An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.
Otters on the reserve
I’m not sure which of this month’s news I’m most excited about. At the beginning of the month, the cat was well and truly out of the bag when Jen Ladley managed to video a family of the reserve’s most ‘otterly’ cute visitors, a family group of two otters and their two pups. Although we’ve known for years that otters frequently visit the reserve, it was decided not to publicise their presence. Although we have many times left out our wildlife cameras to try and get a picture of these shy nocturnal creatures, we’ve never managed more than an occasional blurry photo. Even if you’re not lucky enough to actually see an otter, you can still know they’re around as they have a habit of leaving their spraint (polite term for poo!) on top of rocks or tree stumps. I do recall from our recent Bio Blitz that it smells like jasmine tea!
Back in November, we received a call from a local resident whose fish had been taken from his pond, killed with a single bite to the head and dragged away under his fence, which does seem to suggest that the otters had been helping themselves to a free lunch.
We’ve also at times found evidence of mink on the reserve, but we’ve not seen them for a while. As otters will kill and eat mink, we assume they’ve either been predated themselves or have moved on, which is good news for our water voles and our rabbits. (In a survey it was found that 95 percent of a mink’s stomach content was rabbit.)
You may have wondered why Wessex Water had cleared the banks of all vegetation months before they started work but this was to discourage our water voles from nesting in that area as we all want as little disruption to the wildlife as is possible.
The other big news of the month is that Bradley and Brooke have managed to successfully hatch all five of their eggs, which is an amazing feat and such a change from last year when their nest flooded and they nearly lost all their eggs. At first, one of the cygnets seemed to have a bad leg as it was very wobbly, but it now seems much improved, although Brooke’s limp does seem to have reappeared. With your help, we’ll do what we can to keep an eye on her. Please can we ask that when you come to feed them you bring not lumps of white bread, but some ‘healthy’ food, i.e. porridge oats, unfrozen peas, shredded greens, rice, cut grapes and grain or some shop bought duck pellets. We’d also be very grateful if, for the moment, dog owners could keep their dogs on the lead near the lake.
Although, because of other commitments, our dawn chorus was a week late, the 14 people who braved the very early start were rewarded with mild weather and the appearance of 34 different bird species. Robin Jones and Rob Williams, our resident ‘bird boys’ who ran the walk for us, were also rewarded for their efforts with a hot breakfast!
David Baker, our hugely knowledgeable and popular chair, announced that for several reasons he was going to step down. Despite our best efforts at bawling, begging and bribery, he would not be persuaded to stay in post. However, David has agreed to stay on the committee to guide the new chair, Paul Smith, in his new role. Andrew Deakin has also been persuaded to join the committee to fill the gap.
Photos: 1 Swans on the lake with their cygnets. [Credit: Graham Bloomfield] 2 Swans’ nest with five eggs. [Credit: Shaun King] 3 Swans walking along a path with their five cygnets. [Credit: Lee Lawson]
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 8 & 9). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.