The Cotswold Water Park – is it ‘all about the birds, no mammals’?

The Cotswold Water Park may be a well known destination for more than 20,000 winter waterbirds, but it’s not just about the birds. The area provides excellent habitat for a staggering 43 different species of mammals too, some well known, some less so, some loved and even loathed.

What sort of mammals am I likely to see on a walk around the lakes?

From the tiny harvest mouse (with the fabulous Latin name of Micromys minutus) to the graceful roe deer, the sheer range of mammals means you should encounter at least one or two different species – most likely the less nervy rabbit, fox, or grey squirrel foraging for food on a daily basis.

How can we see some of the more rare mammals?

Constant monitoring and a vigorous mink control programme have meant that the CWP has shown an increase in the water vole population over the past five years (this is against the national trend). The chances of spotting (or hearing) one of these endearing creatures is greater than ever along the watercourses around the area – but great stealth and patience is required. Early morning and evening are the best times to see water voles feeding on muddy river banks or to hear the distinctive ‘plop’ as they enter the water.

Are otters becoming more common through the countryside?

Otters are a protected species, and again, concerted efforts to improve habitat and watercourses have meant an increase in numbers locally, which is a conservation effort to truly be celebrated. It’s not without controversy however, as local fisheries are naturally seeing increased predation of fish stocks.

Is it correct that bats are mammals?

Yes! And this area is a fantastic place to see 14 out of the 18 types of UK bats – just wait a couple of months until they come out of hibernation and then they will be going crazy feeding on flies, rapidly building up their diminished body weight before giving birth to a young ‘pup’.

What about the less well known mammals?

The Cotswold Water Park has been home to a colony of beavers for almost ten years – they have been living and breeding on a private estate as part of a captive project monitored and licensed by DEFRA. Given the recent news about the beavers on the River Otter in Devon being ‘allowed to stay’ here’s hoping that the Cotswold Water Park might see its own wild population one day...

How can I find out more about the wildlife of the Cotswold Water Park?

You can download a CWP Species list from the website and take it out on your walks and rides around the area. Visit www.waterpark.org.

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