Tuesday, November 22, 2011

... Another Otter

We all have special things that make our hearts sing … grandchildren’s smiles, a favorite tune, a robin’s song bubbling forth in the early morning ….. otter. I have lots of things that make my heart sing. Otter are on the short list. They are playful, affectionate, elusive, and different.
I know I posted about otter recently, but I can never get enough of otters and I hope you will enjoy a different peek into the life of an otter. This one was alone, almost surely a mature male. He was large and in a location only occasionally visited by otter. We found him swimming in the little pond, Hart Lake, at Wildlife Safari.

An otter spots us and dives. I fear he is leaving as quickly as possible; but, no. The trail of bubbles rising to the surface shows he is searching about in the murky water. He pops up, looks about and dives again. But he isn’t coming up with anything. About six dives later he swims to the far side of the tiny island in the middle of Hart Lake and bounces up onto the ten foot long dock.
I start sketching the otter but I’m torn. Do I split my attention between sketching and watching, or do I just soak it all in? To sketch I have to hold my binoculars with one hand and balance the sketchbook on my lap … and I miss half the action. Meanwhile Dale is clicking away with the camera. I’ll draw from his photos after we’re home.
The otter is using the dock as a grooming spot. He came out with a slip of water drenching his fur. Now he rubs his back, the top of his head, his belly on the dry boards. It is an energetic process. Wiggling and turning he rubs the easy moisture off, then starts to lick various parts of his anatomy. Otter remind me of a long furry bag, half filled with heavy jello. His body molds to the boards.
A little scratching is in order too.
Feet get special attention. I don’t believe I ever got to see an otter’s feet so well. They are almost hand-like. His digits are very flexible; more like a raccoon’s hands than a dog’s paw. I know there is webbing between the toes, but I can’t see that part. Webbed feet and a very muscular tail give him the ability to be an awesome force underwater.
Proper grooming takes far longer than I expected -- more than twenty minutes. Now he closes his eyes and settles in for a nap. His fur looks rich and dry. I wish I could run my fingers through it.

When we get home I feel like our long gone cat sitting on the window sill, itching to get at the bird feeder -- only I'm itching to start drawing the otter from Dale's photos.


  1. I am sitting reading about your ' friend' and have a big smile on my face. This is so delightful!!!!!

  2. Elva this is beautiful you'r sketches tell me a story also without your words!!! But I like very much also read you!!!

  3. I can see why you are so enamored of these animals. They have such sweet faces and are so animated. Your sketches capture their lively spirit.

  4. You can talk and sketch and write about otters until the....cows come home! I love, love, love these little imps (not so little either)! You sketch of him on his back reminds me of one our cats when he sleeps on his back, but by far, I love the sketch of the sleepy otter.

    Thanks for the special treat and for sharing it with us!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  5. Oh they are so adorable. I wish I could see one in person like this. They are all frameable. I especially like the first one peeking up out of the water. Your Work is so amazing. More of these please!!

  6. Just love all the poses and the story, and he was right here in our play ground! Wish I had been there , too!

  7. Really adorable! I love the part about the bag of jello. That is a great description!

  8. Nice pictures! Love the one where he's lying on his back.

  9. I totally understand your otter-love. The painting of the otter relaxed on its back, probably basking in the sun or just digesting its food is wonderful. Aren't they super playful and skilful?
    Very nice work!

  10. Great Otter positions and studies. They are very fun to watch.