Sunday, December 20, 2009

I OTTER Be Thankful



A few days ago, I was "driving to town," as we say around here. That means going to Bath, which is fifteen miles north. During the winter, it's where we have to go for all supplies, food or a restaurant meal as everything in Phippsburg is closed. I was on a mundane mission to a medical appointment and then to loiter around at a pharmacy for a prescription. Christmas is upon us, but I had done very little shopping. My mind has been elsewhere. While driving in a dismal funk, I turned on the radio. I was really annoyed to hear Christmas music. I knew I had to drag myself out of this mood eventually, but I was so deep in my personal wallow that I didn't know what could wrench me off my glowering mark. I have very little to complain about in my life, honestly. But that fact sometimes just makes me feel even more petulant and  bitchy, like a child that won't let go of a toy it doesn't want to play with, but only possess. I was feeling very sorry for myself, "It's mine and you can't have it, so leave me alone" my toddler brain grumped to myself. Then, I saw them! Three River Otters were cavorting on the ice of Center Pond. I wheeled the car around deftly executing a smooth u-ee. I watched them for a minute and saw that they were jumping into the water then back on the ice repeatedly. The seconds they were under the water would give me the chance to get closer for better shots. I began to move down the embankment each time they submerged. Tangled raspberry canes pulled my clothes and raked my skin; burdocks adhered to my pants as I creeped toward the ice edge. Positioning myself, I held stock still, camera aloft, waiting. It was eight degrees with a ten mile per hour wind. The below zero wind chill quickly turned my cheeks, lips and fingers numb. I wanted to get closer. "I wonder how thick this ice is......." I mused, looking at my feet on the edge. Peering through my view finder, I saw that the otters were making their way along the ice line as they fished and frolicked and were progressing in my direction! Great luck as the ice was way too thin to support my rolly-polly middle aged self. They came to within about 100 feet of me. My heart was racing I was so excited! I had never seen otters before and that I was getting to photograph them was almost too much to bear! Then, one got up onto the ice. It looked directly at me and vocalized repeatedly, a rasping, throaty cat's hiss. Its whiskers were enormous and so were its teeth. My delight shifted to anxiety as, hissing, it advanced toward me. At about four feet long, it was big, big enough to take me down if it wanted to. I looked away from the view finder to see where the others were. Looking like dogs, they were swimming around and peering over the edge of the ice at me. If the curious one decided to run at me, I was at a real disadvantage for escape having clambered down the brushy embankment to the ice edge. These members of the weasel family are fast on land and can run at 15mph. River Otters are solitary unless a mother is with her young. This was probably mom up on the ice investigating me while her youngsters were swimming. They have big teeth for eating aquatic organisms, fish, mollusks, crayfish and the like. Otters have a high metabolic rate so have to eat a lot every day. They will stay in an area as long as they can get food and where there is open water. I will continue to look for them at Center Pond as there is a race of open water where a stream comes in all winter. Their presence speaks to the health of our pond as otters will leave a polluted area. In the wild, they live about 10 years, so they could be with us for years to come. I can tell you that there's nothing like a little otter to get you off your pity pot if you are feeling sorry for yourself. I know I "otter" be more thankful for the richness of my life than I sometimes am.








17 comments:

  1. Great story and find Robin. When I first moved here, I found an Otter in the pond on Sam Day Hill Road, just off Parker Head Road. Never saw it again.

    Love the photos!

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  2. Thanks, John! That race of open water is already closing up fast. I'm guessing they'll go over to the Parker Head Rd side where there are open clam flats. Yummy!

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  3. Why, thank you, Ted!

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  4. Well, I am thankful you had clothes on this time as opposed to some of your previous adventures with local fauna. Maybe the otter was just curious to see who you were? Don’t hurt yourself on your photomissions until at least after Christmas.

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  5. Who said I had clothes on?

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  6. Loved the otter story.You better start watching
    the road,especially on snowy days!!
    ellen

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  7. That's fantastic! I envy you!

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  8. Robin, put your otter adventure on my Facebook page, with credits to you, so I hope you don't mind. Amazing what you see!! And photograph - why don't I see these things? Glad that YOU do. :>) Becky

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  9. Yeah - you otter be thankful -- you've got fans in TURKEY! World famous blogger. I otter add some tracking software to my web site.

    Lord

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  10. I think birds and animals know who you are and put in an appearance
    because they know you will do them beautiful justice! How else explain
    three otters cavorting on the ice and even coming towards you! What a
    wonderful experience. When we first came here we had an otter on the
    little stream behind our house. I even found his sliding places. But I
    think he got trapped. We haven't seen him since that first year. He had
    such an elegant form. In fact, since a house was built out on the point
    I see much less wildlife. No coyotes, rarely rarely a fox, fewer egrets
    and great blues...it's sad. But I can't blame other people for wanting
    to live in such a beautiful place too.

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  11. Great story, it's similar to my first wild otter sighting a couple of years ago. Mine was at Sabattus River, and like your story, one was more curious than the others. It actually came up through a hole in the ice about ten feet away from me and I was able to get some photos. The picturess are posted on the blog. The temps were below zero the morning I saw them and what amazed me is the way they frolic around like its a warm summer day.

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  12. The otter story was great. You take great risk in your pleasure. :) I take great pleasure in your risk. :) That first picture looked like you were a gonna.

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  13. Love your blog.

    But, I also admire your willingness to use, and ability to get away with, bad puns. I 'otter' say this some other way probably, but you are fabulous. Ed

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  14. {Y}our blog is a tour de force - lovely in all regards and especially impressive for the autobiographical stories woven so artfully into the whole. The story and photos of Clarise were wonderful and I dare say that the stone lady looked mightily pleased about all the goings on.

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  15. Hi robin, great story and lovely pics to go with it.

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  16. Robin, I love your photos as well as your stories!

    Thank you for "visiting" my blog. If you are ever again feeling sorry for yourself, I hope John's remark, "I can't complain" will help bring a smile to your face!

    Happy New Year!

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