2018 may be the Chinese Year of the Dog, but here at Oystercatchers it is the Year of the Otter. We have decided to support the International Otter Survival Fund as our charity of choice for the year. These delightful little creatures in a way lead us to this house. As a child I adored the children’s version of Gavin Maxwell’s “Ring of Bright Water” (“The Otter’s Tale” Puffin) and then as I grew up, followed it up with the full version and its sequels – “The Rocks Remain” and “Raven Seek Thy Brother” (I even managed to wade my way through “Harpoon at a Venture” although it really wasn’t my idea of fun!)
Maxwell’s endearing descriptions of his lutrine companions had me hooked on finding out more about them. I have had the pleasure of seeing them at the Sea Life centre near Oban, where the almost completely tame resident otters are particularly appealing as they stand up at mealtimes. But I’ve gained far more pleasure from occasionally coming across them in the wild – we holidayed for 20 odd years near Arisaig and took up kayaking as a family specifically to be able to get out and see more wildlife. The otters near Arisaig are well used to brightly coloured plastic boats popping up all round the coast and by and large gave us a stiff ignoring so we have often been able to float along for half and hour at a time just watching them feeding or playing.
Time to come to Skye and we were determined to have somewhere close to the coast where we could continue with our brief encounters (5 minutes watching one otter more than makes up for 6 weeks floating around counting seals, herons and gulls). The very first time I visited Skye I went straight to the Otter Hide and then spent a few wet afternoons in the Brightwater Visitor Centre in Kyleakin. When we got the opportunity to purchase Oystercatchers 4 years ago you can imagine how keen we were.
And we have seen otters here – not often and they are generally more timid than those we encountered off Arisaig, but we have come across them while out in the kayaks – feeding (noisily) on crabs, swimming through open water, ever watchful. We’ve seen them on the roads near Breakish at dusk throughout the year and our first Christmas Eve here was completely made perfect when one crossed the road in front of us at the top of the garden. /we have been most envious of friends who spent a few weeks in a holiday let in Kyleakin who regaled us with tales of otters in the garden…most nights! But perhaps their very rarity is part of the attraction.
I then realised that IOSF actually operates out of Broadford. You can find out much more about the organisation here. A year or so ago I had signed up to follow them on Facebook and then to receive monthly newsletters, but we wanted to contribute a little more. So we have “adopted” a local rescued otter “Sofi” and you can find out more about her in the cottage. We’ve also installed a collection tin so holiday makers can add their own support to help these intelligent animals worldwide. We will be actively encouraging you to support them with particular reference to World Otter Day on the last Wednesday of May – 30th I believe.
We are not slavishly following all things otter though! In the cottage you will now find a wildlife information board, a wildlife sighting wall diary as well as the usual guidebooks, binoculars, maps and links to wildlife tours/info here on Skye. You might want to start with Skye Birds here, or Skye Wildlife sightings on the IOSF page here.