Posts from the ‘otters’ Category

Virtually Live 16—Porcupines, Otters, Mink, Sandhill Cranes and more…”Early” spring in Sax-Zim Bog


Virtually Live 16: Sax-Zim Bog in early Spring: Birding—S2E1 April 2021

Birding in the Sax-Zim Bog in April can often mean birding in snow…and we had snow on both mornings of shooting…April 14 & 19….but the birds are returning! In Virtually Live 16 (Season 2, Episode 1)  we search for Sandhill Cranes in the hopes of capturing video of them performing their courtship dance. Sparky finds a cooperative and cute Porcupine along Nichols Lake Road, Ring-necked Ducks on Nichols Lake, and he shares some very cool sightings from this past winter and early April—Great Gray Owl, Porcupine, River Otter, Mink.

Lovey Dovey River Otters

Well, it is Valentine’s Day after all…and the pair of River Otters appears to be a cuddly couple, nuzzling, hugging, rolling around together. But now the romantics may want to quit reading and just watch the video, as the lovey dovey couple is probably a female and last year’s pup. Males and females don’t stick together very long after mating. Most groups of multiple otters we see are probably mom and offspring. Sorry.

But their behavior is quite interesting. You see quite a bit of preening and allopreening (mutual preening in social animals that helps maintain bonds). Otters must preen often to keep their fur waterproof. They dry it off by rolling in the snow or ice, then “comb” the fur with their claws, and rub oils from their underfur into the hairs. They are also rather vocal…”talking” with chortles, snuffles, snorts, huffs, and growls. You’ll also see them munching minnows…On this day I didn’t witness them eating any other food.

This video was shot last week on the St. Louis River only about 7 miles from my house. I cross the river every day on the way to preschool/work and there are often River Otters lounging on the ice near open leads.

Otterly Funtastic!

Late March is when River Otters seem to become more visible on the St. Louis River. Maybe it’s because the river ice is breaking up and they spend more time loafing/feeding/playing on the shelf ice conveniently located next to open water. Or maybe that’s when I stop on the Fond du Lac bridge to scan for critters.

Just recently I spotted a family group (five total) using a thin crack in the ice as their access to the river’s surface. I set up my camera and tripod so I could just peek over the edge of the railing and so not disturb them. I watched them for at least 45 minutes. One would come to the surface and drop two or three minnows from its mouth onto the ice, munching the bunch quickly before slipping effortlessly and silently back into the water. Sometimes two would appear and they would bask in the morning sun for a brief minute. One spent a couple of minutes preening its dense water repellant fur.

I love otters…They just seem to love life. Play is as important to them as eating it seems. When traveling overland in winter and across wind-swept lakes, they will run and slide on their bellies for great distances…run…slide…run…slide. I’ve seen three together on the ice, rolling, tussling, having a grand time. We could learn something from otters…Like my mother always said, “Work hard, Play hard” (at least I think she said that).

Most of these images are looking down on the otters from 40 feet up on a bridge…Not a great technique for wildlife photography. You don’t get as intimate a portrait as with eye-level images. The last shot is eye-level and it was taken a week ago on another stretch of the St. Louis when I crawled on my belly across the ice to the shelf’s edge. Every time the otter dove, I’d work my way closer. The otter was fine with me until I crossed that invisible line of his comfort zone…and then he was gone.