For a wildlife photographer the Clarion River offers a multitude of subjects. Aside from the beauty of the river itself as it winds down through the valley there are critters galore. It is rare for us to drive along the Clarion or paddle downriver without seeing Bald Eagles. Their population seems to be growing nicely along this river which suggests a good source of food like trout and bass. Ducks are a common sight along the river with Mergansers, Mallards and Wood Ducks being quite common. Aside from birds there are turtles, muskrats, beavers and the list goes on and on.
Just recently we got word from a friend that some River Otters were spotted on the river. When we heard that we were on a mission to find these awesome mammals. A couple days after hearing this we headed to the river early in the morning determined to find these playful critters. After walking along the river for nearly two hours we spotted one Otter working his way along the bank. As we followed we realized there were now 4 Otters. These Otters were in constant motion as they worked their way upriver and they seemed to be making it a point to keep a safe distance for us. Photographing Otters provides a formidable challenge as they are constantly diving or porpoising in search of a tasty fish. While we did manage to shoot over 50 pics the distance and the haze coming off the water made for some mediocre images but nonetheless we did get some pictures that we will cherish. Without the 600mm I don't believe we would have gotten anything worth saving. The best opportunity of a closeup was when I took a tumble jumping from boulder to boulder and ended up slamming my body against the ground. As I laid there one of the Otters left the water and scrambled right past me only a few feet away. He decided to run across the rocks instead of fighting the strong current to get up with his buddies. My wife thought this was really funny. Had she been holding one of the cameras she may have captured a hilarious picture.
So what is so cool about an Otter you may be asking. Well for one thing it is very rare to see them along the Clarion. It's not that they are really that rare but it's very unusual to see them. The fact that we got to see and photograph 4 of them was awesome. They are an extremely playful critter and we got to witness a couple of them wrestling on a rock. They are very good fisherman and we got to see them grab fish after fish. They are much larger than you might imagine. They length ranges from 26-42 inches and a male may weigh over 30 pounds. The powerful tail which propels them though the water can be 20 inches in length. They have a stocky elongated body with short stout legs and webbed feet. They get along well in the water and on land. They can hold their breath underwater for over 5 minutes while some claim 9 minutes. I won't dispute either claim.
Our morning with the Otters was a time we will treasure for years to come. We spent the next two days trying to locate them and came up empty but that sure doesn't mean we are giving up that easy. We are on a mission to get better pics and maybe some video to share with all of you.
That's two Otters on a rock. One just caught a fish.
You don't see this just everyday. We were pumped!
Two Otters wrestling on the rock while the other watches.
Wonder what they are looking at.
Count them, one, two, three and four.
Awesome story and photos. You should feel so blessed to have had this rare and wonderful encounter.
Superb photos, Tom. Those last two are prize winners for sure.
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