New Species!

Yesterday’s outing in the kayak was a a very memorable occasion, for several reasons. First, it was darned cold sitting in the water! The air temperature was hovering at 25°F, with a slight wind chill (guess my kayak outing days are numbered for the remainder of 2011). Secondly, the recent beaver activity at this location (it has been 2-3 weeks since I last kayaked here) has been incredible, but I’ll save that for another post. Thirdly, I found two traps set in the water at a couple of the beaver runs. This was surprising to me … working this area for over 2 years, I’d never seen traps set here. I later contacted the area’s state conservation agent to see if this was legal at this location; word is that trapping can occur if the trapper has a “special use” permit. Seems that there was one permit issued for this county and the agent is going to see if the traps belong to him; if not, they will be removed.

And the third reason is the “new species” I found … a Murphy’s Otter, which closely resembles the river otter. Ok, I really didn’t find a new species, but the river otters I found yesterday (there was a pair playing in the water) surely seemed to be what a Murphy’s Otter would be like … you know, “if something can go wrong, it will”! In the case of the otters, I desperately tried to grab some good shots, but the otters seemed to always be “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. For example, when I first observed the otters, one was playing in the water, but behind a heavy stand of wilting American Lotus stalks. And the other otter was out of the water and standing on a log, but again behind a lot of stalks:

River Otter on log

As you can see, I couldn’t get a good focus on the otter … the camera’s autofocus did focus in well on the stalks, though! In these situations, I normally use the “manual focusing override”, but complicating things is the fact that otters are not easy to photograph, even in the best of situations. They are very much like a 2-year old child, always moving about and sitting still only for a very brief moment. Combine all that with shooting from a kayak, and I think you can imagine the challenge of shooting an otter in these conditions.

As I tried to move the kayak a bit, for a better shot, the otter on the log went back into the water, only to resurface to watch me … again, behind a tuft of wilted Lotus stalks:

River Otter 

Shortly after the above image was made, the otters disappeared from my sight. Knowing their behavior (a bit shy, but certainly curious), I decided to paddle away from them and set up shop a bit upstream and wait/see if they would come to me. Within about 10 minutes, I observed something swimming towards an island that was directly in front of me. At first, I thought it was a beaver, but when it emerged from the water, I could see it definitely was an otter. As it got closer, I had a great shot … except for the tree/shrub branches between him and me!:

River Otter on land


When I began making images of him, he heard the shutter of my camera and quickly slid into the water and swam away. But I finally got a “somewhat clean shot” of him in the water (although he almost made it behind cover!):

River Otter swimming


… and he made one final stop for another look at me … peeking from behind another Lotus stalk!:

River Otter


After he swam off, I noticed the two traps. So instead of trying to set up to get some more images, I kayaked to the traps and stayed there for a while, to make sure they did not wander into them. I certainly wish I could have grabbed some more quality images, but that’s Nature! Anyway, there will be more opportunities to catch this “Murphy’s Otter” :o)

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