Otters, Serendipity, Dartmoor and Appin

We saw an otter yesterday. It was fishing in a Cumbrian river – we saw it from a footbridge on the edge of town.

As usual, serendipity plays a large part in seeing otters. Go and look for them and – unless you’re on a Scottish island, where you’ve a chance – you’ll not catch a glimpse.

Now, this is a walk we do most days, though usually in the other direction. Had we done it that way yesterday we would probably not have seen the otter. But circumstances changed the direction, and we were just in the right place at the right time.

Otters are quite magnificent to watch, hard to think of any creature so adept at working with water.

But, as I’ve said, you have to be lucky. I once spent several months doing an otter survey on the Dartmoor stretch of the River Dart. I found lots of otter tracks and the spraints, but never glimpsed an otter. But twice I’ve seen otters on the Dart, twice on the Teign and once on the Lyd – all when I wasn’t looking.

When I was in my teens I sat where the leat crosses the road in the middle of Buckfast on a busy Saturday afternoon. There were crowds of people there. But as I sat there, a dog otter came along the leat under the road and watched me for several seconds before going on its way.

On a misty day I walked up the Wo Brook from Hexworthy and, close to the slab bridge on the Hensroost Mine Track I watched an otter for a long time.

Actually, yesterday’s otter was the second I’ve seen this year. In June I got a glimpse of an otter feeding at Port Appin, as we waited for the ferry for Lismore.

I hope to see a lot more.

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