Otter Morning

Otter Morning

Last Sunday was special.  We didn’t go to church so I rode my bike for eight miles.  Came in sweaty and tired.  Looked out the back of the house and screamed at my husband,  “John, get your camera.”  He looked quizzical.  “Don’t stop. Just do it…there are four otters on our dock.”

We bolted into the bedroom, which has a window that faces the dock.  Lake Iona was sparkling and the otters were lolling about.  John tried a few shots through the glass but there was glare.  “I’m going out the front and try to sneak around the side,”  he said, tiptoeing out the door.

Meanwhile, I watched the river otters, who seemed not quite full-grown–teenagers, perhaps–cavort on the deck.  The scratched on the floor boards, rolled around and commenced to groom as if they were dogs or cats, scratching behind their ears.  They even groomed each other.  At this point I presumed these otters were more than just friends.

But I had friends, mostly neighbors who needed to see this! I calling around and soon there was a small crowd of seven — representing three generations — in the bedroom.  (I told everyone to come to the front door, and then I just herded them in.)

You have to picture this–John creeping around from tree to tree in the backyard with his camera, and meanwhile, in the master suite, an unmade bed and darkness.

Everyone likes to look out the back window
Everyone likes to look out the back

Only one window was open to the sunlight so we could see what was going on outside. Various gasps and giggles could be heard, since the otters were nothing if not entertaining.  Tales began to be told–one of the neighbors said he was just leaving the house, his family was already in the car when he heard the tail/tale end of my message (sorry about the pun).  “Something about otters and a dock, ”  he told his family. His wife knew instantly what the message was about, ” Oh, we must go to the Swanks,” she said,  and in they hurried to see our show.

I also told the story of a previous otter visit when an otter swam by our house and picked up a dead fish, killed during a cold snap.  The otter grabbed it, took it out into the lake and then changed his mind.  He swam back to the same spot and REPLACED THE FISH WHERE IT HAD BEEN! John and I stood there with our mouths open in disbelief.

Back in the bedroom, I heard one of our newish neighbors introduce himself.  I assumed everyone knew everyone else, but I was wrong, and glad to provide a venue for neighborly introductions. At that point I turned on a light and everyone could actually see everyone else. Apologies all around and then back to otter viewing.

Our otters stayed for about 40 minutes and did not spook even when John came fairly close.  They were just chillin. The humans, on the other hand, had a rare otter morning. Here’s John’s video.  It will make you smile.

(John’s blog, which contains many other photos of Florida is at


Backyard Dreaming: Formerly, A Day After a Colonoscopy

My sweet Ground Dove
My sweet Ground Dove

I am having the most wonderful morning sitting outside with a cup of dark hot chocolate, made with water, 100 calories. It serves as my chocolate for the day, although it is a shame to consume it all first thing in the morning…

My over-producing orchard hung in the Shady Lady tree
Over-producing orchid hangs in the Shady lady tree in back yard

Our small backyard is so entertaining. It faces west, and we have trees, and flowers and the yard slopes toward Lake Iona, which is 11 acres big.

First off, the very proud and industrious kingfisher posts himself on our dock.  He announces his presence, as always, and this morning his crest is extra puffed up. He is glad to be back in the Southland .

Kingfishers are notoriously hard to photograph--this one came from Audubon
Kingfishers are notoriously hard to photograph–this one came from Audubon



The tiny but mighty palm warblers are also chipping away, happy to be cleaning no-seeums off the screen of our lanai. They arrived two days ago from Canada, where they nest and breed in the summer. And just why are they called palm warblers. you might ask, but that question will never be answered, at least not by me.

A woodpecker sounds– throaty,  loud and here he comes — the Pileated’s crest outdoes the kingfisher’s by an inch or two.  And it’s really, really red. Ah, he is interested in our coconut palm stump. We lost two adjacent palms in a lightning strike several years ago, and like all things in the south, time moves slowly especially when it comes to digging things up . So there it sits–a foot high stump just right for the alienated. (I typed pileated, but I like the way it came out instead.)

Now, I hear a single note squacky call and two green herons take off across the lake.  They come by the dock often, jockeying for positions on the posts and displaying their crests, as do snowy egrets, great blues, little blues and tricolor herons, with the occasional great egret, anhinga and eagle thrown in.

River otter pays a visit
River otter pays a visit

And don’t forget the river otter, who comes by to rest when he’s in town as do fish crows and grackles and red wings and once a kestrel stopped to survey the territory.  Ducks and pie-billed grebes also frequent the Lake, and just this morning one of my favorite birds, a timid little ground dove landed just because (above).



Our dock, I might add, is totally useless except to sit on and as a wildlife attractor.  I had a kayak for awhile, but as all fools know you cannot get into a yak off a dock. There is so much to learn here in Florida.

So my cup of hot chocolate is gone. I did re-learn a lesson this morning; one I knew all along.  It is my usual habit to get up and view my Instagram feed, full of gorgeous national geo photos and chickens and flowers and sheep and other stuff I follow.  But today what was happening in my own yard was wonderful. And I got to be in the moment, as all the gurus say.

My Green Heron Guru
My Green Heron Guru


Turbulence Face or Selfies to the Rescue!

I never thought of this particular remedy, but Hope did.

Run-On Sentences

It'll be okay, Hope! Note position of window. It’ll be okay, Hope! Note position of window.

If you really knew me, you’d know I am afraid of flying.  It’s a little odd considering I do it all the time.  I will ballpark myself at 10-12 flights a year, on a normal year when I’m not going on some ambitious  world tour or something.  If you really  do  know me, or have read my blog at all, you are probably also aware that I am very into traveling and will fly somewhere new as soon as I have enough money, or probably before then.

Ok so I am not scared of flying exactly.  I just don’t like take-off, landing, circling or turbulence.  I also don’t like a full day of anticipation when I know I am going to fly.  Lately I have gotten better at tricking myself and ignoring the fact that it is coming.  I think now…

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