On the 29th June, members of the public, Norfolk Wildlife Trust staff and Broads Authority staff all attended a successful NWS-led water vole course at Hickling Broad. Sue Traer (course leader and water vole specialist) kicked off the day in the classroom, catching everyone up to speed with water vole ecology, covering their lifecycle, habitat, food, and predators.
With the water vole taking the unfortunate position of Britain’s fastest declining mammal, Sue also tackled the species’ conservation status, educating attendees on the problems the water vole faces, the reasons for their decline and current water vole legislation.
After lunch everyone whacked on their wellies and headed outside. John Blackburn gave attendees a tour of the reserve, introducing them to the general habitat of Hickling Broad. Then it was time to learn the all-important survey techniques, applying the lessons from the classroom to the field. Everyone got stuck in searching the ditches for classic water vole signs: latrines, droppings, burrows and footprints.
By the end of the day, after identifying numerous latrines, feeding signs and burrows, everybody headed home satisfied that they could distinguish ‘Ratty’ from their bog-standard rat.