A close encounter of the ottery kind...
Shortly after I arrived at Ferry Meadows for a pre-sunset walk with my camera, an elderly couple stopped me to let me know that I'd just missed seeing an otter. Otters are now well established in the Nene valley and I've had a few distant sightings, but apparently this one was near the shore. But as I headed out on the path around Gunwade Lake I saw another couple taking photographs with their phone - the otter was still there, though now quite a way offshore.
As we were watching it, it started swimming east, so I turned round and followed, keeping a careful eye on it as it swam closer to the shore. It had a regular pattern of diving under the water and then emerging, but as it neared the shore it disappeared I knew that it would have to surface eventually, so stood beside a small area of swamp to wait. No sign of it, but I suddenly became aware of a graunching sound, and when I looked closely, the reed sweet-grass was moving - the otter was eating a fish about 2 metres from where I was standing, completely hidden by the foliage. I gently moved until I could see it, but couldn't get a clear shot. At that point another photographer arrived and moved too close, scaring it away.
I suspected it wouldn't move far, so waited patiently on the shore, watching it hunt for fish. Sure enough, it eventually came ashore again in another smaller area of swamp. I stood stock still for some time, and we both watched each other. It seemed interested in me, but not at all scared and was relaxed enough to have a good scratch. It then moved onto a willow branch lying just above the water and spent some time scent marking it, always keeping an eye on me. A rather noisy passer-by eventually scared it back into the water.
It stayed close by, fishing and generally having a good time - not at all fazed by the small groups of onlookers that were gathering, many of whom had never seen a wild otter before. This was by far the most intimate encounter I've ever had with an otter and lasted nearly an hour - amazing that this should happen just a few miles from home.