It’s a lit­tle ot­ter this win­ter!

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

A SHY mam­mal has fi­nally made a grand ap­pear­ance at Lan­cashire’s youngest na­ture re­serve, af­ter teas­ing wildlife spot­ters for four years.

Three ot­ters were pho­tographed swim­ming at Brock­holes by vol­un­teer He­len Earn­shaw.

There have been a num­ber of sight­ings of a sin­gle ot­ter in lakes around the Pre­ston re­serve over the past cou­ple of years, but now there is proof that this won­der­ful mam­mal is adding to vis­i­tor num­bers.

Brock­holes spokesman Sarah Leach said: “We were all amazed to see He­len’s pic­tures of the ot­ters. We have had a num­ber of re­ports of sight­ings over re­cent years but cap­tur­ing one on cam­era has proved dif­fi­cult. To see three to­gether, clearly en­joy­ing them­selves at Brock­holes, was a real treat and He­len was thrilled to bits.

“We have had a busy week­end, with the ot­ters and a bit­tern gen­er­at­ing lots of in­ter­est among vis­i­tors. It is fan­tas­tic for us to be able to share our pas­sion for wildlife with our vis­i­tors and pass on some hints and tips on the best places on the re­serve to see th­ese species.”

He­len’s pic­tures show ot­ters at the re­serve’s big­gest lake. One pic­ture of three of the an­i­mals swim­ming in a row has been de­scribed on so­cial me­dia as ‘look­ing like the Loch Ness mon­ster’, be­cause the head of one ot­ter and the tail of an­other are vis­i­ble.

Ot­ters are an iconic UK mam­mal and one of our top preda­tors feed­ing on fish, wa­ter­birds and am­phib­ians. They are well-suited to a life on the wa­ter as they have webbed feet, dense fur to keep them warm, and can close their ears and nose when un­der wa­ter. They can grow to 90cm long, with a tail up to 45cm. They have a pow­er­ful body, pale grey-brown fur, broad snout and pale chest and throat.

Sarah said: “We of­ten get ot­ter sight­ings at Brock­holes when river lev­els are high and we have had no short­age of wa­ter over the last few weeks. It just goes to show that the worst weather for hu­mans is of­ten the best for spot­ting our wildlife.”

The ot­ter sight­ings come a few days af­ter the bit­tern brought bird­ers flock­ing to Brock­holes over the fes­tive sea­son.

Bit­terns have vis­ited the re­serve around this time for the past three years. They are a mem­ber of the heron fam­ily. Last year, a bit­tern was one of five types of heron vis­it­ing the re­serve along with res­i­dent grey heron, lit­tle egret, great white egret and night heron. Bit­terns are tall and brown mot­tled, and fa­mous for their ‘boom’ call.

Brock­holes is open ev­ery day, with the vis­i­tor vil­lage closed Mon­days.

The Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the wildlife in Lan­cashire, seven bor­oughs of Greater Manch­ester and four of Mersey­side, all ly­ing north of the River Mersey.

HE­LEN EARN­SHAW

●● Ot­ters at Brock­holes

LES PRICE

●● A bit­tern at the wa­ter’s edge

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