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Morning Dog Walk: Fresh Otter Evidence

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I take a camera along on my Dog Walks to bring you some of the sightings that I see on my morning walks, these photos are rarely going to be great quality as its hard enough keeping an energetic Dog entertained and get close enough to anything. They also help me identify where species are so that I can plan to return.

Although I have been successful at a different river location nearby, my local Otters still remain very elusive. This morning, there is fresh evidence of Otter activity down at the river.

First I noticed fresh footprints in the wet mud.

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Close Encounter Of The Otter Kind

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Let me set a story……

I have lived here in the Algarve Hills on the river bank of the Odelouca for almost 2.5 years. We are so lucky to live here and have the river run through our land. There are Otters present, but I have never managed to spot one during daylight hours. This also goes for a long stretch of the river in the area.

Now, lets cue-up Roy! Roy has recently moved to São Marcos da Serra, in fact has been here for little over a week. Yesterday morning I get a message from Roy stating he spotted an Otter in the River near the village…….WHAT? TWO AND A HALF YEARS ROY!

So, this morning at sunrise, I camouflaged myself against the river bank in the area Roy mentioned and waited……for 30 seconds! Yep, almost immediately after setting myself up 3 Otters turned up.

Unfortunately, they arrived before the sun had risen enough to light the river, so conditions where far from perfect as I struggled to photograph them swimming around with such a low shutter speed and high ISO. Whenever I am hiding with the camera I am always reluctant to press the shutter button, even with the camera set to “Quiet” mode, it still makes a noise (this is where Mirrorless will one day become a winner!) but I pressed it and hoped for the best!

Immediately, all 3 stopped and looked straight at me and I thought they would retreat to the bamboo on the opposite bank. However, one of them decided to investigate and headed straight for me where I managed to get these close up shots.

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Close Encounter Of The Otter Kind
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Morning Dog Walk: Pipits Everywhere And Fresh Otter Evidence!

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On this morning’s Dog Walk we ventured through large field that has been ploughed. It is an old Olive Farm that is abandoned and therefore the area was very overgrown. I assume it has been cleared both for the fire risk and for grass to regrown for the local Sheep.

At first I thought it was going to hurt the local birds as I often saw flocks of Goldfinch feasting on the seeds. However, although these have now moved on, the area has become full of Wagtails and what I thought was either Water Pipits or Meadow Pipits. As I was with Wally, I struggled to get close enough to ID, so took this following photo and asked some Portuguese Birders for advice

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Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - maybe...
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Rain Has (almost) Started The River Odelouca

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The River Odelouca is important for both wildlife, farming and human life in the Algarve. It runs dry in the heat of the summer and usually starts running in November. Last year, of course, we had no rain in the autumn and it wasn’t until March that the river started. It is critical to local wildlife, but also fills the Barragem de Odelouca which provides a large portion of drinking water to the Algarve region.

We’ve had a fair amount of rain over the last few weeks which has been filling the dry river bed pools and this morning it has started to trickle. I wouldn’t class it as running yet as there are still some breaks in the flow, but it has started to trickle. I think we are a few heavy showers away from the river running.

Trickling River

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Possible Otter’s Holt (Den) Found

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After briefly capturing video footage of an Otter a few nights ago (see here) I went on a scout of the dry riverbed to try to locate a Holt. Holt is the name for an Otter’s Den.

To my surprise, I found one fairly easily and even more surprising that it’s been almost under my nose all this time. Obviously, I’m not going to share its location, but I will set up the Bushnell in a more permanent location to confirm that there is Otter using this Holt. Otters are mainly nocturnal, however, as this location is very quiet, they may be active during daylight too. I will monitor their activity for a while and hope to establish a pattern of activity, if there is regular activity during daylight hours then I’ll plan to hide with the camera. The location is pretty good for photography. 

A big giveaway is the presence of Otter Scat, known as spraints, on the dry riverbed. If you look closely at the photos, you can see small bones and shells which look like remains of Crayfish.

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Otter Spraints

Otter Spraints

Otter At Our River! (Video)

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Dry River Pool

We are lucky to have the Odelouca River cut its way through part of our land, you notice I didn’t use the term run through our land. Usually, sometime in June the river runs dry and remains dry until the heavy Autumn rains kick-start it flowing at the end of October, beginning of November. We are up-stream of the Barragem do Odelouca which provides drinking water for the Algarve.

It’s the end of October and so far there hasn’t been any significant rain to make any difference. All around the river banks both on and near our land have well established tracks that wildlife use to access the river and for a while I have been wanting to set up my Bushnell trail camera to see what frequents the river.

At various meanders and bends on the river, pools form and stay deep enough all year for the aquatic life to seek refuge of the dry river bed. Of course, these pools not only provide drinking water for other wildlife, but food.

One of the tracks leading to the river passes under a wire fence and I took a look at some hair that had been caught. To be honest, I had no idea, but took a guess at Otters.

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