Thursday, July 12, 2007

A 12 inch pianist

UPDATES - see bottom

OK, my hard-rocking cryptozoological amigos, this is your Head of Department speaking...

Careful what you wish for. As a softie Sassenach git, I often wish it would get
a little hotter here in Newtonhill. Well today, I got a little otter! That is a terrible pun on a par with the joke about the 12 inch pianist. Was down at the cliffs at 5.30 am, and bit of a gull commotion going on - saw they were mobbing a Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) swimming north about 50 m offshore. I did not expect to get one of them on my patch list! It just kept going, surfacing, with head exposed, then going under for a bit with a flip of a big muscly spiky tail. I snapped a couple of rubbish phone-cam pictures, of which more at the bottom, and then had a bit of a seawatch.

This is what 5.30 am looks like off the Aberdeen coast.

Seawatch... a flat calm sea and generally quiet, though with a couple of Harbour Porpoises (cue the joke about the Prince and the Porpoise) and an Atlantic Grey Seal to continue the mammal theme. Can tell there was not a lot of movement from 54 Northern Gannets going north and 30 south in 1 .25 hours (i.e. not many about, and mostly going in circles). 46 Sandwich Terns went south, and 2 each of Common and Arctic Terns north. 7 Manx Shearwaters north at a distance, 16 Common Scoters north, and 2 annoying small waders south. 1 Arctic Skua south, then just as I was giving up at 6.45, a Pomarine Skua went north about 100 m offshore. First of the autumn.

Got home and downloaded my Otter photos, and they're a bit crap - head, shadow, bit of a wake, and yet strangely familiar... where had I seen them before? And then it rang a bell - remember in May there was a new video of the 'Loch Ness Monster' on all the international news, filmed by a scientist, so it must be true? My otter photos were both intriguingly and compellingly similar. Take a look at this below - two Nessie stills above, 2 Newtonhill Otter pics below.

So with the usual exhaustive level of careful thought, analysis, and attention to fine video detail, I'm writing my next paper... 'Does the Loch Ness Monster persist in north central Scotland, or is it a big fat Otter?' Look out BMC Biology.

See Lindsay's comment. You have to go see the Pine Munchers for some genuine Scottish 'kent' calls.
And it chokes me to say it, but you also have to go and see the second comment here


Lindsay said...

Oh no ! Not a paper on 'paddle' rates of Eurasian Otter versus extinct marine dinosaurs(biomechanics obviously calculated from skeletal structure and body mass ratios )! ;-).

While you are contemplating the insanity of that you might want to check out this pioneering and groundbreaking work on IBWO Kent Calls (and I wasn't even trying I'll have you know ! ). Here :

Camera Trap Codger said...

Cool observation Martin. Birds have no problem recognizing predators, even predators of fish. But otters also eat immature birds, like little ducks. I recently learned that river otters in Marin County's Rodeo Lagoon in California are wreaking havoc on the endangered brown pelicans there. They are killing adult pelicans and carrying them to their dens to feed young. Quite a feat. Seems toxic algal blooms have knocked down the fish population there.