We live in the West End of Glasgow, five minutes walk from the River Kelvin, a fine if modest body of water that flows from the Kilsyth Hills into the heart of the city, where it merges with the Clyde. As it winds its way through town the river is fringed with wooded embankments for much of the way. It’s a great thing having the river close by, especially when co-habiting with an energetic, sociable Labrador.
Like parks in any town or city, you’ll occasionally run into snotty or anti-social people who ride their bikes too fast or are in the company of weapon dogs (and usually a bottle of Bucky), but by and large it’s a great place to take Dougal for walks. A pair of kingfishers have been in residence along our stretch of the Kelvin in recent years and occasionally you’ll see the electric-blue flash of the male bird arrowing along the river. A couple of weeks ago I got to watch him from about 30 yards near the opposite bank of the river as he perched on a branch and dived into the water to catch a wee fish. Lovely.
This morning I was out walking Dougal along part of the riverside path, which has actually been closed off for a couple of years since a tree collapsed down a steep embankment into the river, taking a large chunk of the path with it. We walk along there quite regularly and pick up rubbish and broken glass left by some of the city’s absent-minded residents who like to enjoy a liquid picnic in peaceful surroundings. Looking down at the fallen tree, which has been busy collecting flotsam and jetsam in its submerged branches, I saw the hind quarters and tail of an otter disappearing among the branches. I knew it was an otter, but told myself it must be a small dog with an unusually long tail. Then the animal emerged from the water and scurried up a branch; no doubt about it, this was definitely an otter. Dougal had got wind of him, but had failed to spot him on account of his poor eyesight. The otter slunk back into the water and re-emerged seconds later with a sizeable fish wriggling in his jaws. At this point Dougal spotted him and dashed down to the riverbank in pursuit; the otter glanced his way and then made himself scarce.
Maybe spotting otters catching fish in the heart of large cities isn’t unusual, but frankly, I was amazed. If you’d told me yesterday that I’d be seeing an otter today I would have assumed that it would be in the waters around Colonsay, where we’re off to this afternoon…
I have to admit that the otter in the pic above was snapped on the Sound of Islay back in December and is not the fella we encountered this morning.