Saturday, 15 February 2014
A passion for Otters: from Arizona to Shetland...
It never ceases to amaze me just how strong of a 'pulling power' Shetlands otters have and just how far people will travel to enjoy these magical mammals. This weeks guests Fiona and Jim are a classic example of this, having travelled from Arizona in the USA! Fiona, like me is a self confessed otter addict and has been obsessed for many, many years. What was really exciting and fascinating about guiding them this week was learning of the similarities of Fiona's experience with watching 'her' North American River Otters, which she has studied so passionately.
It was a week that was about just watching and learning about otters behaviour and ecology, without the 'pressure' of photography, simply the Swarovski 10x42's round my neck and the scope over my shoulder, fantastic! It is always a pleasure and I am extremely fortunate to work with otters as I do but is is an even greater privilege when the company is so good!
What was also really exciting was that Fiona already knew so much about otters in Shetland, having read everything available on them by Hans Krukk and so had looked forward to and enjoying the whole Shetland experience of otters and was far from disappointed. We had an outstanding few days and in total saw 29 otters, each day visiting new sites around Shetland taking in as much as we could in four days of the diversity of habitats and locations they thrive in here. It has to be said however and as anyone with otter experience will know, this is a good number. Specifically targeting this week for the tides and Feb/March also helped make sure we had everything possible in our favour.
We enjoyed a fascinating variety of interesting behaviour and unique insights from watching a live monitor fed from camera in an artificial holt where a mother and cub slept, groomed and played; many hours of families foraging and at play; a courting couple and perhaps most exciting of all was on our last day- no fewer than ten otters! At the location we visited on that day we enjoyed not one but three families, two of which spent time together as the two mothers (each with two cubs) reassured themselves with the familiarity they clearly had with one and other. The above images were all taken on that day and the last image shows the two families settling down just a few feet apart, where we left them snuggling down to sleep. As it was their last day we decided it was a good idea for me to take my camera to hope for some photo's to take home with them and although it was raining when I took all these above, I'm so glad I took it, despite the weather!
For more information on watching otters in Shetland visit http://www.shetlandnature.net/otters/