Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Searching for the local Otter

"I'm just going to stop and check out this bridge!" In the passenger seat I could feel Carole resign herself to another session of Kindle-reading as her husband searched for Otter signs, and somewhere to put the Trailcam for the night.

I really miss Otters on the Isle of Wight, though I'm hoping that they will become a regular feature of my walks along the Western Yar at some point in the not-too-distant future! In the meantime, I'm hoping to get some footage during our brief holiday break in Suffolk.

This bridge came up trumps - under the partly-dry arch below the car in the photo above, I came across Otter prints and fresh spraint on a small log:
No success with the Trailcam yesterday evening, but Carole is very generously going to give me a bit of Mackerel this evening to bait the area with, so here's hoping!

People struggle to 'get' my interest in the various mammal deposits that I actively search for. I felt vindicated this morning as I read these words from one of my favourite authors, John Lister-Kaye:

'Otter spraint conspicuously in the same places over and over again. I know a stone at the water's edge just under the bridge over the burn where I will always find a fresh, black, slightly oily, fish-smelling deposit. At the head of the loch there is a large, mossy, bank-side cushion in the marsh where the bright green of the moss has been entirely burned back to a lifeless grey by the trampling and strongly nitrogenous sprainting of the otters over many seasons. They also raise their tails and spray their urine against way markers - a tree stump or a boulder - to leave a lutrine signal and a lingering scent that wafts off around the loch or is carried downstream by the movement of the water to greet any other otter passing through....We can only guess at what the full sentiment of the otter's message might be.
Scent is multi-dimensional. All I can see as I stroll my way through the many territories of the wildlife around my home are the visible signs - a pine marten scat parked prominently on a stone, the twisted cord of fox faeces very ostentatiously left on the path, roe deer and badger paths winding through the woods - but I am conscious that I am also perpetually trespassing. I wend my way through uncharted waves of scent too refined for my feeble and inchoate olfactory equipment. If only we could somehow colour each animal scent with wisps of smoke: red for roe deer, green for badgers, yellow for wildcats, blue for pine martens, brown for foxes, orange for stoats, purple for the red deer...the land would become a perpetual rainbow of magical, interwoven lattices, an intricate sunset of spectral beauty, twisting and turning with the contours like a mad Van Gogh painting.'
[At the Water's Edge, pp.151-152]

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