The Lancaster Canal is a valuable wildlife corridor, cutting it’s way through towns, villages and farmland. Over time it has become more naturalised and enables species to survive and thrive.
The whole of the Lancashire section has been designated as a Biological Heritage Site and is the largest water body in the county.
Bird life is abundant. On the water, look out for mallards, coots, moorhens and mute swans. These are especially prevalent in the built up areas, tempted by the prospect of an easy meal. Glasson basin is locally important as a wintering site for diving ducks, including pochard, tufted duck, goldeneye and goosander. Cormorant also occur there in large numbers. Swallows and martins are summer visitors in many areas and can be seen flying low over the water where they feed on flying insects. You may see heron flying along or silently waiting in the shallows and, if you are lucky, you will catch the sudden bright turquoise flash of a kingfisher as it dips.
The hedges that border the more open sections of the towpath support a good variety of finches, tits and warblers. In adjacent fields expect to see and hear lapwing, skylark, pipit and buntings. In the wooded cuttings there are blackbirds, song thrushes, wrens, blackcaps, goldcrests and wood pigeons.
The summer wild flowers attract a number of butterflies, including meadow brown, tortoise shell, red admiral and the common blue. Dragonflies and the smaller damselflies can be seen darting about or basking in the sun. Watch the surface of the water for the long legged pond skater and the small whirligig beetle, which are supported by the surface tension.
Small mammals such as shrews and water voles live in the banks, but these are shy; the best chance you may have of seeing one is from the window of a moored boat when it doesn’t know you are watching! Larger mammals such as deer and fox have been seen using the well-vegetated canal banks to move from one area to another. The various structures and retaining walls of bridges, aqueducts and buildings are full of cracks, crevices and voids, which provide roosting sites for several species of bat, and an abundance of aerial insects provides a rich food supply for them.
Remember to bring along your bird and wildlife books if you are interested in identifying the hundreds of different species that enjoy living here, and please always follow the Country Code.