Oh, how I’d love to tell you about how I woke up hours before sunrise. How I hand-ground some coffee and gently simmered it over a stove before stepping out into the cold and dark. That I went into full camouflage mode, rubbed otter spraint into the pores of my skin and waited motionless for hours in anticipation of my quarry. While the reality is somewhat more mundane, my most recent and closest encounter yet with otters was no less magical and no less authentic.


It was in fact a very sociable hour. A post-kids-drop-off cycle to the local nature reserve that’s mere metres from the hum of the A65. So close you can feel the gust of air and the thunder through the ground every time an HGV brushes past. I’d actually seen some interesting Kingfisher activity there recently, which was my main focus and curiosity of the hour. But the otter paw marks hadn’t escaped my attention either, so when visiting I always keep an open mind and a wide field of view. 


From the minute I arrive, it is all action! Three duck-like but pretty ambiguous figures in the distance bob downstream towards me. The vagueness in the silhouetted shapes get my pulse going and I leave a trail of bike, helmet and camera bag in my wake as I dive into the nearest vegetation available! 


As I calm myself I catch the glossy shimmer of one of the silhouette’s back. These are indeed three otters. Keeping hidden in the bankside tree and motionless, I watch as what looks like a mother and two fairly mature pups slowly make their way downstream towards me, traversing from bank to bank, hunting. 


Whether these elusive and majestic beasts were aware of my presence I can’t be sure. There were times when I felt like their eyes were staring right into mine, I’d hold my breath until it broke eye contact to dive for another snack. Whether it was acceptance, nonchalance or ignorance, I can’t say for sure, but what I can say is staying calm and minimising presence (IE staying put) meant I got to enjoy a good ten minutes of natural behaviour. At times they were so close the telephoto lens couldn’t focus. A ring of bright water forever burnt into my retina. 

If you’re mad about otters too, you can help them out by following and donating to the UK Otter trust.

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