Last Sunday we wanted to get outside a bit and decided to go birding. We didn't have a lot of time so we went to a spot nearby that we like, Hammon Grove and Sycamore Ranch, off Hwy 20 between Grass Valley and Marysville. While we saw a few birds it turned out to be a day of "ottering"! We saw this family of river otters in Dry Creek, which feeds into the Lower Yuba River, and spent nearly 2 hours watching them fish, eat, play and groom. What an amazing treat!
We started in Hammon Grove, which is a small day use area with river access, with a creek flowing through it. We spotted this otter as we pulled in and followed him downstream until he got up on this log to eat a fish he caught. Unfortunately he ate the fish on the other side of the log before moving to this side to check me out.
Then we moved on to Sycamore Ranch, which is right next door to Hammon Grove and has a nice campground, a nice day use area and river access. We thought we were done with our "ottering" but saw this whole family of otters.
Otters are incredibly social, doing most everything together, and they seem to enjoy "playing" with one another.
They are also extremely good fishermen. We saw these otters catch countless fish. I noticed that none of them tried to steal the others' catch, but that could be because food was so plentiful in this creek. They all seemed extremely well fed.
This photo, and the one below is of what I think is the matriarch or patriarch of this group - probably the matriarch. She seemed larger than the other otters and seemed to keep an eye on us and watch over the group. I thought she was quite beautiful, and she seemed to sniff the air sometimes to get a whiff of what we were about (below).
I read this morning that North American River Otters can live up to 7-8 years, and up to 20 years in captivity. Watching this group play, fish, swim and lounge I couldn't help thinking that life is good as an otter in the wild - a terribly romantic notion, I know, but I was so completely captivated by this group that I wanted to get out in the river with them!