Thursday, 14 October 2010

On top of the world!

The Safari was out on the nature reserve well before dawn this morning. Yesterday there was some real bona-fide top quality birds along the coast so we thought we have a stab at first light at the nature reserve to see if anything unusual had dropped in or we could hear passing over. In the darkness the first bird we heard was a Cetti’s Warbler, we were to get three more singing males! About 100 Coot were roosting in the scrape but it was quite hard to count black birds at range in the dark. with the gloom and without the ‘scope it was impossible if this week’s Garganey was still hiding in amongst the Teal. Unfortunately we didn’t see any owls. Nor did we get any passage, not a single Meadow Pipit went over between 06.30 and 10.00. A few Redwings, no more than a dozen or so came out of the scrub as the light improved. Starlings left the roost in an almost deafening whirr of wings and there were only about 5000 of them; how loud will they be when the big numbers come in? A Chiffchaff sang briefly from the scrub giving a March like feel to the morning.
Two Pink Footed Geese came over from the north had a bit of a look at a small group of Canadas and Grey Lags feeding in the recently harvested field but decided not to join them and continued southwards.
From the depth of the reedbeds we heard four Water Rails squealing. Overhead small numbers of Greenfinches and Chaffinches started to pass to the south east while a Pied Wagtail went the opposite way. None of the Blackbirds could be turned into Ring Ouzels.
But the Safari doesn’t need exotica such as yesterday’s Yellow Browed Warbler (Heysham), Honey Buzzard (Hesketh Out Marsh on the South-side) or Red Backed Shrike (three miles up the road at Rossall) to get over excited. We’ve now got something better than those three put together. Our mystery has been confirmed this morning through the finding and identification of this.

It’s not that big is it but it is highly significant...’territorial’ Otter spraint and it is the first record of Otter on the nature reserve since MJ saw one in the early 1950s ie pre DDT, pre landfill pollution, pre nature reserve, pre the Safari, pre almost everything. Great news!!! Now for the hard part – we’ve got to spot the animal itself!!! It’s hiding somewhere in that lot.

The spraint follows sightings of footprints found on the island earlier in the week. Like the footprints it was found over-lying evidence of American Mink. It’s almost as if this much larger animal is telling the Mink – “look matey I’m here now sling yer ‘ook – or else”. Anything that helps reduce the impact of these voracious alien predators can only be a good thing for the nature reserve even if it does mean the loss of some extra fish.
On site we looked exactly where this was found for signs of Otters and even saw it but dismissed it as ‘too small’ and probably something to do with the Mink doo-doo not so far away – well we should have got down on all fours and sniffed it like the expert did a few hours later! The Ranger brought it up to the office where we did have a little sniff, being extremely careful not to sniff to hard and have it disappear up our snozwanger (Dunno how much a line of coke is these days but a line of Otter sh*te would be pricelss), sure enough there was a sweetness about the scent rather than the powerful stench of Mink droppings, a sort of new mown hay combined with fresh fish smell - far from unpleasant. Just goes to prove you learn something every day – we were looking for the more obvious much larger ‘normal’ spraint and didn’t know they do these tiny little territorial dollops.
Where to next? Back to the reserve of course, where else would we go?
In the meantime let us know what’s snuck into your outback


cliff said...

Ha, so the tracks were those of an otter, flippin marvellous!!
Who would ever of thought we'd get otters here in Blackpool. I spend a fair amount of time at the Mere over the winter months & that gives me something new to watch out for, I saw one once up the road at Leighton Moss, which was fantastic, but it would be even more of a thrill to see one locally.


Monika said...

What exciting news about the otters! I look forward to the day you report seeing one!

Craig said...

Hi Dave,

OTTER....thats fantastic news.

best wishes,

Warren Baker said...

Lets hope you get some of your best camera work onto it Dave :-)

Dean said...

That`s excellent news Dave. Hope you get to see it :-)

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Cliff - good luck
Monila - me too!!!!!!
Craig - best news yet amongst other good news from there this year
Warren - if I get it you see it no worries even if its a dot in the distance but keep an eye on Cliff's site he's a far better photographer than I as I'm sur you're already aware
Dean - nuff said!!!!