I’m currently in one of my favorite states: exhausted (maybe even a tiny bit tipsy) in a hotel room sorting through mountains of bird footage after a fun day birding with my friend Clay. I’m working on a project in Florida–if living in Minnesota has taught me anything, it’s that finding work in warmer areas in mid-winter will go a long way to keep your sanity during the deep freeze from November through April.

tricolored heron

So spending a day in balmy Florida yielded lots of great birds. Most species are so relaxed down here, getting images of birds is like shooting fish in a barrel like the above Tricolored Heron. Maybe it’s the whole retirement community atmosphere? The birds are very relaxed and digiscoping images is quite easy.

But one thing in particular caught my attention today. There was a point when Clay and I noticed a bunch Turkey Vultures gathering along the road ahead of us at Viera Wetlands (aka Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands). We assumed something must but dead…but that’s not what the vultures were were after…

It was a river otter rolling in the grass. Above are two vultures but there were several more on the ground and others circling. One young vulture even charged towards the otter as if to sample a bite. Because this was a live otter, the vultures never really attacked and a few times the otter charged vultures that got too close…but what the heck was going on? This otter was not dying or showing signs of illness. It looked quite healthy and at the time was rolling around in the grass to dry off. It made quite a sight.

I’m no river otter expert, but a I know that part of their communication system involves aromatic poop.  It’s so aromatic, it has its own name: spraint. Isn’t that a great word? Plus otters each fish, which they are going to smell a bit like. Turkey Vultures find their food by smell, so either this otter had some nasty fish smell from a previous meal or some very ripe sprint nearby would be my guess. An interesting encounter and not something I’d seen before.


Written by Birdchick
Sharon Stiteler was given a Peterson Field Guide to Birds when she was seven years old and snapped. She loves birds - it’s just the way she’s wired. Since 1997, she has made it her goal to get paid to go birding. She runs the popular birding blog, Birdchick.com, and has been in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and on NBC Nightly News as well as making regular appearances on Twin Cities’ TV and radio stations. She’s a professional speaker and story-teller and her writing can be found in several publications including WildBird Magazine, Outdoor News, and Birding Business. She wrote the books 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know, Disapproving Rabbits and City Birds/Country Birds. When she’s not digiscoping, tweeting or banding birds, she’s a part-time park ranger and award-winning beekeeper.