When Dr C Senior showed me a photo of an otter, taken in broad daylight a few miles from his house, I couldn’t resist a visit. From what I’ve read about otters, if you want to see them in daylight your best bet is to head to a Scottish island. But Hampshire is a lot more convenient for me, and apparently a family of otters is regularly seen in a nature reserve next to the noisy A303.
So, I booked a day off work, and headed to the in-laws’. Dr C Senior kindly guided me to the reserve and showed me around, pointing out the fishing pier where otters are regularly seen playing.
It was a cold but dry March morning, and there were few other people around, although apparently the otters aren’t that bothered by the presence of dogs and walkers.
Dr C Senior stuck it out for quite a while, before the lure of lunch became too pressing. I stayed on, buoyed by the possibility of seeing my favourite British animal in the wild for the first time. I also had hopes of seeing a water shrew or some amphibians, or even catch a second glimpse of a water vole. But, aside from a hurrying vole (bank or field, I am not sure which) and a few birds, animals were staying hidden that morning.
A helpful fisherman suggested that I try another nearby nature reserve, that otters and water voles frequent. So I took his advice.
This reserve looked much more promising, being quieter and wilder looking. I found some watercress beds in my initial lap of the reserve, so I was hopeful of seeing a water shrew. I also managed to spot some possible otter and water vole signs.
But luck was not on my side that day. After two hours of patient waiting, seeing nothing more exciting than a squirrel and some blackbirds I was chilled to the bone, and decided to call it a day.
It’s not very surprising that I didn’t see an otter. They have large territories, and you can’t predict which bit of their territory they’ll use on a given day.
I was a bit disappointed not to see water shrews. It looked like ideal habitat for them, based on my limited knowledge.
But it wasn’t an unpleasant way of spending the day. It made a change from the office, and all that we walking was good for me.
So you’ll have to make do with a picture of the only otter I did see that day.