Riverside encounter with an otter family: Country diary, 14 May 1945

Cumberland
An ever lengthening line of bubbles beading the stale, still backwater where a tributary enters the main river betokened the movements of an otter or otters to a deep pool in which they were to play or fish. It was just past midday. The sun beat down on the water over which danced or fluttered insects that a moment or two before had ended the nymph stage of their life cycle. Almost incredulously we watched three sleek heads emerge; we could scarce believe that at this time of day a mother and two half-grown cubs were showing their faces in freedom from disturbance and danger. The cubs, after their hours of confinement in a holt under a sycamore, were in a mood for high jinks. They romped like puppies, seizing each other by the scruff of the neck in a determination to down and hold each other under the water until one should ask for mercy. All this to the accompaniment of squealing and snorting, the sound of which stirred the curiosity and anxiety of the nesting sandpipers and waterhens.

The mother otter meantime was too busy diving for eels and munching them as they writhed in her jaws to give more than a casual glance at her charges. Twenty minutes passed before she whistled to her youngsters that it was time to leave. We saw the happy family swim with heads boldly out of the water down a rough stream brawling on its way to the next salmon pool.

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