November 2020
“Pandemic Perspectives”
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The Sainsbury’s Otter - Liz’s scenic-route return from shopping leads to a magical sighting on the Water of Leith
It’s Saturday morning and I’ve just done my weekly top-up shopping at the Sainsbury garage on Lanark Road. Bread, yoghurt that sort of thing. I drop down the steps behind the garage and pause on the footbridge which leads over the Water of Leith into the new Kinleith Mill estate. Once I saw a kingfisher there. So I look upstream over the roiling shallows where half the river bubbles over stones and shingle, while on the right hand side it’s dark brown and deep: hard against the old retaining wall. And I see a small grey-brown dog with its head under water and its wet fur sleeked back. Then it raises its head. And it’s not a dog: it’s an otter! Hunting where the water froths back up after it’s poured over the stones . It steadies itself against the flow, lifts its head and eats…eagerly, messily, so I can see its teeth. Him? Her? I don’t know but it’s an adult anyway and off again twisting, turning, tumbling in the water. When it does a full somersault its tail comes up with a quick flip, flop before its snout surfaces again. Other times it twists in the flow like a ribbon in the wind. “Look” I say to Lycra Man who edges past, “an otter!” “Aha” he says, “and there’s the heron too.” A woman shows more interest and tries to get a photo on her phone. But the otter’s further away now and scrambling over the stones where the kids built half a dam during lockdown. Then it stops and looks up. Perhaps it sees or smells me high on the bridge above. Though it doesn’t seem that alarmed, it splashes across to the deeper water and slides quietly, elegantly, under. And it’s gone. I wait for another five minutes. Nothing. Not even the heron. But it was Saturday 10 am, broad daylight behind Sainsbury’s garage. Fabulous!
Helen Boden 01