Friday, May 17, 2013

Otter encounter extraordinaire

Today my usual six-mile paddle included an extraordinary encounter with river otters. I was about 1-1/2 miles downriver from the Sauvie Island Bridge, near the mainland shore, and saw four little heads popped up in the water looking at me. I recognized immediately that they were otters. I stopped paddling, got out my camera and waited. They went underwater and came up and looked at me, repeating this three or four times. One scrambled up on shore and ran into the woods.

As I floated downriver, the other three otters stayed around my kayak, surfacing and then going under. I kept trying to take photos but it seemed like every time I'd get them in the frame they'd  go underwater.

Then at one point they disappeared, and then showed up just behind me scampering on a fallen log. I turned my kayak around and they stayed long enough to pose and watch me for me to take these photos.

Then two of them went on another log and I got a few photos of them. After that they turned and went upriver. I watched to see if they would surface, but didn't see them again. As far as I can recall, the only time I've ever seen more than one otter at once in the wild was kayaking years ago in Elkhorn Slough outside Monterrey, California -- and that place is a marine preserve known for its abundance of otters.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The skunk and Gertrude the mallard

                                         The first of 13 mallard eggs. Photo courtesy Monica Fetzer

When I moved to the houseboat I heard that the neighboring floating home two houses away regularly had mallards nesting in their river float's garden boxes. I wished for the mallards to nest on mine and I created what I understood to be a good nesting place -- a flower pot with hay inside and surrounding vegetation for privacy. But no luck.

This year new people live in that house -- Monica and George Fetzer -- and here's the story of what happened:
A mallard pair nested there -- see photo above -- and the female they named Gertrude laid 13 eggs. One of them got cracked and covered with ants, so they tosses that in the river. Twelve remained.
The eggs are suupposed to hatch  28 days from when  the last egg is laid. She doesn`t start sitting till they're all laid.

Then, as George described and Monica wrote, "Gertrude faithfully sat on them even as I planted my summer flowers all around her. She even endured a dinner party with 33 people, many of whom were quite interested in her. Three days before the eggs were due to hatch we were awakened to a very-close smell of skunk. day, no eggs. Darn. Maybe next year."

We were all disappointed and also shocked that a land animal like a skunk -- which we and our pets pungently experienced at various times when we lived in our land houses -- would defile our riverhouse existence!