The loss of a young Otter, hit by a car as it left the relative safety of the river, was the sad news that greeted me as I arrived at work the other day. The Otter had died not far from where two had been seen playing and feeding the previous week and it underlined the threats that these amazing creatures face as they continue to re-establish themselves within our increasingly busy countryside.
The sad news was balanced somewhat by the sight of an Otter, alive and well, further downstream just a few hours later. Walking back to work along the river I had spotted the Otter break the surface near to the old bridge that echoes an ancient crossing point. This particular individual provided me with some of my best ever views of a wild Otter, as it worked the weed, flushing fish and then crunching on their silver forms. At one point the Otter was feeding within just a few feet of me and the small crowd of colleagues who had by now gathered for this impromptu display of aquatic dexterity. The Otter seemed completely unperturbed by the audience it had drawn, continuing to fish and crunch and, just occasionally, to look at us as if to say ‘move along now, nothing to see here.’
Move along we did, once our lunchtime viewing had extended somewhat into the afternoon’s work. Back at the office word soon got around and another party trooped down to the river to take in the spectacle. For them the viewing was even better, the enjoyment increased by the arrival of a second Otter – a wonderful sign of how well the Otters were now doing on this stretch of the river.
The sighting of the Otter had come a week after I had acquired a copy Miriam Darlington’s new book ‘Otter Country’ a beautifully poetic and personal account of her search for wild Otters. Miriam and I had chatted about ‘my’ Otters when she last came to the Brecks and she would have been mesmerised by the performance of these individuals and surprised by their indifference to us human observers. She might also have been surprised by the indifference shown by many of the people who walk, run or cycle alongside the river on a daily basis, unaware of the Otters. On some occasions, where I have pointed out one of the Otters or answered a query as to what it is that I am looking at, they stare blankly as if unable to comprehend the presence of such a creature here, so close to town. I dare not tell them that the Otters can sometimes be seen fishing just outside the local branch of Argos!