Otter spotters in Harborough are delighted after reports surfaced that otter pups were living in the River Welland in the town.
And we have published the first daylight picture of the pups, kindly loaned by Ken Robinson of Harborough.
The picture was sent to long-time Mail snapper Andrew Carpenter after Mr Robinson spotted our photographer camped out along the river banks in town last week – Andrew’s third day in a row of attempting to snap a picture of the cubs.
Mr Robinson saw the pups when walking through town at about 3pm on January 14.
Luckily, he had his trusty Nikon camera with him at the time.
Professor David Harper, the secretary of the Welland Rivers Trust, says he had read the reports of the pups too – but has not yet seen the young mammals for himself.
And he says the pups being here is a very good sign indeed for the town, and the river.
The stretch of the River Welland through Harborough has been greatly improved over the past two years through a £500,000 trust restoration project.
Its aim was to turn it into an attractive, wildlife-friendly feature and “give the river back to the town”.
Prof Harper, a biologist and water expert from the University of Leicester, said: “In the past, otters were just passing through what was an unfriendly stretch of river in Harborough and the otters were not hanging about.
“The trust’s work in Harborough has made it more suitable for otters by creating more pools where they can swim around and look for fish, and more banks or berms to make the river meander and give otters places where they can sit.”
He added that the presence of the pups shows that otters were now getting gradually more comfortable in the Harborough stretch of river.
The trust was set up in 2011 with help from the University of Leicester.
Prof Harper said: “Success will be apparent when sightings of otters and kingfishers are too frequent for the newspapers to bother with reports ... and people’s idea of a good summer afternoon is to walk along the river bank.
“The work has improved the river for all wildlife; otters and kingfishers of course, but also grey wagtails and yellow wagtails. Dragonflies and damselflies are the next target and we’ll certainly be looking for more of them along the river.”
Prof Harper added that he felt the improvement has been “money well spent”.
He said the work had turned a rather featureless watercourse into a talking point and source of pride.
He said: “I don’t live in Harborough but I visit a lot and talk to people about the river.
“I have to say I’ve heard nothing but compliments about our work. People really like looking at it now.”
Peter Barham, chairman of the trust, said: “Throughout the development of the restoration project, Harborough Council has been incredibly supportive and helpful.
“Like us, they recognised from the outset that it would make a real difference to the appearance of the town.”
Cllr Phil King, Harborough Council’s environment portfolio holder, said: “This project, along with several others throughout the Welland catchment , is helping deliver benefits that will be appreciated for many years to come.”