Water Vole at Amwell NR © Alan Reynolds

Local wildlife photographer, Alan Reynolds, took this stunning photograph of a Water Vole at Amwell NR on 8 July 2014, he has not seen them there for ten years.
He tells the story of his discovery:-

"I had gone to Amwell with the sole intention of looking for Emerald Damselflies on the Dragonfly Trail at Hollycross Lake. Although it was quite warm with the sun out for a while there was no sign of any Emeralds. However, although they should be on the wing by now, I seem to remember that last year's records were a little later in the season. I then moved back to the pond between the viewing platform and Hollycross Lake itself and couldn't believe my eyes, for there right in front of me was a Water Vole gnawing away at some vegetation."

Water Voles used to be present at Amwell but have been under pressure here and elsewhere from predation by American Mink. Since 2006, when Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust acquired the reserve, mink monitoring and controls have been in place and mink presence at Amwell has reduced. As a result the first signs of the return of Water Voles to the area have been seen over the last few months, all along the Magna Fishery on the old River Lea consisting of just one or two sightings and some droppings. Hopefully they will spread into the surrounding area.

Alan explained:-

"Water Voles have never been recorded on the Dragonfly Trail since its formal opening on the 4th July 2008 and have been absent on site for more than 10 years. In my opinion their return to the site is a direct result of the long-term programme of Mink raft monitoring that has been carried out."

"The photo was taken about 12 feet in front of the right-hand end of the main viewing platform looking at Hollycross Lake. At this point there is a stand of Common Bulrush Scirpus lacustris, a fairly scarce plant despite its name and as far as I can remember, apart from the old River Lea which is not part of the reserve, this is the only place on the reserve where it is found. It may not be present for much longer, however, as it is systematically being devoured by the vole as can be witnessed by the dozen or so stems that have been chewed off about six inches above the water, two of which can be seen in the photo.. Hollycross Lake and the dragonfly ponds provide ideal habitat for Water Voles so let us hope that they build up a colony, as not only will it be great to have them back on site, but the Dragonfly Trail boardwalk will provide an ideal vantage point for seeing them."

"Well, I didn't see my Emerald Damselflies, but what a consolation prize."

Welcoming the news, Jenny Sherwen, Reserves Officer at Amwell Nature Reserve, said:
"This is wonderful. It is just reward for the huge amount of work that has been done at Amwell over the years to ensure that the wetland habitats are in good condition"

Tim Hill, Conservation Manager at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, added:
"The return of the water vole to Amwell just shows what a landscape-scale approach to conservation can do. The Wildlife Trust is working to maintain a network of linked wildlife habitats through the Lea Valley which allows wildlife to move around and flourish. Here’s hoping there are many more sightings to come!"

Although Alan did not see one on this occasion, Emerald Damselflies are often seen at Amwell NR and along the Lea Valley. This photo was taken by Simon Knott on 28 June 2014 at nearby Kings Meads. 

You can read more from Alan Reynolds on his Seymour Birdies wildlife blog

More about Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust's Amwell Nature Reserve

Buy a copy of our book - Dragonflies and Damselflies of Hertfordshire by Alan Reynolds, only £7.

More about Water Voles from the Mammal Society, the Wildlife Trusts and Natural England