The shy Water Vole used to be found extensively on the western end of the canal and although the habitat is suitable it is in serious decline . This may be due to predation by Mink. If Otters return to the canal then they would be in direct competition with mink and this could help the Water Vole.
Hares and foxes are seen on the towpath and even the rarer stoat is occasionally seen. An even rarer and and altogether delightful animal is the Harvest Mouse, and nest have been seen in the dry section.
There are several Badger setts along the length of the canal and tracks have been noted at many sites, showing that Badger activity is widespread.
No presence of Great Crested Newts has been found, except in the ponds at Muston Meadows, but Smooth Newts, Common Frogs and CommonToads have been noted. The spawn of Toads are laid in strings whereas those of Frogs are found in a mass.
Grass Snake have been seen in the dry section of the canal, and the habitat along the whole length is suitable for this species. There have been sightings near Kinoulton and Hose. The canal habitat and banks obviously provide a safe haven for one of our few native harmless reptiles.
Bats use linear features such as canals and they like to feed on the insects found over water. Common Pipistrelle is present along the canal and there have been occasional sightings of Daubenton’s Bats, a rarer species.
Dragonfly – British Waterways
The aquatic invertebrates cannot normally be seen, without sampling the water for them, but the Pond Skaters will be seen skimming across the canal surface.
Under the water there are many species of snails along with freshwater shrimp, water bugs, water lice and worms.
The emergent vegetation provides ideal habitat for Dragonflies and Damselflies. The Variable Damselfly, a nationally scarce species, can be seen within the SSSI but many other species may be spotted darting among the reeds and rushes.
The realm of the beetle is one for the specialist but it is known that the Screech Beetle and various Water Beetles are present. The mature bankside trees and deadwood provide excellent habitat for terrestrial invertebrates.
The bird population of the canal is very diverse and varies with the seasons. As birds can fly they can easily move from one section of the canal to another, so although some sections are mentioned for some species they may well be on other stretches.
Our resident waterfowl are Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan, Mallard and Tufted Duck. The pretty and shy Little Grebe is present in one location near to Kinoulton.
Moorhen – British waterways
Common tern can be seen flying overhead and the mighty fisherman, the Heron, can be found along the entire canal and flying over the adjacent lands. The electric blue of our other clever fisherman, the Kingfisher, is often to be seen. It always seems such a wonder to see this small flash of colour darting from bough to bough or among the reeds.
Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Starlings, Rook, Crow, Pheasant and Lapwing can be found on adjacent arable land and woodland. The rarer predatory birds such as Buzzard and Sparrow Hawk can be seen occasionally, with the distinctive hover of the Kestrel a more familiar site. At night the Tawny Owl can be heard.
In the woodlands the Green Woodpecker will be heard and along these woodlands and hedges many of our favourite British birds can be seen or heard. Such as Goldfinch, White Throat, Green Finch, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Wren, Long Tailed Tit, Yellowhammer, House Martin, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush, Bullfinch, Field Fare, Grey Wagtail, Willow Warbler,and Great Tit.
Summer is heralded by our visitors the Swallow, dipping and darting over the water in search of insects.
However, the key species for the canal are the Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting and for these species it is really important that the reed beds are maintained.
These pages on the wildlife of the canal are an abridged extract from The Grantham Canal Guide by Tony Pitman.
NB. A new canal guide has now been published (2015). This new guide is invaluable to visitors to the canal. Visit ‘Merchandise’ on the homepage to obtain your copy.