Otters, Barn Owls, Buzzards and Badgers at Brook Farm
As a child growing up on the farm I was lucky enough to be able to ‘go feral’ most of my free time, damming up the brooks, falling in reservoirs and rummaging in the undergrowth with the dogs. I have fond memories of finding the first frog spawn every spring and ‘toad patrol’ helping the annual migrations of thousands of toads across the road from paddocks to ponds and vice versa at breeding time. However I also remember wishing I could see bigger animals like deer or otters like I read about in books like Tarka the Otter.
Sadly the frogs and toads are now much rarer, so it was with huge excitement that yesterday we spotted a family of otters, three or four strong, playing in the brook. Nobody can recollect seeing otters on the farm since we arrived here back in the 1940s and it is a sign wider conservation work is paying dividends.
It may also explain why our healthy water vole population hasn’t been wiped out by mink as otters are known to drive mink out. We also hope it is in some small way credit to our own work, introducing wide riparian buffers, planting trees and letting nature take over along the brooks in our own mini re-wilding. This creates pools and new habitats, complimenting a wetland area we started a few years ago, now also planted with endangered Black Poplar trees.
The reason for our Sunday afternoon foray had been to take the boys to watch the Barn Owls who duly obliged by watching us and we saw the usual parade of Little Owls in the orchards. Stopping for a hot Cotchel apple & pear juice in the woods on the way home, the boys explored the latest badger sets and put up a deer, while two buzzards mewed overhead.
All in all a successful afternoon’s spotting but it shows that with a bit of work nature will come back. Of these only the Little Owls were resident when I was a child, so if we keep creating habitat and continue to work with the likes of Essex Wildlife Trust and others, who knows what species will be living here in years to come.