The Otter Bus

Every time I enter the Kingfisher Hide on the little Oxbow lake at Dinefwr Park I wonder if I will be lucky enough to see an otter again. I try to manage my weekly patrol of the Deer Park boundary so that I can eat my lunch in the hide quietly watching and recording the little events which punctuate the stillness. I record the time and the weather and if there is one moorhen or two, and if the resident Mute Swan is there, contemptuously ignoring my presence as usual. In early spring I made this cryptic record:

22 March 2018
11:20 – 11:45 nothing of note.

Most of the time I’m recording the everyday life of quite common species, but there is always the hope of something different and I watch every ripple in the water. One calm September day there was a huge disturbance when, for  no more than a second a large fish broke the surface and crashed back again.

Then came this record:

31st May 2018
12:00 Warmer – sun
12:05 2 herons, otter fishing among the water lilies
12:15 Otter appears again but dives when it seem me. Jay flying west
12:25 Redstart clearly feeding young – probable nest on the far bank. He works a circuit, frequently picking insects from the lily pads.
12:45 Jay very close.
13:00 left

The laconic tone is deceptive. There is a sudden surge of adrenaline when I see the water moving. What’s happening? Could it be? YES! The tone also covers my frustration that I did not have the camera poised ready – not even for the second appearance!

One day the otter would  be back and I would be ready. It took a long time:

22 January 2019
11:35 cold, light rain and Sleet
12:00 big flock of around 80 greylag flying around the lake then landing.
12:15 Kingfisher perched on the tree opposite for a few seconds then flew off east. Moorhen. Second Moorhen converging will they fight? Group of Greylags walking up the grassland beyond the oxbow.Moorhen confrontation but no fight
12:20 2 male Teal fly in.
Advance Guard of Wigeon coming up the rise towards me
12.25 pair of mallards. Geese getting quite close now. One female Teal swimming to the right.
12:35 As I was packing up I saw movement in the water. An otter! I spent a glorious 10 minutes watching and photographing it crunching small fish before it swam off to the west.
As I walked away from the hide the geese all took off – wonderful sound.

It was a sunny day but the mid-winter sun was very low and the otter was directly between the lens and the sun – glaring highlights and deep shadows making it difficult, even after processing, to get full detail in the shadows. There seemed to be plenty of these small fish among the reeds at the edge of the oxbow. That was a significant observation, and helps to explain the title:

“You wait ages for a bus and then two come along together.”

27 January 2019
12:05 cold Still cloudy. Blue tit feeding on Rushes
12:25 four teal fly in
12:30 they fly off, but 4 more appear working the rushes from the west.
12:40 Otter! fishing all along the bank towards the east.
12:45 Cormorant fishing
12:55 Otter returns from East on this side of the Oxbow. It came very close but then must have seen me and did a deep dive.

Cormorant flew off.

This time the light was better though still harsh. The first sighting of a Cormorant actually fishing on the Oxbow is significant I think. This and the return of the otter means there are plenty of fish here at present. 

What a week!





















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