Otter time

I thought that I’d missed my opportunity to see that most elusive of mammals, the otter. Colleagues at a work meeting on the beautiful National Trust Stackpole Estate in west Wales had seen one. Someone spotted some movement by the edge of Bosherton lake and the whole group of twenty people fell silent in an instant, gripped by excitement and anticipation.

Even among this group of seasoned naturalists few of them had seen an otter in the wild more than a few times. Slowly some of the group peeled off and crept along the waterside path until there it was bobbing above the still water; the majestic and captivating sight of an otter.

I’d made the wrong call and perhaps missed the opportunity to see one of these much love creatured in their natural environment and at one of the best sites. I had seen an otter before but in the slightly artificial environment of captivity.

Having read the moving and powerful ‘In Search of the Wild Otter’ by Miriam Darlington I’d totally got the joy and sense of wonder at seeing one of these special creatures.

As the mists rolled across the woodland and the Lakes I thought that I’d head for the eight arched bridge that spanned this man made lake at the heart of the estate, more in hope than anything. A brilliant white pair of swans lit up the damp dull greyness of the April morning as birdsong filled the air with its sweet hypnotic melodies. I stared intently along the surface of the lake hoping that my eye would catch some movement.

I slowly headed along a gravel track towards the coast and then decided it was time to head back for breakfast. I bumped into a colleague who had just seen an otter and was excitedly talking about its behaviour while someone else emerged from the hillside in a scene straight out of Wuthering Heights and joined by another early riser we finally became a quartet.

We looked longingly towards the west of the lake when someone said “there is the otter” and we all did a double take. Then it emerged again with a smooth economy of movement. Out came the binoculars and there was a real buzz among the group. One of my colleagues had had one of those epiphany moments saying that this was the first time he’d seen an otter in the wild and I joined that exclusive club who had seen this gracious and special mammal.

This moment in the gloom reminded me of the power of nature to inspire, create that sense of wonder and make the heart sing. Seeing an otter for the first time is one of those moments that stays with you for life and you feel like you want to tell everyone that you see.

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