Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"You OTTER be in pictures, O what a hit you would be!"

It was a week of service calls at the cottage so not much was expected in the way of wildlife, but I managed to scoot out to one of my favorite marshes on Tuesday morning ahead of the sunrise:

The same view, ten minutes later, was filled with accents of gold:

The other side of the marsh was equally beautiful:

A Belted Kingfisher circled overhead...

...and then flew back towards me...

...and even closer:

After several windy days with no sign of either Loon family, I finally spotted the First Family with both chicks still in tow!  

As for the other Loon family, I fear the chicks have been predated as twice I've seen two adults on territory without chicks, but this needs to be confirmed for sure.

I returned to the cottage in good time, well ahead of the service call, and was puttering around inside and opening up the veranda windows. Timing was everything, as George, one my cottage neighbours, excitedly waved to me to come outside, whispering quietly that an otter was down on my dock. 

Yeah right, no doubt it would be back in the water by the time I grabbed my camera and made my way down there. It was only ever like this that I'd seen them from the dock, always before sunrise: 

This time it was different, thank you, George!!

It wasn't even eleven o'clock in the morning and here was this otter, sprawled out on the floating dock, lying on its stomach with its back legs stretched out behind:

I had no idea how long it would stay as I was admittedly in a state of disbelief, and also had no idea if my camera settings were even correct as I focused on hiding from it. But what great views of its long, streamlined body, and low profile:

And then it sat down. 
And then it dealt with an itch. 
And I moved in closer.

The click of my camera caught its attention, I was busted: it moved in closer to the clicking sound, curious...

That was it, my one minute encounter was over as it considered the lake:

...or possibly not, as it was intrigued by the clicking:


It moved back towards the middle of the dock...

...while rolling on its side, whaaaaat???!!!

So yes, I went crazy for the next eight minutes, but of course at the time I didn't know how long this encounter would last. 

Sit back and enjoy (or not, if this bores you, stop right now!) the next hundred or so pics that are in sequence, to best document its most awesome performance behavior as it frolicked groomed itself on the dock:

The River Otter's thick tapering tail acts like a rudder while swimming, and their feet are webbed: 

Next it began to slide along the dock, arms held tight to its side (this was when I began to silently scream "SQUEEEEEEEE" to myself):

Not sure what this was all about, but it reminded me of Macaulay Culkin in "Home Alone"!

Next it showed more interest in my camera clicks:

Its next pose was perhaps not its best side:

And yet again it moved in closer to me, so much so that I had to back up in order for my lens to work:

Time to rest its eyes:

Otter nostrils and ears are valved to keep out water: 

It was on the move again, was this my final look??

No, it was still intrigued by the camera clicks:

Resting its eyes again:

More sliding towards the edge of the dock:

Their diet is almost entirely fish, but can also include frogs, crayfish, mussels (take our zebra mussels, please!!), small mammals, birds, and reptiles. 

Nice choppers:

Last October I was greeted by these gifts left on the dock by an otter, thank you very much!!!

I'm no expert but I think it was a pleasant combination of both scat and regurgitated fish bones and scales, how thoughtful:

But back to the cute part of wildlife, more sliding along the dock as it pushed off:

More serious grooming of the front legs:

So what happened next? As much as I want this to simply be playful behavior, my research tells me this rolling and rubbing is all part of the grooming process, as it both cleans and dries the fur by fluffing it up:

At the nicer end of it, a tiny pink tongue can be seen: 

I somehow managed to internalize my squeals, so it was the camera clicks that distracted it:

Back to work on grooming...

...and next to the tail:

Another itch to address:

More scratching:

Once the itch was dealt with, next it slid along the dock again:

And then it rolled over::

I couldn't breathe:

You're killing me.

Enough already.


Next it struck a similar pose to Tessa's when on the dock, looking out over the water!

It got up and was on the move again, was this it?

Nope. Back to work on the tail:

Camera clicks drew it in, and I had to back up again as I was too close:

Stop it. Right now. 

So intense! Much of their day is spent grooming to spread oils from skin glands throughout the fur for waterproofing:

Still intrigued by the camera clicks...

...but back to the task of grooming:

Back to the tail:

Resting its eyes: 

Another scratching session:

Suddenly its posture changed and it walked to the end of the dock where it began dry heaving, in a futile attempt to regurgitate any lingering fish bones and scales:

Once that was over, it marched back across the dock, closer to me again (as for the service call, thankfully they were late!!):

It was still curious about my camera clicks. The otter's acute sense of hearing is more important than smell for detecting danger when on land: 

Once again on the move, I suspected the morning's grooming session was wrapping up...

...and sure enough, it quietly slid off the dock back into the lake...

...and it was gone:

My eternal thanks go to George for kindly advising me of this furry dock visitor! 

1 comment:

Angie in T.O. said...

That was awesome! Thanks for sharing!