Sunday, 22 April 2012

'Hotter and otter'

  Last Tuesday (17th April), I was heading along the shore-road on my way to do a small job at Burrafirth, when I noticed two Ravens behaving strangely by one of the roadside burns that leads in to Balta Sound. Getting to the small bridge I saw what the birds were being anxious about - an otter drying itself on the bank of the burn. Driving on past, I turned the car around so it was on my side of the car and coasted to a halt on the bridge. Fortunately it didn't hear or see me and carried on drying itself. Unfortunately as is often the case when shooting from a car, often, there is a fence to shoot through - as there was in this case. After taking a number of pictures through the wire (and getting an out of focus strand of wire through the image) I decided to try and move slightly for a better angle. This was a bad move as it obviously heard the car and decided to head back in to the sea - which meant it would pass right underneath the bridge I was on. It didn't panic, but just crept/swam slowly down through the shallow stream and under the bridge and out of sight. One thing I did notice about this otter that will be useful and that is it has one canine tooth missing, useful for future identification. Fortunately on this occasion there were no cars using the road for the few minutes I was parked as I would have had to of driven off......................





  A few days later, I was over at the community skip at Haroldswick when I decided to have a look at some near-by freshwater pools for migrants. As I coasted to a halt in to the passing place (plenty of room for two other cars to pass) I saw an otter in the pool heading for the bank. Quickly grabbing a shot, it climbed out of the water and in to the bushes. I could hear it - and occasionally got a glimpse of it - as it moved around inside and then it went quiet. Now I know that otters will rest for a while during the time it spends fishing - half an hour rest, fishing for half an hour etc etc - so I decided to wait for a while. Finally, it had just got to the 'I'll give ten more minutes' situation, when I heard it stirring. It then emerged from the bushes just a few yards away, oblivious to either me or the car and re-entered the water and carried on fishing................




Shame about the vegetation - still very nice to see though (all full frame)

  I spent most of yesterday afternoon (21st April) at home and in the late afternoon, I noticed a seal had hauled out on the rocks down at the shore. As I'd not see one haul out here before, I decided to get some 'record' shots. Carefully making my way down, I crawled up on to the shingle bank and got some photographs...................


   Whilst watching the seal, I noticed an otter feeding along the shore to my left and was working its way towards me through the wracks of seaweed and being very successful in catching small Butterfish.

 
  By now the seal had also seen the otter and was watching it intently - in all of my previous sightings involving otters and seals, the otter has always steered well clear of a seal. Looking at the direction the otter was travelling, it would surely either pass very close to the seal or change direction and head out in to the sound. What happened next was something I wasn't expecting. The otter deliberately swam straight up to where the seal was lying and seemed to want to have a good look - from around 3-4ft away. The seal stayed put and the otter didn't seem phased by the relatively large animal staring down at it. Several times the otter dived and when it did, the seal almost looked puzzled as to where it had gone. When the otter re-surfaced, the seal would move around on the rock to have a look. In all, I think this lasted for several minutes - although it seemed like ages....................



As the otter continued to fish a little further on to my right, I noticed a rabbit on an exposed seaweed cover rock, halfway between the seal and the otter. I've no idea where it appeared from as I didn't see it get there - maybe it had been hiding in the seaweed ? ................


  I don't know how (the wind was in the rabbits favour), but the otter then swam back along the shore some twenty feet, scenting the air from time to time and somehow knew there was a meal there. It went around the back of the rock and came up through the seaweed in an attempt to catch the rabbit - the rabbit however, was too quick and got away....................


  The otter then carried on along the shore, catching fish on every other dive.

  At lunchtime today (22nd) we all decided to go to Haroldswick for a bite to eat at the recently re-opened 'Northern Lights' restaurant (a lovely view out over the bay). Pulling up outside, Rona headed off from the car and then stopped and shouted (well not quite a shout) 'Look, there's an otter!'. Sure enough, led in the sun against a garden wall only 20ft from the road, was a sleeping otter. I don't know if it'd had one too many the night before, but it was in no hurry to move. I did wonder if it was either sick or injured, but when it did move away, there was no obvious signs and it disappeared completely........





 Now, I don't go out much deliberately looking for otters very often, but for chance encounters this past week has been exceptional - it's not like this every week, unfortunately.

  And as to the 'Hotter'? Well this week it has started to get hotter - there have been loads of migrants around. On Shetland as a whole, there have been several hundred Robins recorded along with lots of Chiffchaffs and other small migrants all due to the recent easterly and south easterly winds. Yesterday I had a nice Green Sandpiper at Lamba Ness and today I found a male Garganey at Haroldswick.

     Robbie

6 comments:

MW said...

Cracking pictures, super behaviour; what a few days, great fun & lovely to see.
Mark

Graham said...

Super story as always Robbie and great to see that the Otters are showing so well for you (and teasing me after the last 2 years of attempts).....

robbieb said...

Cheers guys, it appears that the otter in Haroldswick has been around for a few days and is unwell. The relative tameness is certainly not usual behaviour - the one I watched at our shore would stop and look around at the slightest un- natural sound.

Robbie

Christian said...

A beautiful set of images Robbie.

robbieb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
robbieb said...

Hi Christian, thanks for looking. On these occasions they were a bit of luck really (even nicer to see for this reason) as I don't have the time at the moment to go out and spend hours waiting for them.

Cheers

Robbie

(BTW, the previous comment was a cock-up by me so I had to delete it)