On January 4, the Christmas Bird count provided several of us with a whole day spent outdoors, listening for the birds and watching the trees closely for winged friends. Since we divide the island into territories, I was assigned the team with woodland areas along Old House Lane and Lake Timicau Lane. We stopped mid morning to compare notes, and Carl showed me a photo of a ring-necked duck behind house 70. While my Dewees Island bird count total (over 12 years) is at 193 species, I have never seen a ring-necked dove here, and I raced over to find it. As we pulled into the driveway, Roger (one of the Audubon birders) noticed something fairly large in the water of the canal between lots 70 and 69. We froze, and watched. Since the only camera I had with me was a phone, I raised it and clicked the video setting. I expected a raccoon to emerge from the canal, and was delighted when it turned out to be a rather large river otter. Roger, Esther, Jimmy and I watched, breathless, as the otter emerged from the water, meandered over to the drive, and then began heading toward us! He stopped a few feet away, then veered back into the woods. The duck was gone by the time we got to the pond, but it was impossible to be disappointed at all. A week later, we’re all still smiling at our unexpected brush with the elusive otter.
Otters are an uncommon visitor to the island– we get a thrill every year when they show up, usually in late winter and early spring during mating season. (Coincidentally, it’s also the season when the alligators don’t eat, because they can’t get warm enough to digest food.) One year, an otter den in the impoundment provided us with glimpses of 3 kits all the way into summer, and I suspect they are here more often than we actually see them. Last winter, on almost exactly the same date, Claudia’s photos of river otters were featured here and in the Island Eye News.