Friday, 10 September 2010

A chance encounter

Wednesday 8th September

  With the wind in the SE (and is set to continue for a few more days at least) I headed off up north to Skaw and Lamba Ness to look for migrants. At Skaw I found a Redwing and a Dunnock and also saw several Kestrels (in fact there were four around north Unst) as well as a Willow Warbler but nothing else. The next stop was the end of the headland at Lamba Ness, passing one of the pools near the end, the Green Sandpiper was still there along with a juvenile Dunlin. Parking at the top, I sat in the car for a while and then something caught my eye a hundreds yards or so to the north, it was an Otter. To say I was surprised was an understatement, the cliffs here are vertical in places which did make me wonder where it had come from. It is well know however that they can travel long distances overland in search of a new territory or for fresh water. The pic below is very  much a  grab shot .....................

  The Otter was definitely looking for something as it went in and out of the old buildings and seemed to be methodically working its way around the cliff line. Even though the wind was blowing straight from me to it, I was higher up so it didn't catch my scent. I decided to try and get ahead of it so I drove back down the road and parked up. I saw it again briefly as it appeared from a dip in the ground but lost again it almost straight away. Waiting for a few minutes, it didn't re-appear so I carried on. I didn't see the Otter, but what I did see was a surprise - a Spotted Flycatcher hawking insects from a perch on the cliff face.

Spotted Flycatcher
  Carrying on along the cliff top, I had another surprise. Suddenly there was a mother otter and her cub running over the grassy headland towards me. Fortunately they hadn't seen me so I hit the floor and hoped they would continue in my general direction. I only had the bean bag which gave me a really low view point, but in fact was too low most of the time.

  They passed me and headed off down the long ridge of rock at the left side of the headland and I followed. The only reason I can think of that they were up on the cliffs was that the mother was moving her cub from the very rough water on the south side of the head to the relative calm of the north side as it was far too rough to swim around. The last I saw of them was when the mother was picking the cub up to help it over a steep piece of rock. 

  In over two years of going up to Lamba Ness and Skaw, this was my first encounter with any otters up there. I've seen plenty of tracks on the beaches, some that were made only an hour before I got there (judging by the state of the tide), so now I'll look even harder when I'm going around the coast there.


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