Over the past couple of months we have been seeing otters on an almost weekly basis, outside the Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre windows! I have worked for the Scottish Wildlife Trust for just over 4 years and I can safely say I have never seen them as often, here or anywhere else. Otters can be very quiet elusive creatures and I am sure there are times when they pass our windows and we never even notice. Who knows they might be out there right now!
Often at this time of year they will alert us to their presence with a call that sounds very much like a squeaky wheel on a bike. These are the cubs, calling for their mother to come and give them some food. For the past few years our female otter has managed to raise two cubs. Often they will be on the bank side calling while she is in the water catching a tasty trout for them to eat.
Seeing the signs of otters is far simpler than seeing the animals themselves. Along riverbanks and waterways, look for five-toed footprints (about 6-7cm long) and droppings or ‘spraints’. Otters leave spraints in prominent places, such as fallen trees, weirs and bridges, as ‘scented messages’, helping them to find mates and defend territories. They contain visible fish bones and have a distinctive, pleasant smell, reminiscent of Jasmine tea!
Although it’s not the easiest time of year to spot wildlife, in the past month we have also seen a badger, sparrowhawk, dippers, a raven, a variety of woodland birds and footprints from roe deer and foxes. We have also seen snowdrops and I’m sure over the next few weeks other wildflowers will begin to bloom as well.
Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger
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