Monday, 7 March 2011

Maize Beck: VI

I sat on the river bank and pondered this find. Tracking is about understanding animal behaviour, not just about locating track and sign, and to understand the significance of this spraint one needs to understand the landscape. Here was a small and stony beck in the highest hills of the Pennines. Winters up here are cold and hungry times, certainly no place for a large mammal like otters. It seems more likely that this is a sign of a spring migration. Signalled by warmer days and increasing daylight a dog otter has travelled upstream looking for a new territory – beyond the hay meadows, beyond the tree line into a place where few others will go. I have no idea what quantity of fish Maize Beck holds – certainly the massive waterfall at High Force, down in middle Teesdale, forms a barrier to migratory species but above that there are grayling and small brown trout in the river. The Maize Beck with its alternate stretches of deep pools and rocky shallows is an unspoilt habitat but fish would first need to navigate the extensive obstacles of Maize Force. Even so, the presence of otters so far up the beck suggests that there is sufficient prey in the river to support a breeding population, even if these resourceful animals do supplement their diet with everything from slugs to the eggs and young of ground nesting birds.

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