I have just been going through all my watercolours in preparation for a tiny exhibition I am having with artist Martin Fahy (more details later) when I found these ones which I never published and as I haven’t posted in a while I thought I would throw them up here now.
This is a dead otter on Tramore beach at the end of last year. I was foostering around in the breakers with my body board(I cannot dignify my activity with the label ‘bodyboarding’) when I noticed what I took to be a small seal at the tides edge. It was this otter, a big chap, about four-foot long and not a mark on him. Surfer and environmentalist Alan Walshe was in the water so I called him over.
He called Mammals in a Sustainable Environment (MISE) who are based at the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) who do great research on local wild mammals and who also run projects and information talks involving the public. I went with them one night as they laid buckets smeared with peanut butter (as far as I remember) and baited fox tunnels to try and ascertain small mammal activity in the Back Strand. They also do otter workshops as well as nights out counting bats and the like. Denise O’Meara who works there does a blog worth following if you’re into wildlife… www.domeara.org
Andrew Harrington from MISE came out and picked up the body on Tramore Beach. It turns out that a couple of otters had been found last year with no immediate cause of death and they wanted to do a post mortem. I was going to wait for the results of that before I wrote a post as it is easy to jump to the conclusion that foul play was involved but our friend~the otter~is still in the deep freeze as far as I know.
It is quite possible there is some natural explanation for the deaths but then again they could have become tangled in nets and drowned but we may never know and a post mortem may not be conclusive.
I have only seen a live otter twice and both times was at Garrarus Beach in Co. Waterford. The first time, about six years ago, I saw what I at first thought was a cat running up the beach from the water. When realisation struck I was so excited I couldn’t even scream “otter!” (my usual response when I spot wildlife is to scream~see Pheasant!How to Approach Wildlife) and I cursed myself for not bringing it my camera only to remember I had it in my hand. I got a bad shot at the last minute (see above). A week or so later I was there at dawn and sure enough I saw an otter at the water’s edge. He turned and looked back at me and then was gone.
At that time quite a few people were seeing otters at Garrarus and the local band of swimmers enjoyed the sight of one being tossed around on the waves one stormy morning a fish gripped in its mouth. I haven’t heard of any sightings there for a few years now. There’s no official reason for that as far as I know but I think that the increasing number of people who bring dogs down there and let them off the lead has made it a bad environment for them
Still they have been spotted a lot in other places around east County Waterford and hopefully they are on the increase. Besides Garrarus they have been seen at the Guillamene and the Back Strand in Tramore and Grainne Walsh told me of one seen in the Boating Lake in Tramore back in the 1990s. I have seen beautiful photographs by Leah Burgess of one in the River Suir near Waterford. Wayne Jacques sent me two great videos of one swimming in Johns River at the Waterside in Waterford city centre.
I would love to hear of any other otter sightings so feel free to add them in the comments below.