Otter Watch

SOUTH WALSHAM BROAD OTTER WATCH 2009-2014

This is a unique diary of otter sightings on South Walsham Broad from the spring of 2009 to the present time. It has been recorded by Mundy Ellis, who lives beside the broad. There have been 129 recorded sightings by 50 different people to date, 24 of them involving 2, 3 or even 4 otters together, and 28 of them recording otters actually on land. To begin at the beginning, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

LATEST

Monday 8 June, mid-morning, lovely sunny day We were at the frontage with two guys from Eastwood Whelpton's boatyard fussing over B's boat, whose electric engine needed attention. Suddenly a mallard went up from under us with a bit of a clatter, and Jacob from the boatyard called out that he could see a large otter swimming along eastwards beneath our feet, skirting the piling. He kept it in his sights until it had almost reached the moorings at the start of Fleet Dyke (I failed to spot it at all - and it was the first sighting from our viewpoint for almost six months!).

Sunday 28 December, around lunchtime. A fine, cold, still winter's day Well here's a turn-up for the books: I sighted what looked like a very large otter about 100m to the NE of our frontage, over to the right, swimming slowly across towards the SW. Grabbing the camera, I rushed outside as he dived under in slow motion, rolling his back up in an arch that must have lifted at least 20cm out of the water. I was then frantically scanning the glassy water in the mid-distance for his next appearance when up he popped only 2m from the frontage and to my left, having covered a huge distance under water. Another rolling dive revealed that he must have been at least 1.5m from nose to tail, and that was the last I saw of him before he disappeared towards the island and the slipway, where there's plenty of cover. I'm afraid he escaped the camera this time, but I'll take this as my wake-up call for 2015...

Tuesday 16 September, an untypically murky day Dorothy A, who has regularly reported seeing otters during holidays at Kingfisher Cottage, reports another sighting during "a glorious couple of weeks" this September. "The first week my fisherman friend joined us and, although he fished with a keepnet every day, no sign of any otters. Then one day at about 5pm we saw an otter – not a huge one – right in front of the cottage about eight feet from the garden, swimming on its back..." Now here's a thought: if you scroll down to July 2013, you'll see a shot I took of an otter swimming on its side; could it be one and the same? But Dorothy thinks this too was a young otter. She goes on: "We next saw him/her in the broad to the right of Kingfisher Cottage and that was it. We didn't get any photos as it all happened so quickly."

Sunday 7 September, 10am, fine but rather chilly With the first otter news for several months, Sue H emailed that her husband and a friend were sailing into South Walsham inner broad when they saw an otter in the narrows leading from the outer broad - locally known as The Weirs. They tried to follow it along the trees but it seemed to disappear on to the land. Historically, sightings of otters in the inner broad have been at the far western end, but Sue now speculates that they may have taken up residence along the northern shore as well.

Sunday 16 March 2014, 6.30am, calm sunny morning My neighbour David M, who regularly greets the dawn from a canoe on South Walsham broad, has succeeded in filming what he believes are two adolescent otters in the privacy of their own secluded pool leading off the broad (see below). In one they can be seen fishing, and in the other they seem to be simply playing. You can see the videos at www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N2zJAJtyVo and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08wls33_u98


Friday 19 July 2013 Two more sightings this week, which has been the longest spell of uninterrupted warm, sunny weather that I can remember. The otter (and I think it must be the same one as on Monday) has been making the now customary slow, wallowing circuit of the broad over at least half an hour in the middle of the day (between 12 noon and 2pm), and then seems always to disappear from sight towards the southwest side of the broad.

Monday 15 July 2013, l2 noon, a clear blue summer's day with a freshening breeze It's hard to describe how wonderful it was to get a good look at an otter again after such a long time. It was mid-winter when we last caught a brief glimpse of one, although some of our neighbours have been luckier, but today B and I sat in the sun and watched an individual do two leisurely circuits of the broad over at least half an hour. First I saw a dark glossy head in the mid-distance, half-way across the broad: it didn't seem to be on a journey, or a "mission," as they often are. It seemed to be taking its cue from the holiday weather: dawdling around, doing small rolling dives instead of the big, fish-targetting ones. And I think it was a young otter: when it passed us just a couple of metres from our frontage, it seemed to be wallowing just below the surface, alternating between a full-stretch and a foetal position in the water. Afterwards B described it perfectly: "you mean, as if it was doing sidestroke?" (see left). A really fantastic sighting, and shared by one observant family on the only big cruiser on the broad at the time, which had stopped its engine so as not to disturb the young otter as it played all around the broad.

 

 

 

Saturday 6 July 2013, 7.30am, lovely sunny weather My neighbour David M tells me he saw two otters in the middle of South Walsham innner broad, "heading for Fairhaven Garden Trust's bird hide," he suggested. His picture shows that one of them at least was a very large specimen (see right) - "unless it was both otters, trying to fool me!" he says.

Monday 6 May 2013, a chilly bank holiday Monday Sue writes that her very observant husband has seen another otter swimming from the direction of the boatyard at the mouth of Fleet Dyke away towards the trees to the northwest. Here on the other side of the broad we’ve seen no otters for months, though our neighbours in the boathouse on Kingfisher Lane have both seen and heard them in the cavity under their workshop floor (see entry for 17 December 2012). Meanwhile the visiting black swan which in February was taken in by Swan Rescue for suspected lead poisoning sadly did not make it. To understand how this can still happen despite the ban on lead weights for anglers, go to http://swanmagic.co.uk/history2.htm

Saturday 23 February, cold and wintry The otter-watcher who moors her boat at the mouth of Fleet Dyke sends news that her husband was doing some jobs on the boat today "and saw an otter swimming towards him down the broad at 1.30pm. It then turned across the entrance to the Broad, swimming towards the trees. It was a medium-sized otter, not the large one we had seen before, and it appeared to be hunting as it rose twice in quick succession before finally diving and disappearing. Nice to know that they're getting about again." Meanwhile back at Swan Watch (see last entry), there's  worrying news: I hear that the lone black swan that's been dividing its time between the broad and the village pond had grown very lethargic and had been taken in by the Swan Rescue service, thought to be suffering from lead poisoning. Better news soon, I hope.

Tuesday 15 January, 7.30am, cold but no snow yet... Just a quick glimpse of an otter swimming the usual route for this time a day, from the northeast across our frontage. After that – well, centre stage is now a lone black swan which has haunted the broad for almost a year, but which seems a bit phased by the sub-zero temperatures that now have the broad in their grip. Early the following morning, when I glanced across the water now sheeted with ice and snow, I saw a grey lump about 20m out which unfurled into a swan before my eyes, its black feathers coated with frost. In the last couple of icy days, I've persuaded it to come nearer the staithe (it's fond of porridge oats) where an overhanging tree keeps a tiny oasis of water from freezing. I think it's better off there, despite the risk from passing dogs, because passing walkers can help keep an eye out for it. More snow expected tomorrow...

Saturday 5 January, early morning and very grey Sue H (who owns Lady Louise, moored across the broad) writes that her husband finally persuaded her to come otter-spotting first thing in the morning. "We arrived around 7.15am but everything was very murky until about 8am, when it lightened a bit. We'd almost given up, but at 8.20 Robin saw a smallish otter pop up at the point of the quay, under the willow tree, and immediately hump its back and dive. By the time he had said 'otter' I'd missed it, but saw the swirl in the water where it had gone down. We couldn't see where it went and although we stayed for another half hour, we had no further sightings."

Tuesday 1 January 2013, 8.20am, clear and cold with a slight breeze We were first-footed by a very beefy otter – huge in silhouette against the water – snuffling around on the frontage as I came down for my first cup of coffee. He didn’t stay long, but soon slipped into the water where I saw him heading for the island, alternately stretched out like a long log in the water and then, every 10m or so, bunched into a dome and diving deeply. A few opportunist seagulls swooped by to follow his progress in the hope of sharing a fish breakfast. I apologise for failing to get any pictures lately, but these partiicular otters have the knack of catching me unawares; let’s see if I can turn the tables… Happy New Year!

Friday 28 December 2012, 8am and wet again I came downstairs relatively late this morning to glimpse a smallish otter that had clambered up one of the huge rope fenders too heavy for me to take under cover. Half out of the water, it looked rather clownish as it waved its blunted nose around as if sniffing the air. It obviously didn't like what it sniffed, because after a few minutes it backed down the fender and disappeared, only to emerge from the water as a steeply humped back 15m along the frontage past the willow towards the island.
PS
Unknown to me, someone else was watching this morning. Sue H, who keeps her boat at the mouth of Fleet Dyke, emails that – after a long otter-free spell –
"Robin had a sighting this morning at 8.10am. After seeing some activity in the water, he watched an otter pop up between your willow tree and the staithe. It was obviously hunting and went off in front of the island and the last he saw of it was in front of Kingfisher Cottage. He didn't manage to get a photo as his camera was covered up due to the rain..."

Monday 24 December 2012 , 8.30am and wet, wet, wet! We had a good long look at a big otter swimming across our frontage in the opposite direction to the norm – this time from the slipway towards the north-east. This chap seemed less businesslike than usual too, dawdling along and making deep dives every 8m or so, then actually veering off-course for a further speculative dive. At which point it just disappeared, and though we both watched for several minutes there was no further sign, which seemed odd as the otter would have had to swim at least 20m underwater in any direction to gain cover. Perhaps he or she got lucky with breakfast and beat a swift retreat into one of the boathouses to polish it off.

Monday 17 December 2012 I met Bill in Kingfisher Lane and got a vivid update on the otters he’s seen in the wet boathouse under his cottage there. He tells me there are three, which on one occasion all popped up in unison in front of his boathouse as he and Pearl sipped their morning coffee. The otters vary in size – they have watched one of them grow from juvenile to young adult since early summer – and frequent a very safe, hidden space under the workshop floor constructed across a former slipway. Bill and Pearl often hear them there, and believe they can almost tell their mood from the sounds they make!  Bill has mapped out their normal route out of the water, frequently having to wash away the spraint they leave all over his immaculate boathouse floor. I very much hope for more news from them soon.

Saturday 7 December 2012, sunrise at around 7.30am, a beautiful calm morning There he was again – probably a “he” at over three feet long – perfectly defined as he broke the still surface of the water and swam quickly along the frontage. Not much more than a glimpse, but I did watch the clear chevron he created for around 10 minutes as he swam southwest past Kingfisher Cottage.

Thursday 29 November 2012, just light at around 7.30am, cold and breezy Just a quick glimpse this morning as what seemed like a VERY long otter swam by about 5m off the frontage, from northeast to southwest as yesterday but a bit later (no time to nose around on land today?). I wasn’t certain that I wasn’t wishfully thinking the breeze-ruffled water into the shape of an otter – until s/he dived, with that unmistakable high-domed back, just once, and then away out of sight towards the slipway.

Wednesday 28 November 2012, pre-dawn, chilly and still Two otters in quick succession, both of them on land! The first was at around 7am, nosing around on the frontage from the northeast towards the slipway - in just the same place that we had all seen one three weeks ago (below). Silhouetted against the bright, still water it looked all of three feet long from nose to tail-tip, very sleek and elegantly proportioned, and B and I watched it conducting a leisurely survey over 20 meters of our frontage. When it reached the place where the piling rises to become fencing, it reared up on its hind legs to investigate, undecided whether to climb the fence or take to the water; then it remembered what otters are best at, and slipped down into the water and out of sight. If this wasn’t enough excitement for one morning, about 15 minutes later came a repeat performance, though I’m almost sure this was a second otter. This time it seemed smaller and slenderer and, perhaps because the light was improving, also a lighter grey than the earlier dark silhouette. It performed most of the same routine, but slipped into the water before it had to decide what to do about the fence. This second event alerted Missy the cat to the fact that her territory was being violated, and she came hurtling through the house to get a better look at the intruder – but still from safely inside the window.

Tuesday 6 November 2012, dawn, near-freezing, misty but with the promise of sunshine I spotted a middle-sized otter sniffing around on the frontage near the prow of B’s boat. I think Missy the cat may have spotted it too, as she’d taken unusually long over her pre-breakfast constitutional. The otter seemed quite relaxed on shore, but it only stayed as long as it took me to get the camera. (This shot, left, was taken in twilight and through double-glazing, so it’s not as clear as it might be). As I went for a second shot, the otter plopped down into the water, and – no – I didn’t go out in 0.5C in my dressing gown to get another shot. But I’ll be on the alert from now on, in case this rare visit heralds a new pattern of behaviour that brings the otters back to this side of the broad.

September 2012 A familiar visitor to Kingfisher Cottage which fronts on to the Broad enjoyed an Indian summer here. She also came up with a clutch of otter sightings – which is more than we’ve been able to do all summer at our frontage. Dorothy A reports “We had a great two weeks at the cottage with the best weather I have had in 18 visits, especially the first week. Our otter sightings started in the second week as follows:

Friday 7 September, bright sunny day My friend Tom arrived and started fishing. Around 11.00-11.30am an otter popped up in front of him had a go at his net, then went into bay to the west of the cottage.

Saturday 8 September, another sunny day Again at around 11.00-11.30am, an otter went round Tom’s net then went into bay but stayed under water and didn’t break the surface.

Monday 10 September, overcast Again at around 11am, the otter came from the left, broke the surface and scratched at the wooden quay-heading, then went back to the bay.

Tuesday 11 September, overcast This time all of us saw it. At 7.30am, a squeaking baby otter popped up in front of Tom, went west into the bay and then we saw a bigger otter going right across the broad. But Tom had to go home that day, and we didn’t see any more of the otters.”

Tuesday 1 May 2012 I’ve just met some relatively new neighbours who last year took over Richard’s house next door to Kingfisher Cottage (see the last two entries). The very interesting news is that they too have been watching the otters in the wet boathouse beneath the house through the winter, just as Richard did two years ago (see the entry for 20 May 2010, below). Bill saw what he thought was a young otter just a couple of weeks ago, and many other otter heads have popped up to observe him as he worked on his boat over the past few months. They sometimes bring their supper too: he showed me a very large, fat mussel shell (around six inches long) that he’d found – empty – on the floor there.

Monday 26 March 2012 Confirmation of the last report of an otter at Kingfisher Cottage comes from another new observer, JohnD, who looks after Fairhaven Gardens which front the inner broad. He tells me that 10 days ago, around the time of the last sighting, he too saw a biggish otter swimming across the frontage there, taking long dives and then occasionally popping its head up for a recce. 

Thursday 15 March 2012 Early morning, before the sun had burned the mist off the broad. A new sighting and a new observer. The owner of Kingfisher Cottage tells me that his decorator, TonyD, “watched a biggish otter walk all along the pile capping-board at the front of cottage. He watched it as it walked (do otters walk? if not, what do they do?) from our boathouse garden making its way across the frontage towards the staithe. Why it wasn’t swimming I do not know. He is certain it was not a rat or a mink, and I suppose if otters are confident they’re not going to be harassed by dogs, cats, anglers and so on, they may enjoy an early morning walk like the rest of us. Or then again it might have been on the lookout for the ducks laying eggs for its breakfast.”

Tuesday 6 March 2012 7.31am Cold, dry but dank after 14mm of rain. An otter gives a repeat performance of our last sighting, swimming purposefully across our frontage but this time only about 3m out. It’s almost exactly the same time of day, too, so it may be the same otter on its familiar commute, though I had the impression it was slightly smaller than the last one. Must make sure I keep a good lookout at this time of day.

Monday 20 February 2012, 7.45am Cold, quiet and grey. We just spotted an otter swimming south across our frontage - definitely an otter this time, not a mink! It was very large (around 3ft long) and swimming fast in a steady, businesslike way, mostly along the surface with very occasional speculative dives. Instead of heading towards the slipway, it then veered off towards the dyke at the southwest corner of the broad (see left) where the give-away chevron in the water disappeared. I’m putting up this (not very exciting) picture just to celebrate our first true otter encounter of 2012!

Thursday 16 February 2012 Mild; thaw now complete. The Environment Agency sent a very forgiving response to my apology about the mink/otter mixup on Tuesday. Jez Wood wrote: “No problem. It's not the first time I've had reports of a dead baby otter that's turned out to be a mink. But if you saw a mink and a baby otter side by side, you wouldn’t make the mistake. Otters are paler and much thicker set. The face is less pointed and does not have the white chin marking that the mink had. Also the feet are very different;  a mink's foot is very much smaller, thinner and "rat-like" whereas an otter's is large and muscular. Even a baby otter's foot will stretch out to the size of a 10p piece.” As for the fate of the mink, he says it had probably been struggling to find food in the past week's extreme cold (down to -9C here). But we’ll never know for sure: whereas EA has funds to send any dead otters to Cardiff University's Otter Project (http://www.otterproject.cf.ac.uk) for post mortem, such funding does not cover that unwelcome intruder, the mink.

Tuesday 14 February 2012, 10.30am Thaw setting in, as the ice that’s covered the Broad off and on for weeks disappears fast. This is a sad case of mistaken identity. As I languish indoors nursing an old-fashioned, full-on cold, I notice B at the slipway chatting to a couple of guys who often launch their canoe there. When he comes in, B tells me that the canoeists found a young, dead otter lying on the parish staithe, and they all took the decision to give it a burial at sea. I’m worried about this: I’m sure we’re meant to notify someone about the death of protected animals, in case it was unnatural - for example, from toxins in the water. So I venture out to ask the canoeists to fish the small, thin bundle of fur out of the icy water and go off to find a box to put it in. Then I call the Environment Agency, who confirm that they do like to be informed of casualties to protected species (go to http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk) and will pick up the body for a post-mortem. The EA man who collects says it’s the smallest otter he’s ever seen… then an hour of so later the EA calls to say the corpse is not that of a highly-protected otter at all, but that of a pesky vole-eating mink! Oh dear. Many, many apologies to the EA; I should have taken a closer look… I daren’t even ask if they’re still going to find out why it died out in the open there.

Wednesday 28 December 2011, 4pm still quite mild though windy, with clearing skies. Next-door’s DavidM tells us that he saw an otter around sunset in the water at the mouth of Fleet Dyke, and got the impression there was another nearby, among the boats left there at their moorings over the winter. Not much boating activity to disturb otters at the moment.

Wednesday 21 December 2011, 12.45pm, much milder, misty and still. Another sighting in quick succession. I glimpsed the now familiar chevron in the water by the willow, then saw a big otter emerge and lie still – like a long log mostly submerged in the water – before making another sharp-backed dive. I grabbed the camera, ran to the door and aimed three shots at the otter, which had by now made a surprising distance underwater, heading NE past JohnA’s frontage towards the holiday houses. Unfortunately, like so many otter-watchers’ snaps, mine completely missed the moment when the otter surfaced, resulting only in that iconic “ring of bright water.” I think the otter then disappeared into one of the wet boathouses. I’ve checked ours, and while there’s some new, silvery spraint on the floor by the boat-door, there are no half-eaten fish or wet trails as there were in February 2010, when I saw cubs in there.

Monday 19 December 2011, 10.20am, very cold (0.5C, after minus 2.5C overnight), with a scattering of snow on the ground. I caught sight of another/the same otter at the same spot as last week and at exactly the same time of day, though going in the opposite direction away from the slipway. I saw a big otter rise in the water by the willow tree, then dive deeply. And that was it: no tell-tale chevron on the surface of the water – though the otter could have been hugging the frontage, out of sight (and no, I didn’t go outside in the snow to find out). I’ll check the boathouse for signs later though, because that’s where he/she was heading.

Saturday 10 December 2011,10.30am, a brilliant sunny morning but frosty after the coldest night of the winter so far. At last, they’re back! I’d just walked into the house when I glimpsed an otter in the water five feet off the frontage (around 15m away), swimming towards the willow-tree promontory. I ran to another window for a better look, and by that time it had somehow jumped out of the water up 50cm of sheer wooden frontage (tail-power?) and was having a nose around under the tree. B had heard my shout of “Otter!” and saw it too: it was over two feet long including tail, a soft glossy grey-brown and seemed healthily plump – or was it puffed up against the cold? After a couple of minutes it plopped back into the water and continued on its southerly heading towards the slipway.

It’s been 10 months since I last saw an otter on this side of the broad early last spring. During much of that time the parish staithe and slipway next door have been undergoing a protracted investigation, followed by major reconstruction, so perhaps that’s why the otters have stayed away. What’s so encouraging is that today’s visitor is in exactly the same spot as I first saw an otter here almost three years ago, in early 2009. Welcome back!

Wednesday 21 September 2011, 10.30am, cool and autumnal MarkM, who has a holiday house on the broad about 300m to the NE towards Fleet Dyke, calls in to show me some pictures of an otter that he and his wife had spotted from the house. It emerged from the water and walked up their slipway carrying a wriggling fish in its mouth, and proceeded to bite off its head. It didn’t stay long, he says, as it seemed bothered by a female moorhen which was keeping the otter under close surveillance from above, on the side of the slipway, but it was long enough for them to snatch this shot (right) through the window. MrsM also reports that she’d seen one there a month or so before, but her husband hadn’t taken her seriously, since they’d never seen an otter before in over a decade!

Sunday 4 September 2011, 12 noon, cloudy DorothyA and friends, who last October took a picture of an otter chasing around the garden of the house where she was holidaying on the southern bank of the broad, spotted a big otter again this year (for last year’s report, filed retrospectively, see entry dated 7 February 2011). First they saw the otter out on the broad; then it popped up again right in front of her friend Tom, who was fishing on their frontage; and later they saw it pop up twice more, moving towards the dyke that leads SW out of the broad. Then, five days later, they saw an otter repeat the entire route at roughly the same times of day. The big difference from last year, she says, is that whereas last year the contents of her fisher-friend’s keepnets were ravaged by the otter, this year they were left undisturbed.

Mid-August 2011 A neighbour emails that JillC, who lives up the lane from the broad, told him she saw an otter in her back garden this month showing an interest in her fish pond. She was surprised because it would have had to cross the road to get there. But there could be another explanation. Jill’s home is 600m south of South Walsham Broad, which is bordered by the Bure Marshes SAC – special area of conservation, where otters are fostered and protected. But it is also 500m west across the fields from Upton Marshes SAC, where otters have also been spotted. So she may been watching a member of an entirely different group of otters.

Saturday 20 August 2011, fine and warm Another sighting, this time at the mouth of South Walsham Broad: SueH writes that, at around 7pm, her husband was sitting in the stern of their boat on her moorings there and saw a small otter swimming down the opposite bank, at the very edge of the reeds.  “It didn't appear to be hunting,” she says, “but swam as if it was travelling.” She grabbed her camera and, despite poor evening light blurring the reeds and the water, she managed catch the otter itself in very sharp focus (left).

Friday 19 August 2011, mid-morning on a lovely sunny day A couple of miles up-river on our way to Malthouse Broad, we had a very unexpected sighting – unexpected because the narrow mouth of the broad was thronging with boats in both directions. People on a day-boat were shouting and pointing at the water, and I saw what I thought was the face of a small dog, about the size of a terrier, that must have fallen off their boat. But then it dived, showing its bulk and its unmistakably otter tail, and repeated that rolling dive across the river until it reached the scrub on the other side.

Wednesday 10 August 2011, early morning. Our neighbour AlisonA, who lives alongside the Broad a couple of hundred metres to the north of us, tells me that she saw an otter rampaging around their frontage when she took her first look out of an upstairs window. That frontage is where she’d had a very close encounter with the injured otter last winter. This otter was also a smallish adult, she says, not a pup but also not the huge dog-otter we saw in the water last year. It was on land, chasing back and forth after wildfowl – and it was still doing it when she came back for another look.

Saturday 6 August 2011, dawn breaking, chilly and damp. A pair of otter pups has been sighted! SueH reports that her friend Andy, who had spent the night fishing near the entrance to the Broad, returned to the quay at 4.45am after a nap in his vehicle to see what he initially thought was a snake in the water, just by the quay. “But he quickly realised it was two small otters which had surfaced. They were obviously startled by him but didn't dive; instead they swam across the river towards the reeds and disappeared.” Despite keeping watch with her camera all weekend, both from her boat and, in the evening, from one of the fishing platforms along Fleet Dyke, Sue saw nothing more of them.

Friday 15 July 2011, 8pm, a rare fine day in a rainy July. At last, after a four-month wait, some encouraging otter news! Neighbour David M reports that during the week he’d met some boaters who were keeping a close watch on a drainage ditch that lets out into Fleet Dyke, a hundred yards or so downstream from the broad. They’d told him they were watching for otters, as they’d seen a big adult swim into the entrance of the ditch bearing a large fish. This was shortly followed by a lot of noise and squealing - as if there were a number of creatures in there, waiting for someone to bring them their tea. The next evening David and his son went by boat to investigate, soon finding the mouth of the ditch the other boaters had been watching, even though it’s well camouflaged by new vegetation and a fallen tree. And after a while they were rewarded by seeing a big adult otter entering the ditch. No squealing this time, though, but then no fish!

Tuesday 17 May 2011, a warm, windy spell. No new otter-sightings since March, I'm afraid, but I thought I’d let anyone who’s following this story know that we haven’t stopped looking. And listening. Here’s a tantalisingly close encounter last month for otter-watcher SueH:

“On Easter Saturday we heard a lot of noise for about half-an-hour from the reeds opposite, similar to when the two otters were scrapping on our first sighting” [back in June 2009, see below]. “Then shortly after the otter noise stopped, a family of geese swam down the dyke to the Broad, very near the reeds. Suddenly the bigger of the two adults at the rear became very agitated. Screeching loudly, it scrabbled out to the middle of the dyke closely followed by the rest of the family. It seemed that something had scared him, and he was pulling the family away from danger, and we wondered if he had sensed otters. So I sat with my camera to my eye for about an hour, hoping that something would pop out of the reeds. But to no avail.”

Sue adds that a friend who is a professional wildlife photographer is also wondering why he hasn't seen a single otter this year. Where have they gone? And when will they be back? Watch this space...

Friday 4 March 2011, 6.30am, grey and near-freezing with a light NE breeze. Just before sunrise I saw an otter swiftly cross the broad southwestwards from the direction of JohnA’s dyke. It was around 20m out, taking a very straight route with few dives, and disappeared in the direction of Kingfisher Cottage where there’s some piling work going on. It was too far away to see much detail, but the sharp chevron of its wake, its speed and its purposeful dives distinguished it clearly from a duck or a diver. It was hard to tell how big it was, but I would guess it was a smallish otter, as the wake – though sharp – was shallower than others I’ve seen.

Monday 14 February 2011, 8.40am, chilly but fine with a light southerly breeze. Just seen my first otter of 2011, my second since the ice closed over the broad at the end of November. I was gazing out of the window, idly watching our cat nosing around the vole-holes at the foot of the willow, and saw him abruptly scurry to the edge of the piling and stare down into the water. Suddenly I caught sight of the delicate arched head of an otter emerging from the water about 4m from where Ginger was poised, then plunging quickly away in the opposite direction. I rushed to get a better look, but I couldn’t see where it surfaced next – though Bernard could still see the giveaway trail of bubbles when he came to the window. But if our huge and rather gaudily-coloured Maine Coon had given the otter a scare, it was mutual; Ginger soon scuttled indoors and took refuge in his basket. This was quite a small otter, but I couldn’t say for sure that it was a cub; the brief glimpse I had was the very clear profile of a slender head and neck. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday 7 February 2011. Very windy all week. No new sightings since last month, but news of some very cheeky otter behaviour last autumn from a visitor to one of the holiday cottages. Having seen this website, DorothyA emailed to say she’d been visiting the cottage in late September/early October for 15 years, but 2010 was the first year she’d seen otters there – even though “for all that time we've had a fisherman on the bank.” If you look back through this diary, you’ll see that three of us saw a big otter on the very same morning (12 October 2010), and it was heading her way… Here’s her account:  

“2-16 October 2010. No sign of otters in the first week – no fisherman though – but in the second week my friend Tom fished all week. On Tuesday 12 (late morning/early afternoon, overcast), all of a sudden an otter popped up in front of him, and did so several times in the next couple of hours. When Tom took in his keep-net the otter had had a couple of fish (headless), but there was no damage to the net so he must have gone in the top. Tom didn’t use the keep-net for the rest of the week as it was like a take-away for otters! The next day (morning, overcast), when Tom came in for a cup of tea, a big otter came on to the grass and charged about for a while, in and out of the water (I managed to get some photos on my phone, through glass). After that we saw him on the broad, and he came to look at Tom a couple of times. The next day (again morning, overcast) a smaller otter paid us a visit, but she was so fast in and out of the water that I didn’t manage to get a photo. After that we saw them a couple of times, but only out in the broad. But what a magical experience! We were all thrilled.”

Even the fisherman was thrilled, it seems! Dorothy is booked to come back next year, and says she'll keep track of the otters on this website in the meantime.

Thursday 27 January 2011. Sub-zero temperatures have returned, but not the ice. Our first sighting of 2011: local otter-watchers have come to the conclusion that, during the three or so weeks that the broad was frozen over, otters migrated to the rivers and streams where flowing water kept the ice at bay. But today AlisonA, who was first to see the injured otter in November, emails to say that in the past couple of days she’s glimpsed an otter (or otters) “flipping down into the dyke” near her house along the lane. That’s where she saw the wounded one venture into the water and devour five fish on the trot, but she couldn’t say for sure that this was the same otter. She did, however, have news of it from Fairhaven Garden Trust, which fronts the inner broad about 750m to our west. Earlier this week SueT, who works at the Trust, mentioned to her that the wounded one was spotted several times in the gardens around Christmastime, easily recognised by big scars on top of its head. Otters have frequented Fairhaven for many years: currently two of them, but in the past four together. JohnD, who also works there, has even identified runs where otters – making their way upstream from the inner broad – cross the fairly busy Ranworth Road to follow a dyke that passes under the road. 

 

Friday 7 January 2011. Heavy rain falling on the ice-covered broad, which has been solid since before Christmas. Well, the otters’ ears would certainly be burning if they weren’t quite so cold… First the injured one was pictured on the front cover of our village magazine, The Marshland Mardler. Then on Wednesday our otter story took over page 3 of the Eastern Daily Press, along with a leader on its Comment page. Next came a tiny diary entry in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, which was today followed up with a page 25 feature! Both newspapers had the courtesy of giving a link to this website, so it would be rude not to do the same:

http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/environment/norfolk village s special otter family 1 766623

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/8244349/You-never-saw-Tarka-like-this.html

Not sure if the otters appreciate all this attention though: they’ve yet to put in their first appearance in 2011. 

 

Thursday 23 December. 3.45pm, bitter north wind, still very cold but snow thawing slowly. Just as it’s getting dark I glimpse an otter on the wooden piling under our willow tree, about 30 feet from the window and exactly where I twice saw otters on land last winter. It’s my first sighting since the snowy spell began late last month; ice is still thick on the Broad, though starting to thaw as temperatures stay above zero by day. Today’s otter was a similar size to the injured one we found on the staithe last month, in roughly the same crouched position with its flat tail stretched out behind. Of course I’d like to think it’s the same otter, now recovered, but that’s impossible to say for sure. This one soon lolloped down into the water – or was that on to the ice? When I went to investigate, I saw that along the piling under the willow, protected from freezing by the tree, was a stretch of unfrozen water – barely two feet wide and five feet long – which a moorhen had by that time occupied as the only liquid water in the immediate area. I then went to the boathouse to check for visitors there, and sure enough there was a large area of new wet splashes on the dry wooden floor, with narrow tracks into the water next to the dinghy, where a thinner layer of ice had been mashed up by the rocking of the boat. Merry Christmas, otters! 

 

Monday 29 November 2010. 7.50am, dawn, very cold, snowy and still. Watched as the otter swam along our frontage from the island and slipway, just as it did on Friday, then disappeared into John A’s dyke. Temperatures haven’t been above 2C here for a couple of days, and a thin layer of ice is beginning to veil the broad. 

 

 Sunday 28 November 2010. Still very cold. News of the injured otter: neighbour John A tells me that he and his daughter-in-law saw an injured otter earlier this month. She reports: “It first came up to the house and, seeing our dog, hid under a car. It made its way back to the frontage, but it really felt to me  that it had come in search of some help!” Later that afternoon she saw it again on land: “It let me stay quite close. It seemed disorientated on land and it had a bad injury to its head. The injury looked deep, however it seemed fresh, with no sign of infection. It also had an injured shoulder and was shuffling to move. It surprised me as it entered the water, and that it seemed quite happy and fed on at least five fish that afternoon. We called the RSPA but there was no sign of the otter when the lady arrived. We’ve seen it again on the frontage early last week but not seen it since. I do hope it survives, it’s great to see them on the Broads.” So at least we know it’s not starving; John showed me runs in the reeds where it gets in and out of the water. This may all make sense of my sighting on Friday, when I saw an otter swimming along our frontage and then unusually, instead of making off across the broad, coming back again and disappearing into John’s dyke. Not well enough yet to tackle distances by water, perhaps

  

26 November 2010. 7.45am, cold, still, snowy and not quite light. Saw an otter twice in quick succession. First it was swimming fast and purposefully south from the direction of Fleet Dyke, skirting close to our frontage then disappearing round the willow towards the island,. From there I thought it would make off across the broad, as they often do. So I was amazed minutes later to see it return along exactly the same route, surprising a diving cormorant which erupted from the water about 15 feet ahead of it and flapped off (must be good fishing there this morning). The otter disappeared round the corner and I think went into one of the boathouses or the little dyke beyond, because there was no more wake. I’d like to think it was the injured one back in the water, but the light was too dim to see any evidence of those big gashes to its head.  

21 November 2010. 6.30am, cold, still, damp and dark. The household across the road was woken by their Rhodesian Ridgeback suddenly kicking up a huge racket. The dog sleeps beside a French door, and they came down to find it scrabbling at the glass to get at an otter just a few feet away on the gravel outside. Too dark to see much detail, but it didn’t seem in too bad shape as it sloped off, though it was definitely limping. Another sign that Thursday’s casualty has survived the last three days may be that every scrap of fishy cat food I put out on the ground is now gone – though of course it could have been eaten some other animal. 

19 November 2010. Cool, misty and damp, 7.30am. David M texts from across the road that “an otter just walked up your drive!” He’d seen it from an upstairs window and, by the time we met at the gate, it had gone to ground (there were early-morning dog-walkers about). He and his nine-year-old had both seen it, though neither knew at the time about yesterday’s casualty. When I told them, they confirmed that it had been limping, making its way from the grassy staithe where we found it yesterday, across the slipway entrance towards our gates. When we looked closely at the grass where it had been lying, quite a large area was trampled down, so it must have changed position several times. It’s apparently still not interested in going into the water, as the RSPCA officer had predicted, so it must be very hungry. She was right about it wanting to stick to familiar territory too. She’d said one of her colleagues might come back for another look, so I emailed them to say I thought it had survived the night, at least. I’ve looked everywhere, but very quietly. 

18 November. 1.50pm, chilly and grey. This is a very sad sighting. B rushed in and said someone in a car had stopped, got out, and then shouted to him “there’s an injured otter on the staithe… Phone the RSPCA!” I did, and also the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who confirmed the RSPCA was the right call. When I finally went out, the otter hadn’t moved: it seemed quite young, very frightened but also quite alert, sitting under the tree on the grassy part in a cat-like position, with its legs tucked under. I thought I could see blood on its head, but I didn’t go too close (these pictures are blown up to capacity) as I didn’t want to terrify it any further.                   

The RSPCA officer arrived within 40 minutes (good for them), but by then the otter had limped off, unfortunately alarmed by two sets of dog-walkers, who also saw it hobble away. B followed it for a few hundred yards up Kingfisher Lane and reports that it was limping badly, but was at least using all four legs. It didn’t dive for the ditch or the broad, as I imagined it would want to, but kept to the land-side of the lane. Eventually B stopped following, however, since every time he moved closer to the otter, it moved on as well - as if being hounded. The RSPCA officer, who seemed very knowlegeable, went searching but couldn’t find it. She suggested it had holed up in the grassy banks behind the lane and, after looking at the pictures, she said it was unlikely to take to the water in such a poor condition. From her experience of an injured otter at Barton, she thought it was very likely to remain within an area where it felt secure, so we might see more of it. Let’s hope it survives whatever injury it suffered, and keep watch - at a distance. 

14 November, afternoon, raining.  Sue H checks in with the latest sighting: “We were on our way home along Fleet Lane, paused for a last look over the broad by the  gateway to the boathouse nextdoor to you, and R saw an otter in the small dyke that runs out between that frontage and the one to the northeast of it.  He got out of the car to watch for a while and saw it again; it looked very busy, as if it was hunting.  I understand that Steve, the chap working on the quay-heading, has had a number of sightings thereabouts and now R has corroborated the fact that at least one is still around.”  

7 November 2010. 7.40am, cold, calm, wet, with the sun just coming up behind big dark clouds

Spotted a very big otter about 3ft from our frontage, swimming northeast round the willow from the slipway. At first glance I mistook his head for a moorhen, then saw the tail emerge at least two, maybe three feet behind. As he swam slowly along the frontage, I caught a couple of shots of him. They’re very blurred because of the low light, but in this one you can see just how much wash he was making in the glass-calm water. That’s far more disturbance than any diver makes, even a cormorant; quite a lot of water displacement. 

 

 

 

 

5 November 2010Very mild and fair for November. Steve, the guy doing the piling work next door, tells me he’s seen an otter there almost every day over the last couple of weeks, often inside next-door’s wet boathouse or on the slipway to the rear of it. He says that one morning he saw an otter actually on Fleet Lane! It/they appear quite at ease even when he’s working nearby (“rattling in the piling”), as did the one we saw close by in our own boathouse a month ago; today I spotted some otter “spraint” on the floor there - dark but sparkling with fish scales. I told Steve we’d seen cubs playing in our boathouse last winter, and we wondered if that is why the otter/s seem to see the boathouses as safe, familiar territory. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 October 2010. 8am, a calm, chilly, damp dawn. As I walked to the window, that instant (as if on-cue) a huge otter appeared, swimming south along our frontage about 4ft off. I think I must have spotted the signs that he was about: undulation in the water like the wake of a boat, but on a smaller scale and with no visible cause. His pace was quite leisurely, and he took the same route as when three of us spotted him later in the morning a couple of weeks ago, diving under the willow as he headed for the island and slipway. 

17 October 2010. Cool but sunny, light wind. Sue H writes: “Returning from a short trip today, R was in the stern, otter watching, when he saw one pop out of the reeds. I was able to get a few shots as he swam towards the Broad, along the reed bank. We then saw him come across the river towards the boatyard, and I went to the fence and had a glimpse of him on the grass - not enough time to focus the camera, unfortunately. But now we know one comes out of the water at the boatyard, we can keep watch there when they swim across towards the marina - it would be great to get a pic on land. A few minutes later he swam back across the river, surfaced once then disappeared into the reeds. This all happened around 3.50pm (just as R was saying ‘he’s late' - all our previous sightings being around 3.30pm!). About 4.30pm there was a lot of screeching in the reeds so we wondered if they have a 'hover' even a holt over there."

. 

12 October 2010. 9am, breezy and fair. Two gardeners and I were by the boathouse when one of them spotted a big otter foraging close to our frontage, so close in that we couldn’t have seen from further back. Scott was so excited that he raced after him, and the otter swam away southwards along the frontage, then dived under the willow towards the island. I looked for him from the Parish Staithe, but he’d disappeared. There were lots of people about, though.

10 October 2010. 1.10pm, glorious sunny day. Peter C, who moors his boat near Sue’s, writes “As we came down the dyke towards the broad today at 1.10pm, there were two otters in the water just past the last bends.” 

6 October 2010. 7.20am, dull, damp and still quite dark. Saw an otter making its way from our corner of the broad to the mouth of Fleet Dyke. Impossible in the poor light to make out how big it was (or even attempt a photograph) but its profile, with the distinctive angled tail, was similar to Sue H's shot of 18 September. And its action was very single-minded: no speculative diving, but a journey from A to B like someone on a familiar walk to work.

28 September 2010. 2.30pm, quite warm, still, but damp after all the rain. Another close encounter: we were putting our boat in the boathouse, supervised by our cat, and as I made off the aft rope I heard a loud splosh. I thought the cat had gone in, looked along between the staging and the boat and saw an otter in sharp profile against light reflected off the water by the roller-door (the cat had backed off, but was watching closely). It was chomping on a fish, went under and came up again for another scoff (more anxious to finish the fish than to make an escape, it seemed; can otters eat underwater?). It turned and paddled off towards the door, then dived leaving a trail of bubbles. It was strange, as we’d been in there minutes before, taking the dinghy battery off-charge. So was it there then too, or did it come in beside the boat as we towed her in? It was quite young: slender and almost delicate – not like the huge one Sue H photographed a week ago, and it didn’t seem to take after its dad (?) in the dental department! 

18 September 2010. Sue H writes: “We again saw this big otter on Saturday, at around 4pm. R went out in the dinghy again and between us we managed to get quite a few photos. He was swimming around near the buoy opposite the boatyard and then went into the reeds opposite. In some shots you can see him showing his teeth – R thinks it was snarling at him in the dinghy, but I'm not sure. The teeth certainly looked powerful!” 

 

South Walsham broad, and the areas mentioned in the diary. 


14 September 2010. 9.15am, breezy, grey and drizzly. We were sitting in the office and I looked up and saw a big otter swimming and diving northeast from behind our willow towards our bouy. By the time I got outside with the camera it was too far away, though got some blurry shots, then B and I both watched as he made for the other side. 6.30pm, very windy, raining hard, but the sun emerging in the west from under the cloud. He was back again, about six feet from the frontage and a few feet forward of our boat's prow. He seemed huge – at first I thought he was a big wet dog chasing after a stick thrown from the parish staithe. We both watched mesmerised as he caught and ate a big wriggling fish or eel, then began to swim off. I grabbed a camera, dashed outside in the rain in my socks. But all I got was a blob! 

11-12 September 2010. Sue H writes: “Our first sighting was at around 2.20pm when a small otter swam across the river and back, then in and out of the reeds. The second sighting was by R at 7.15am on Sunday.  An otter swam across the river towards him - he grabbed my camera and tried to take a photo but unfortunately I’d turned it off overnight (good house-keeping I thought!) and by the time he turned it on the otter had dived.  I was awake by this time and although we watched for an hour or more, there were no further sightings. The third came just after I had managed to snap a kingfisher which very kindly sat on a branch on the other side of the river for about 3 minutes. It was so exciting, then within about 5 minutes a very big otter came slowly out of the reeds across the river.  It wasn't hunting or in a hurry as it seemed to luxuriate in the sunshine and almost roll like a seal.  The photo is as it slowly swam down the middle of the river. We then went for a trip in the dinghy on to the inner broad and R saw a kingfisher fly across the entrance into the reeds. He rowed across and as we went round the corner, there was no kingfisher but we disturbed another/the same otter (a big one again) swimming leisurely along the reeds. We were as surprised as he was and he dived before I could get a decent shot. 


 

7 September 2010. 5.15pm, lovely warm, light breeze from the south. The canoeists came back with his little girl for another go at photographing otters as all he got yesterday was “a lot of pictures of empty water.” But they told me that, coming back yesterday evening at 7pm, an otter surfaced almost within touching distance of the kids as their canoe headed for the slipway past our willow – how exciting for them! David M met them today on their way back and they said that this time they had seen two otters – one big, one small. But still no pic! 

6 September 2010. 5.05pm, warm gusty east wind, high cloud. I was watching a canoeist who seemed to be taking a lot of interest in our house and frontage, snapping it with a powerful camera. Tomorrow’s burglars? Then I saw an otter and realised… It was 3m offshore, between the canoe and the willow. I went quietly to the fence and we both watched it swim further out (you can just see it in my fuzzy pictures), then went south towards R’s house. Another canoe emerged from the slipway where it had been waiting quietly. The otter then swam across to the inner broad and the canoeist and his companions – including two kids – gently followed. I watched as they all slowly made their way towards the southwest promontory. The first canoeist had said he’d tell me if he gets any good pictures. Discovered this account of the same sightings, and another sighting of two otters together, on Black Sheep Paddlers’ website: http://www.bspforum.net/viewtopic.php?pid=10279 

 

5th September 2010, Sue H writes: 11am “A lot of squealing and screeching from the reeds for about five minutes, but we saw nothing appear.  It did sound as if there was more than one in there and the meowing could have been young one.”11.50am “The hire boat Judith went past and the occupants were excitedly photographing so I asked them what they had seen and they said “an otter...”  12.45pm “I saw an otter pop up in the water in front of the trees but it was only a brief sighting before it dived again and, although I watched for ages, it didn't appear again.  It was definitely an otter - R saw it as well.” 

31 August 2010. 7am, barely light and very calm after the bank-holiday gales. A big otter was swimming and diving slowly northeastwards from the island, past the willow tree and around 5m off our frontage. As it approached our boathouse, and as the sun came up, it disappeared leaving a stream of bubbles on the glassy surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 27 August 2010. 12.30pm, cool, breezy. David M’s builder, Mark, reports he saw an adult otter as he was chatting to an angler fishing from the Parish Staithe in his lunch break. It was swimming just off the staithe and they both watched it as it took four fish. 

26 August 2010. 5.30-8pm, cool, cloudy. David and Anglea M report that they saw quite a young otter at the slipway, and watched it swim there for a while. Later in the evening, they saw a full-grown otter also swimming and fishing, nearby the slipway and close to the island. 

16 August 2010. “Dibbler” writes on the Broads Forum website: “We were blessed with seeing a couple of otters on land earlier this year at South Walsham staithe. Guess who didn't have his camera ready!"

19 July 2010. 3.30pm, hot sultry day. Sue H writes from aboard her boat:  “I was lucky enough to see an otter pop up between the moorings and the trees. I just happened to have my camera on my knee as I had seen a marsh harrier go overhead earlier and wanted to try and catch it on its way back. The otter was being buzzed by an angry seagull so went under quite quickly but I got this brief shot of its little face. R saw two otters last weekend, opposite our mooring and there was a lot of noise from the reeds that evening, although nothing appeared again. On reflection it was the same noise as in June last year, when we were guessing they were mating.” 

 

 

 

June 2010. Evening at dusk. David M reports that while he was on the slipway, he saw a large dog-otter swimming around the northern end of the island looking for some supper. 

13 June 2010. 6am, soft breeze from the south. Watched for 20 minutes as a biggish otter swam about 30m off our frontage, from level with our willow tree and the island NE-wards to near John A’s mooring bouys, and then back again. A systematic hunt for some breakfast, it looked like: lots of long, deep dives preceded by a sharply arched back, followed by 30 seconds of surface paddling, then another dive. I was rudely interrupted by the cats demanding breakfast, but the otter was still there foraging after they’d been catered for. Last I saw of him (?), he was heading south again towards the island. 

20 May 2010. Our neighbours Richard and Lara, who live 90m to the south west, say they’d been thinking of setting up a video camera to watch the otters play in the wet boathouse under their house in Kingfisher Lane. But “in the end we didn’t need to as the cubs are so very friendly that they play happily even when being watched. A lot of frolicking about and sometimes our deckchairs end up in the water.” Last saw an otter there a fortnight ago.

4 May 2010. 8.30am, brisk northerly breeze, chilly. I THINK I saw two otters in the distance across the broad – not at the bank but hunting at the margins between the sheltered and the rippled water. Easy to spot them again once I’d taken my eye off them, because the gulls seemed to be hanging around in the air to see if the otters would come up with some left-overs. 

2 March 2010. 6.20am, calm, frosty but no ice, dawn. Four otters, 30ft away. First I saw one, then two, walking south from our boathouse to the willow, silhouetted against the frosty landing stage, one 20ft in front of the other, Identical in size and a very distinctive humped shape. Then I saw what I thought was one more in the water beside the leader, but as it swam behind the fence to the slipway, the shape seemed to separate into two. The two on land then slipped into the water and swam off south after the others.

 28 February 2010. 8.45am, heavy rain, slight breeze. No I didn’t scare them off! Sitting in the office watching the storm’s progress via satellite pictures on my Mac, I glanced up to see what I thought was a dark cat sniffing round the vole-holes at our landing stage. It was an otter, just 30ft away, looking for some mammalian breakfast. It seemed to clock me, then lolloped along the landing stage a bit then lolloped off into the water. Too choppy to see what it did next; I’m still on the lookout, but it’s quite late in the morning for a night animal. 

27 February 2010. 8.05am, calm. Face to face! I saw ripples coming from our boathouse cut and went quietly to investigate. Heard lots of sploshing around in boathouse, then saw a little face emerge a few feet away from under the roller door (which was about 6-in above the water). I think it may have been a young one, as its face was pure minky brown, not grizzled, with very black eyes and nose – actually about the size of a very large cat’s face. In fact its surprised expression was lot like the one our very large and lazy cat has when she’s invited to go outside! Later I saw ripples emanating from nextdoor boathouse. I hope I didn’t scare them away… Though B doesn’t: investigations showed wet trails on the boathouse floor and deposits. There’s no evidence that they went on to his boat, though.                                                                                                                              

 24 February 2010. 7.15am, calm They were there again next day, and we both saw them (possibly the cats too). They were loitering at the corner by our boathouse, then swam slowly across to our willow tree, where one of them picked up a bit of fish breakfast before they all swam off to the south. Quite playful, and co-ordinated in their movements, a bit like dolphins. 

23 February 2010. 8.15am, dawn, calm, misty. Three otters!! At about 8.15am the three were swimming close together in perfect formation across our frontage - in the opposite direction to the usual. I thought they were heading for our boathouse, but they undulated slowly by and either went into the boathouse next door, or into the  cut beyond. 

3 January 2010. 8am, calm, icy, still not quite light. Photographed what I then still assumed was the lone otter (but could it have been two?) swimming along the edge of the ice off our frontage, trying to get between the island and the slipway. Later in January, B and I both saw one in the same place on different days, walking or sitting on the ice. Backed like a whippet but with shorter legs.

 

29 September 2009. Neighbour David M, reports: “We had two sightings of a small and a large otter while we were canoeing on the broad at the weekend.” 

21 June 2009, quite late in the day. Sue H writes from her boat (moored 250m north of us, at the mouth to Fleet Dyke): “We were on our moorings last evening and suddenly saw an otter surface on the broad. After a few minutes it was joined by another one and they were diving and surfacing for about 10 minutes. Then both swam off to the reeds and the next thing we knew there was suddenly a huge squealing sound from the reeds and the water erupted with the two otters scraping like mad, shrieking as if they were killing each other. We thought at first one had caught a baby duck or moorhen but it became obvious they were having a go at each other. After 2 or 3 minutes of fighting, they stopped and appeared to make up. One then swam off and we think the other went back into the reeds.” 


Spring 2009, early mornings. Saw a single otter several times, swimming across the frontage from the northeast near the derelict boathouse southwards towards the island. Then on one occasion I saw two of them together! Then there was the half-eaten fish on our boathouse floor…