Could there be otter here???… a visit to Woodhouse Community Project

Close to me, is an exciting project on a lovely site….

‘Woodhouse Community Farm, a historic small-holding on the outskirts of Whittington, is offering people the chance to become a member and help to safeguard the farm as a place for the whole community.

With plans to renovate some of the semi-derelict buildings to provide a useable space with a classroom, kitchen and café facilities, it’s hoped the farm will become a centre where people of all ages and abilities will be able to improve their food growing and cooking skills and learn the value of local, seasonal food.’

More can be seen about the project at http://www.woodhousecommunityfarm.co.uk

The site on which this project is taking place includes fields, a woodland, brooks and the River Tame! Some initial wildlife surveys of the area have thrown up evidence of otter and I offered to come and set a couple of Bushnells around the site over the coming months to see if we could capture any interesting wildlife!

We had a wander around the site, starting off down by one of the brooks. The water levels have been very high recently with all the wet weather we have had and there is a soft silt edge to many banks; perfect for footprints. As I clambered down the steep bank, I could see lots of small, prints here. They were too small for otter, but I thought they might be mink. I have not had much experience with footprints, so took a few photos. I did not have any coins with me for a size comparison but these were about 2-3cm across.

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I found a suitable place to put one Bushnell, facing up the brook and by a small bank, with more prints. I also found some spraint up on a concrete bank. It looked pretty old, was dry and crumbly but had some fish scales in it. Could an otter have passed through here?

Spraint

We then walked around the rest of the site, through fields and down as far as the River Tame. This is where the otter spraint has been found in the past. Due to recent flooding, the area was very wet and still flooded in places, making it difficult to navigate. I think I am going to have to return in a month or so when it has dried out again to position a Bushnell down here. Where the brook runs off of the Tame, I think would be a good position to place one for possible otter action. The Trust is also talking about possibly building an artificial holt! That would be exciting!

The woodlands must be full of life… I saw and heard fieldfare in the open fields and a green woodpecker yaffling from the woods. Some areas were carpeted in snowdrops…. stunning!

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I chose the set the second Bushnell in a small wooded clearing, hopefully to capture some of the inhabitants. Muntjac have been seen in the area and I am sure there will be other residents as well.

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I used the Bushnell BackTrack Dtour to plot where I had walked.  It is a GPS device and records your route. Once plugged into the computer, it uploads the route onto Google maps. As you can see, we zigzagged around a bit. I love this piece of kit though, as it is difficult to imagine exactly where you are and once uploaded onto a map, you can put brooks and woodlands into place in the larger scheme of the area.

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I plan to return later in the week to see what we might have captured!