen.

It was also a good year for sightings of the 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.

British Waterways’ national ecology manager, Dr Mark Robinson, 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.

“With 50% of the UK’s population living within five miles of a freely accessible canal or river, there’s never been a better time to get closer to nature.”

Luke Walsh

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