'Bucket list moment' as adorable otter spotted swimming at Flatford
- Credit: Dave Piper
An otter has been photographed swimming in the River Stour at Flatford by the National Trust's countryside manager - who spotted the elusive animal for the first time in his 12 years of service.
Dave Piper has been working in the vale for more than 12 years, but this was his first proper otter sighting in the wild.
Mr Piper, the trust's countryside manager, was walking with his son Stanley, aged nine, shortly before Christmas when they spotted the otter.
Mr Piper said schools had just broken up so Stanley was quite restless, so he decided to take him to Flatford to check the flood gates and inspect the estate footpaths.
He said: "It was when we were at the newest hide my son saw the bubble trail and I expected a cormorant bird to pop up but instead an otter rose to the surface.
"Luckily my camera has a good zoom and we were then able to watch the otter swim and then via the camera we watched it gobble up the fish."
Mr Piper snapped a few photos, but the rest of the time they just used the screen to get a better view of the otter.
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"This was my first proper otter sighting in the wild after working in the vale for over 12 years," said Mr Piper.
"As my son said at the time, it was a proper bucket list moment."
Otters are elusive animals and they were on the point of extinction in the 1950s.
However, through protection from hunting and cleaner rivers, they have now become much more common in the UK.
They are members of the weasel family, and can be found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Most are small, with short ears and noses, elongated bodies, long tails, and soft, dense fur.
During the first lockdown in 2020, Mr Piper also saw some water vole which swam past him while he enjoyed lunch.
"Both sightings are good indications that the mink numbers that used to be quite high in the area have been truly suppressed," he explained.
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