Sunday, 23 October 2011

Otter Walk from Hirst Wood - Sunday 30th October 1.30pm

Thank you to everyone who came on the Otter Walk on Sunday 30th October. The weather was good and we were lucky enough to have our Otter expert Don with us to tell us about the local Otters.

We knew we probably wouldn’t see an Otter – they are mostly nocturnal – but we hope you still found the walk interesting and learned a little more about Otters. It was very interesting to see the Otter Holt that has been built alongside the river to provide shelter for the Otters.

 Otter holt by the River Aire - an Otter hotel!

We will visit the river again some time next year to have another go at finding signs of Otters. Now that you have all had a look at an Otter spraint, you’ll know what to look for, and might even be lucky enough to find one yourself if you and your family happen to walk down by the river. The area along the bottom of Myrtle Park in Bingley and up into Harden Beck is easy enough to access and several spraints have been found on boulders there in the past. If you do find any, it would be great if you could let us know.

We asked Airedale Otters members to think of a name for our own Otter, whose face appears on our group’s badge. Don the Otter expert agreed to pick the best name. He said he found it really difficult because there were so many brilliant suggestions but in the end he chose... Ollie.

Ollie the Otter!

As well as the Otter holts, we saw and learned about some really interesting things on Sunday. We learned how holly trees have more prickly leaves nearer the ground – to stop deer and other animals eating them; and less prickly ones near the top – to allow birds to get to the berries.

Holly leaf on a lower branch - prickly!

Holly leaves on a higher branch - not so prickly!

Don showed us some bat boxes that had been put in the trees to provide shelter for Pipistrelle bats. These are the UK’s smallest and most common bat. It’s also possible to find other bats in the area such as Noctules, and Daubenton’s bat, which likes feed over water.

Don showed us his bat detector, which is a super-sensitive microphone that can pick up the sounds of bats calling as they fly around. You can read more about these bats, and even listen to their calls, by clicking here. We will try to organise a bat walk next year so we can listen to them at dusk.

Later in the walk, we stopped at the weir by Hirst Mill where we saw quite a few brown trout attempting to leap up the weir. We also saw a Grey Heron, a Grey Wagtail and some of us were lucky enough to see a beautiful Kingfisher fly up the river. This stretch of the river, from the weir to the aqueduct, is especially good if you want to see Kingfishers.

Thanks again to everyone who came on the walk - see you next time!

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