End of term – so I missed the deadline for Gardening Gone Wild’s Picture This competition. The theme was movement; make the blur work. I’d taken a few feeble shots, none worth processing, let alone entering. Today I discovered ten day old pics on my small camera, taken to explain to Lucas, my foreman, how the irrigation works. (If you’re wondering, on the same principle as a coiled hose opened strongly which then snakes around wetting your ankles – and makes mischief by shooting in through an open window or finding your camera on a table meters away, whilst you hop around trying to grab it by the neck.) An excellent concept when it works and impossible to fix when it doesn’t, which is why this brilliant and cheap system has simply faded away instead of taking over the world. It looks like this, although what you see with the naked eye is basically an opening and closing cone:
That could have been an entry – or even one from a somewhat better series I took years ago, if I looked deeply into my archives. Or this could have been my entry:
I have known for forty years that there are otters that visit our dams. Once, thirty years ago when one could still look over Freddy’s Dam from afar, before so many trees and shrubs grew along it, I saw an otter from a distance. But it noticed I was there and disappeared. Over the years I twice saw from my window, meters away from the water, larger concentric rings than those caused by fish or fowl, and realised that the odd squirming was an otter playing in the shallows. Then eventually, and with the help of binocs, I spent ten minutes watching one at play, until the dogs were alerted by its splashing, went out and barked, and it disappeared without so much as a bubble to show its retreat.
Today I again saw those rings on Freddy’s Dam, saw the movement near the overflow – then nothing. And expecting nothing I crossed over the dam wall. As we got to the overflow the dogs barked excitedly and dashed down the stream. I followed, a lot slower. Then there was barking from the upper edge of the Makou Dam, and snorting. My blood ran cold as I called off the dogs. I thought they had flushed a bushpig, by far the most dangerous animal we have.
But this was a different sound – and when I caught up, the dogs, holding back uncertainly, partially listening to me and partially not knowing what to make of the situation, were much too close for comfort to this inquisitive creature, as keen to figure out what we were as we it.
Standing ankle deep in cold mud, my camera on the wrong setting, I again called off the dogs. There were two otters, and they were not about to go into hiding… I had to skirt this area, calling off the dogs all the time, heading for a point where I could look down on them. In the gewaldt the otters were separated. I watched them get back together in the safety of the middle of the dam, kiss, and then proceed to inspect us further!
Why were these shyest of creatures so bold? Is it mating season? Like us, do they tend to throw caution to the wind when the urge hits? I’d love to know! But what we had, spread over a good five minutes until I decided I better get the dogs away, was a photo session which despite poor light I would describe as not too shabby.
Pity it all happened three days too late. On the other hand: it was worth waiting thirty years for.