Otters spotted at Croome
A regular visitor to a Croome has spotted the often elusive otter during his walks, as a regular walker around Croome, John Hubble had noticed fresh water mussel shells (known as swan mussels) scattered along the river and even a dead pike. He was fascinated to know what might be feeding on them.
Otters spotted at Croome
John approached Katherine Alker, Croome’s Garden and Outdoors Manager, and was given permission to erect a hidden camera. After filming at a few locations, but with no success, he was lucky enough to spot and photograph an otter during an early morning stroll with his dog Christie. He relocated the camera trap and was finally rewarded with footage of not just a single otter but what appeared to be an adult with a juvenile.
Otters are one of the UK’s best conservation success stories of recent years. Improved water quality, the banning of pesticides and increased protection enabled them to bounce back from near extinction in some areas between the 1950s and 1970s.
Listen to John being interviewed on BBC radio Hereford and Worcester, accompanied by photographs of Croome taken by John.
Update January 2019
From Brian Trott, one of our volunteer photographers. "This was my very first view of a wild Otter. A magical moment (well, more than a moment - 11 minutes actually). As you can see from one of these photos, this otter wasn't very far from the Chinese Bridge, but no doubt could be seen anywhere along the river, it was hunting for fish and I saw it catch (and eat) two fish in this time.
The first indication was a rustling noise in the reeds, then the reeds were moving, then there were tiny bubbles moving around in the water before the otter finally surfaced. It was my Christmas and Birthday all rolled into one!"
The Croome ‘river’
The river at Croome is not a natural river; it was dug out by hand in the 1750s and 1760s to create a water feature as part of ‘Capability’ Brown’s grand design for the landscape and is almost a mile and a half long. As there is no natural spring or stream to keep the river topped up, many underground drains were built to carry the water into the river from miles around and also to help drain the parkland which at one time had been extremely boggy.
Improving our lake and river
Staff and volunteers at Croome have carried out work over the past 21 years to restore the man-made lake and river, which has created more wetland habitat resulting in better water quality and an increased abundance of fish and other aquatic food sources which in turn has encouraged otters to use the area.
“Since dredging 50,000 tonnes of silt from the river from 2003 to 2005 to restore the waterway we’ve seen an influx of a great variety of wildlife. We are delighted to see otters in the park now.” said Katherine Alker, Croome’s Garden and Outdoors Manager.
Along the river there is a varied amount of bankside vegetation with overhanging trees and shrubs which is perfect cover for when otters want to move around unseen. The cover also allows opportunities for underground holts (an otter home) between roots, as well as above ground areas called ‘couches’ where otters rest during the day.
In addition to these natural features, the Croome Ranger team have built a new couch and installed a purpose built holt which was built by our volunteer maintenance team. In due course these and some other carefully selected areas of riverside scrub on both sides of the Croome River will be fenced off to exclude dogs and create some safe havens for our resident otters.
In addition to the lake and river we have also created and managed several other areas of wetland around the parkland which are helping us to improve the habitat and attract different species of wildlife.
In addition to the otters we now regularly also see cormorants, kingfishers, common frogs and toads, a variety of ducks, widgeon and geese all of which are feeding in the wet areas of the parkland.