Monday, January 17, 2022
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Otter songs

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | January 5, 2022 6:15 AM

It was New Year’s Eve and there was no around. The first night of clear skies since I don’t know when. Clear means cold in Glacier on the last day of December and it was that, about 4 below, but no wind.

I won’t say it was nice, because I decided to ease out into the creek a bit with the camera and tripod to line up the shot, but I eased a bit too much and in a few seconds I realized my mistake as the water seeped into my boots and soaked my socks.

I had gone over that line where the boot was no longer rubber, but just leather.

This is why I hate night photography, I thought.

Still, I kept taking photos, and there were birds calling, singing in the cold, thick, air except I was wrong, because there are no birds that I know of that sing at night in Glacier National Park on New Year’s Eve.

Not even owls sing like that.

No, these singers had four feet and long, slick tails and were made for this cold, this frigid water. This singing was the sweet calls of river otters, one on one side of the creek and the other and the far side.

This song was a series of squeaks that was easy to mistake for birds, except for the splashing and the snorting, which otters are far more prone to do.

I shined my headlamp out over the steaming water, hoping to catch a glimpse, the shine of an eyeball, but nothing — they were too far off.

So I stuck the headlamp in my pocket. My hands were too cold to shut it off. It’s funny how your fingers can freeze when your feet are wet.

I kept taking pictures as best I could for about a half hour, but eventually I could no longer feel my hands. My fingers were something merely attached to the end of my arms. I could no longer press the shutter button down, or if I could, it was torture to hold it down. It was as if the flesh were peeled off the bone.

The otters splashed out in the water not too far ahead, fishing by the light of the stars and the feel of their magnificent whiskers.

They huffed and snorted and I smiled in my small and insignificant suffering, a fitting beginning to Twenty-Twenty-Two.

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