Sunday, 22 April 2012

What a morning!

This morning the plan was to head along the river at Kempston to find the Otter again. Fortunately the weather was good, the heavy showers we are having at the moment seem to be confined to the afternoon, so I headed off just after 6am. Blackcap and Chiffchaff were both heard as I headed up towards Kempston Mill. There was also sign of recent tree cutting (yesterday I think) between the ILEX building and the Mill, surely this work could have been carried out outside of the birds breeding season. I hope there weren't any Woodpeckers already nesting or anything else for that matter.

As I reached the Mill I could hear a Sedge Warbler singing in the reed bed opposite. I also spotted JA's car in the car park. A quick text and shortly after the response that JA was already watching an Otter upstream. My pace quickened as I continued upstream. More Chiffies, Blackcaps and a second Sedge Warbler were heard along the way. Sky Larks and Lapwings were also displaying and a pair of Common Terns were perched at Kempston Weir.

I crossed the metal bridge over the Back Channel and shortly after I spotted the Otter a a few yards up stream from the island at the south east corner of Box End Park. I cut around the short section of fence and there was JA tucked in by a Willow photographing the Otter directly in front of him, brilliant.

Camera at the ready I joined him and we spent the next 2¾ hours we followed this animal up stream as it fed. We even had a second Otter coming downstream which we followed for a short while before returning back up stream and catching up with the original animal! Amazingly it seemed to be eating almost constantly, I'm surprised it didn't burst! Behaviour was slightly different to my previous encounters. Several times during the encounter the Otter would remain in a particular area for several minutes, often out in the middle of the river, constantly diving, coming up with something, eating it and then diving again. Previously the animals have been constantly on the move, unless they have caught something a little larger in which case they tend to head off into a secluded spot to feed. The river was up a little and the flow was a lot stronger than previously, so this may have been the difference. Perhaps the food was being carried down in the flow so there was no need to move.       

Otter with fish
..and still trying to get it down.
Proof that the American Signal Crayfish is alive and well (not this particular one!) in the next shot. I'm disappointed that I didn't quite nail the shot as it has the potential to be a cracker but I include it here anyway.

Otter with American Signal Crayfish
 At times we were just a few feet from the Otter as it swam past and although it checked us out it didn't seem too bothered by our presence.

What are you looking at!
With it being the closed season for fishing we had all the fishing swims to ourselves so it was a case of move ahead of the Otter, tuck into a fishing swim with some nice cover, wait for the Otter to arrive....

Otter passes by...
..and then do it all over again!

..and again
And finally the light altered providing this lovely golden hue just before the animal disappeared behind the island in Biddenham Loop CP (BLCP).

Our last view.
Mornings don't come much better than that. 

We also had a single Swallow over, BLCP, as we waited for the Otter at one point and Kingfishers were very active around the island after the Otter disappeared. Willow Warblers were also heard in BLCP.

There was another dead Mute Swan (Juvenile) along the Box End Park stretch of the river. This is the second in this area in recent weeks, the previous one being an adult bird. It was across the river on the Box End Park side so I was unable to see any detail, rings etc..

I did a loop around the golf course before heading home. There were more Chiffies, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers along side the golf course and plenty of Sky Lark activity between the golf course and the Mill. A few Lapwings about as well although frustrating to see dog walkers crossing the fields, with their animals, one of whom was right in the area where the Lapwings nest! Come on people stick to the marked paths and keep your dogs close to avoid disturbance to the ground nesting birds. Species such as Sky Lark and Lapwing need all the help they can get.