One of the problems most people have is where to begin to look for otters. It is no easy task when you consider the amount of water available for them to swim in.
A good rule of thumb is to look in freshwater lochs where there is a stream running to the sea. This is usually a favourite otter place as it gives them easy access to the two environments that they love.
When scanning the sea use your eyes first of all to try and get familiar with the water you are looking at and try and spot any unusual dark shapes in it. The use the binoculars to identify. By getting used to spotting small objects in the sea or loch you begin to home in on the shapes of nature.
Look along the edges of the shoreline and seaweed. If an otter is feeding there is often a black backed gull close by waiting for the leftovers.
This may sound daft but recently I spotted a black backed gull sitting low on the shore and watching something.I could see no otter but on closer inspection there was an otter eating a lumpsucker fish on the edge of the shore. As I walked to the spot where the otter had been I found the remains of the meal which the gull was waiting for. See below.
Finally be patient and chose a high vantage point to scan the water from and keep an eye out for the otters . Once your eye is in you will be amazed how familiar they become.
There is something wonderful about otters. Maybe it's their cute appeal, their curiosity or simply the fact that most people I know adore them. My first encounter with otters was at the age of six and to be honest I was a little nervous of them but over the years my fears developed into a deep love for these wonderful creatures.
Otter watching is often a frustrating experience as they have such a large radius in their territory that to find them can be like looking for a needle in a hay stack. Then comes those days when they are there in the pool, sleeping on the rock or simply swimming past your feed with endless curiosity. Magical moments that make the whole day beautiful.
What I have learned over the years is a simple approach to otter spotting and watching. It is one based on developing a trust with these small creatures and showing them respect. I do not believe it is necessary to hide away at a pool from them but it is far better to be visible, yet static.
Let me give an example of what I mean. Imagine your hiding behind a rock watching the otters. They are unaware of your presence and suddenly you need to stretch and make sudden movements. They become startled and quickly vanish from the pool. On the other hand to find a place beside a rock, where you are visible. I know this is against the grain but my greatest encounters with otters has come from this approach.
The image below is of a young otter having spotted me swims past me and then climbs out of the water. Sniffing the air, peering and trying to get to grips with this strange creature watching it. But who is watching who? I think you have guessed it. Yes we are the ones under scrutiny.