Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Otter signs

The last post reminded me of an otter encounter earlier last year. I was exploring an area of fields and wetland between Rafford and Forres in Morayshire. As I looked across a field with a powerful south-westerly in my face, I heard a faint 'plop' from a drainage ditch just behind me. "Water vole?", I thought - it's a sound they often make when dropping into the water.

I stalked over to the ditch, full of anticipation and was taken by surprise when I saw the slinky, curving back of an otter rolling in the water. The wind poured my sent towards the otter like a waterfall, and it quickly vanished from sight.

On a leaning post which was partly submerged in the water was the freshest, most glistening otter spraint I've seen. For poetic effect I would like to say that it was still steaming, but it wasn't. Even so it had a classic ottery look, full of fishbones and deliberately placed on a prominent feature along a watercourse.

So if you haven't seen otters in your area keep an eye out for these signs (there are lots of others, but these are good ones to start with). Substantial rocks sticking out of the water, and the area under bridges are good places to look. Look for rocks with a particularly green tinge to them. No doubt you can guess why these indicate a lot of otter usage! You'll start to find you can spot these rocks from quite a distance. In a similar way, lush green tussocks near where freshwater meets the sea can be worth checking out. You may want to report your findings to your local mammal group or Wildlife Trust.

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