Recent reports of an otter seen on Bransford Golf Course are reminders how little we actually know of what most animals do most of the time and what motivates them. Otters are particularly mysterious partly because they are highly sensitive to the presence of humans and partly because they live around and feed in an environment that is alien to us – water. Here in the Midlands, otters are also mainly nocturnal so I have to follow them through their tracks and droppings (called spraints).
We are lucky to have an otter highway, the River Teme running through Bransford and along the lower part of the nature trail, where signs of otters are nearly always present if you look for them. BUT you will be extremely lucky to see one, and the most you can really hope for is a loud plop as the animals dives after detecting your presence. Be aware that ducks and even rats will also dive in to escape any threat and will also make this sound. Most of our otters hide up in their holts during the day, usually under tree roots.
Otters have a very omnivorous diet eating almost anything that moves! From fish especially eels to frogs and snails and shellfish (Mussels are common in our bit of the Teme). The tiny newly hatched ducklings I saw on the Top Lake a couple of days ago would make a tasty snack and they will be lucky to survive the oncoming winter anyway. Any second brood of fledglings will struggle when hatched this late – there are lots of new predators around, from crows and buzzards to young foxes and of course domestic cats are always ready to pounce on any unsuspecting young bird. Which is why most wild life spends most of their time, when not feeding or surviving, in reproducing themselves.
Anyway our golf loving otter is probably a youngish one, a year or two old and getting independent ( after all its mother probably now has new cubs) and needing to explore and find territory where it can feed undisturbed. It will probably have tracked the small stream up from the river past the cricket club and onwards up onto the golf course looking for prey as it travelled. But it might even have crossed the main road as otters sometimes do get killed on roads. But who really knows?
Keith Falconer, August 14 2016
Keith Falconer is a local naturalist with many years experience of observing and photographing the wildlife of this region. He has an amazing knowledge of birds and bugs and all the creatures that live around us. Every few weeks he share his seasonal account of what to look for and listen to across our wonderful nature trail.