New site for water voles in Assynt

March 19th 2023

New site for water voles in Assynt

Water voles (photo 1) are widespread in the eastern parts of Assynt, in an area stretching from Nedd to Inchnadamph, and then east of the A837 and A835 roads south to Cromalt.  Those around Quinag and Elphin have been the subject of ground-breaking research by Professor Xavier Lambin and colleagues at Aberdeen University.

A working map (photo 2) shows, in black, records gathered up to the end of May 2001, many as a by-product of survey work for the Flora of Assynt.  Besides those in the east, there is a cluster around Lochinver and a scatter of about six apparently isolated sites west of the road from Inchnadamph to Ledmore.  

I have added, in red, later records known to me that extend the known distribution, including ones at Nedd (NC 1332) and Kerrachar (NC1734) in the north, Little Assynt (NC1525) in the centre, and Elphin (NC2010 and 2109) in the south.  

New location

To this map may now be added a very remote site south of Suilven, shown in green.  In February, I was talking to Chris Puddephatt about his circumnavigation of Suilven on 30th August 2022.  Rather more than halfway round he spied a small lochan south of Meall Beag, at the eastern end of that hill (NC167170), and went down to have a look at it (photo 3).  On the edge were some large burrows, apparently active, which I agree are those of water voles (photo 4).

This site is more than 3km north-west of the nearest known one, at Lon na Braclaich (NC1914), where we found, on 8th July 1994, a colony beside the river feeding the western end of Cam Loch.  

There may well be other isolated colonies in the Assynt landscape, so keep an eye open for them, take photos as evidence, and let us know.  I should also be interested to hear about past records that have escaped our attention.  

Ian M. Evans

More information on water voles in Assynt can be found in the Quinag Wildlife Project section of the website here.




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