Tuesday 11 December 2012

OTTER at Cerkniško jezero!

Today I had a stop at the Cerknica lake (in Slovenia) on my way back home from "official business" in Ljubljana. It proved to be a very wise idea.
It was a wonderful day for being outdoors with about -10° to -1° C (coldish), but with a bright sun shining all over the snowy countryside. There must have been about 1 metre of snow on the ground. So I had a nice walk into the snow up to the knees (and sometimes even deeper). The walk brought me to my usual "watchpoint" above the lake, where I had a good view over the main unfrozen water bodies. As soon as I began scanning, a huge perched silhouette appeared on a short pole - an adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLE. It was perched near the biggest water body which contained a thousand or more Mallards, +20 Teals, 9 female Tufted Ducks, a few Coots and some Mute Swans. It stayed there for a long time and sometimes changed perches - also seen on the other side of the lake in the afternoon:
Minutes after the eagle discovery, I was about to have a heart attack when a Coypu-shaped animal appeared in my scope. Coypus are of course (and unfortunately) common around freshwater places, but here one would appear a bit out of place. And after the first look I realized this was no Coypu... it was an OTTER! The animal was quite distant (maybe 1 km away), somewhere right at the centre of the lake. It was showing well, completely out of water, while feeding on the ice. I could watch it for 6 minutes and see all the main features, including the strong, smooth tail, elongated head profile and smooth fur (see pics). Sometimes it moved around a bit and showed even better. Then, after finishing its meal, it dived into the water, never to be seen again.
What an animal! In Slovenia, Otters inhabit places like the Cerknica lake, but they are far from numerous, quite localised, extremely shy and hard to see - especially by day. I still think about the Otter as a "ghost animal"... a bit like the Lynx. I think I had a considerable amount of luck today and maybe the icy conditions influenced the animal's activity.

The third highlight of the day followed shortly afterwards when I heard the characteristic call of COMMON CRANES. I looked up and saw a flock of 17 birds flying SW, high over the lake. The firsts of the season, lovely!
Otherwise it was a bit quiet, with not even a single Great Grey Shrike seen (usually present in the area). The only other thing of interest were some mid-sized flocks of Fieldfares hopping on the ice edges all around the water bodies. Also quite funny to hear two Water Rails responding to a dog's barking.
 And here some magnificent landscape views to round up the day