Otter cubs playing on the ice at Tophill Low nature reserve. Picture: Darren Smith

Two otter cubs have been spotted playing with their mother on frozen marshland in the East Riding.

The sighting at the Tophill Low water treatment works near Driffield  has caused a flurry of excitement, with nature enthusiasts coming from miles around to catch a glimpse of the normally secretive creatures.

The news is all the more significant as up until a few years ago, it was very rare indeed to see an otter with cubs in the area, with most thought to have been driven out by land practices and persecution from humans.

In the last few years a huge amount of work has taken place at the site to foster otter populations, with the creation of three underground otter holts and significant investment into creating wetland habitats which are ideal for the species.

Yorkshire Water’s warden, Richard Hampshire, said, “We’re absolutely delighted that all our hard-work and investment appears to be paying off, with the sighting of a female and her two cubs.

“We knew that we had a least one otter around the site, but this is the first confirmation we’ve had of a breeding success at the reserve in the last few years.

“The pictures, taken by reserve regular Darren Smith, capture the female with her two cubs, which we believe to be around two months old, playing on the ice which has covered much of our north marsh for the last week or so.

“Whilst nature created them as daytime hunters, historical persecution has generally changed their behaviour and now they are only usually seen around dawn and dusk, with daytime sightings tending to be quite rare.

“We believe that the mother and cubs have had to evacuate their nearby holt after it became flooded during the heavy rain, which is why we’re seeing these cubs up and about slightly earlier than we’d normally expect.

“However, it’s common for the mother to have at least three nearby homes available to her, so any move is unlikely to be stressful and from the pictures alone, they all look to be in good health and enjoying themselves.”

Yorkshire Water has so far made over £120,000 of habitat improvements at Tophill Low, with this investment receiving the endorsement of a growing number of visitors – both of the human and feathered variety, with around 65 different bird species showing on any given day. In the last 12 months alone the site has continued to uphold its reputation as one of Yorkshire’s best wildlife hotspots, with great sightings including breeding avocets, gull-billed tern and caspian gulls.

The reserve is open daily from 9am to 6pm with admission £2.80 for adults and £1.20 for concessions. No dogs allowed.

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