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Otter magic on Scotland’s Isle of Mull


    Mull’s magical otters

    I spent a magical week filming a household of otters on the Isle of Mull. The Scottish peninsular is famend for its wild otters and didn’t disappoint.  The very second I arrived I used to be greeted by the sight of a canine otter fishing within the waters of the loch proper in entrance of the cottage I used to be to remain in. 

    otter on seaweed with loch water behind

    I couldn’t wait to begin filming and so deserted the job of unpacking and set my cameras rolling simply because the otter landed with a big fish. It was 60 metres from the cottage’s entrance doorstep. 

    The otter completed its meal and commenced looking alongside the shoreline. I adopted cautiously, solely shifting when it dove underwater and crouching down within the bracken simply earlier than it surfaced.  

    Following wild otters

    On this, halting, means I might observe the otter fairly intently with out it recognizing me. Because it travelled by way of the seaweed its lengthy, sinuous physique appeared as fluid because the water; twisting and turning by way of half-submerged rocks.   I observed the otter couldn’t resist leaving its spraint on just about each rock because it made its means alongside the shore. Clearly this was a dominant canine otter.  It was nightfall when it lastly drifted off to sleep on a rock just some metres off the shoreline. I watched, enthralled to assume {that a} mammal usually so elusive was so unaware of my presence it might fall to sleep.  


    Half an hour later the otter woke and after a brief scratch it slipped again into the water and was hunting once more.  When it got here to a spot the place a freshwater stream bumped into the ocean, the otter swam up the stream heading straight in the direction of me. I stood frozen to the spot because it started swirling round a small pool by a highway bridge, rinsing the salt water from its fur.  Then it swam below the bridge and climbed out of the water, leaving yet one more spraint on the rocks beside the stream earlier than heading off into the gloom.   It was too darkish to movie by now and so I turned again to the cottage, not fairly believing how fortunate I had been to have had such an in depth encounter so quickly after arriving.  

    wildlife photographer and artist robert e fuller looking down lens of camera on tripod


    Little did I do know that this was just the start of what turned out to be essentially the most unbelievable week of watching otters I’ve ever skilled.  The next morning the canine otter was out within the loch looking. I watched as he dove deep after which popped up like a cork. He was primarily catching butter fish that are sufficiently small for it to eat out at sea.  I spent the remainder of the day following him as he hunted, generally touchdown his catch if it was a crab or a bigger fish that wanted to be held down while he ate. 

    Discovering a household of otters

    His day adopted a sample of looking, resting, grooming after which heading again out to fish once more, and ended, just like the final, at a freshwater stream the place he drank, rinsed off, then headed inland.  However though I had discovered rather a lot watching him, what I actually needed to see was a feminine with cubs. And in order that night I headed out to see if I might discover a household.  As I set off, the canine otter was out at sea fishing once more. I left him to it and drove a couple of miles additional down the coast the place I noticed one other single otter fishing within the loch. Once more I handed on by, one thing I discovered tough to do since usually I’d really feel compelled to cease and watch. 

    otter fishing out in bay with dramatic clouds above

    Then, after scanning the shoreline each few hundred metres, I noticed not one, however two otters: a feminine with a cub virtually the identical measurement as she was. It was too darkish to movie by now so I simply watched them looking collectively alongside the sting of the loch.  Then they headed into a big pile of rocks below a lone mountain ash tree. One cub climbed onto a big rock and left a spraint earlier than disappearing out of sight. I suspected that this was their holt and so I returned at daybreak the next morning and waited.  

    Otter mum and cubs

    However after 5 hours there was nonetheless no signal of them and so I made a decision to go alongside the shore to see if I might discover them. Otters hunt at night time and this household might have travelled a good distance since I final noticed them. I noticed a ripple within the water. It was the feminine and her cub. It was now 15 hours since I had final seen these otters, however the wait had been value it as a result of I might now see there was a second cub with them. 


    I walked alongside the highway in the direction of them and simply as I used to be getting shut, all three otters got here out of the ocean and crossed the highway in entrance of me, heading inland.  At first I believed they is likely to be going to a different holt, however I watched them go by way of somebody’s backyard, throughout a stream after which again out to sea and realised they had been taking a 700m land detour to keep away from a busy fish farm. I positioned myself additional alongside their path, tucking myself into some rocks in order to not disturb them. There was little or no wind, but it surely was blowing inshore and so I used to be assured the otters wouldn’t be capable of scent me after they handed.  

    It was fascinating to see how the household hunted collectively, working as a staff. Swimming in tight formation, the cubs took their cue from the feminine. When she dove, they dove.  

    On this means they flushed out fish and because the fish tried to leap free, the otters caught them floundering within the seaweed.  The cubs had been completed hunters however each time the feminine caught a fish or a crab they hurried over to her, making a bow wave of their rush to seize at her catch. 


    More often than not she allow them to take it, however generally she fought them off and ate the prey herself.  Because the trio handed by my hiding place, I took my eye away from my digital camera lens to simply watch. One cub was a lot greater than the opposite. I guessed they had been a female and male.  I allow them to go by after which set off alongside the shoreline to attempt to get forward of them once more. Utilizing this method, I stored up with them for hour;, every time getting a bit forward after which ready for them to go.  

    On a couple of events the otter household paused to regroup, piling up collectively on the seaweed and grooming each other. The cubs would climb over the feminine as if she was simply one other rock. They had been nonetheless suckling milk and her physique was noticeably thinner when in comparison with her plump cubs. The tide was low and there was a number of bladder wrack seaweed floating within the shallow water. Because the otters handed beneath it the seaweed moved and infrequently an inquisitive otter head would come out. 


    The cubs the place playful and mischievous as they hunted, however the feminine was methodical.  After some time the household turned again. I watched them run throughout the highway to bypass the fish farm as soon as once more, and, assuming they had been heading again to their holt, I too headed again there. However regardless of ready by the holt for a complete of 5 hours, the otter household didn’t flip up.  

    Otters are elusive

    The next day I spent an additional eight hours looking for the feminine and her cubs and once more had no luck. Disheartened, I headed again to see if the canine otter was nonetheless out.  

    Certain sufficient he was there, fishing. I watched him head to a big yellow fishing buoy within the water. Amazingly he hauled himself up it and balanced precariously to go away a spraint on prime because the buoy wobbled about within the water. 


    I spent the afternoon watching this otter fish and groom. When he dozed off to sleep I made a decision to see if I might discover the feminine once more. By late afternoon I had discovered her, simply half a mile from the place I had seen her the day before today.  The household had clearly been trying to find a while as a result of the cubs appeared drained and stored making an attempt to twist as much as sleep on the rocks. However the feminine nuzzled them, encouraging them on.

    Otter cubs are drained

    Finally all of them curled up within the seaweed and he or she let the cubs suckle. Then, revived, they had been off once more, heading in the direction of the far finish of the loch. 

    I used to be to know what they’d do after they reached the sandy seashore on the finish, since right here the probabilities of discovering something to eat had been slim. However the feminine gathered her cubs up and swam throughout the loch as a substitute. 


    Collectively they crossed the half-mile of water, the feminine main the way in which along with her cubs streamlined in her slipstream. At instances the cubs tried climbing onto her again, however she swam on decided. Once they reached landfall on the opposite aspect, she ran up the shore into a big pile of rocks. I presume this was one other holt.  The tide was excessive the following morning and I quickly noticed the group fishing out at sea. Up till now I had solely seen them fish alongside the shoreline the place they had been typically hidden by seaweed and rocks, however now they had been catching butter fish within the deeper water and I had a clearer view of them.  

    However otter mum exhausted

    I noticed the male cub catch a crab and drag it onto the rocks. The females didn’t look ahead to him and by the point he re-entered the water he was 60 yards behind. He started peeping, a high-pitched enchantment for them to attend, however the females ignored his cries.  Then the feminine cub additionally landed a catch and was additionally left behind. The feminine glanced at them however then turned away. The cubs had been virtually large enough to not want fixed guarding and it was clear she was exhausted.    

    clouds reflected in loch on isle of mull scotland

    I noticed her slink away and curl as much as sleep on the shore. The cubs in the meantime discovered one another and known as out in unison, looking for her. She spent the remainder of the day alone, consuming and sleeping. She clearly wanted to regain her power.  However the subsequent day she was out with the cubs once more, all three looking collectively. Pipe fish and butter fish, blemming fish and crabs had been all on the menu. 

    Hazard looms for cubs

    Then I noticed her stiffen, holding her head low. I adopted her gaze and noticed the canine otter fishing close by. Canine otters is usually a risk to cubs if they don’t seem to be associated. The feminine rapidly gathered up the cubs and all three began to swim so sleekly they barely made any ripples. Otters do that when they’re in stealth mode.  It wasn’t lengthy, nonetheless, earlier than all of them settled again to fishing. Clearly the hazard had handed.  


    Then all of them got here to a small rock pool, simply large enough to suit all three otters, and there was a second of pure pleasure because the cubs began taking part in with a stone, taking it in turns to chase and push it round with their noses and paws.  Finally the household moved on and got here to a stream the place I had seen the canine otter earlier than. I observed them sniff the bottom the place the canine otter had left its spraint they usually all left contemporary spraint on prime of it. Then they drank and headed up stream, washing off in a pool earlier than heading below a highway culvert. 

    Otterly magical

    Half an hour later the male caught up with them. He had smelled their scent and was rigorously tracing their steps, making his territory a number of instances as he went. Then he headed up the culvert after them. I waited, listening intently, however there was no sound or signal of the otters. I hoped that he was the daddy of those cubs and that every one was effectively.  On my remaining day I had a couple of hours to spare earlier than I caught the ferry and so I went all the way down to the shore for one final search for the otters. The solar was rising and the canine otter was already out at sea. The water was so nonetheless and each time he surfaced he created golden rings of sunshine. It was magical. 

    otter catching fish at sun rise