Where otters dare, all is right with the natural world
As European cities clean up their rivers, the return of fish and otters is a measure of recovery. In the UK, where captive otters were bred for reintroduction, one found beneath the wharves of London’s East End confirmed the long restoration of the Thames.
The animals enliven the citizen blogs of Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Glasgow’s River Clyde – and in Dublin, a young otter fishing in daylight in the Liffey below Heuston Station now stars, if fleetingly, on YouTube. And Eye on Nature has reports of them downstream as far as Millennium Bridge.
At my undisturbed corner of the Mayo coast, the innocent otter feels safe by day, but as an urban commuter it still mostly prefers the night. Traffic noise seems not to worry them, given nature’s own rush of wind, and an urban network of deeply-channelled waterways offers less temptation to take short cuts without looking both ways.
Ireland’s national road schemes have construction guidelines for wildlife underpasses with otter-friendly ledges, but road casualties are still a leading cause of death among the Republic’s 12,000 or so otters and hasten their steady decline.
A national survey of about 600 otter deaths in the 1980s found more than half killed on the roads. Most were the more mobile and adventurous males, and many, as it happens (16 in five years), died along the same stretch of highway along the Lee, coming to Cork city. On the biodiversity website biology.ie, a map of 116 otter road deaths in 2012 still puts striking clusters of them in Co Cork, from the city west to Bantry, with another cluster around Limerick city.
As I wrote here in 1996: “We have signs for drivers: ‘Beware Deer’ – why not for otters?” Meanwhile, in Cork, Dr Paddy Sleeman ( firstname.lastname@example.org) would still like to hear of any dead or injured animals.
Eye on Nature Your notes and queries
A pair of blackbirds are nesting in an outdoor Christmas tree in the courtyard of the medieval museum in Waterford since early January. They take turns sitting. Will the eggs hatch?
Rosemary Ryan Waterford
Possibly, if severe weather doesn’t kill them. Incubation takes 13-15 days.
On New Year’s Eve I saw pigeon chicks in a nest under the air-conditioning vent on a building in Longford. The owner of the building said it was the fourth brood that year. Is it unusual to have birds breeding at this time of year?
Paul Higgins Longford
Feral pigeons can breed all year round when there is a local food source.
When I moved some leaf litter a number of narrow, brown organisms disappeared fast into the lawn, jumping or rolling. They were hairless, shiny and about 7mm when legs and antennae were folded.
John Mullins Cork
They were wood hoppers (Arcitalitrus dorrieni), also called lawn shrimps, from the photograph you sent.
Michael Viney welcomes observations at Thallabawn, Carrowniskey PO, Westport, Co Mayo, or email email@example.com. Please include a postal address