A lesson in humility

This morning, I actually went” Oh, it’s just an otter”. I’d photographed a female riverine otter, in the wild, but it was foggy out and the photo wasn’t much good.

But then I realised what I’d said. Ten years ago, I would have sawn both my arms off to even see an otter. Now it was so commonplace that I actually dismissed it.

It tuns out that I’m addicted to wildlife. Much like drug addiction, I keep needing a bigger high. A closer view. A more scarce species. The same attitude, I realised leads me to show contempt to pigeons. When you get right down to it, pigeons are beautiful birds. If they were rare, people would rave over them. It’s only because you are absolutely guaranteed to see one virtually every day that leads us to not care about them. There is an irony here, which is that the Giant Panda, for so long the icon of wildlife conservation, is no longer endangered thanks to industrial-scale artificial insemination in China – yet many species we think of as common are disappearing fast. How long will it be, I wonder, before people speak wistfully of seeing a starling?

I got my comeuppance. The otter vanished and stayed away all day. And as I watched a bank vole (“Horace2”) I’ve come to know quite well, I got a signal lesson that you should never take things for granted, as Horace2 was swiftly caught and killed by a Weasel. So I finally got a glimpse of a hard-to-see animal, and rather wished I hadn’t.

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