Investigating Seasonality of Otter Breeding in Britain, Using Newspaper Articles, Camera Trap Footage and Photograph Data.

My name is Kirsten Oliver, and I am a postgraduate student at Edinburgh Napier University working with researchers at the university’s Centre for Conservation & Restoration Science and Findlay Ecology Services to investigate breeding seasonality in European otters Lutra lutra. Our ultimate aim is to improve our understanding of this vulnerable species and contribute to a robust evidence-base for survey and conservation efforts, and we are trying to obtain information from a wide array of sources across the UK. We would very much appreciate your help on this.

The project will be investigating European Otter (Lutra,lutra) breeding seasonality in the UK and the influencing factors. Previous studies conducted in Europe have noted seasonality peaks based on prey availability (Kruuk et al 1987 and Bajo, 1996), however Otters are thought to breed all year round in the UK (Chadwick & Sherad-Smith 2010), although this observation has previously been based on roadkill carcasses or sightings. I aim to look at seasonality trends through a collection of mass data, including photographs, camera trap footage and newspaper articles on a national scale.

I am looking for participants to take part in my research and if you agree I would appreciate any photographs or camera trap footage that you may possess which shows a female otter with her cubs from any year. It is important the cubs are with mum so I can estimate the birth date based on their size compared to mum. I will only require one photo of the family not multiple. If you record a family over an extended period, I would appreciate either the earliest images you have, or those that best show the relative size of the young compared to the mother.

Alongside the photograph or footage, I would need the date (month and year) and the location where the family was seen. Grid reference coordinates or “what three words” location will be preferable however a rough location (town, or postcode) will be sufficient if those are not available. You may withdraw from this research study at any time.

If you can help, please respond to my below email address, and title the email “Otter Helper” and I will happily send further instructions on how to submit your picture/footage.

All the information you give will be stored safely and secured in a password controlled hard drive account which will be accessible to myself and my Supervisors Dr Patrick White (Edinburgh Napier University, MCIEEM, IUCN Otter Specialist group member) and Dr Melanie Findlay (Findlay Ecological Services, MCIEEM, IUCN Otter Specialist group member).

The information you give will be entirely anonymous and your information will be kept confidential. There will be no way to identify you in any report of the research findings.

Researcher: Kirsten Oliver,

The Big Meadow Search 1st June-31st August

The Big Meadow Search (BMS) is a citizen science project which aims to encourage people to record plants in an area of grassland of their own choice.  The idea is to get them outside, to look at what they’re walking through, and to learn to identify the plants they find, thus raising awareness and interest in grasslands and their importance.  It began in 2021 as an initiative by the Carmarthenshire Meadows Group in West Wales, and was at first only intended to be carried out within our county; but it generated interest beyond Carmarthenshire and beyond Wales too, so we soon expanded it to cover the whole of the UK.
The BMS species tick list is based on the National Plant Monitoring Scheme grassland indicator species, plus additional species of interest from meadows and grasslands – but all plants found should be recorded, whether on the BMS species list or not.  Any type of species-rich grassland can be searched; meadows, churchyards, road verges, amenity grassland.  Obviously, if it’s not public access land, make sure to get permission!
To take part:
•    Select your grassland
•    Record the location name, grid reference and date
•    Walk around and write down all the plants you can see
•    If you aren’t sure on a species, take photographs from multiple angles of the flower heads, basal and stem leaves, upper and lower leaf surface, leaf base shape and either post on our social media or email to us and we will try and help to identify the species
•    Enter your results on our website and once we have finished our BMS analysis, we will send them on to your local environmental record centre (LERC)
You can find lots of information on our Facebook page Big Meadow Search, or on our Twitter account @bigmeadowsearch, or you can get in touch via email on 
We have produced a book based on the social media posts containing ID tips using vegetative features for plants on the BMS tick list, and information on some of their associated invertebrates, galls, and fungi.  It’s available by mail order and costs £10 plus £2.70 p&p.  If you would like a copy, contact us on
Our website ( has lots more information, and you can enter your findings directly on the website.  This year’s BMS will run from June 1st until August 31st.
We hope you will pass this on to your members!
Laura Moss and Andrew Martin


Toad Patrols: a new Toad crossing near Racton. Volunteers invited.

CNHS member Ray McGlone reports a new Toad crossing at Racton, near Westbourne.

He has reported it to Froglife. He rescued many toads and some frogs in a bucket earlier this week, though there were already many dead toads at the roadside. Ray will be volunteering as a Toad Patroller at this site, this week, and is looking for more volunteers to join him.

If you would like to volunteer to help at this Toad Crossing Patrol, please contact Ray

More information on how to be a Toad Patroller is here.



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