Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Old timer

A real heart warmer today, a long journey but worth the trip! Had an awesome encounter with one of the oldest otter I know, she is at least seven/ eight years old, which is a good old age for a Shetland otter although they can live for double and over that.

After a very long walk there, nearing a headland which i know to be one of her favourite haunts I could hear the anxious and oh so familiar squeaks of a cubs contact call. I had deliberately planned my approach for a favourable wind direction. At first I could hear the cub but not lay my eyes on it but soon realised it was well up on the grassy bank, well away from the boulders of the beach. I very slowly moved toward the peaty bank above the beach where from I knew would be able to make a secret approach, at times like these ( and every time is as exhilarating as my first ever encounter) you fail to realise your knees, elbows and often everything is soaked through, but you dont care!

Soon after I began to crawl on my belly bellow the bank I caught site of an adult swimming for thew shore, seemingly to answer the cubs calls, but to my surprise it was a dog. He headed straight up to the young cub but after a quick sniff surely realised the cub had nothing to offer and left as quickly as he'd arrived. Barely minutes later the seeks were answered, surely this would be mother... She left the water only but a few meters from where I lay, clad head to toe in cammo, even balla clav and gloves(nothing compares to this for close encounters)!

I was absolutely thrilled, I new her instantly as a very old girl indeed, a Granny, Great/Great Great Granny at least! Her scars on her nose are immediate recognisable even at distance.

It was one of my favourite encounters of the year and that's saying something! I even photographed the cub suckling. After watching for quite some time totally unaware that I lay only but a few meters away, they sprainted and set off inland up an old stream, I let them leave before slipping away unseen.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

New arrivals of an old friend

Took a friend out today to a site Iv not been at for many weeks. It was perfect timing, the light was good and the tide was falling. Scanning ahead at all the lie up's I know in that area I managed to pick out two small and dark bundles of fur laid out on the grass at a regular spot, to the un-trained eye these would barley have been thought to have been rocks let alone anything else. But there was no mistaking it, this was definitely young cubs, fast asleep while mother forages close by.
The wind direction and lay of the land was ideal, allowing us to begin our approach. But it was very clear that we would limit our distance, I can think of nothing worse than disturbing these adorable and wonderfully wild creatures.

Typically, after lying in wait for the cubs to waken the clouds built up and the light had slipped away, but wait we did. Whilst lying in full camo gear amongst the boulders and Bladder wrack seaweed I excitedly wondered who the mother would be, I was nearly sure I knew but I also knew of another in the area who should have cubs of a similar age by now (about four months old).
Eventually of course, after an hour or so the cubs slowly revived into an energetic bundle of bites and tumbles! And when mother appeared from the water, she was who I thought, moments like those it feels like you've just met a relatives baby for the first time, but if she knew we were there I wonder how she would see us?

Long time no see!

It seems like weeks, even months since I had the chance to spend time in the ebe with my camera and my favourite friends, oh yes- that's because it has been!

All for very good reason though, my wife and I had our first baby only four weeks ago, a beautiful boy we named Casey, a very special time indeed.
As for the month or so before the birth it was as you can imagine a busy time. How wonderful it has been over the last week or so though to be back amongst Otters. I managed to squeeze in a few visits around the isles to some of my favourite sites. Any how, il keep it short and get some images up!

These were taken last week, this dog's presence was given away by the Hoody crows waiting patiently for any left overs from the Sea scorpion he soon devoured. I followed him for a short while, watching him haul up on the grassy bank to groom before he slipped away round a head land. He is fully grown at 3-4 years old. The shape and lay of the coastline could not allow for an unseen aproch so I just kept my distance.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Belated posting!

Now well over a month since my last posting, shocking! Its not that I have not been out with the otters, in fact quite the opposite! Most of my visits at this time of year are with clients which I tend not to write about and rarely take my camera.

These pictures were taken of the young cubs on the off shore isle a few weeks back now, late one evening just before high tide soon after they had come ashore and were setling down for a snooze.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

7th-15th April

Its been a fantastic week, spent alot of time on several different sites around the isles. in total saw around 25-30 individuals (including four families), which is not too unusual when you know where to look.
The longer hours of daylight are a godsend and it is now possible to catch two tides in a day when the times are right, ideal for maximising your time when the otters are most active.

Some of the days I left the camera behind, just deciding to watch and admire the different families and individuals, something that is not allways possible when concentrating through a view finder. When you know otters well enough you realise and accept that photographic opertunities are allways there.

The sunny sequence of a family are of a mother with two 9 or 10 month old cubs, I spent nearly two hours under a camo net to get these pictures.

The images of one eating a fish are of a dear old friend of mine, she is five years old at least. I was absalutely thrilled to find her early on in April after not having seen her since her and her dog cub of last year parted company late last autumn, It really was heart warming to know she is well. Her catch is a large Lump sucker, the bright colours show that it is a male.

The other photo is of a dog, who is four-five years old.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

24th March

Came across this youngster today, dozing out of the lea of the wind.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

21st March

Went back to visit the young cubs today. Left the boat at opposite side of the isle so as to make a silent approach. From the top of the hill where I cross the isle I scan with my scope, the tide is ebbing, I just catch a glimpse of the mother as she slips into the water and heads out to feed. I watch for a few minutes till she is some distance away, diving on her favourite reefs.
I keep an eye on the wind and keep low and out of view from the cubs, who I hope will be in the usual place close to the shore. When I reach the old drystone wall of the old sheep pen, I pear through the gap as I have done so many times before and there they are, seemingly a little livelier than last time I think to myself as I watch them play on the bank.
They stay very close to a hollow on the grassy bank, the same hollow that many an otter has made a bed of before. I watch them for about a half an hour, playful but not yet as mischievous as they soon will be. The overcast day Id been thinking was not too bad soon turns into retched rain, the wind starts to rise as I think to myself its time for home.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday 13th March

Friday the 13th- unlucky for some they say, I never was one for superstition though! Ignoring the date I set out by boat to one of my favourite sites, an off shore island. On my way there I couldn't help hoping that by now a female there which I have been watching may well have her cubs out and about by now.
One of the most precious and privileged of all wildlife watching experiences has to be watching an animal as wild and secretive as an otter with infant cubs, out exploring and possibly for the very first time.
These adorable cubs can only be two months old at most, and had very probably been taken by the mother from the natal den to a coastal holt this very day if not long before. It was low tide and I could see the mother off foraging amongst the exposed seaweed not too far along the shore while the cubs, waited on the shore where they would every so often disappear under a large boulder or overhanging earthy bank but never wadling further than a meter or two. From behind an old drystone walled Sheep pen I could watch them through a gap in the wall, totally out of site.

It was obvious by their size alone how young they were bu also how clumsy they were, not yet learned the grace which they will soon use to search these shores. I could see at least two but suspect there was another but could not see the other side bellow the bank and would not have dared moving or changing my approach for a better view. I learned a long time ago that this usually results in them detecting you, if you cant quite get the view or composition you would like then never worry, perhaps next time you will- patience not pesisitance I think is best.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

22nd February

Been a hectic couple of weeks, moved house amongst other things, hence the lack of up dates.

Although over the passed couple of weeks or so I have had a few "chance' otter encounters, frustratingly I have not been to visit any of my favourite families. However on my way to a family meal (running late too), I took a detour to have a quick scan of a familiar stretch of coastline, just for a cheeky ten minutes before the ferry left, I timed it just right!

Whilst I was pulling off the road into a lay by, I caught a glimpse of that oh so familiar bounding gate of an otter foraging around amongst a myre close to the shore. It was about 100 yds away but instantly struck me as being small, as I focused my bins I could see why, it was a cub.

I was parked close to the shore so thought if it came towards me, it should pass close to the van. I couldn't believe my luck, it made its way along the shore- heading straight for me. A very brief glance at my watch reminded me I had less than ten minutes! Thankfully, as always the camera was ready for action.

I began taking a sequence of pictures as it bounded toward my parked van, closer and closer.... The cub then came through the fence, continually sniffing the ground as it went, right bellow my drivers side window! It then ended up so close, that I stopped shooting as I knew it would hear the shutter go off, I watched in awe as it actually lifted its head up toward the open window, nearly going onto its hind legs before slipping underneath the van and where I sat, off out the other side!

One of those opportunistic and exhilarating encounters, the right place the right time! I did not have time to watch and see if the cub 'mothered up' but Id be pretty sure she was not too far away and that it was just on a little adventure of its own.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

15th February

Traveled a little further today to visit a mother with two cubs, it was certainly worth the effort! After having covered quite a bit of this very isolated coastline I was beginning to think that i must have missed the family i hoped to find here, along the way I had seen one otter, all be it briefly swimming around a distant headland, which i was fairly sure was not the mother I was looking for.here
With the weather fare and with one last little favourite haunt of hers still to check , I carried on. As I approached, fresh spraints around the 'lie up' on the bank could be barely an hour or so old, at most. Had I gone passed them or were they ahead of me I wondered, as I sprawled out onto the grass crawling forward to view the shore that I have watched them on so many times before.
I peer over the bank, laying tight into the base of an old pile of stones; the unmistakable site of otter bodies toiling together on the bladder wrack sea weed- Yes, they are here! The onshore wind takes my scent far away from them, I settle in with my camera and lens peeking through out of the dead grass. From here I am only about 20 meters away from them, countless times i have enjoyed encounters such as this with otters but every time my hear pounds like its the first!
I watch and photograph them for some time, romping around, the cubs continually harassing one and other and mother too. I am rather distressed to see that the mother, who has been in this range for at least two years now, has some fierce wounds, mainly on her rump which she must have sustained in a battle over territory. Thankfully she looks healthy otherwise as I watch her feed off shore with the cubs for a while before eventually after coming ashore again sprainting and then grooming, they settle in and drift off into a much needed snooze. I sneak away, as quietly as I approached.