Sunday, 6 November 2011

In Search of Tarka!

Today I thought that I would have a break from the norm and so decided to go in search of Otters. I had been told of a site on the River Stour in Dorset where Otters can be reliably seen and so decided to try my luck. I opted for a pre-dawn start in order to try to get to the site for the period that I imaged them to be more active, despite being told that they were incredibly confiding and could be easily seen at any time of the day. I have seen Otters on several occasions over the years, but most have been fleeting glimpses at dusk or dawn, although my most memorable encounter was when in the Canadian State of Ontario one winter. I was able to watch an adult and two cubs hunting along a frozen stretch of river whilst a Bald Eagle tried to catch them intriguing game of chess ensued, and of course the otters won!!

Anyway back to today. I arrived at the site to see a couple of wildlife photographers dressed from head to toe in camouflage gear waiting patiently by the river side. I politely inquired whether  they had seen the Otters, and from the grunted response I was able to ascertain that a brief sighting was all. So my options were to stand and wait with these guys, or wander further along the river to search for them.....I chose that latter. I had been told that the best places to watch from were the bridges that cross the river, so I walked from the one with the photographers west along the river. I reached the next bridge and met a couple of much more sociable joggers, who said that they had just been watching an Otter feeding just round the bend of the off I went.

Loch Ness Monster ..... or is it?

As I worked my way along the river I continually scanned the river, and it was not long before I found one, or was it? In the half light my first impression was that the Loch Ness Monster hadn't been found in Scotland because it was now prowling the depths of the River Stour in Dorset. I continued stealthily towards this monster and was soon provided with a more distinctive and clearer view of an Otter.

Otter - River Stour, Dorset, November 2011

Initially, I was slightly cautious, as I did not want to flush it before I had my camera ready, but I soon realised that this individual was quite comfortable with my presence, and for that matter all the dog walkers and cyclists that were continually going past.

Otter - River Stour, Dorset, November 2011

This individual was very aware of my presence and in fact seemed as interested in me as I was in it. When I first arrived, it was feeding in the middle of the river, but it was not long before it worked its way to my side of the river for a closer look.

Otter - River Stour, Dorset, November 2011

Adult male otters have an average weight of 10 kilograms, with females averaging 7 kilograms. This individual seemed to be fairly small, and therefore I suspect that it was a youngster.

Otter - River Stour, Dorset, November 2011

I spent over over a hour with this Otter, and had a lot of fun trying to predict where it would surface from a dive. It spent much of its time during this encounter feeding, and it was possible to follow by the presence of bubbles breaking the surface, usually surfacing about half a metre in front of the bubbles. I could not make out what it was feeding on, but it was happily crunching away on whatever it was, hopefully American Signal Crayfish!!

Otter - River Stour, Dorset, November 2011

After a very satisfying time, the thought of a nice cup coffee was becoming ever more tempting, and so I began to pack up my gear. The Otter seemed quite put out by this, and moved in towards the bank, as if tempting me to stay, and eventually was only about 10 metres from me, watching me intently.

Otter - River Stour, Dorset, November 2011
As I continued to pack up my kit, the Otter maybe realising that I was leaving, swam across to the other bank and climbed up into cover. It was so strange, but appeared that with no one left to perform to, this cheeky chap was heading off for a mid-morning snooze!

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