[Tweeters] Hearing Otters

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Dec 3 09:12:53 PST 2014

Late yesterday afternoon - qualifying as evening light now, as we slowly rotate into another Puget Sound winter - I learned more about River Otters.

Yup, it's those Marine Science Center otters again, here in Port Townsend. The sun was low, but still up, when I zipped out to Point Wilson to scan the calm waters for birds, but low clouds off to the west cut out the good lighting for that.
So I walked out on the pier, and spotted a River Otter on the float right away. It soon dove off the float into the water. At the same time I heard a loud chirping , which I'd heard down here once before - I had no idea what this bird was, and the sound seemed to be emanating from under the pier.
A young woman standing on the pier was also watching the otter, and mentioned "the other one". I wondered what other one, and she said "oh, hear it ?", and I realized she was talking about the loud chirping, which I read later, is a locator call the otters use to find each other. I didn't know that.
Well, the first otter wasn't returning the call - that's because it had just caught a fairly large (16") Sole, and had it's mouth full. The otter pulled it up on a low bit of pier structure, and started chewing it up. Then the second otter showed up, and I was curious what would happen. In my last report I noted that I'd yet to see these creatures complete over a meal -an idea that seemed too unlike a 'weasel' to be true - and sure enough, the second otter made a few moves toward the other catch, although not too aggressively.
The second otter started making dives down into the clear water, each time coming up with something to eat. The second dive produced the tail end of some sort of largish free-swimming fish - it had already been partially eaten. After eating that, the otter came up with a fair sized gunnel (an eel-like fish, this one the color of red algae), and ate that.
It dove again, and as it blooped out of the water this time, it did a big leap over the back of the otter with it's sole-food dinner, and stole its fish in a quick grab - both otters growling like big cats! So now I know some otter sounds.
Jeff Gibsonhearing otters, inPort Townsend Wa

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