Herons and Otters Comeback, the Wildlife of CanalsKeith
Canals are often seen as a second-class copy of a river. That may go back to their industrial history. From a wildlife point of view canals and rivers are pretty interchangeable.
Wait quietly and a kingfisher could appear, usually spotted by its persistent high-pitched call followed by a flash of blue and orange as it flies up or down stream.
Herons usually hunt for fish and frogs, either perched on the bank or standing in the shallow waters by the edge.
Several species of waterbird build floating nests, linked to aquatic vegetation close to the canal bank to make sure they are safe from predators such as foxes. These include the coot, moorhen and great crested grebe.
Otters almost disappeared from waterways during the 60s and 70s, due to pollution and persecution. Since then they have made a major return and are now found on canals in several of cities. However, being mainly nocturnal they are not seen often, though their droppings are evidence of their presence.
The best chance to see otters and water voles is to visit early in the morning, before the cyclists, joggers and dog walkers appear along the paths, and just sit and wait. Evenings, too, can be a good time to look out for the canal wildlife.