Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Two Otters on the Harpeth River
The dogs and I went over to Edwin Warner Park today to see if we could find some Spring Peepers in the damp places in the fields along the Little Harpeth River. We took the paved footpath behind the Ensworth School, and walked along the Little Harpeth towards the Harpeth River. The two rivers join just east of the green trestle bridge that carries Highway 100 over the Harpeth. It was a quiet walk. No spring peepers and only one red-winged blackbird calling. We had just crossed over a metal footbridge when we startled an otter who had some business on the field side of the road. He ran for the river bank, and was gone. We had not gone another 25 feet before another otter ran from the field edge. I have never seen an otter along this river, and I have walked along it for 30 years. I have seen them at Radnor Lake. They sprawl on the logs at the water's edge along Otter Creek Road. I have also seen them in West Tennessee in the sloughs along the levees that line the Mississippi. I watched one play for ten minutes once. Then he saw me.
The closest I have ever been to one was at Cape San Blas in Florida. My rental had a private pier out into St Joseph Bay, and the otter and I were competing for blue crabs. Every day my two traps were empty. And then one morning I surprised him as he lay on the lower step of the dock. He was crunching a crab that I had trapped for him. I left the traps in a few more days, but he always beat me, for he had the home field advantage.
These Harpeth otters were not in a remote place. The Ensworth playing fields come down to the path, and on the other side of the river live people in the big fat brick houses that Williamson County specializes in. This path is so crowded on weekends that I won't go there. Runners run four abreast and ten behind, and as far as they are concerned everyone else has to walk in the weeds. But today was a quiet day. Rain was on the way, and I saw only one man on a bike. I guess the otters thought that they at last had the place to themselves.