Of Otters and Avalanches

Crazy, crazy conditions up here just now. Avalanche warnings are widespread across the Highlands and the risk of triggering a slide is considerable on even easier angled ground. Just this afternoon two skiers were caught in a huge avalanche at the Glen Coe ski area. If you are planning on heading out to the hills then take a look at the SAIS forecasts for the latest updates on conditions. Personally I'll be heading North West for a wander round Stac Pollaidh and hopefully conditions will be clear enough for some great photos. I'm toying with a wee winter traverse of the ridge but we'll see how it goes. My winter climbing techniques are rusty to say the least!

So... Otters.

Quiet, solitary, shy animals. Difficult to spot and still a reasonably rare sight on our rivers......?

Our most recent resident of Inverness would appear to think otherwise. I got an excited phone call at 4pm this afternoon from my friend Calum saying that he was a watching a wild otter hunt for fish all of a few meters away from where he was standing. Calum is a wildlife guide based on the Black Isle so I presumed he was out in the wilds somewhere up to his waist in snow, freezing his bollocks off. But no, he was in Inverness town centre, looking out over the River Ness just across the road from Johnny Foxes!

The Ness flows through the town centre and is flanked on both sides by roads, shops, hotels and pubs. There is a constant buzz of traffic and the roads beside the river are busy with traffic and pedestrians. It's not exactly my idea of a typical Otter habitat!  However when we got down to the River... there it was. I think we stood there for about an hour watching it catch fish and frolic in the water. Incredibly it seemed utterly oblivious to the fact that it was in the middle of a bustling city centre. It would occasionally roll on to its back and idly float along while gazing up at the locals who were gawping at it, but other than it didn't seem unduly bothered by the noise.

We watched it long enough to discover that it seems to have a holt along the riverbank so I wander whether it's here to stay for a while? According to wikipedia their range can be around 11 miles so this would easily include the entire River Ness and into Loch Dochfour and Loch Ness.  I've no idea how often they change holt or whether they'll have more than one in their territory. So who knows whether he/she will be a regular site in town, but I hope so!

It was incredible to watch and a real privilege to watch one of our iconic British mammals hunt and play so freely in front of us. The pictures aren't great because my camera is really struggling to take close ups. New camera please! I suppose the one thing we can take from this is that it proves the River is clean and has enough food to support a predator like an Otter. I've also noticed an increased amount of seals heading up the river in the last few months. Before you'd see one every month or so but I've seen at least one in the river almost every week since before Christmas.

1 Comment:

  1. HighlandNick said...
    I spotted an otter (the same one?) today too. It was up by the Infirmary footbridge. It doesn't seem to mind folk at all - I was really quite close - probably within 3 metres or so. It came in and out of the water there for about 5 minutes before disappearing.
    Avalanches? Since I stopped working for the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, I don't see too many on the Black Isle!

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