Sunday, 23 January 2022

Otter Magic

Otters are just amazing! As they bounce back from the brink of extinction (caused largely by persecution, habitat loss and even more so by pollution) I see them every now and again, and every time it is a massive treat. They are one of those animals that seems so vibrant and to actually enjoy life. 

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to spend a few hours watching a pair of Otters in the local area, thanks to a tip-off from a friend. 


We silently waited by the bank, and after a little while, the dog Otter, a big, broad-headed bruiser, cruised along the edge, literally a couple of metres away. He was digging around in the roots of the Alders at the edge of the water, all bubbles, splashing and snorting breaths. Every so often, he would drift out from the bank to munch an unlucky small fish, with one eye on us, watching from the bank. After a while, he swam back towards an island and the pair reunited with lots of snickering and yipping and began rolling around together. They were clearly a mating pair. It was absolutely thrilling to watch. 

Otters have to eat frequently and so we didn't have to wait long before they were back in the water and heading our way. Otters apparently have an unusually high metabolism for an animal of their size (up to 10kg, 1.2m in a male) due to the high energy requirement to stay warm whilst in cold water.

The following day, I went back for another look. The male had departed leaving the female in peace - at least for a while! Male Otters will spend a week or so with a female when she is in season and will then leave her alone, which seems to be what had happened (although I heard today that he had returned). The female was busy fishing and to my delight, came out on to a platform and later on to a small island in plain view. Any fish larger than a few centimetres was hungrily consumed out of the water, whereas the little fry, she would just munch down, mid-swim. 

At the end of another lovely hour watching the slighter, svelte form of the female fishing, the light began to fade and I decided to head home. To my surprise, she seemed to be going the same way, and cruised effortlessly across the water surface, converging on the spot towards where I was heading. 


She dived without a ripple and I sat down among the tree roots and Ivy, holding my breath. She reappeared in the reeds where she snuffled about, possibly hunting frogs. She disappeared again, back into the water. There was a timber pontoon by the bank, only a few metres away and I hoped she might climb on to it. And she did! She was so close, I could hear her breath. She knew I was there, so close to her, but she didn't seem to mind. If I made any slight movement, she looked at me, inquisitively - or perhaps her hearing was superior to her eyesight! On the deck, she was fascinated by this strange structure and its smells, investigating all it's nooks and crannies, padding silently across the grooved decking. She had a distinctive white patch on her throat and was just beautiful. For once, I managed to hold my nerve enough to get some photos! 

Hunting frogs in the reeds

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