Here in Shetland an otter 'holting up' in a man made structure is actually not all that uncommon. Anywhere with an old boat shed, barn or outhouse close to the shore can be an option to an otter seeking the comfort that such buildings offer. It seems to be that these provide what an otter seeks from any holt which in short is somewhere sheltered and dry and usually quiet and undisturbed that they can feel safe and a derelict old barn with the roof caved in was exactly the home this mother chose for her two cubs.
I'm leading an otter itinerary this week for a cameraman which is going really well. In a quest to shoot otters from a more unusual perspective I went to check out an old barn otters often use, which they still are. Anyway, I was sharing the experience of this little assignment from a a couple of winters back and so I had the thought to post about it.
It was actually a tip off that led me to this family. A good friend of ours Julie Thomson told me of an otter she'd seen crossing the road in exactly the same place on her way to work twice in one week, as she drove along a shoreside road carrying a peerie fish. I knew this only meant one thing- she must have young cubs close by and I knew there was an old barn she'd used before. Investigating the following day, it was clear it was being used and so I set up Bushnell camera's to see what was happening and if I could photograph them in daylight. Sure enough, after a week of the trail camera being in place, I could see from video sequences triggered by the motion sensor that she had two young cubs and that on days that she was using it, she left between 8 and 9 each morning- I had a chance...!
It took me three mornings, sneaking in to an adjacent barn- also dilapidated but this gave me the ideal place to hide. However in order to get a clear view of the door without them knowing I was hiding, I had to shoot through a hole in the roof, over the wall head and to see through it, had to stack a pile of old fish boxes to get high enough. Precarious but it worked.