Sarinder Joshua Duroch took the photo of the rare semi-aquatic mammal in the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Bentley Bridge, Wednesfield, after being tipped off by the wife of a local fisherman.
More commonly at home in Britain’s rivers, otters are one of the UK’s rarest and most elusive mammals, being absent from our waterways for more than half a century.
Since being published, Mr Duroch’s photo has attracted national media interest as well as garnering widespread public attention.
He said: “A lady from the BBC called me to talk about the story and said ‘You must have you been photographing wildlife for quite a few years then?’ and I had to admit that I’d only got the camera two weeks earlier.
“Before that, in no way, shape or form would I have described myself as a photographer. Although since getting that photo I’ve taken my photography to a new level, and am really concentrating on it now.
“It was a freezing day when I took the photograph. There was a man fishing along the canal and his wife said they were going to pack up and go home because an otter was eating the fish.
“I couldn’t believe what she had just told me and asked which way it had gone. She pointed and I followed, spotted it and eventually caught up behind the Nickeloedoen pub. I was determined to get that photo.”
Mr Duroch, who originally hails from Scotland and moved to Wolverhampton from Kent in 2018, added: “Otters are one of Britain’s most elusive mammals and move incredibly fast through the water. It was so cold that part of the canal had frozen over and the otter was just yards away from swimming under the ice.
“I’ll admit there was definitely a certain amount of luck involved in getting the picture. I didn’t have a zoom lens or time to adjust the shutter speed or nothing like that. I think the otter might have seen its own reflection in the lens which is why it kept its gaze fixed on me.
“What I’m most glad about is that it seems to have generated renewed interest in the local nature reserve and the wide variety of wildlife along the canal. It really seems to have lifted a lot of people’s spirits too,” he added.
“It’s also enabled me to take my photography skills to a greater level. I’ve gone from taking that photo of the otter to capturing images of squirrels leaping through the air at Bantock Park last weekend.”
A designated Local Nature Reserve (LNR) since 2008, the canal – affectionately known as ‘the Curly Wyrley’ – is already home to swans, Canada geese, mallards, moorhens, kingfishers, coots and a variety of other wildlife. Evidence of badgers using the towpath has also been reported recently.
Councillor Phil Bateman, who campaigned for the Wyrley and Essington Canal to be made a LNR in 2007, said: “This is the longest linear nature reserve in the country, and more people out on their daily walks are starting to take notice of the wildlife since seeing the photo of the otter.
“They are beginning to understand the value of the birds and the rare plants that are thriving along there. The photo has helped renew and generate fresh interest in the canal, and I’ve noticed people are starting to pick up any litter they find in order to help preserve the habitat.
“As it continues to grow, this fantastic wildlife corridor will be a great economic success story for Wednesfield. The reason for us having the canal in the first place is based on economy, for transporting coals.
“People will come from great distances to explore this – I’m absolutely certain of it. We still have a lot to do, a lot to develop and deliver on. But the increasing wildlife and the otter in particular, seems to be on everybody’s lips. I’m very excited,” he added.
Ecologists estimate there to be about 10 otters with territories along Britain’s canals.