Salty Sam’s Fun Blog for Children

Number 452

River Mammals


Hello Everyone



Outside Auntie Alice’s cottage runs a river.


Because it is very clean and unpolluted, there is lots of wildlife living there.


There are swans, ducks, coots and moorhens.  There are kingfishers living in some tall banks by the side of the water.


There are other birds and animals living near the river too.


ln some  rivers, there are also mammals like otters and beavers that are extremely good at swimming underwater. 


There are also tiny creatures like water voles.  They are round and furry with beady, dark eyes.  This is the animal portrayed as Ratty in Wind in the Willows.


Unfortunately, their numbers have declined alarmingly in recent years.  They are the fastest declining British mammal.


Water voles eat grass, roots and fruit and occasionally insects.


They are very vulnerable to predators but their biggest problems are pollution and loss of habitat.


Of course, all animals start to have problems when their environments become polluted and their food stocks become contaminated.


The water shrew is one of the few venomous mammal in the world.  lt carries toxin in its saliva and can paralyse prey much bigger than itself.  lt has a frenetic movement as it dashes about trying to find food.  lt mainly eats invertebrates and fish.


William Shakespeare wrote a play called the Taming of the Shrew about a woman called Katherina who had a harsh way of speaking to people.  ln other words ‘poisonous’ words came from her mouth. 


Otters are related to badgers and weasels and you can see how they walk in a similar manner.  They can grow up to a metre long.  They love playing and the collective noun for a family of otters can be a romp.  When they are in the water they can be called a raft of otters.


They can swim well with the aid of webbed feet and, like seals, have the ability to hold their breath under water for a long time.  They love playing with each other and are fascinating to watch.  They like wrestling and tumbling and even sliding down slides that they sometimes make for themselves.  Their front paws look very hand-like and are useful for manipulating food.


Otters build dens to live in and line them with grass and moss to make them more comfortable.  The name for an otter house is called a holt.  This is where they bring up their pups.


A holt is very often built under tree roots near to a river.  The otters will live mostly off fish and also eels and frogs.


There are otters that live near rivers, but there are sea otters too.  They eat crabs and shellfish as well as lots of fish.


Cleverly, they lie on their backs in the water with a shellfish on their stomach and bash it with a stone in order to break the shell open.  They teach their pups to do the same.


Sea otters spend most of their time in the water hunting and snoozing.


River otters tend to spend most of their lives on land and only enter the water to hunt for food or travel.  There are 11 species of them and are found on most continents of the world.


The amazing ability otters have to live equally happily on land and in water made them a sacred animal to the Ancient Celts in their folklore.  They can close their ears and nostrils up when they are under the water.  They have claws which can hold onto the fish they catch.


Otters nearly pushed into extinction in the 1970s through hunting, water pollution and destruction of habitat.  Luckily, the good news is that they are making a comeback right across the country.


Beavers are another mammal that spends a lot of time in water and they are often active at night.  Their eyesight is not too good but they have a keen sense of hearing and smell.


They are bigger than otters and are actually the second largest rodent in the world.  The females are often bigger than the males; which is uncommon in the animal kingdom.  The babies are called kits and have so much body fat on them that they are very buoyant and can’t dive under the water.


There is a North American beaver and a Eurasian beaver.  The Eurasian beaver was nearly hunted to extinction.


Eurasia means the continent, or land mass, of Europe and Asia together.


Beavers were wiped out in Britain 400 years ago because they were hunted out of existence.  They were hunted for their meat and fur.  They have been reintroduced by man in recent decades.  They are being carefully watched in many places to see how they are settling in to their new homes.


These are Eurasian beavers. 


Beavers are a keystone species.  That means that a lot of other wildlife relies on them to survive.  Beavers reroute waterways to create wetland habitats for many other types of wildlife to live in.


The dens beavers build are called lodges.  They also like building canals to float large chunks of building materials along that might be too heavy to carry overland and dams that are so big that they can block rivers.  The dams cause deep pools of still water to build up.  These pools are where they feel they can hide safely from land predators like bears and wolves.


The building work is done at night and dams can be built very quickly.


The beavers take the material they need to build their dams from harvesting lumber along the river banks and famously cause a lot of damage to trees as they do so.


Like all rodents, they have large gnawing teeth that are well able to chew through things.  Beavers’ teeth are really big and strong!  They are constantly growing, which is a good thing as all the chewing through tough material they do causes them to wear down.  Their front teeth are orange at the front because of an iron pigment and white at the back.  The different components of these teeth cause them to wear down unevenly.


They build their lodge by placing logs strategically then filling the spaces with smaller branches.  To make the whole structure more solid they fill the gaps with plant material and mud.  There won’t be more than about ten beavers in a family living inside a lodge.


Beaver dams slow rivers, and when there is heavy rain the dams help to stop flash flooding down stream.


Beavers are slow lumbering animals on land but are efficient swimmers.  You will notice that their nose, eyes and ears are positioned in a line just above the water as they swim along the surface of the water.


They can swim under the surface for up to 15 minutes.


They have hands that are good for holding things.  They have webbed back feet and a large, flat, scaly tail to help them swim and they can stay under water for up to 15 minutes. The back feet propel them along and the tail acts as a rudder to steer them.  They can also slap this tail on the water’s surface to warn other beavers in the area that there is danger nearby.


When the cold weather comes, beavers do not hibernate but they are very careful to amass a food store to see them through the winter season.  They store sticks to eat in their pond. 


The mud in the roof at the top of their lodge will freeze in winter and become rock hard.  This affords good protection against predators.  The lodge has underwater entrances at the sides of the roof but the platform inside that they live on is above the waterline.  Air vents are built into the roof.  


Beavers are very clever construction workers.


There is a place inside the lodge where the beavers shake water off their coats, a feeding chamber and a dry place where they nest. 


A beaver’s lodge is a very comfortable place to spend the winter!



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Thank you!


And see you again next Fun Friday!


Love and kisses



Salty Sam





Bill and Bob’s Joke of the Weekjokejoke


Bill:  What are you drawing Bob?


Bob:  lt is a picture of a beaver’s house.  lt is the best dam picture l have ever drawn.



Salty Sam © Christina Sinclair 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of material from this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

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Picture Gallery

Water voles have blunt noses


Shrews have long noses


Otter and pup




Beaver lodge


A beaver lodge can be very big








Last year, Bill and Bob asked their mum to get them a big pumpkin from the Rocky Bay Supermarket so that they could hollow it out and cut a face in it in plenty of time before their Halloween celebrations – and she forgot.

Boy was she in trouble!



Well, Bill and Bob moaned and groaned so much that they all made a special trip to the supermarket to go back and get one.

When they got there, they were too late.  The shop had sold out!


Every single pumpkin had gone.  Catastrophe!

Luckily, Captain Jack came to the rescue.

He had grown some large pumpkins in the raised beds he tended in Mrs Miggins’ back yard.

The one he gave them was enormous!

Their mum was very grateful to him.

She wouldn’t have even been able to carry a pumpkin that big back from the shop with all her other shopping anyway.

Bill and Bob were very relieved too.

But they decided that to make sure that no such near catastrophe should ever occur again they would have to grow their own pumpkins.

Their dad said – no way!

He said that if their vegetable patch got any bigger there would be no space to put out the washing.

If it took up any more room, he wouldn’t even be able to pick his way out to the back gate anymore.

And that was the end of that.

Except – then Auntie Alice came up with a solution.

She said that she would find room for them to have pumpkin patch in her garden. 

So they had better find out how to grow pumpkins. 

But first they should save some seeds from the one that Captain Jack had given to them and dry them out carefully.

A pumpkin is full of seeds you can store to grow the following year.



The best way to dry seeds from soft fruit like pumpkins and tomatoes is to spread them onto sheets of kitchen towels.  Let the juice dry on the soft paper and then sow the seeds still attached to the paper.  The paper can be cut into sections first with the seeds still attached to it.  The paper will rot away in your potting compost when it becomes damp.

If you want to grow pumpkins yourself, pick a variety that is good to eat because it will be a good idea to use the flesh for a dish rather than just throwing it away.  Some pumpkins also have tasty edible seeds.

Pumpkins should be sown in April when the ground is starting to warm up.  Start seedlings off inside and plant them outside once they have four true leaves on them.

But you had better be sure there is no more danger of frost.

Pumpkins need to be planted in rich soil.  So if your soil is quite poor, you will have to dig in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost.

The seedlings need to be planted out about 1 metre – 1½ metres or 3 – 5 feet apart.  They need plenty of room to stretch out and grow properly.  To save room, you could grow them up a climbing frame. A rough one can be made from poles.

Your plants will need 3 – 4 months of warm, sunny weather over the summer to produce a good crop.

The pumpkin fruits should be cut away from the plant as and when you want to use them but also before the first autumn frosts wither the leaves away.  There will be little point leaving your lovely pumpkins outside on the damp ground.

To store them, first pick a fruit with plenty of stem attached to it. A mature fruit will have good colour.



You will need to harden the skin before you put them into store, and you do this by leaving them outside in the sun for about 10 days. 

This is called curing the fruit.

Curing the fruit will also further ripen the flesh and improve its flavour.

If the weather is not good, you can do this in a greenhouse or a conservatory where you can be sure that your crop will keep dry.

You will need your pumpkins to have hard skins in order for them to store well, but you will also need a hard skin to make a good pumpkin lantern!









Quick Quiz


Can you answer these questions?


  1. What is a ford?
  2. Which side of the river do boats travel on?
  3. What does ‘watch your wash’ mean?
  4. What is the word for parking a boat?
  5. What is the word for the driver of a boat?
  6. What is the word to describe the person in charge of a ship?
  7. ln history, what was the name of soldiers travelling on a ship to be taken to a site of conflict/fighting?






lt’s the Weekend!




This is a really easy project for a knitting newbie.

The garter stitch knitting makes it nice and thick to protect the contents and the rainbow yarn adds interest.



Using 4mm knitting needles and rainbow dk yarn cast on 30 stitches

Knit in garter stitch until you have a square

Cast off

Sew up the bottom and side seams with wrong sides together.



Please note that the material on this blog is for personal use and for use in classrooms only.

It is a copyright infringement and, therefore, illegal under international law to sell items made with these patterns.

Use of the toys and projects is at your own risk.

©Christina Sinclair Designs 2015sand



Quick Quiz Answers


  1. What is a ford? – a shallow crossing point in a river
  2. Which side of the river do boats travel on? – right
  3. What does ‘watch your wash’ mean? – don’t go so fast that the water disturbance at the back of your boat damages the river banks
  4. What is the word we use for parking a boat? – to moor
  5. What is the word for the driver of a boat? – a pilot
  6. What is the title of the person in charge of a ship? – Captain
  7. ln history, what was the name of soldiers travelling on a ship to be taken to a site of conflict/fighting? – marines

Noun = a captain

Verb = to captain


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