December 31, 2010

River Otters, west Marin County

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

So, at first glance one might think that this blog post is going to be about "barbed wire" or fences -- but no, this post is going to be all about that blurry background.   That blurry white strip is Tomales Bay -- gateway to my beloved Lagunitas Creek and happy hunting grounds of to a creature I've never spotted out here before -- the River Otter.

Oh by the way, CLICK to see an old shot with the background IN focus.
Location:   Wilson Hill on Marshall-to-Petaluma Road looking towards Inverness.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Okay, I'm going to tell you the story of two recent encounters with River Otters (((three individuals each time I spotted them -- it could have been the same individuals))).

So, you know me -- I'm the guy out there at the creek always focusing on colorful ripples and reflections in the morning (((hey, it's a tough job but SOMEONE has to do it)))...

Out of the corner of my left eye I sensed movement -- I diverted my attention from my camera's eyepiece to a spot in the creek about ten feet away.   Three heads sticking out of the water -- they were looking at me and I was looking at them -- I almost pee'd my pants!

I had ABSOLUTELY NO idea of what these creatures were -- it could have been the Loch Ness Monster as far as I was concerned...   But of course, just as soon as these creatures figured out who I was they made a very quick turn and vanished downstream.   Location:   100 yards upstream from the confluence of Devil's Creek.

They were too quick for me (((and I was too astonished))) for me to get a photo, although I did manage to get a few shots of the huge wake they made while making their turns.

So began the mystery of what these critters were.   At first I thought they might be Sea Otters, or even baby Sea Lions -- they had big bulbous noses and little tiny ears like a seal. What threw me off was their long pointed tail -- diamond shaped and thick at the root but tapered to a point.   All I could think about was Nessie, or maybe that three-headed dragon in that old King-Kong movie remake.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Okay, lets move on three days -- it's Tuesday and Don is out at Nicasio Reservoir spooking around the shoreline.   And there they are -- three more River Otters (((probably the same ones))) swimming around rather peacefully in a shallow corner of the reservoir -- diving here and there and generally looking like they were having a very pleasant morning.

They were about 75 yards away from me, not the 10 feet when I encountered them in the Lagunitas Creek.   They probably sensed my presence because they started to slowly move away, but I got a couple snaps.

So COOL -- I had seen them AGAIN...   I was feeling quite like the adventurous west Marin explorer -- I knew I had stumbled on a story here... Where's my typewriter?

I returned to my car and travelled down the road a few hundred yards, and stopped at another delightful spot -- a fore-bay of Nicasio Reservoir, and guess what -- there those same individuals (((or maybe three different individuals))) were navigating around in the fore-bay.   There is a large culvert that passes under the road from the reservoir to the fore-bay, so I'm assuming that the River Otters passed through that culvert and were checking out the fore-bay.

So -- isn't that a neat experience?   Seeing something rather rare.   Something that a lot of people don't get to see.   Lucky me...

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Anonymous said...

Delightful sorry Don .... a perfect ending to 2010.

You have seen some great things in the past few decades, and took the time to show us the evidence (via you blog), and to share your wonderful stories. I live vicariously though them.


John @ Beans and I on the Loose said...

The critters of west Marin will make a wildlife photographer out of you yet. I've seen river otters the zoo. Someday I hope to have an encounter in the wild as you did. Great shots of the rascals.

What Karen Sees said...

Such an interesting post. I love the photos and all the great information! Hope you have a Happy New Year!

Hooly said...

I really enjoyed your post about the otter sightings... reminiscent of Elvis, but anyway... I have to comment on your Chinatown photos. While the one of the old-style decaying sign selling out to Coke was great, the other one is fantastic, almost quilt-like, but even better. I know you like capturing designs and you did a great job on that one. I "wow"ed it!

AphotoAday said...

Thanks EVERYBODY, and HOOLY -- I used Photoshop's "Smart Blur" filter on that shot -- that smoothed it out that way.

julie said...

Oh I LOVE otters! Lucky you to get to see them out in the wild!

Wishing you a happy new year and lots of wonderful images to capture in 2011.

AphotoAday said...

Oh hi Julie -- Great to hear from you. I think I've already wished you a great new year, but I'll give you a double-dose just because you're at the top of my list.

Michael Clark said...

I ran into, well almost ran into, your three otters Saturday March 5 on my way over the hill to work - one of the otters got the bright idea to skip going through the culvert and simply go over the "flat hill" in between the two Nicasios - I was able to swerve and just miss the trio. I thought I heard one say "You and your bright ideas!" as I went by.
Michael Clark - Inverness

Steve S said...

Cool, I'm not going crazy... there are otters in Marin... Though for us, we just saw one on the bay side of Marin next to Novato Creek. At first, we thought it was a seal, but nope it was an otter about 3' long... and a good hunter, as he caught something and ate it next to the waterline.

Anonymous said...

I saw one in Phoenix Lake yesterday. Like you, I thought it was the Loch Ness monster.

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