Otter way to go!

PUBLISHED: 14:44 07 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:11 06 May 2010

A water vole
© Rick Wylie

A water vole © Rick Wylie

RARE mammals have been spotted for the first time at a nature reserve. During a survey for water voles at the Purwell Ninesprings Nature Reserve, Hitchin, warden Martin Ketcher spotted an otter footprint – the first ever sign of an otter s presence on the

RARE mammals have been spotted for the first time at a nature reserve.

During a survey for water voles at the Purwell Ninesprings Nature Reserve, Hitchin, warden Martin Ketcher spotted an otter footprint - the first ever sign of an otter's presence on the site.

Evidence that the otter has been in the area was confirmed when Mr Ketcher also found a fresh otter dropping under a bridge near Purwell Meadows.

To add to the excitement, while Mr Ketcher and Mary Brenchley of the Friends of Walsworth Common looked for signs of water voles on the River Purwell in the common a vole was spotted swimming in the river before it dived into a burrow in the bank.

This is the first ever sighting of a water vole recorded on the common and is the result of careful management of the site by North Hertfordshire District Council.

Mr Ketcher said: "Purwell Ninesprings Nature Reserve is a fantastic wetland reserve with the best water vole population in the north of the county.

"However, I didn't expect to find signs of an otter on the reserve as it means the otter must have travelled up the river through Hitchin. Seeing the water vole as well was a fantastic added bonus."

Alison Washbrook, Herts & Middlesex Wildlife trust's Water Vole project officer is keen to hear from anyone who has made a sighting of water voles or otters on Hertfordshire rivers and urges them to record the date the animal was seen and where it was noted.

Water vole spotters can contact her on 01727 858901 or email alison.washbrook@hmwt.org

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