Playful otters have set up home in a north-east town – to the delight of residents.
The river mammals have been seen foraging for food and swimming in the River Ythan close to a supermarket in Ellon.
Ecology student Rebecca Matthews was excited to capture some photographs of one of the four cubs while out on a walk.
The 32-year-old said the unusual sighting had “made her year”.
She now hopes to go back to the same spot with her husband Richard and seven-year-old daughter Skye to see the animals.
Otters are a rare sight in the town as they are shy creatures and not normally spotted in populated areas – but there has been an increase in sightings around Ythan Terrace in Ellon this year.
Rebecca said: “I had heard about them from other dog walkers and fishermen. I don’t know how old they are but the cubs are quite large now, they are from this year’s litter.
“I was really lucky, I had picked my camera up and gone down to the river for a walk.
“They were all tumbling over each other in the water and seemed to be having a really good time.
“It made my year. The otter cubs are really special, they are like water cats.”
Rebecca also runs the Aberdeenshire and Highlands wildlife page on Facebook sharing images of local animals.
She said: “I find it quite sad that people don’t connect with nature any more.
“I just want to show people what we have here locally and to get them to care more about the wildlife.
“We do have a huge problem in Ellon with litter – it is all over the place – and I hope that by seeing pictures like this, people will be kinder to the environment.”
More otter sightings have been recorded in Scotland due to conservation efforts.
The species died out in England and Wales in the 1970s due to pesticide pollution but they are now flourishing across the UK due to waterways being cleaned up.
There are an estimated 8,000 otters now living north of the border. They grow to about a metre in length and live on a diet of fish, frogs and other small mammals.
Keith Marley, who runs the New Arc Wildlife Sanctuary in Auchnagatt, near Ellon, said it was unusual for them to come so close to populated areas.
He said: “Otters are charming animals. I haven’t managed to spot them myself yet. It is great to have them on our doorstep, they aren’t any threat or danger to anybody.
“I would ask people to take care while walking dogs in and around Ellon where they might be.”