There was activity on the pier and I went to see what was going on. I went the back way over the small stile in the low wall and onto the pier patch. The pier patch is a piece of rough ground that separates the garden and the Cottage from the sea and the pier. On the seaward side a wall was created when the pier was extended in 1997 to provide a buffer for any changes to the tide that might take place as the pier was pushed out into the bay. It is covered by course grass and fennel.
I walked over to the sea wall from where I would be able to look out over the pier. The tide was out and my eye was caught by what looked like a scrunched up doormat lying on the rocks below. I almost looked away but thought better of it and as I did so I realised I was looking at a sleeping otter just six feet below me. I stepped forward to take a closer look and found that I was standing directly above it. It was curled round itself close to an old black flip that had lost its flop and a piece of knotted blue rope and a clump of dried seaweed. At first it was so still I thought it might be dead. But then it shifted slightly so I could see its black tail.
I stood there watching it for about two minutes hardly daring to move again in case it shot off back to the water. It looked bedraggled and tired and gave no impression that it was going to move. I edged gently back to get my camera.
There was no-one in the garden so I shot inside the house and made my way back to the rock. I fully expected it to have gone but it was still there.
I took a couple of pictures, evidence that I had seen it, again expecting that squeak the camera made as I turned it on and the click as each picture was taken would scare it off. Apart its breathing it didn’t move.
I got down to my knees and then lay down flat on the rock so I was looking out directly above it less than five feet away know.
It stirred now and lifted its head and pulled out a paw from under itself so I could see the webbing between its toes. It then started to lick down its fur. It had obviously only just come out of the water and its coat was still damp. One of its eyes had a milky look to it and there were pale pink patches on its nose.
It paused every so often to shift position and a couple of times it looked up directly at me but did not seem to see me. There was an old and tired look to it. I was torn between continuing to watch and going back to get others to come have a look.
It was getting more active now. Getting up on its feet and walking round before carrying on with its grooming and then it was gone walking quickly into one of the gaps in the rocks below where I was lying.
I went back then to tell what I had seen. Not surprisingly there was a rush of kids to the pier patch all wanting a look. Again to my surprise it was back on the rock but this time there was too much noise and it quickly disappeared back into the rocks.
Later that afternoon there was shout from one of the kids on the pier. They’d seen the otter again sitting in one of the grey rubber tenders eating a crab. The crack remains of the shell were lying in the bottom of the boat. There were sure it was a different animal.
Talking to Tommy later he asked if it might have been a mink. Rather too quickly I assured him it was an otter because of its size.
However having now looked up mink in Ireland I am no longer 100% sure. Mink in Ireland are bigger than I thought they were growing up to 50 – 65 cm. It is very unusual to see an otter and this one seemed to be remarkably unconcerned by my presence. If it was an otter then it must have been old and infirmed to have stayed there so long. I think it was an otter. They have more pronounced webbed feet and these are clearly visible, the coat was not as dark as a mink and there was a pronounced pale patch on its chest. Any thoughts?