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Wildlife on the Somerset river Frome

Despite the challenges the river Frome faces, from pollution to development, many creatures call it home or rely on it to survive – they're one of the reasons we work so hard to protect the river. But who exactly are they?


Beavers

Beavers are well established on the river Frome and through the catchment (catchment = the area of land that water drains from into a river). We're incredibly lucky to have these amazing creatures around – they're known as ecosystem engineers because of the way they change a landscape with their dams, creating new habitats and sometimes helping reduce flooding. They became a protected species in 2022 and you must have a license (and special training) to relocate them or interfere with their lodges.


A photo of a beaver nestled by a river bank
An amazing shot of a beaver by Damian Stobie

A few of us volunteering with FORF have been lucky enough to glimpse beavers, your best bet is to keep your eyes peeled at dusk as they're nocturnal usually. They're very stealthy, often the only sign you've encountered one is a plop and ripples on the water!



Otters

Beavers aren't the only large critters we get in the river Frome, there are also a number of otters who call it home, and they've even been spotted right in the town centre! Not as elusive as beavers, a fair few Frome residents have been lucky enough to catch an otter ducking and diving.


An otter surfacing in a river and showing its teeth
Patrick Moss caught this otter flashing its teeth.

Otters are big fans of the invasive Signal crayfish in the river, which is good news for trying to keep numbers down.



Voles, mice and rats

If you spot something brown scuttling down by the river chances are it's a rat, mouse or perhaps a bank vole (in that order of likelihood!) If you're trying to tell them apart, size is the best way – rats are usually largest, with long chunky tails. Mice and voles can be hard to tell apart but voles tend to have shorter tails than mice.


Sadly at the moment we think it's unlikely there are any water voles along the river Frome. Habitat loss and mink predating them mean they're under serious threat. We fund a small number of mink traps and we're looking into a wider plan to help 'ratty' recover.



Bats

Thanks to the annual Big Bat Count we know lots of bats visit Frome, including some of the rarer species including the serotine bat and Daubenton's bat. You'll often see bats swooping over the river in the summer hunting insects, especially around Rodden Meadow.



Birds

Lots of birds rely on the river in Frome. From waders like great egrets and herons, to river species like kingfisher and dippers. You'll also see wagtails and wrens pottering around the water's edge. Other species spotted include merganser, little egret, Mandarin ducks and sandpiper.

A dipper sitting on a log in the river Frome.
A stunning shot of a dipper by Nathan Slee
A photo of a kingfisher staring perched on a branch.
Caela Perry managed to spot this beautiful kingfisher.

The river also curves around Rodden Nature Reserve which is home to even more bird species including snipe and water rail.


Fish

In amongst the murk (it comes from silt, as well as pollution) there are fish in the river, including roach, dace, perch, chub, pike, minnows, bullhead and trout. On the footbridge side of Rodden Meadow on a sunny day you can sometimes see chub surfacing – look out for their orangey fins.

A photo of chub in a river creating ripples
Chub surfacing near rodden meadow. Photo by Jess Weeks.

Insects & other invertebrates

One way to assess the health of a river is counting riverflies – three important species (mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies) can indicate the quality of the water. We do have all three in the river, and Bristol Avon Rivers Trust organise monitoring.


A photo of a Beautiful Demoiselle rested on a fern plant
A Beautiful Demoiselle (a kind of damselfly) near the river. Photo by Jess Weeks.

You'll also find all sorts of other bugs and invertebrates using the river, from pond skaters to shrimp to snails. In summer you'll also see dragonflies and damselflies.


What have you seen along the river? We'd love to hear about your sightings and see your photos, you can share them with us on our Facebook Group.


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