29 APRIL 1955, Page 12

The other day a friend expressed astonishment that I had

not closely observed an otter. 1 have, of course, seen an otter, but my luck with them has not been good. I have fished a great deal in lakes, and otters are more fond of rivers. For a long time I could not say that I was familiar with grass snakes. I lived in the north where there are only adders. I could say that any reptiles of the sort I came across were either adders or slow-worms, which are not snakes. The same thing applied to the green woodpecker. He did not live in the countryside of my childhood. Later on, when we moved, I became familiar with the turtle-dove and the wryneck and I was introduced to the whitethroat and the butcher-bird. The otter is fairly widely distributed and I cannot claim not to know one intimately , because they are rare; but simply because I have not been at the right place at the right time to make a study of them. By the law of averages, being at the water as often as most anglers, I should shortly have a surfeit of otters. Whether this is my fate or not, I look forward to the encounter just as eagerly as I awaited my first sight of the woodpecker and the shrike.