The best wildlife sightings are the ones that are least expected. We’ve lived in Durham for over 10 years and knew that Otter and Kingfisher are sometimes seen on the river. But despite spending a lot of time running and wandering around the riverbanks I’ve not managed to catch a glimpse.
However about a month ago, on a cool sunny February evening around dusk, I was running along the river path near to Baths Bridge. Out of the corner of my eye (as they say on Most Haunted), I thought I saw something. It was the briefest of glimpses but I was pretty certain I’d seen an otter.
I fished my iPhone out of my bum bag, walked slowly to a good vantage point, and waited. Just a glimpse. Sure enough, another glimpse.
All these years of vigilance, and when I least expect it, an otter. Unfazed by the people around. And apparently fishing.
My excitement and slightly odd behaviour was becoming noticeable and while some walkers gave me a suspicious look and wide berth, many others realised what I was watching, and before long little clusters of people were staring and pointing their smartphones at the river.
Any thoughts at a structured training run had long been abandoned and I continued to parallel walk alongside the otter which seemed completely unconcerned at the audience it had attracted.
I was beginning to recognise its behaviour by now and found that often there was a tiny tell-tale trail of air bubbles that would give a clue to where it might surface again. It seemed to be steadily meandering its way upriver to Baths Bridge.
My final sighting was on the racecourse side of Baths Bridge. I’d seen the otter head onto the riverbank and so I stood and waited. I could see it heading straight towards me and I resisted any temptation to move or try and get into a better position. At the last moment it saw me, and headed down the bank and into the river, as much startled by me as the cyclists and walkers who chatted by about the same time.
A magical few minutes. Totally unexpected, and all the more special because of it.