The RSPB call them 'moments', an experience of witnessing a wildlife spectacle that as a result leaves you in awe. Admittedly I have had a fair few of these amazing experiences, but on Monday 27th August 2012 I was the fortunate recipient of another, and wow was it special.
A morning stroll took me out in the rain ( that fine rain) down the Griesdale trail to the Tim Jackson hide, after a few minutes scanning the pool three red deer hinds emerged from the reeds and began feeding on the waters edge.
Soon arriving at Griesdale hide another red deer showed itself very well in front of the hide by the bush to the left of centre. A familiar call 'peeped' across the pool and as expected a green sandpiper appeared, then a second and shortly after they danced around low over the reeds in search of a suitable landing strip, a third joined them!
What happened next can only be described as an incredible experience. From the left of the main verge (the one with a small dead tree) a scattering of coots and teal revealed a huge dark figure bounding across the bank from left to right. Now my first thought due to the size of this mammal was that it was an escaped hippo with an unusually long tail (OK I exaggerate, but it was genuinely huge). It was clearly a dog otter bounding across at quite an impressive land speed. It was one of those moments that happen so quickly, but the memory will remain for life. I couldn't help but turn and exclaim with disbelief 'Did you see that'? before quickly realising I was actually on my own in the hide with this amazing spectacle to myself. The dog otters have quite large territories and will independently rove around where they see fit.
Still shaking my head in disbelief I skipped back down the trail to the bridge on the Griesdale trail, (just for the record I didn't actually skip, that would of looked a little odd). Upon arriving at the bridge I scanned to the left through the encroaching reeds that lean over the ditch, and admittedly I momentarily stopped breathing. I held my breath as a typical line in the water gave the instant impression an otter was heading in my direction down the ditch!
I waited camera raised, daring not to move or breath, and partly hidden from it's view by some reeds. Gradually it got closer and closer arrowing through the water just below the surface, until finally literally a foot away and actually too close for my camera to focus the otters head broke the water, looked at me for a second then dived slowly unfazed by my presence under the bridge beneath my feet and down the ditch on the other side!! It remained under the water for much of the way but when it did finally re surface I got some photos of the back of it's head!
The image that remains in my mind is superb and would of undoubtedly produced a stunning photo with incredible detail, insanely close. However I am relieved that I didn't mess around trying to get a photo too much as the whole experience would of been sullied.
A truly unique and unbelievable experience that has left me confused as to why it is called a dog otter, it should quite clearly be re named a bull otter due its enormity!!