Sunday, 17 April 2011

Otter in choppy waters

Jess came over to see us for a few days early in our holiday and was hopeful that we would be able to provide her with her first sight of a wild otter. Big pressure particularly as we hadn't seen one ourselves this year and were going through the usual fearful thoughts of "Maybe we have just been REALLY lucky over the last few years having seen 6 otters!"
The weather was grim, freezing and rainy and the waters really choppy. We went to a few hotspots to no avail and then headed to Toscaig. The tide was on the way in but it was still fairly low. Simon was intending picking mussels for tea and this spot seemed as good as any for that exercise.
Whilst he bravely slipped and staggered over the rocks to pick said fare, Jess and I stood watching through our bins the coast around the bay for signs of otters. It really was grey and grim and after about 20 mins or so our hands were feeling the bite of wet coldness. We had just agreed to wait in the car and warm up a bit when out of the corner of my eye I saw a shape and said "Hang on a minute" raising my bins and declaring in unison with Jess "It's an otter"
This little fella was bobbing along on his back riding the waves and then twisting around to swim in a kind of rolling way. He seemed to see us quite early on and swam sraight towards us. This has happened in a few of the sightings we've had in the past- we're convinced they must see us there but they swim towards us anyway. Jess very honourably ran to atract Simon's attention but I thought he was so far down on the rocks and I know how otters can just dive under and completely disappear. To this end I got photographing the best I could given the wind buffeting the lens about. The otter disappeared at one point and I thought he's gone but he popped up again really close to me and continued to approach the rocks below me. I was sat down now to try and avoid creating a big lumbering outline on his horizon. I was aware that Jess and Simon were coming up behind me and turned my attention away from the otter to try and signal that they should get down. When I looked back I couldn't see him for a split second and then became aware that he had his front feet on a rock directly in front of me- we locked eyes for just a fraction of a minute whilst I thought about moving my camera up to my face and then he pushed himself back into the water and that was the last we saw of him.
Sadly Simon missed him completely but Jess was pleased as punch with her viewing. We celebrated that evening with a meal the otter himself would have thoroughly enjoyed.

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