Otter offers photographic lesson

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The previous day, I had been doing a spot of fishing on my local stretch of the Ettrick and the level had risen a foot while I was there, after early morning rain.

It had rained steadily all evening after that, so I was prepared for a big spate next morning when I walked the dog.

I could hear it rushing before I saw it, as I approached through the trees. Sure enough it was chocolate brown and flowing fast and I was glad that most of the local sand martins (photo, top of page) had left their burrows, as they would surely have lost their broods to the rising waters.

As I walked along the slippery path through the riverside trees, the water was lapping the edges as it seeped through the long grass.

Suddenly there was a terrific splash at my feet and a huge black object dived through the inundated vegetation. It stopped to have a brief look at me and I could see that it was a large dog otter. With an almighty splash it disappeared into the brown torrent and was not seen again.

The moral of the story is that if you have a camera, wear it round your neck at the ready and not, as in this instance, securely zipped inside its case hanging round my back.

Reaching Murray’s Cauld, the river was perilously close to the groundworks surrounding the second attempt in recent years to restore the weir and install an electricity generator. It was a salutary warning to the contractors not to take wild Ettrick for granted, as even in the height of summer, it can bare its teeth to devastating effect.

On a recent trip to Hawick, I couldn’t help noticing a quite spectacular flower growing by the roadside near Dryden. It was big, pink and blousy and not like any of the native wild flowers in bloom at the time.

On the way back I stopped to have a better look and discovered that it was not indeed a native but an introduced plant, musk mallow. It has escaped into the countryside and has been around for a considerable time. When I informed the County Botanical Recorder of its location he told me: “It seems to come and go and was mentioned by the old botanists with J.A.H. Murray of New Oxford Dictionary fame describing it as ‘not a rare plant on rough bushy places’ around Hawick in 1863”.

I have only come across it a couple of times before in the wild, but as you can see here, it is a most handsome plant and would brighten up any garden.