Just before Easter, the river levels had dropped back to ‘normal’ levels after an Autumn and Winter of floods on site. During the Spring and Summer, I always have at least one Bushnell along a stretch of bank where an artificial holt was put in some seven years ago. From the clips I have gathered over the last 18 months or so, I thought that the holt had been used in the past. We fairly regularly captured clips of the male straining their on his rounds and the female was seen there a few times sniffing around.
With the levels low again, I placed two Bushnells near the holt; one on a post that I had put in just the right distance from the holt entrance and one further along the bank, facing the holt. I hoped we would, once again, have the chance of seeing otters, especially as I had seen some prints only a few days before.
After just a few days in situ, I received a panicked text from DJ, at YewView, saying the river had risen hugely overnight, the bank camera was under water and the post one in danger of being flooded also. Despite their best efforts, both Bushnell disappeared under the rising Severn.
When I returned to site this week, I did not hold out much hope. The cams had been under water for several days and they did not look good.
It is bad enough losing one trail cam… to lose two was awful. We will attempt to dry them out… I have had submerged trail cams working again and I know several friends who have as well.
The SD cards were also rather brown and rusty. Cleaning off the contacts, I loaded one into my Macbook. I was astounded! The files loaded and showed that we had got 100 clips before the cam was submerged…. what had we got?
I quickly loaded a couple of the early clips on the card. Excitedly, I headed to David and DJ to show them….. we didn’t have one otter… we had THREE!!!! It looked like a female and two cubs had moved into the holt! We looked at a selection of early clips and we were thrilled… I would check and upload the rest of the 100 or so clips later that night and over the coming days.
With the river still high, I carefully mounted another trail cam in a tree, facing down… it would not give particularly good footage but would show us if they were still around after the river had risen and then dropped again.
Once I got home that evening, I starting going through the clips… I progressively got more and more excited! This footage was the best I had captured to date and suggested that the female had, indeed, moved in with 2 cubs that look around 9-10 months old, I think. I began to take screenshots and tweet them!
It was getting late and, despite me desperately wanting to look at all 100 clips, I decided to leave the rest until the morning.
First thing in the morning, I decided to upload the clips to my iMac. Ejecting the SD card, I loaded it into my Mac….. nothing….. it did not even register the card! A slight feeling of rising panic and I ejected the card, placing it back in my laptop, where it had been working just a few seconds ago… nothing. Now I really was panicking. Despite my best efforts over the next half an hour, I could not get the card to register on the computers or back in a trail camera. With a sinking heart, I feared I had lost the very best otter footage I had ever captured.
I tweeted my dismay and several people offered possible solutions and things to try. Nothing worked. My friend, Pete Walkden, fellow wildlife photographer, but also IT guru, offered to try to help and drove from Birmingham to mine, to collect the card. He spent the rest of the day and, as the hours passed, I felt that I had to resign myself to the fact that footage was gone.
As I drove to Stone for the Mammal Society presentation evening, I received a text…. Pete had performed a miracle and managed to retrieve all 100 clips from the corrupt card. I cannot express how happy I was!
Today I have been through all the clips and uploaded them. They were, indeed, as good as I had remembered them! Wow! What a privilege to be able to watch such stunning creatures so close to human habitation and taking advantage of an artificial holt.
The following videos are clips combined over periods of activity. The time and date is on the bottom right of the video and I was surprised to see them out in daylight so much. This clip is the first capture. From their behaviour, I would guess they have been using the holt for a while.
These clips show the female taking in bedding materials…
The following are a collection of clips taking over the following days, before the water rose and flooded the Bushnell…. I think you will agree, this footage is pretty special!
Make sure you click the cog to watch in HD.
… and then came the early morning shots… a beautiful day with the sun just rising, casting a lovely golden light over the scene…
… and even a rather spectacular male Pheasant…
Within a few hours of one of the night time clips, the water level was at the base of the trail cam… this is the last video it recorded…
You can see some of the Screenshots from the video clips on our Flickr Account Album
As you can image, I am very grateful to Pete for managing to extract these special clips. Let’s hope that this week’s footage shows that this family are still around and are going to treat us to more lovely views of their lives on the River Severn.