In this morning’s citrine lull and cobweb-light breezes the sea shore was a busy place. Yesterday’s kelp heaps were hives of activity: oyster catchers shouting, their red eyes flashing, rock pipits diving up and down, gulls squabbling and overhead, crows harrying a bird of prey. An eagle perhaps; difficult to see. It has been some time since the shore birds could be heard above windy blusters and the sea. Still lively, today’s waves were viridian, hanging slow and large, then thumping down in white champagne froth. I made my way along the field boundaries and rocky shore, birds and waves ignoring dog and me, on to the beach where storm sands and cobbles have been piled high and steeply sloping by moon tides, and now partly cover Poseidon’s kelpish refuse. We played, dog and me, and meandered happily, looking to the sea.
But then, as if by magic, two small brown shapes dashed out of marram-dressed dunes behind us, across the sand and stones and into the whalloping waves. Both of us stopped, still, and watched, amazed. Otters! Otters! Such unfettered joy I have never seen, unless I count the shouting, rushing, jumping delight of my children at play in foam and surf. Two otters who, for more minutes that I could count, played ‘tag’, diving into oncoming waves, skimming out of the water like dolphins, and surfing wave-crests as they broke towards the shore. Yes, I did say surfing, didn’t I? Otters surfing as well as any Bondi boarders!
Suddenly they rushed out of the waters shaking their fur, and dashed up the sand and shingle slopes, bodies intertwining, twisting, tails curling around each other, mouths open and teeth nipping in a fervent display of companionship, and then they separated, one returning directly to the sea following the same track, the other dashing behind us in a long arc to enter the foam further along the shore. I watched them both head out past breakers, still exuberantly diving and resurfacing, looking back across the small bay to one another, before swimming strongly in opposite directions, one north, one south.
For some minutes, shocked and breathless, I standing, dog sitting, we watched the larger, bolder otter swim north. Thinking this joyous encounter was done, I stroked my dog’s patient, but quivering, head and turned. And there, gallivanting, rollicking down from the dunes, another otter. He (she?) smaller but was no less vivacious, scampered across the sand and into the sea. A yearling perhaps? Displaying no fear of a human being and her canine partner! Mouths open, we watched, dog and me, astonished.
Postscript: For all this magic, I had no camera, and even if I had, I would not have been able to capture them, so astonished was I to see these delightful creatures, and I do not have the wildlife photographer’s skills. But I did draw a very swift sketch.