Wildlife spotted in record numbers

KINGFISHERS, newts, toads and otters, have all been spotted in record numbers on Britain's canals and rivers this year.

Sightings of much-loved British species have soared, with the numbers of kingfisher spotted, jumping by more than 200 per cent in this year's national Waterways Wildlife Survey.

The good news comes after it was announced delegates from more than 190 countries meeting in Nagoya, Japan, have agreed a programme to conserve global biodiversity and the habitats that support the most threatened animals and plants.

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It has 20 goals which include increasing the area of protected land in the world from 12.5 per cent to 17 per cent, and the area of protected oceans from 1 per cent to 10 per cent, by 2020.

The conference also adopted a new treaty, the Nagoya Protocol, to manage the world's genetic resources and share the multi-billion benefits with developing nations.

Urging countries to reach agreement, the Zoological Society of London last week had warned it was not just threatened species which were suffering but common animals were also declining – with wider knock-on effects, such as the pollination of crops.

In this year's Waterways Wildlife Survey more than 40,000 sightings of much-loved British species were reported.

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Encouragingly, sightings of house sparrows, a declining species increased by 23 per cent on 2009. Other species in the most sighted list included our classic British water birds: mallards, moorhens, and swans.

Jonathan Hart-Woods, environment manager for British Waterways, said: "Following last winter's harsh weather we were concerned that some species, and in particular kingfishers, could suffer."

"The results really show the resilience of nature and the importance of our canal and river network in providing vital shelter and food for a wide variety of wildlife."

He said the record sightings were due to improvements in habitats and water quality.

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Last week it was revealed kingfishers had been spotted at a Yorkshire nature reserve to the delight of birdwatchers who feared they had left the area after the harshest winter for almost three decades.

Two kingfishers were spotted at Yorkshire Water's Tophill Low reserve near Driffield.

The Waterways survey also revealed sightings of mink have dropped by 36 per cent on 2009 records.

Mr Hart-Woods said: "The decrease in the number of mink being seen could be related to the recent increase in the number of otters in the UK, as our native otters out compete mink for territory. This may also be great news for the UK's fastest declining mammal, water voles, which often make a tasty meal for the predatory and aggressive mink."