Otter expert and Volunteer Ranger, Jim Bebbington
I’ve been walking at Stackpole for years, but it was seeing the otters that persuaded me to volunteer. With my wife, Marilyn, I volunteer as a National Trust ranger on the Stackpole Estate in South Pembrokeshire, leading guided walks to help our visitors see the wildlife on the estate.
It is common to see many of the raptor bird group on the estate as well as the uncommon choughs on the coastal areas, in the winter we see a good selection of migratory waterfowl. However, it is the otters that most of our visitors want to see.
Eels, the otters’ favourite food, are plentiful in the lakes. Young eels - or elvers - arrive in our fresh water rivers and lakes in spring having been carried by the oceans currents across the Atlantic from the Sargasso Sea. The otters will also take sea fish, mammals, birdlife and associated delicacies.
Since starting to volunteer seriously in 2009 we've seen a handful of otter cubs grow up at Stackpole. Paw prints on Broad Haven South beach suggest that there is a pair of adult otters on the estate. We are hoping for new cubs; maybe as early as this spring.
Watching the otters has reawakened my interest in wildlife photography. When the BBC Springwatch team filmed at Stackpole earlier in the year I helped the cameramen film the estate’s wildlife. The crew also took my hidden camera footage of the otters, hopefully to use in the show.
Friends across the globe
To anyone thinking about volunteering, we would say go for it; not only for the cause but as much for yourself, you will be surprised at the satisfaction gained.
Through leading wildlife walks as well as talking to our visitors we have made many friends from the UK and across the globe. When revisiting the Estate they make contact and we head out together in search of otters.