The news in the Swindon Advertiser last month that local photographer Emma Sanger-Horwell had sighted and photographed an otter in broad daylight in the lake at Lydiard Park was surprising but wonderful. Emma, who was out on her exercise walk at the time, had paused to take photographs of snowdrops and Widgeon when up popped the otter, which stayed for over an hour, feeding on fish and at one point moving very close to other walkers who were feeding the ducks.
Otters are elusive creatures and seldom seen during the day although they are easier to see in the winter. They are larger than mink and can be identified by their grey-brown fur, broad snout and pale chest and throat. They are well-suited to life in the water, with webbed feet and dense fur. They can even close their nose and ears when they are underwater! Fish, small water birds and frogs are all part of their diet.
Otters have been spreading back through the West Country in recent years and have even been seen in Swindon gardens, raiding fishponds. Otter cubs can be born at any time of year and live in dens known as holts. They are a strictly protected species and we hope the sighting at Lydiard will be the first of many, adding to the rich wildlife of the parkland.
Thank you to Emma for permission to use her photographs.