River Otter Gliding Through The Water
A couple of weeks ago, Anji and I went to Otter-Zentrum, a fun nature-themed park located in Hankensbüttel, a small town about 45 miles from our house in Hannover. The center houses otters (obviously), in addition to a variety of other mustelids like badgers, European and American minks, stoats, stone martens and polecats. We are huge animal lovers (to which our two spoiled cats can attest), so this was a trip we were really looking forward to! But beyond the fun of seeing the otters, we were also excited about the opportunity to take some great nature photos of all the small mammals.
European Mink Pulling A Funny Face
The day we went was cold and rainy, which posed a little bit of a challenge for keeping our gear dry. Anji brought her Nikon D5 and used our 24-120mm lens. The latter gave her a lot of range to work with, allowing her to get wide-angle or tight images. I brought my trusty Nikon D750 with our 105mm lens. Using a macro lens might have been an odd choice, but the focal length has proved pretty good for getting the “up-close” nature photos that many of our other lenses aren’t capable of capturing.
Little Stone Marten During Feeding Time At Otter-Centrum
Though the weather wasn’t terribly cooperative, we did have the good fortune to start our visit just as one of the Otter-Zentrum’s staff members started making their feeding rounds. That not only meant that we got a guided tour with excellent explanations of the animals’ habits, but also that we got to see all the small mammals come out of hiding to get their food. Which meant, of course, that we could take nature pictures of them up and moving around instead of sleeping!
White Mink Posing For The Camera
Our first stop was the mink compound, which houses both European and American varieties of the mustelids. There were two brown ones and one beautiful black-and-white one running, playing and wrestling each other for the food that the Otter-Zentrum staff was distributing. The perpetual motion made it hard to get good pictures of them, but fortunately, they did sit still and “pose” for us every now and again!
Brown Mink With Its Eye On Some Food
Stoat Peeking Out Of Its Hiding Place
After the minks, we proceeded to the next enclosure, where the stoats live. These small relatives of the weasel darted around the area, scooting from one “log fort” to the next and occasionally poking their heads up to have a look around. Their behavior, particularly the “periscoping,” made the photos we took of them reminiscent of similar shots we took of the prairie dogs and meerkats back at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.
Cute Small Mammal Popping Up For A Look Around
Otter Who Knows Whom To Butter Up
From there, we went to the first of three areas dedicated to the center’s main attractions. In a compound designed to simulate their normal river habitats, several otters were swimming lazily or lounging around amid some logs on the shore. Once the staff member came with their lunch, however, they exhibited the playfulness for which otters are so famous! They leapt into the water and executed graceful flips and dives as they caught their food.
Otter Washing Up After Lunch
Stone Marten Reluctantly Emerging To Get Some Food
The next mustelids that we saw were amongst the shyest. Only the polecats, who were new to the Otter-Zentrum and therefore far too timid to come out, were less visible than the stone martens! While the minks came running to grab their food and the otters seemed to enjoy the spotlight, the stone martens lurked in some pipes in the walls of their barn-like habitat and only emerged to nip a little food before disappearing back into their hiding places. We had to be fast with our cameras, because we only had a few seconds to get the stone martens on film before they disappeared.
Adorable Little Mammal Transfixed By Something
Tiny Mustelid Feeding At Otter-Centrum
Our last stop was at another otter enclosure, where another pair of otters frolicked in the water as they scooped up the food that the staff distributed.
In case it’s not already clear, we wholeheartedly enjoyed our visit to Otter-Zentrum, both as nature photographers and animal lovers! For anyone either visiting or living in Northern Germany, we absolutely recommend spending an afternoon there!