It is one of those cold but bright winter mornings, where the light has a certain clarity that lends itself to photography. Picking up my camera and long lens I wander down to the river that skirts the town centre before heading out towards the forest and the fens beyond. Soon I am working my way upstream. Above the slow moving water hangs a barely perceptible mist, most evident where the weak winter sunshine cuts between the trees to strike the river’s surface; it would appear that the river is warmer than the surrounding air.
I am on the lookout for the local otters and kingfishers, both of which could form a striking photograph in this light. A kingfisher breaks from a concealed perch and whirrs away on its metallic wings ahead of me. Skimming low above the water I lose sight of it as the bird disappears around the bend. A bit further on, as I reach the ancient bridge that marks an even more ancient crossing point, I spot an otter in the water. It pushes through some emergent vegetation to slip as a dark, torpedo-like shape, beneath the bridge. Retracing my steps I find that the otter is searching for food, diving down to work the waterweed and then surfacing, its broad head sleek and shiny with water.
Quietly, I lower myself into a seated position, back against a waterside tree and camera braced by my knees. The otter is now just feet away and I have to zoon the camera out slightly to get a frame-filling shot of its head. It is hard to take the otter in and to soak up its character and charm through a camera lens and once I have taken a few shots I stop filming to enjoy its presence. The broad face, dark eyes and white chin are framed by thick whiskers and, as the otter crunches on some morsel that it has collected from below the water’s surface, I am reminded of a cheeky schoolboy, crunching nonchalantly on a humbug. It is a humorous scene and one that brings a smile to my face.
I have not been alone in my otter sightings this week and several colleagues and friends have watched in delight as more than one otter has put in an appearance. One individual was seen to ‘porpoise’ across the water, seemingly chasing fish, while another made a lunge at a woodpigeon that was sitting at the water’s edge. At times, crowds of locals have gathered to watch ‘their’ otter and it is wonderful to know that not only are these magnificent creatures being enjoyed but also that they seem completely unperturbed by the interest they have stimulated.