Water Vole Project

Water vole habitat work in Sidlesham

June 24th, 2014 by Jane Reeve

A ditch in Church Farm Lane, Sidlesham that links two ponds together has had a make over in the last few months.  The roadside ditch has had water voles living in it for the last few years but one section was getting very overgrown and water voles were no longer using it.  Bring in the Water Vole Patrol and over a couple of days the site was transformed, the water exposed and sunlight able to hit the banks allowing a greater biodiversity of vegetation to grow up.














Water Vole trapping at the Medmerry realignment

June 24th, 2014 by Jane Reeve

In March, MWHG volunteers plus the University of Brighton carried out water vole trapping on the Medmerry realignment site.  we were looking to make sure that water voles were still making a home of some of the pre-existing ditches and to check to see if any of the new ditches designed as good water vole habitat had water voles in them.

We did find water voles, and lots of them, but not in the new habitat which was still quite raw and new.

IMG_2240Medmerry site – original ditch






IMG_2235Water vole being checked for its condition







Bonfire at Florence Pond, Nov 2013

November 22nd, 2013 by Jane Reeve

We carried out a bonfire of all dead material created at the start of October by the TCV, and our volunteers, clearing the hedge and cutting back the bramble.  We picked a dryish day and came prepared with fire lighters and kindling and before long it was really going.  There was a lot of material to burn but with the help of a trusty team from the ASHE group the dead branches, bramble and laurel was all burnt. Well done!


We set up a fire site and then carefully lifted material into the fire – this way no hedgehogs or other animals could get accidently incinerated or burnt.


The fire was allowed with kind permission of the farmer who has been very supportive of all our work at Florence Pond.


Bushell’s Pond with water in it!

November 8th, 2013 by Jane Reeve

After the hard work in October, when the TCV came and cleared all the bramble form Bushell’s pond, it was great to see that there is finally water in it.  we need to have a continual plan to keep it clear of rubbish and to populate it with other marginal vegetation but it is now looking like a pond.  It was very encouraging to see a water vole in the ditch just a few metres away – on the opposite side of the road to the farm entrance.  This ditch was dug out earlier in late summer but had been dry for 3 months.  Yellow iris and water cress is sat on the bankside and will be used to populate the pond.  The water vole was seen excavating a burrow in the bank in the long grass and then swimming underwater to the other side.

Willow removal from Sheep Dip Pond

October 26th, 2013 by Jane Reeve

Natural succession can slowly fill ponds with vegetation and willow and to maintain biodiversity ponds have to be managed.  Sheep dip pond has had water vole records for the last couple of years but has slowly been over taken by willow.  After a dry summer with little rain, there were no water voles as the water left the pond.  This was an opportunity to tackle the willow, remove it and to open up the pond for other vegetation to exploit the increased light levels.

Before                                                                After

Water Vole trapping on Chichester Canal Oct 2013

October 26th, 2013 by Jane Reeve

We had a very enjoyable water vole trapping session on the Chichester canal, the Birdham section, at the beginning of October 2013.  Trapping water voles requires a license from Natural England and must be related to a scientific project that will benefit the species.  Rowenna Baker from The University of Brighton is carrying out DNA analysis of water voles to better understand their relationships and dispersal in different habitats.  Rowenna has been using the population on the Chichester canal as one of her study groups and this is the 3rd trapping session that she has carried out.

The first stage of the trapping is to put out 50 traps over a kilometre stretch.

Then the traps are baited with apples and filled with hay and carrot.  On this occasion the apple and carrot were kindly provided by Nature’s Way – 10kg of carrot and 50 apples.  The traps are then checked morning and night – the difficult bit is getting the water vole out of the trap!


Once a water vole is caught – it is ‘processed’.

First the individual is checked to see if it has already been caught and micro-chipped in a previous session.  If not it is weighed, sexed, its condition assessed, and then it is micro-chipped.

The water vole is then placed in a Pringles tube and released back into the canal where it was caught.

The water vole trapping did not catch as many water voles this year as we have in previous years.  in total we got 7 individuals, which compared to 18 in Oct 2012 is significantly less.  There may be a number of factors that has caused this drop.  The water levels in the ditches and ponds across the peninsula have been very low as a result of a dry summer and this has also affected the canal.  The canal banks had been strimmed removing much of the bankside vegetation and the open water of the canal is dominated by a thick pond weed.  These may all be factors that have made trapping water voles more difficult this year.

The Water Vole Patrol all had fun with the trapping, not sure the water voles enjoyed it quite so much!  Thanks to Rowenna and Pete for including us in their project.


Trust for Conservation Volunteers visit

October 25th, 2013 by Jane Reeve

We were lucky enough to have 10 volunteers, and 2 leaders, from the Trust for Conservation Volunteers spend a Water Vole Weekend with us at the start of October.  They spent two and a half days tackling large habitat restoration jobs and really put in lots of hard work.

We also fed them, with the help of many MWHG volunteers, and ensured that they had lots of fun and knew how the work was going to improve habitat for water voles.

The corner of Florence Pond before:

And after:


Dinner for 12!

The work to clear Bushell’s Pond in Almodington was also a triumph with lots of keen hands.

Before                                                                        After



Water Vole Patrol

September 7th, 2013 by Jane Reeve

The water Vole Patrol are a group of volunteers that work in the countryside of the Manhood Peninsula with farmers and other landowners to secure the long term future of the nationally rare and endangered water vole.  The key to their long term survival is connecting up the small colonies that live across the area in ponds, ditches, rifes, reedbeds and canals, to encourage genetic diversity, to ensure dispersal of young and to allow movement during environmental stress, and finally, American mink eradication.

The water voles do not always live in pristine and quiet waterways.  One colony of water voles lives in the Bremere Rife in Hunston and this a fairly urban stretch with a fast busy and noisy road adjacent to it. There is some vegetation but the site of the most active burrows are found close to a pub and the water course here is full of litter and broken glass.  Water voles seem to adapt and be very loyal to burrow systems.

Water Vole Trapping

September 16th, 2012 by Bruce_author
Water Vole Trapping

Sophie, Jasmine, Ann, Sheila, Rowena and Pete ©2012 Jane Reeve

We had a great time with Rowenna Baker of Brighton University trapping water vole along the Chichester Canal in May. Sixteen different volunteers helped out over four days with morning and evening sessions, opening up the traps, checking the contents and resetting them.

Rowenna is looking at the dispersal of water voles in different habitats and how that affects the genetic diversity in the population. The Chichester canal was chosen as it has a continuous stretch of about 1 kilometre of water vole habitat and will reflect genetic diversity of this special peninsula population.

Row, John,Dave, Ann, Jasmine, Christina and Sophie ©2012 Jane Reeve

Once a water vole was caught we had the difficult task of transferring it into a bag. It was then weighed, sexed, its condition assessed, a hair sample taken for DNA and then pit tagged (micro chipped).

Female juvenile ©2012 Jane Reeve

The weather was wet and the tow paths got very muddy but over the four days 15 individual water voles were trapped. The team had a huge amount of fun helping with this research and as well as seeing water voles close up and being handled they also saw many individuals swimming across the canal and on the banks.

It was a great opportunity for the volunteers that spend a lot of time surveying for water voles but never seeing these shy creatures, to get to study them at close quarters and to contribute to important scientific research.

Row and female juvenile ©2012 Jane Reeve

Rowenna has carried out some analysis and has estimated an adult population of approximately 21 along that stretch with a density of about 1 water vole every 48 metres, which is good this time of year.

A more robust statistical analysis can take place in the autumn when we have carried out the next round of trapping and have more data. We will be able to see the growth of the population over this season, with lots of dispersal from the site so hopefully they can find suitable habitat in the surrounding farmland ditches!

Thanks again to everyone for their input.

Water Vole DNA Study

September 16th, 2012 by Bruce_author

Email 29 March 2011 – From Jane Reeve, WaterVole Project Officer; Subject: DNA Study

” Dear Water Vole Patrol,

I have had an email from Rowena Baker, the PhD student carrying out work on water vole DNA, about trapping water voles along the Chichester canal in May. She and I have been working together to identify sites for her to work on in and around the peninsula and she is starting off on the canal.

She is going to be trapping water voles (she has a licence) removing a hair sample for DNA analysis, and possibly pit tagging them. She will be putting 8 traps out and checking them between 4.00 – 5.00pm in the evening and at 6.30am in the morning. She will be doing this on Monday 7th May thru until the last day of Thursday 10 May.

Many of you may be meeting her at the Amberley training session on the
14th April and we can have a chat with her about it then but it will be a chance to see water voles closeup, hurrah!

Let me know if you are interested in getting involved, which date, morning or evening and I will pass this on to her. She could really do with the help and it is lovely to raise our profile too.

Thanks everyone,

Jane watervoles@mwhg.org.uk

Mapson Farm

May 24th, 2012 by JohnH

We visited Mapson Farm today to complete a Water Vole Survey to help Jane

Reeve with the overall mapping of Water Voles on the Manhood Peninsula last month.


Water Vole Surveying

April 16th, 2012 by Bruce_author

The Water Vole

Water Vole

Adrian Thomas ©2009

The water vole is an endangered species and we have the only native wild population in West Sussex on the Manhood Peninsular. Help us find out where they are and how many we have!

We are looking for volunteers to get involved in surveying sites on the Manhood Peninsular in 2012.

If interested, please contact Jane Reeve, the MWHG Water Vole Project officer on email: watervoles@mwhg.org.uk