Saturday, 16 December 2017

A Day with the Otters at Santon Downham

9th December 2017

The original plan was to get some more photos of the Parrot Crossbills, but that proved to be virtually impossible. Basically, they have changed their behaviour and instead of being fairly loyal to the Scots Pines in the paddock by the St Helen's car park, they were now very mobile and were mostly photographed as they came down to drink in a puddle in the car park by the level crossing, which today was being watched by a huge crowd.

We therefore decided to abandon that plan and go in search of the Otters that had be reported on the river an hour or so earlier. There had been the pair of Otters with two young, but the bitch had taken the two kits downstream leaving the dog to fish on its own. Luckily he was obviously hungry and was actively hunting giving an hour or so of great photo opportunities before he eventually disappeared into the holt to sleep it off.

Photography was quite tricky as they spend most of their time underwater and are very fast, and most times just come to the surface for a gulp of air and dive again immediately. However, they do occasionally cruise a few yards allowing a few shots to be taken. The first photo shows a normal small brown Otter ear, but sadly the second photo shows that something, possibly anothet Otter or even the bitch, had taken a lump out of his right ear.

Luckily, he would often have a foray on to the opposite bank where the shots were a lot easier. Here the Suffolk/Norfolk border runs down the centre of the river so I was standing on the north bank in Norfolk photographing an Otter on the south bank in Suffolk.

He was totally unconcerned by the six or so photographers that were following him on his travels and would often swim to within as little as four yards, and sometimes he could hear the shutters and stared straight at the assembled crowd.

So, we didn't get to photograph any Parrot Crossbills, although we did see them distantly, but being able to spend an hour or so in close company with a dog Otter was ample reward. Absolutely fantastic!!


  1. hi if you start from this bridge ive centred here,0.67348823,9.39862257a,316.59087228d,35y,309.54106866h,0t,0r where abouts is the otter being seen please ? is it say a 20min walk by the river drag google earth to the spot if u can and copy n paste the URL link thanks

  2. From Santon Downham drive north-east past the HQ/toilets on your left and park just past the white bridge over the river. Walk south-east and the Otters are between this bridge and the next bridge at St Helen's car park, a walk of about 15 minutes.

  3. Thanks for the information on where to observe the otters. As a follow up question which side of the river should be used as I wouldn't wish to disturb them near their holt. Also I guess there might be access restrictions. Thanks in advance.