MVCP carry out frequent biological surveys as it is important to understand population sizes over periods of time to better assess the health of our wildlife. Equally though, it's great for our volunteers and the general public to be out and about wildlife watching and enjoying the great outdoors and sharing their space with nature. If you've got some nice wildlife watching stories, we would love to hear them.
The river and the riparian (river bank) habitat are very diverse and of course the Medway meanders past a variety of habitats en-route, from orchards and hop gardens to woodlands and meadows. This means that, with luck, a vast amount of wildlife can be spotted whilst out and about along or adjacent to the river or in a nearby section of countryside.
On the water a variety of bird life can be seen, from coots (Fulica atra) and moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) to cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) often standing with their wings spread out in typical fashion. Mute swans (Cygnus olor) are also common and often seen throughout the Medway along with a variety of ducks and geese. Great crested grebes (Podiceps cristatus) are also observed (but I personally have yet to witness their much loved courtship displays).
Due to the variety of habitats situated close to the River Medway, a myriad of bird life can be observed from buzzards (Buteo buteo) and blackbirds (Turdus merula) to redwings (Turdus iliacus) and robins (Erithacus rubecula). MVCP staff have reported some exciting observations including a hunting hobby (False subbuteo) and in the right place at the right time over some of the river adjacent meadows, you may be lucky enough to see a barn owl (Tyto alba) or two. Of course the Medway finally meanders across to the Thames and by the estuary the marshland habitat is an excellent place to see marshland plants and birds. Marsh harriers (Circus aerunginosus) have been seen here as well as more common wading birds.
As can be seen in our angling section (recreation) a variety of fish are often observed in the Medway, including tench (Tinca tinca), perch (Perca fluviatilis) and barbell (Barbus barbus) and the smaller minnows (Phoxinus phoxinus) will make a healthy snack for kingfishers (Alcedo atthis), herons (Ardea cinerea) and some bigger fish.
Otters (Lutra lutra) will also eat minnows too but there numbers crashed dramatically in the 1950's and 60's. Thankfully there is evidence of an increase in otter numbers. Indeed along the Medway, otters have been spotted in several locations in recent years which is great news. (See the Kent Messenger Article, above right).
With regards to other semi-aquatic species you never know what you'll see. A few times over the last few years common seals (Phoca vitulina) have been spotted and although usually staying closer to the mouth of the river, a few years ago one was spotted swimming through locks and as far up the Medway as Farleigh, before finally returning to the sea. Usually, apart from a small population on water vole (Arvicola terrestris) in some of the tributaries such as the Len, mammals along the main river are terrestrial, inhabiting the bank side vegetation. You may be lucky enough to see a weasel (Mustela nivalis) hunting for a yellow necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) or badgers (Meles meles) and foxes (Vulpes vulpes) whilst taking an evening stroll.
One group of mammals have taken to the skies and make up a quarter of the UK's mammal population. These are the bats. There are seventeen resident species of bat in the UK and twelve of these have been recorded in Kent. The most common and the smallests are the Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus sp) and the largest bat in Kent is the Noctule (Nyctalus noctula). All UK bats eat insects and at night they can often be seen swooping for moths or midges. Over the water you are likely to see the Daubenton's bat (Myotis daubentonii) which is also referred to as the 'water bat' since they catch insects from the water surface with their big, hairy feet. MVCP run a number of bat walks if you would like to learn more about these animals (see Events).
Riparian trees often include water loving species such as alder (Alnus glutinosa) and willow (Salix sp) but the Medway flows past a variety of mixed deciduous woodland and orchards so there are many tree species and associated plant species to identify. The river itself is of course habitat to submerged and emergent aquatic plants from the small duckweeds (Lemna sp) to the more obvious yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) to tall sedges (Carex sp) to the pretty marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza praetermissa).
Invertebrates too are often easy to spot wherever you are and a variety of butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies and beetles can be spotted, not to mention arachnids.
In short, there is simply too much to mention on this page, but we'd welcome your bird and wildlife spotting stories (or why not become a River Warden and record wildlife for us). You can also send your wildlife observations to the Kent and Medway Biological Record Centre (see link above right).
It is not just the landscape and the history which makes this area interesting and beautiful, but what we share it with too. If you want to learn more about wildlife why not join one of our educational events (see Events in Recreation). We also have Wildlife Spotter guides to download and if you need some wildlife related games and activities for children then download our Environmental Education Pack from the Activities page or by clicking on the link to the right. Enjoy!