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A June Otter

June 16, 2013

Otters have a habit of putting in an appearance when you least expect them. It may be their natural inquisitiveness. This morning’s Otter was a case in point. All four of us were walking upstream on the Common. As usual there were several conversations going on at once, and whilst our attention was diverted, the Otter surfaced for a few seconds before submerging and leaving a trail of bubbles as it disappeared. But that few seconds was enough. We had been Otter-less, or at least lacking I’m sightings, for a few months. Perhaps they were not in the area or maybe they were keeping a low profile whilst rearing young. Now they were back. All we need to do is to not expect to see them, not worry about how much noise we make and then we should see them again.

David phoned. His latest sighting was somewhat unexpected. A largish animal appeared in the headlights late one evening as he drew in to the top of his drive. In his mind it could be nothing else but an otter. But in the village street? Admittedly the Bure was not too far away – in fact the river was a field and a half away, say 300 yards, but this did seem to be rather off the beaten otter track. I went through the possibilities with him, perhaps it was an otter, or could it have been a mink. Conceivably either, but the size favoured the former as the most likely. No tracks were traceable, so we noted it down and decided to keep our eyes peeled.

When the subject came up at the village jubilee party, the penny dropped. A whole pond full of ornamental fish had been raided and eaten at the Old Rectory. Suspicions were roused. The timing was right. We had a motive and the evidence of the professionally devoured fish. The evidence seemed to be more than circumstantial. But there the trail ended. How far do otters range in search of easy prey? Some distance seems to be the answer. An Otter fencing order is advisable for any remaining ponds on ornamental fish in the village and if there are largish mammals spotted at night in the village street..

There is a distinct pattern of bubbles that mark the trail of a submerged Otter. They burst at the waters surface and mark the route of an agile mammal moving at some speed. This evenings were typical; swimming at what must have been no more than say a foot’s depth, where the River Mermaid joins the Bure, the line of bubbles was a like row of silver coins – each a few inches apart in a curving trail under the footbridge. The Otter kept submerged until the safety of the overhanging willow where it invisibly surfaced before diving to the sanctuary of the deeper waters of the Bure. We waited to see if would return, perhaps racked with the supposed curiosity of mammals of this type, but it had obviously seen enough of us and had retired out if sight.

Dusk in October

October 5, 2011

Last night the light levels were falling at seven o’clock, but not fast enough for our purposes. It was too light for the river bats. Howver we walked the river bank as the light levels fell. Silence descended as the evening shift took over.

The light was sufficient in one way – as a pair of Mute Swans drifted upstream into the gathering dusk, we stopped at the stile and a movement caught our eye. The Otter dived and re-surfaced in a gentle arc before proceeding soundlessly downstream past us. It’s movement was purposeful and showed no sign of nerves, although it hugged the opposite bank before gliding into the gloom.

We walked back down the Street in the company of numerous Tawny Owls which broke the silence with loud calls aslively territorial exchanges. It was as if everything was active again after the unseasonable heat of the day.

Scent of an Otter

August 21, 2011

This morning the scent of an Otter was distinct and musty along the river bank.  At first we thought it was the smell of a fox but it was, I anything, more pungent and concentrated in an area of long grass within three yards of the river itself.  I have no proof – there were no discernible foot prints or spraint – but it seems a reasonable conjecture.