In Alaska in 2012, I was thrilled to see sea otters on little ice floes, and river otters flitting around not so far from their cousins. All my life though I have hoped to see otters here in my own country.
Today that dream came true.
Not in a zoo or a wildlife park, although they serve their purpose, but out in the wild. I had seen paw prints in the past, and knew of one or two spots where they are said to frequent, yet they remained elusive. Otters quite sensibly steer clear of people if they can, although they have been seen in the heart of Edinburgh.
Following a tip-off, I visited a location within a 30 mile radius of Edinburgh with friends. We had a relatively arduous walk to the spot, located what we thought was the holt and sat in the bitterly cold wind for quite some time before the mother emerged, squeaking as she swam off out of sight.
We continued to sit yet longer. There was a fair bit of squeaking behind us out of sight which I initially put down to being birdsong. Eventually however, I got up to investigate and soon beckoned my friends to join me in the greatest of stealth. We needn't have worried - the two kits we found clearly hadn't learned fear of humans yet, and continued to call back and forth whilst we all thrilled at observing creatures we hadn't dared hope that we might see.
Eventually one decided to swim back to the holt, leaving the other one squeaking away where we'd found it. Given the holt wasn't far away, we decided at that point to leave them alone.
A first for all of us and a unforgettable experience.