Back for winter and an Otter dinner on the ice!
Finally back for the cold season. It is not quite winter but this week was the coldest so far of eight seasons on the Williamson River. We awoke to minus 14F here at the Duck last Sunday morning and it dropped to -34 at a friends ranch back in the Fremont Mountains about 35 miles NE of here. Some all-time record lows were set in the desserts of the Oregon Outback east of here. Take a look at this:
I looked out our cabin window this week after several nights of below zero and ice had formed a shelf on the river. I noticed a large dark animal on the ice shelf and grabbed the binoculars to verify. Yes, it was a River Otter, a large aquatic member of the weasel family. And, he was having fish dinner (you didn’t think I someone was having otter for dinner?!). After a few minutes another otter showed up. They usually travel in pairs or family groups and we see them on the river here on average a couple times per month. Here’s the way it looked from the deck of our cabin when I first saw the single otter:
The river has lots of springs feeding in so, though it is cool relative to the air in the summer, it resists dropping below freezing in the winter. The river was completely frozen over at some of the large slow pools but there is enough current stirring the spring water to keep much of the river in front of our place open (although slush and chunks of ice often are floating by on sub-zero mornings and a mist often is rising like steam).
By the way, I took more pictures and zoomed in on them. It looks like the fish dinner is of a Large Mouth Bass. They are rare here in the summer, mostly upstream in the Sprague River which is warmer in the summer, but freezes over more in winter. Possibly some of the bass have migrated downstream to the Williamson in winter where the water is relatively warmer now, versus summer when it is colder than they prefer but which the trout love. Another factor may be that we know there is a microscopic parasite in portions of the Williamson that the native trout are immune to but keeps out most of the bass and other non-natives in summer. The parasite may not be active in winter.