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Otterly captivating

Paul Dibben shares his images of otters at work, rest and play on the River Stour in Blandford

Although on the alert, Blandford's otters can – assuming the photographer has a decent lens – be captured in a candid way if, like Paul, one is prepared to wait quietly

Although on the alert, Blandford’s otters can – assuming the photographer has a decent lens – be captured in a candid way if, like Paul, one is prepared to wait quietly

Decades of close environmental control over what flows into our county’s rivers has led to an improvement of the lot of many of the animals who depend on clean, running water.
Often first to be affected by pollution and almost by definition last to feel the benefits of its absence are the apex predators; in the case of rivers and mammals, that means otters.
Paul Dibben has not always been a wildlife photographer, but when he first saw otters on the River Stour at Blandford, he had a close encounter of the unforgettable kind as an otter grabbed a fish and proceeded to eat it just a few feet from Paul. Fast-forward to March this year, and Paul had a winning shot and a runner-up position in the the Mammal Society’s 2016 Mammal Photographer of the Year competition.

Paul's winning shot from the Mammal Society’s 2016 Mammal Photographer of the Year 'A Close Encounter' category. The otters at Blandford are not tame and are easily spooked, but will sit and eat if there are no sudden movements or noises.

Paul’s winning shot from the Mammal Society’s 2016 Mammal Photographer of the Year ‘A Close Encounter’ category. The otters at Blandford are not tame and are easily spooked, but will sit and eat if there are no sudden movements or noises.

Runner-up in the 'Mammals on our doorstep' category of the Mammal Society’s 2016 Mammal Photographer of the Year competition, this shot is entitled 'Surfing the weir'

Runner-up in the ‘Mammals on our doorstep’ category of the Mammal Society’s 2016 Mammal Photographer of the Year competition, this shot is entitled ‘Surfing the weir’

Paul now gets down to the river to view the otters (whose range goes from the Bryanston bridge past the blue suspension bridge all the way to the ringroad bridge) when he gets the chance.
One of the side benefits to remaining still by the riverside is the number of other wildlife sightings, particularly kingfishers, but also egrets and heron, that one gets to see.

Just below the weir is a favoured place for otter spotters in Blandford as there is often some activity there. The Blandford otters are very often visible in daylight, rather than just at dawn and dusk

This otter swirled around the bottom of the river for just a few secnds and came up with this impressive haul

 

When travelling up the river back to her holt, the mother otter will make frequent stops to come out of the water to check that all is well before proceeding

When travelling up the river back to her holt, the mother otter will make frequent stops to come out of the water to check that all is well before proceeding

Just below the weir is a favoured place for otter spotters in Blandford as there is often some activity there. The Blandford otters are very often visible in daylight, rather than just at dawn and dusk

Just below the weir is a favoured place for otter spotters in Blandford as there is often some activity there. The Blandford otters are very often visible in daylight, rather than just at dawn and dusk

 

Sibling rivalry is both fun and allows the kits to hone their hunting instincts

Sibling rivalry is both fun and allows the kits to hone their hunting instincts

 

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