It's that time of year again when the Island truly comes alive.
With the season broken in nicely, the notorious wildlife of Eriska is making it's triumphant return for 2014 bringing with it the magic that makes Eriska special to so many of our guests.
Though our friends in the animal kingdom never truly left us - most notably Bertie and his friends, who suffered through thunder storms and gale-like winds all winter to get their daily helping of peanuts and milk - the rest of the island natives are beginning to come out of hiding
Otter Point, in particular, is showing signs of life with our cheeky semi-aquatic compatriots frequenting our stony-shores. Many of these playful creatures have been spotted by guests over the last few days, as well as island resident Mrs B who was lucky enough to capture the above pictures for us.
As suggested by it's name, Otter Point is a sight notorious for spotting otters and last year become home to the bronze sculpture, Wache, that was placed in tribute to mark Eriska's 40th year as a hotel, making it an increasingly popular spot for our guests.
Wache, our bronze otter sculpture, was made by Kenneth Robertson last summer using advanced techniques to give it its flawless life-like shape that was moulded to fit a particular rock at Otter Point.
It was placed as a "Guardian to the Island" to mark Eriska's 40th year and subsequently named by our competition winner, Dr. Joe Myers, who came up with the name "Wache" which is an old Scots terms meaning "Eternal Watcher".
Since his placement on the island, Wache has become a popular sighting point for our guests and is frequently mistaken for a real otter to approaching visitors!
Tips for Spotting Otter's on the Island
Eriska’s coastal environment is ideally suited to otter's habitation.
Our natural habitat remains untouched by urban development, water pollution or the use of pesticides. Our island location is remote from main roadways and our coastal and land environments offers food on tap: fish and shellfish as well as birds and small mammals.
Here’s some handy hints to have the best chance of spotting them:
Look for their ideal location: clean water, vegetated banks with available prey.
Look out for their distinctive webbed toe prints, or their distinctive odour (likened to jasmine tea!)
Dawn explorers will have the best chance of spotting them.
Be still and patient, or walk quietly; keeping upwind (wind can carry your scent which may alert them to your presence)
Other Otter Locations near Eriska
The west coast of Scotland is well known for offering sightings of wildlife not commonly seen in bigger towns and cities. From Oban there are a selection of boat tours dedicated to sea-life watching as well as frequent ferries to the Isle of Mull who's coastline is littered with Otters when the tide is in.
However, for those not too fussed about trying to catch a distant glance of Otter's in their natural habitat, the Scottish Sea-life Sanctuary in Benderloch homes a few and even hosts a couple of "Meet and Greet's" throughout the day to give you a closer look and learn more about their eating and living habits.
So for those in the area in the near future, we would definitely recommend taking your chances out by the coast to try your luck at spotting one of these fantastic animals and visit Wache who continues to guard the island at Otter Point!
Earlier this year we launched our 'name the otter contest' and last week we welcomed Mr & Mrs Miller and Cassie to unveil the plaque underneath our friend on the rock. You may remember we set out to name the bronze otter sitting on the rock at Otter Point at Eriska, in conjunction with our 40th anniversary as a Hotel. You may remember we announced the winner, Jo Thompson? if not here's a quick recap!
The Bronze Sculpture
Wache was made by bronze sculptor Kenneth Robertson, using advanced techniques, initially creating a wire meshed mould which was then cast as a simple albino plaster. Ensuring he fitted in to the environment and more importantly onto a rock at Otter Point was essential and it was moulded to fit a particular rock looking a specific way to guard the island. This took several visits and much hard work from Kenneth and his son.
Dr. Jo Thompson & 'Name the Otter Contest'
We felt our sculpture needed a name and so we set out to get our friend a name earlier in the summer. After a few weeks of collecting name suggestions and votes, a name was announced; Wache was sent in by Dr. Jo Myers Thompson, and is old Scottish for 'Eternal Watcher'.
Dr. Jo Myers Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, a not-for-profit umbrella organisation overseeing a variety of conservation efforts in the deep heart of equatorial Africa. By profession, she is a primatologist and naturalist.
Jo received her doctorate degree from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and is a contributing author to several books about ecology, distribution and evolution. Since 1995 Jo has been involved with otter conservation, which started with her raising an infant Congo Clawless Otter. At that time, the species had recently been declared extinct. However, that classification was based on absence of reports not absence of the otters. So, she was launched into the world of otter conservation as the world expert on the Congo Clawless Otter species. Through her work she also met Victoria Miller from Oban, which is how Jo found out about our little contest!
As we mentioned above we received Mr & Mrs Miller and Cassie last week to unveil the plaque we got made for Wache this summer. They have had Basenjis for years, and on the top picture you see them with their Basenji, Cassie - the whole reason Jo found out about our otter contest! Unfortunately Jo could not come with us to unveil the plaque being attached to the rock so they brought Cassie instead!
The First Meeting
Victoria met Jo through and online forum and a mutual friend. They met for the first time in person when Jo was speaking at the Hope4Apes conference in London 2010, hosted by Sir David Attenborough. Helena Lane (fellow breeder) and Victoria travelled to London to meet with Jo Thompson to discuss the possibility of importing one of Jo’s Lukuru Basenji puppies. The following year (September 2011), Cassie was imported into the UK - the first Congolese Native Basenji since the early foundation stock. Although born in the USA, Cassie was bred from pure Native stock brought back by Jo from a conservation area in the Democratic Republic of Congo where there are no other dogs except the Native Basenjis. Cassie is the first truly African Basenji to arrive in the UK for 70 years!
"Cassie had 7 pups this summer, 31st July, which is why the visit has had to wait! Cassie and the pups are healthy and enjoy life off the west coast of Scotland", Victoria assures me. "Cassie's parents are on the other side of the planet, living the 'American Dream' with Jo". All this talk about Basenjis, you have to start wondering about the breed itself.
The size of a Fox Terrier, the Basenji has a wrinkled brow, prick ears, pliant skin, short tight curled tail, very short coat and wash themselves like a cat. They are a hunting dog capable of very high speeds who point and flush game, but their most unique features are they are barkless and carry no dog odours, a most useful asset when they are in pursuit of game who do not easily pick up their scent. Discovered in the African Congo with Pygmy hunters, early explorers called the dogs after the tribes that owned them or the area in which they were found, such as Zande dogs or Congo terriers. The native tribes used the dogs (which often wore large bells around their necks) as pack hunters, driving game into nets.
Early attempts to bring Basenjis to England in the late 1800s and early 1900s were unsuccessful because the dogs all succumbed to distemper. In the 1930s, a few dogs were successfully brought back to England and became the foundation (along with subsequent imports from the Congo and Sudan) of the breed outside of Africa. The name Basenji, or "bush thing," was chosen. The early imports attracted much attention, and soon after the Basenji was brought to America. The breed's popularity as both a pet and show dog grew modestly but steadily. In the 1950s, a surge of popularity occurred as a result of a book and movie featuring a Basenji!
All this talk about Basenjis, what is your relationship to the otter side of things?
"As you can see I took my otter t-shirt out for the occasion! No really, my relationship with otters is mainly through Jo, however living in the West Coast of Scotland, you can’t help but have an affinity with the local wildlife and otters are a truly special creature.”
We can't say anything else than that we agree with you! At Eriska the is an abundance of wildlife, such as red deer, badgers, birds and otters (!) in such tranquille surroundings - what is there not to love!
We want to thank you both for coming to see the plaque unveiled and of course for bringing Cassie along!
If you are looking to cure the 'winter' blues why not check out our 3 night rates this month, visit Wache, have some heavenly delicious food in our restaurant and a soak in the Jacuzzi in the Stables Spa.
Did you know that Otters watches the health of our aquatic resources?
Where otters thrive, the water resources are healthy for human. Otters are the apex indicator species of the water habitat and our water resources, and can be seen as critical indicators of our human condition.
As you may know, over the years history and memorable dates have been marked by the addition of items to Eriska. The year the house was built, 1884, an oak tree was planted by the south east corner of the house and indeed it remains strong and vibrant today- indeed it sports a delightful swing seat. In 1984 to make the house one hundredth birthday another oak was planted on the south west corner by the croquet lawn and despite a few years with little growth it is now well established and beginning to dominate that area.
So to mark and celebrate our 40th Anniversary this year we decided to mark it by adding a permanent new "Guardian of Eriska" in the shape of a Bronze Sculpture. Wache was made by bronze sculptor Kenneth Robertson, using advanced techniques, initially creating a wire meshed mould which was then cast as a simple albino plaster. Ensuring he fitted in to the environment and more importantly onto a rock at Otter Point was essential and it was moulded to fit a particular rock looking a specific way to guard the island. Several visits later and much hard work from Keneth and his son. Wache now sits at Otter Point cast in wonderful bronze.
We felt our sculpture needed a name and so we set out get our friend a name. After a few weeks of collecting name suggestions and votes, a name was announced last Sunday; Wache was sent in by Dr. Jo Myers Thompson, and is old Scottish for 'Eternal Watcher' - a name that ideally suits him as he sits on the rocky surface on the west side of the Island watching the loch.
We therefore thought we would introduce you to our winner and asked how she came about the name Wache. And indeed did we end up with a worthy winner!
Dr. Jo Myers Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, a not-for-profit umbrella organization overseeing a variety of conservation efforts in the deep heart of equatorial Africa. By profession, she is a primatologist and naturalist.
Jo received her doctorate degree from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and is a contributing author to several books about ecology, distribution and evolution and has since 1995 been involved with otter conservation, which started with her raising an infant Congo Clawless Otter. At that time, the species had recently been declared extinct. However, that classification was based on absence of reports not absence of the otters. So, she was launched into the world of otter conservation as the world expert on the Congo Clawless Otter species.
How did you come up with the name Wache?
"My very dear friends, Victoria & Douglas Miller live near Oban. They know of my love for otters and tell me from time to time of seeing otters around that region. In fact, they mentioned to me about the bronze statue even before the competition was announced. When you posted the competition on your Facebook wall, Vicki wrote and asked me what name I would suggest. I told her 'Wache' because it means "Eternal watcher" in the old Scottish tongue."
Wache will hold three roles as Eriska's guardian:
To guard the entrance to Loch Creran.
To encourage otters to the shores.
To offer a sighting spot for visitors that come to Eriska.
If you are coming to visit us soon or in the future, take a walk to Otter Point and say hello to Wache. He sits on a truly beautiful spot on the island which is perfect for sunsets and taking pictures. Maybe he will bring some of his friends to our shores? If you're lucky you might spot them, it's just another great reason to bring your camera to Eriska.
Wache will have his name engraved on a plaque together with Dr. Jo's and when finished it will be displayed for everyone to see. We will make sure to keep you all updated on our progress. And again, congratulations to you Jo!