by Kurt Zuelsdorf
Who doesn't love the otter? Their playful, care-free demeanor will forever capture my attention. Even watching them sleep is entertaining - laying on their back with feet up in the air or "spooning" one another on a bare rock in the sun...it's pure joy!
A couple visiting from Ontario toured Clam Bayou today. I'm always skeptic about a low-tide tour, but the sunshine and perfect temp (and quite frankly I was bored on land) lured us out the south pass to visit the oystercatchers & dowichers feeding on the flats between the jumping mullet & diving osprey.
The night herons held tight in the mangroves allowing us to get within arms length - never moving - just letting us pass quietly & even the usually "chatty" kingfisher was quiet & content today. Paddling through Brandt's lagoon the egret stood silently next to the wood stork beneath the soaring vultures and today...two bald eagles! In case you didn't know, Gulfport is partially known as an artists colony, but here on the bayou the pelicans are the true talent! Numbering almost twenty they've moved in for the Winter roost and the once green mangrove canvas of the gallery is being creatively splattered with pelican poo-paint! Such patterns... such artists...what creativity...is that a depiction of the Virgin Mary I see in the leaves? Come see for yourself and you tell me! Dropping into the narrows of the cross channel (once littered and choked with shopping carts) I'm thrilled to see nature restoring herself to the hard sand bottom. Now it's scattered with "nature's litter" - discarded tiny shells! Just before passing under the canopy into Magorrie Channel something big stirred off the bow. I first thought it to be a coyote, but it turned out to be two river otters bobbing and swimming right at us! My heart skipped a beat as I've not seen the otters for over 18 months and this was the first time someone (other than me) has seen them. The female was carrying something in her mouth and I'll be darned... it was a newborn otter pup! Discovering us she quickly dove and disappeared under the legs of the mangrove. The big male's curiosity on the other hand got the best of him as he barked and snorted at us. I scrambled for my camera that was buried in my dry bag and tried to get off a few shots, but the closer he came the more I excited I got. By the time he reached the front of my kayak I was trembling so wildly I couldn't keep the camera still and the photos only reveal shots of MY thumb, feet, leaves and blurred objects! Then he popped up right next to me with his mouth wide open. He wheezed while looking me straight in the eye then vanished like a ghost. I don't remember the last time I was so excited by a wildlife encounter...and hopefully with the successful rearing of the new otter pup it won't be our last in this place called Clam Bayou!
Kurt Zuelsdorf. Writer, Urban Tracker, Outdoor Enthusiast at Kayak Nature Adventures kayak and sup rentals