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We are known as PaWingers or just The Wingers by our Geocaching friends. When we found our first cache we had to come up with a name to log the find. We came up with this name simply because of residing in Pa. and because one of our many passions is cruising this beautiful country on our Honda Goldwing. Aside from geocaching we are passionate about most anything outdoors including hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling and biking. We are blessed beyond words with a wonderful son and daughter in law. We're also blessed with some terriffic family and friends. We consider ourselves very fortunate due to the fact that after being married over 40 years we still enjoy these things together.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The River Otter Is One Awesome Mustelid

Often I will wait until quite late in an entry before I throw in my tacky little Whoda' Thunk comment which is a bit of a trademark for this crazy Blog of mine.  This time I'm not waiting, I'm gonna let it roll off my tongue right from the get go.  So here we go.  Whoda' Thunk that after the countless miles we have kayaked on the Clarion River that we have never seen a River Otter.  That all changed a few weeks ago.  We heard from a couple friends that they had spotted a family of River Otters on the Clarion and roughly described where they saw them.  That was enough to light a fire under us.

A few days after hearing this, we were hiking a river trail in search of these amazing Otters.  After hiking and searching for a couple hours we had pretty much give up hope of locating them but decided to give it some more time.  As we scanned the river we noticed some movement on the opposite side of the river.  We quickly glassed the waters edge and sure enough it was a River Otter.  For the next hour we followed the Otter up river and things just got better and better for now there were 4 Otters swimming together.

These Mustelids proved to be quite camera shy and they made an all out effort to stay just ahead of us which pushed the mighty 600mm lens right to the max.  We got some pictures but not great pictures.  All was not lost though because we got to witness something that was quite extraordinary.  We watched these 4 Otters porpoising in the water like dolphins.  We watched as they caught fish and then climbed up on the rock to enjoy their meal.  Best of all we watched them as they played and wrestled on the flat boulder like little children on a playground.  Sometimes memories can be as good as great pictures.

Over the next several weeks we spent every weekend trying to locate the Otters again but after more hours than I care to admit we would return home Otterless.  This again changed the first weekend in January.  We heard from our friends Jim and Jan Merritt that the Otters were hanging out at a particular location.  The location didn't exactly pinpoint the spot but it sure helped save a lot of searching.  We headed down early the next morning and began glassing every snow covered boulder looking for the telltale sign where an Otter had slid on it's belly into the water.  In no time we had located a couple hot spots and from then on is all we had to do was wait patiently for an Otter to poke it's head out of the water.  This day that meant standing in the cold along the river for a couple hours.  Cold yes, perhaps a bit boring but overall quite worthwhile.  An occasional Bald Eagle would do a fly by which absolutely relieves the boredom and warms the soul.  By the end of the morning we would see what we came to see.  Although we didn't get to photograph the Otters sliding on their bellies or playing in the snow, we sure spent some memorable time with the River Otters of the Clarion River.  We also got some decent pictures, not great, but decent.

So you might be wondering what is so interesting about River Otters.  To that we say, everything is cool about River Otters.  Consider the fact that these Mustelids were becoming extinct and reintroduced in the late 70's makes this quite a thrill.  One other interesting fact is that Otters are very sensitive to environmental pollution telling us that the Clarion River must be a very clean river. One needs to also bear in mind that Otters are as comfortable and agile on land as they are in the water.  They will walk up into the woods for a tasty snack such as a mouse or a bird or even fruit.  In the water, they like to eat fish and Crustaceans.  They are also very social animals even though they haven't been real sociable to us.

This particular winter day we watched them swim along the river with their head sticking way above the surface.  We watched them trying to climb up on to the ice and sit on a snow covered boulder.  We also got to listen to them vocalize.  Although they make several different sounds such as hissing, growling and whistling this day we were hearing the most common sound which is a low frequency chuckling.

A couple other amazing facts about Otters is that they can swim underwater for over 4 minutes at speeds up to 7 MPH.  They are capable of traveling 26 miles in a day.  Hopefully we will spend many more hours with the Otters and hopefully get some great pictures but for now at lease we have some decent shots and they will do nicely.  Although photographing the River Otters has proven to be quite the challenge, it makes the rewards that much sweeter.  Whoda' thunk there would be cool critters like River Otters in the Clarion River!  When I thought about the worthiness of this subject being in my Whoda' Thunk Blog, I thought to myself, "this Otter work just fine". 
Wait a minute, is that a Seal!

This image was special to us because two of the Otters were wrestling like little kids on a playground.

Count them!  Yup, there's 4 of them.

This Otter wanted to get up on the ice but he seemed to be alarmed by our presence.  He put his paws up on the edge of the ice and peered at us before disappearing into the water
This was one of 4 Otters we saw this day.  He just watched us as he floated by our position.  Love that rubber nose!

1 comment:

Coy Hill said...

Terrific Tom!
I have only once ever encountered an otter in Pa and didn't get anything like these shots. Way to Go!