As somebody who enjoys the outdoors, some of the most fun times you can ever have don’t always involve adrenalin-inducing activities through which you test your physical limits. Something as simple as bird-watching can inject some lasting satisfaction which you only need to draw on by thinking back to all the sightings you managed to get in. This sort of thing is not for everybody though and in the specific case of bird-watching, I find that the more you know about birds in general, the more fun the experience is for you. Even if you just have a pocket-bird guide which you can quickly glance down at, spotting a bird you became familiar with just a mere second ago makes for some good clean fun.
Game-spotting with a pair of binoculars is a lot of fun, but the fun is increased ten-fold if you set yourself on a mission to catch notoriously shy, reclusive and illusive animals such as otters. For a very long time though, sighting otters in particular was rather sadly made even more difficult. In addition to their illusive nature, otters had literally been disappearing fast from English rivers, so much so that they were on the brink of extinction. National otter surveys which had been conducted between 1950 and 1980 revealed that 97% of the otters had disappeared from the English rivers. The quality of the water has since improved in recent decades, with measures put in place to prevent pesticides from seeping into the water courses. This has boosted the fish populations in the water and subsequently the otters again.
The initial decline in otter numbers can be directly attributed to the use of pesticides, as shown by the results of two year study conducted by zoology students from the University of Hull. Using state-of-the-art technology and DNA analysis, the study revealed the presence of three wild otters which have made Tophill Low Nature Reserve their home. The nature reserve which is located in the River Hull catchment near Driffield is now a prime breeding ground for the otters, thanks to its clean waters, whose cleanliness is further attested to by a thriving population of trout and lamprey fish.
The nature reserve is owned by Yorkshire Water, which speaks volumes of the safety of the water since the water company’s waste water management system essentially contributes to the habitat the wild otters deem fit to inhabit.
Richard Hampshire, Yorkshire Water’s Reserve Warden at Tophill Low Nature Reserve said: “For our photographers the otter is a charismatic, iconic species and much sought after. It’s a great asset for the region and helps with the developing nature tourism economy in East Yorkshire as people travel to what’s recognised as one of the best places to see the animal in lowland Britain.”
While Yorkshire Water’s advancements in waste water treatment processes will undeniably give consumers the peace of mind of knowing that their water is safe before and after use, for us wilderness wanderers it’s reassuring to know that if we miss any chance of spotting otters, it’s as a result of their naturally illusive nature and not as a result of hazardous waste water.