Canal from Aldergate bridge
The majestic mute swan can be found all along the canal as can the grey heron, as it waits patiently to make the most of the canal’s bountiful fish stocks. A flash of blue or orange darting low over the water will indicate the presence of a kingfisher, and a noisy cuffuffle from the reeds or a loud squawk will probably be a moorhen nervously making its way through life. Throughout the summer months the quarrelsome song of the reed warbler can be heard as it goes about its life unseen in the reeds.
As leaves begin to unfurl and a warmth hangs in the air blossom can be seen appearing on the trees along the northern bank of the canal. Elms were the first trees to be planted there, but others like cherry, sycamore, poplar and maple have been planted since. During the summer the canal supports a profusion of yellow flowers: the yellow flag iris stands proud in the muddy shallows, while the fringed water lily and bladderwort float on the canal’s surface.
In the summer the emperor dragonfly can be seen patrolling along the canal, an eerie reminder of the one time imminent Napoleonic invasion. The long warm evenings are perfect for glow worms, who light up the banks along certain stretches of the canal, serenaded by the laughing call of the marsh frog.
The back drains and adjacent ditches of the canal provide an ideal habitat for the endangered water vole, which requires high water levels and thick bank side vegetation to survive. The main channel of the canal is more suited to the mink - a good swimmer and a voracious predator - which was introduced to this country in the 1930s. The high, tree covered banks of the defensive parapet have provided an ideal home for badgers. As night-time approaches they can be found snuffling around, looking for earthworms, grubs and bumblebee nests.
The importance of the Royal Military Canal for wildlife has led to part being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with the remaining length designated a Local Wildlife Site.
If you would like to report any wildlife you see while walking along the canal, the Romney Marsh Countryside Project would be only too glad to hear from you. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01797 367934.
For more information about wildlife on the Romney Marsh click here
Marsh frogs are the largest European species and can grow to the size of an adult human’s hand. They are usually olive green in colour and, unlike common frogs, rarely venture far from water and can often be seen basking on the canal banks in the summer. Marsh frogs eat a wide variety of invertebrates and will feed under water. Larger individuals will occasionally take small fish and fledgling birds.
Marsh frogs breed in May and June when the distinct cackling call of the males can be heard. This unique sound has given rise to their affectionate nickname of the ‘laughing frog’
Water voles are found close to the water’s edge where they feed on the leaves and stems of a variety of waterside plants. Here they construct an intricate system of burrows with separate food and nest chambers in which the colony live. They breed between March and October producing 2 - 5 litters of 5 - 8 young each year. Water voles do not hibernate and are fairly short-lived, rarely exceeding three years of age.