Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A good start to year for Shetland otter family

 Enjoyed my first good otter photography fix of 2016 at the weekend. Spent a fabulous three hours or so with this mother and her three cubs. When wind direction allows and I have time to be in the field Iv'e been trying to work on these guys when I'm out with my own camera. It really is so good this winter to be able to head out if the weathers good, not guiding and commitments at the desk allow. This was been a privilege I just couldn't allow myself last winter as we were so committed to getting our otter book finished.
As usual I am monitoring several families at various locations but I wanted to try to build a story of these guys throughout the winter since I started working on them. This is the same family as in my last post about a month ago.

The mother in front racing for the shore with a small sathe/pollock or sillock/piltock as we would call them here in Shetland. There is few more exhilarating a spectacle than a mother landing prey for her cubs. Such adrenaline and action as she powers towards the shore, each cub determined to claim the catch. Its a special sight to see a mum and one but when she has three cubs, each wanting the catch as if its the last meal they will see- its a sight you will never forget.

The mother had been away for some time, leaving the cubs to play, groom and sleep on the shore. The three cubs must all have heard her coming in from foraging as whilst playing all three lifted there  heads to look in the same direction in near perfect synchronization. I'm always amazed at this- so many times I can be watching or photographing cubs like this when somehow they are alerted to mum coming in, sometimes you see a mother coming in with prey whilst cubs sleep and all of a sudden they wake and bound towards the shore to meet her. The puzzling thing to me is that she is silent to my ears and often not upwind so its not like they can smell her.

Two of the cubs having a play fight. I love when I get the opportunity to capture a nice clean backdrop of sky or sea by getting a good low angle, not often all that easy to do.

Play fighting such as this can often appear aggressive and its little wonder with those teeth.

Whilst mum and one of the cubs are off foraging these two stayed ashore to groom, the one in the foreground having a good old yawn and stretch of the jaws.

Home time; the mother returned and after getting cubs all back together continued along the shore back in the direction of their main holt. By then it was coming up for 15:00 in the afternoon and light was fading fast- I was shooting at over 3000ISO by that time. I took that as my chance to slip away as cautiously as I had arrived.
If you're interested in seeing otters this season visit  http://www.shetlandnature.net/otters/