The main survey in April showed the usual number of otters, (67). The percentage of “hits” on positive sites was back to the average of 29% from the worrying low of 22.9% the previous year.
Deaths have again remained low in 2013, with 26, fitting with James’ observation that high rainfall coincides with low deaths. 20 were sent for post mortem to Cardiff, a big thank you to members who assisted in the recovery to enable this high percentage. Without James to put in the high mileage collecting bodies, more of this vital work will now fall upon the rest of us. From James’ detailed recordings and logs, 13 litters of cubs can be identified in 2013. This recording by the group is possibly the most important to monitor, can all such sightings and signs of cubs please be passed to Lucy so the records can be maintained.
James’ 2012 comment about mink can be repeated, “mink are still uncommon”. James logged 16 records of Mink from 12 different locations across Somerset for the year. His comment that they seem to be thriving in the reed beds still stands. By October, 20 mink were collected for University research, between October and this week another 17 mink were forwarded. In March 2013 he recorded, “18 March- Brue Reserves- fewer in traps”. We will need to compare seasonal numbers to check if these numbers are increasing. Is there a relationship between mink and the low numbers of otters on the reserves?
2013 had some high points for James. In June he became a Fellow of the Linnean Society, the worlds oldest extant biological society which remains a leading modern forum for debate and discussion of natural history, and he received an MBE for his work conserving Somerset otters.
James was continuing with research into the spread of the bile fluke in Somerset otters, and as his December update showed they have not spread West of Taunton 10 years on from their discovery. He was in the process of obtaining funding into further research.
The research papers James intended publishing will still be published, but these will take a lot longer to put together.
In his December update James expressed concern about the steady decline in recorded otter visits to his Stoford otter loo. Whilst writing he was unaware that his camera trap had captured his elusive otter in October, the night he returned from collecting his MBE at the palace. Unfortunately James never saw or knew about the photo, he had set it in October and had taken the camera in before some floods and never downloaded the pictures. He would have chuckled about the timing and he would certainly have wanted to share it- so here it is.