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THE Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 provides full protection for many species but one in particular is close to us all in the Melksham area.
Local photographer and wildlife enthusiast, Ken Elborn explains, “Generally widespread but suffering one of the most serious declines of any mammal in Britain, the water vole is currently surviving well at Clackers Brook. This furry water loving animal is a priority conservation species.
“Many enjoy a walk through the impressive Primrose Nature Area adjacent to Clackers Brook then further towards Forest & Sandridge school but probably, unknowingly, strolling along a protected area due to the presence of this species now under threat. With news of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust securing funding for habitat improvements of the brook, the future could look even brighter for our own local water vole population.
“I have been monitoring the brook on a semi-regular basis for sightings of this fairly elusive critter for the past seven years and now believe there could be six separate habitats. A degree of stationary patience and good fortune is required to get a sighting. However, help may be at hand courtesy of Chris Packham, BBC’s Spring & Autumn Watch presenter due to his many references to the subject of ‘poo’.
“Ironically this particular bodily function may assist you in a sighting.
“At the time of writing, the brook is on flood again as is common each winter and you actually wonder how the little fellas manage to survive, but survive they do through their large network of underground tunnels. When water levels return to low, look for flat dirt areas close to the water’s edge and signs of droppings – an indication of water vole activity in that area. An excellent time is spring, when the vegetation they eat is producing fresh greenery and the views are not restricted due to natural growth.
“Another tip; where you see holes slightly smaller than a tennis ball close to the water or even further up the bank, it could well be an active area. In spring / early summer those holes often appear bare around the edge due to the vole eating the vegetation close to home.
“I have heard passers-by make reference to the fact they have seen rats in the brook, which could obviously be correct, but there is also a very strong possibility they have in actual fact had the privilege of seeing a water vole.
“There is now a 90-second video you may enjoy on YouTube highlighting Clackers Brook water vole activity with the ending highlighting their elusiveness. To view:- Type in YouTube search or your search bar:- water vole clackers or this link – www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGSfgLRVxpc