I’ve just finished reading a book recommended by my good friend James Deane , Otter Country: In search of Wild Otters by Miriam Darlington (ISBN: 9781847084859) , James knew we always went out on the ‘hunt’ for otters whenever we are over on Islay and thought i’d be interested in the read . He was right , an excellent book which just shows what a hold these animals can take on you , i haven’t been as far as Miriam (Devon , Cornwall , Somerset , South East England , Cumbria , Northumberland , Highlands of Scotland , Skye…..) but i’ve been to a few places looking for them…..
Normally an obsession with Otters starts in one of two places or should i say books , Tarka the Otter or Ring of Bright Water , mine started i suppose with the Film Ring of Bright Water (wasn’t a big reader as a kid….) . It took me a while to see a real live Otter , not a wild one , a captive one at the Bowes Otter Sanctuary – which unfortunately is now closed – it was a pretty good introduction to them in the flesh . Before we settled on going to Islay every holiday we did tour around Scotland , we visited the Bright Water Visitors Centre in Kyleakin and walked down to the Kylerhea Otter Haven Hide , a wonderful walk that ended in no otters…… For the first few years of visiting Islay the count remained at zero , always been told stories by visitors who ‘stumbled’ upon otters .
Look no Camera…….
Our first real live Otter encounter happened at Seal Bay when we didn’t have a camera handy….. we’d left the hotel early to have a drive down to one of our favourite places on the isle Seal Bay . admiring the seals Mel casually said “oh look there’s a small seal swimming past us…..” it wasn’t , it was an otter ! And just to kick sand in our faces seeing i didn’t have a camera to hand it came out of the water with a fish , sat down less than 20 yards from us and proceeded to have its breakfast in front of us , an unbelieveable experience .
You don’t have to go that far to see an Otter…..
Now just to make matters worse on our return home there was a programme on the telly hosted by a certain ex-goodie , Bill Oddie , watching Otters swim in the Nature Reserve a quarter of a mile across the field in front of our home…… It was also backed up a few years later by another Comedic Bill (Bailey) doing a Wild Thing….. I Love You episode about Otters from the same Big Waters Reserve . Still haven’t seen one there BTW .
Our First Photo…..
The first Otter i managed to catch on film wasn’t on Islay , it was on Jura ! If you are a regular visitor here you will have seen it on the header at the top of the Blog , but if you haven’t here it is…….
This was just along from the ferry terminal at Feolin , there were actually two Otters and they were having great fun in the kelp ! We could have stayed for ages watching them but we had to get the ferry back to Islay.
It’s Behind you…..
Our next close encounter of the Otter kind actually happened on the mainland , for the 2003 Feis Ile we had to get the early morning ferry (7am) as the later ones were fully booked , arriving at Kennacraig early in the morning (about 2.30am) we tried to get our heads down for a few hours , after failing miserably several times there was a splash on the Loch behind us , there was an Otter swimming along towards the ferry , a lovely sight at about 5.30 in the morning…….
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition !
We stayed up at the old Bunnahabhain Distillery Cottages for a few years and heard many a story from the workers about the Otters activities around there (including a Mother bringing her cubs into the yard in front of the distillery) , It wasn’t till our last year there that we actually saw one . We were the last people to stay at the cottages in 2010 , the first week there were others there who had seen a dog otter swimming around the pier , we didn’t see anything in the first week . Not at Bunnahabhain anyway….. Bunnahabhain has a non-existant mobile signal , so to take part in the weekly whisky chats we used to drive down to Loch Indaal to get a signal . We used to always park in the same spot just along from where the Carrabus Burn flows into the Loch . This night we’d just started on the chat when an Otter swam past ! Could not believe it , no camera again (it was dark this time…..) , totally unexpected !
Back at Bunnahabhain , for our second week we were the only occupants , no joy all week until our very last night then the Otter appeared , it swam from around the wreck and along the front of the distillery heading towards the Margadale .
We haven’t had anymore close encounters of the Otter kind since then , though on the first night of last summer we did see one in the distance towards Seal Bay . We will be resuming the hunt in a couple of weeks time hopefully capturing some good shots and this time it’s personal !
Bring out the comfy chairs……