Mad March and Otter Joy


Dipper on the river close to the leat bridge

I’m sneaking in a blog for March. The month has been too busy really, but despite that I have a nature scoop!

Two groups gathered here at Retreat by the Dart  – my regular “Thomas girls” who meet fortnightly to “chew over”* one of the sayings in the gospel of Thomas. It’s a group that is “cooking” well, to continue the food analogy, as we’ve been garnering wisdom for some time now.

The other occasional group, has met every Friday lunchtime during Lent. We’ve been re-acquainting ourselves with Centering Prayer meditation – how the method works, and its’ links to both the wisdom path of Jesus and to our own personal life challenges. As if that wasn’t enough, I facilitated and taught two day events on Centering Prayer.


Dipper under the leat bridge with nest material

I’m not quite sure how I managed to organise this rather overfull schedule. I learnt a lot though, in the sense of “not knowing more, but more of me knowing” (to paraphrase Cynthia Bourgeault) – about myself and about Centering Prayer meditation, which has been an important “tie-rod” in my resurgent exploration into Christian spirituality in recent years.


The faithful mandarin ducks


The goosander pair, not quite nesting yet

Throughout all this busyness, around sunrise each morning  I continued to walk down to the river with Selkie. Regularly I would see dippers around the leat bridge (where there’s a nest), bobbing up and down on rocks in the river, dipping down into the water for food, and once, one with some nest building material in its mouth. Another regular sighting has been a pair of goosanders and a pair of mandarin ducks. Now more often than not the male goosander is on its own. Spotting it one morning  I thought the sight not interesting enough to photograph, and the next minute I watched as it emerged up through the water after diving for food. Never underestimate what might happen on and under the river!

Which leads me neatly to my scoop, I can still hardly believe it happened! One morning walking towards the mill from the weir, I noticed movement in the river, sufficient to draw my attention, as there were no ducks around. I almost knew what was about to happen,  because I had seen similar activity on the Moray Firth in November – otter heads appeared above the water. I watched them as they arched and dived continually downstream towards the weir.  I couldn’t tell how many there were and was so entranced I forgot my camera altogether. At the last minute I picked up my binoculars and watched as 2 otters climb up out of the river at the weir, onto the disappear. I will never forget that moment, it’s imprinted in my memory.

I’ve never seen otters here, although Stephen had a startlingly close encounter with one swimming in the river last year.  Utter (!) joy, beautiful creatures, alive and well in the river Dart.

*slang for the practice of “lectio divina” !

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