Nature Notes – January 2023

by Andy Johnson

Ten years ago the sight or a photo of an otter on the Swale would have made the local newspapers. Today they are more common than kingfishers, yet few people have seen one. The reason is that they are essentially nocturnal. An adult male or ‘dog’ otter can weigh in excess of 10 kilos and be 1 metre in length, it is a sizeable beast with an appetite to match, eating fish, eels, frogs and waterfowl.

OtterOtters have a river territory which may stretch for miles dependant upon the availability of food. In addition they will explore surrounding becks, ditches and ponds and the overall size of their estate can be as much as 250 acres. On their night time excursions they come into conflict with humans. During the recent cold snap several villagers lost fish from their ponds to otters, their tracks clearly seen in the snow. Otters tend to go for large fish and koi carp are a favourite.
The recent snow revealed a fox which frequents Scruton. John Stubbs found tracks on the cricket field and followed them to Meadow Drive past his house. There are large flocks of redwings and fieldfares on fields around the village, you might see them, attracted by fallen apples, in your garden. January is a quiet month but many birds are pairing up ready for the breeding season. On warm days rooks will sit in pairs laying claim to nesting sites in the lime trees.

Big Garden Bird Watch – don’t forget you can take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey – the RSPB annual Big Garden Bird Watch for 2023 which runs from 27 to 29 January. Go online to the RSPB for details about how to take part.