An unexpected Aquatic Mammal Encounter!
The wind has been blowing strongly and the survey has had to stop again. The unseasonal weather is locked in by a low floating around the
So, we rest a little, do a little data entry and take a few hours off to make a small land-based expedition further up the River Spey. In fact our animal spotting skills are far from wasted here!
â€˜If you spot a dipper you get ten marksâ€™ someone suggests. (The dipper being the perky, black and white, wren-like river bird found feeding under the water in clean rivers). â€˜And fifty marks for an osprey!â€™ (the dramatic fish-eating bird of prey). However, we soon have to award 5000 unexpected points, because as we stroll along the pebbly shores of the Spey, past a couple of anglers standing in the fast flowing river, a long light brown shape, is spied amongst the fringing vegetation.
It hauls out onto a shallow sandy shore and it becomes clear that we are looking at one of
There is much silent frantic signaling between the team which is stretched out along the riverside. The chief spotter mouths â€˜o-t-t-e-râ€™ and signals a big â€˜Oâ€™ in the air, before quietly squatting down to change camera lenses because that might get that award-winning picture of this beautiful animal. But it is not to be!
The otter looks straight at us. We are not hard to see, not concealed at all really, but we are down-wind from the animal and so our scent would not have given us away. Nonchalantly the otter slips into the safety of the river. We now sit along the bank for sometime in case he returns. Every ripple and wave may hide an otter. Many false-otters come and go!
A few minutes later, the two anglers â€“ a young gentleman fisher, in flat cap and waders, and his gilly (bearing an ambitiously large silver landing net) â€“ move up stream and stand close to where we are intently watching the water. We have seen many large fish leaping on our walk but it seems the anglers have been unsuccessful and now have decided to target the otter's 'sweet spot'.
However, we feel that the otter will not come back now with two people standing in this part of the river and so we slowly, and reluctantly, move away. However, we are still watching the river and the eagle eyes of our best dolphin spotters find the otter again. He is now sitting on the far bank. Then he takes to the water and we see his back break the surface several times â€“ in fact the movement can only be described as porpoising â€“ as he swimming strongly against the swift brown water.