Essex Rivers Hub

River Colne Water Vole translocation project

This is a partnership project between Essex Wildlife Trust and DP World, with the assistance of Colchester Borough Council, The Woodland Trust and numerous private landowners along the River Colne from Halstead to Colchester.

Background

Surveys of the River Colne in 1998 revealed a decline in water voles which coincided with an increase in mink sightings. By 2004, no surviving water vole colonies could be located on the main channel with a small number of voles on a tributary near Earls Colne finally gone by 2006. In 2007 an Essex Water Vole Recovery Project was initiated by Essex Wildlife Trust but the River Colne was not included in this initial phase.

 A catchment scale reintroduction

In 2009, a major port development on the Thames at Corringham threatened to displace several hundred water voles. In order to ensure these animals would not only be moved to safety, but could further the strategic aims of the Essex Water Vole Recovery Project, it was agreed to translocate them to the River Colne. The project, funded by DP World, involved 5 years of mink control and three years of water vole reintroductions. This is now the largest water vole translocation ever attempted in the Eastern Region with over 600 voles released between 2010-2012 along 6 miles of river from Halstead to Fordham.

Monitoring of the new water vole population has included radio tracking of 20 newly released voles, a dissertation thesis on water vole habitat suitability and recolonisation success and an undergraduate study on the effects of the 2012 flooding on water vole dispersal.

Other benefits

Secondary benefits of this successful catchment scale reintroduction have been the inclusion of water voles on three Higher Level Stewardship applications from local farmers who gave permission for releases on their land; the use of the river to train undergraduate and postgraduate university students in water vole ecology and radio tracking techniques; and improved breeding opportunities for kingfishers and nesting water fowl from the removal of invasive mink.

Future plans

Annual Riversearch surveys and Nightwatch camera trapping of the river will continue to be organised by Essex Wildlife Trust throughout the catchment.

While funding for mink control ends in 2014 it is hoped that landowners, residents and parish councils along the Colne catchment will be willing to adopt monitoring rafts to maintain a safe environment not only for the water voles, but kingfishers, water fowl and other wildlife along the river.

Please contact the Essex Rivers Hub if you would like more details on how to take part in these ongoing projects.

Young water vole on the Colne in 2013

RBD/catchment/river/tributary

River Colne

WFD water body status

Moderate

WFD overall status objective

Good Ecological Status by 2027

Project type

Species translocation

Benefiting species and/or habitats

Water vole, Kingfisher, moorhen, water fowl. Secondary benefits: Points gained for landowner HLS agreements University educational and volunteer training opportunities Good support from residents and communities throughout the catchment

Total area covered by project

Halstead to Fordham - 9km

Total area surveyed

Halstead to Colchester (main channel) and the Bourne Brook tributary - 22km

Project lead

Essex Wildlife Trust

Contact for more information

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Project partners

DP World, Colchester Borough Council, The Woodland Trust, private landowners

Funding source

DP World

Project start

2007

Project end

ongoing

Website key stakeholders:

Environment Agency logo      Essex Wildlife Trust logo            Essex Biodiversity Project logo

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting based on an original concept by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust