Here Mijbil! Here Edal!

on Wednesday, January 16, 2008

PhotoCredit: Bill Lockharts (Ring of Bright Water)

I love this photo. It is entitled "Ring of Bright Water" which I do not know whether it was intentional but is also the name of a book by Gavin Maxwell. This book was written in 1960 but I somehow came across it in my early teens and it made a big impression on me. Perhaps my love for squirrels had its seeds here, for the book is about the life of the author and his friendship with a particular otter, Mijbil, that he had picked up as a pet from the marshes of Iraq.

Maxwell did not know it at the time but Mijbil would turn out to be the only living specimen ever found of what is now believed to be an extinct sub-species of the Indian smooth coated otter. The sub-species was named after him, the Maxwell Otter or Lutrogale perspicillata maxwell. The book were full of amusing misadventures as the inquisitive otter found new ways to create mayhem and social disaster. On one occasion, Mijbil brought a whole train to a stop by pulling on the emergency chain.

The message was clear. Even though Mijbil had a relationship with Maxwell, in its core, it remained a wild creature that belonged to no one but itself. Perhaps I was attracted to this, recognising that having any kind of relationship with a wild creature is a privilege and a blessing. Something that I recognised in my own relationship with my little circus of squirrels.

Maxwell developed relationships with other otters too which he covered in other books including "The Rocks Remain" and "Raven Seek Thy Brother". Today, the romping grounds of Maxwell and his otters are conserved and can be visited at the Eilean Bàn Trust and Bright Water Visitor Centre. There you will find a monument to Gavin Maxwell and a statue of another of his famous otters, Edal.

Perhaps, it may surprise you to learn this but till today, my favorite animal is the otters. They are such a joy to watch, both their play and antics as well as their underwater ballet of movement. I admit that I enjoy otters more than even squirrels but squirrels are far easier to handle. Or is the squirrels that know how to handle me? Hmmmm.


Edal at play (Photo from Ring of Bright Water)

20 comments:

Dave said...

LGS,
Your information on this particular otter was quite interesting and informative. I find it hard to believe that the otter is your fave... A suggestion? Don't tell the squirrel! :-)

Marja said...

Very interestins I adored the photo on top and the cute one from the otter. Started this year with a visit to the zoo were 5 otters stitting in a line followed me at the same time and moved their heads from left to righ. Sooo cute.
Got an award for you LGS Come and pick it up

leslie hawes said...

Lone Brown Otter?
Lone Sleek Otter?
Shining Bright Otter?
The Otter One?
What otter we call you now?

squirrelmama said...

This was OTTERLY interesting, LGS!

And yes, to interface with a wild animal is to do it purely on their terms - a privilege and a blessing, as you correctly said.

You have written a ring of bright insights.

Open Grove Claudia said...

What a cute face on that guy! I love otters as well. They have them in the zoo near our house and how fun and playful they are. River otters live here in colorado too. Amazing creatures - like our friend, Squirrelly.

leslie said...

A few years back, one of my grade 4 students did her animal research project on the Pacific Sea Otter. I learned a lot myself through her research and now enjoy a lot more visiting them at our Stanley Park Zoo.

leslie said...

http://4urpets.wordpress.com/2008/01/16/photo-of-the-week-1/
Thought you might like this picture.

meggie said...

Otters are cetainly entertaining little creatures!

Gina said...

this otter is the picture of contentment! I so enjoy hearing about anything new!! Thank YOU

I love that mountain pic as well. Is that the morning sunlight on it?

Lara Angelina said...

Amazing photo -- ! And me and squirrels go back a long way. I had one in my back yard that used to wait at my car by the truck, because he knew I kept peanuts in there for him! Incredible little critters -- and the otter info was so interesting!
Great post!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

dave,
Otter, wolf and the squirrel in that order actually. This is beginning to feel like an article for True Confessions.

Marja,
Thanks for the comment and the award. I am most honored.

Leslie,
hahaha! That is a funny line of thought. I was thinking of "The Smooth Otter-ator" with apologies to Sade.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

squirrelmama,
Thanks. I have a feeling that you had these insights long before I did.

claudia,
I did not realise that you had river otters in Colorado. That means you have otters, squirrels and wolves. Suddenly for me, Denver is an attractive place to live. Oh, by the way, Edal is a female.

leslie,
Pacific otters are the cutest. I love how they place a flat rock on their tummies as a food table as they float lazily on their backs. Thanks for the link to that photo but super squirrel is already in my collection, waiting too be unleashed on the unsuspecting world.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

meggie,
Otters are clowns and comediennes. But they are also athletes and underwater, they are like dancers. Very entertaining.

gina,
I guess it is the morning light in that picture. Edal may appear contented but she is probably just thinking through her next act of mayhem.

lara,
thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment. Always good to meet a squirrel lover.

Claire said...

OMG, I too loved Ring of Bright Water in my younger days. It got me started on reading every book I could find about animal behavior. I kept a little file box which I filled with cards on which I wrote my childish observations of the behavior of the neighborhood squirrels, birds, frogs and snakes. I am now going to run to one of my many bookcases and find that book again. I know I have it, if only for sentimental reasons...

jmb said...

It is indeed a beautiful photo. I love the sea otter and can watch them for ages. We have some cute ones in our aquarium but in California you can see so many, on their backs in the seaweed, grooming, grooming, grooming constantly.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

claire,
Wow. How exciting. I haven't read those books in years. I remember though that they were kind of sad in the end.

jmb,
In Malaysia, we have 4 species of otters and the most common is a close relative of Mijbil's. In South America, they have giant river otters which I would love to see for myself. Pacific otters are cute clowns though.

my backyard said...

I agree that otters are fascinating to watch. My husband and I always spend a long time at any otter exhibit. So much energy!

CS said...

I remember seeing this movie when I was a kid and just loving it. I think they are so adorable. I remmebr walking on a boardwalk path through part of the Florida Everglades and stopping when I saw an otter on the path. We watched each other for a while before he lipped off the boardwalk and into the swamp.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

my backyard,
yes, I think you hit it spot on.....so much life.

cs,
I actually didn't know about the movie. Now I wonder where I might be able to get a copy.

Anonymous said...

I both saw the movie and read the book 'RING OF BRIGHT WATER' when I was a child,and last year bought a fantastic bronze statue of an otter laying on its back with a shell on its belly. Of course I called it mijbil which seems to confuse everyone as noone seems to have heard the story, can someone tell me what the name stands for.
Unfortunatly living in Australia we don't have squirrels but i think our possoms are just as cute and easily tamed.
Rowan

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