Stare Down


This week’s photo, taken May 8, 2015 from Cape Flattery, WA, features a NORTHERN SEA OTTER, also known as a tangled mass of fur, as it engages in a stare down contest with me.

Recently, I returned to Neah Bay and the northwesternmost corner of the contiguous United States. As a former hang glider pilot, I was flying vicariously while watching the steady stream of raptors (including several BROAD-WINGED HAWKS, a rare species here on the west coast), as they circled high above Bahokas Peak, trying to gain as much altitude as possible before continuing their northerly migration across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into Canada.

The next morning, from Cape Flattery, I counted at least 30 TUFTED PUFFINS bobbing far off shore in the waters near Tatoosh Island.

The hawks were inspiring, and the puffins were cute, but my finest moment of nature occurred at Cape Flattery, when I noticed a SEA OTTER floating on its back while cruising by in the strong ocean current. The hyperactive otter was keeping busy as it drifted by. It used its front paws to scrub the back of its head for a few moments, then it worked its core with some serious belly-rubbing. A big believer in cross training, the otter then alternated back and forth with head and belly scratching. All the time, this highly entertaining critter behaved quite human-like.

Then it began to perform forward somersaults, over and over again; that is, until it noticed me! The gymnastics came to a screeching halt, as the otter devoted its attention to staring up at the human that was staring down at the otter. I held the otter’s interest for about 20 seconds. Then it resumed its floating-on-the-back position and continued to go with the flow of the current, not bothering to look my way again.



About Joe Sweeney

I photograph birds to share the beauty and wonder I find in nature.
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3 Responses to Stare Down

  1. LaNae says:

    Love it! Looks like he has his “arms” crossed like, “What’s your problem, buddy?”

  2. Connie Saunders says:

    Joe, Interesting to know you were a hang glider pilot. I sky dived last June as my 70th birthday gift to myself. At the last minute, my son, Todd, flew in from Norfolk, VA: “I couldn’t let Mom jump alone!”. Todd enjoyed the free-fall more than I did. I found the fall intense, noisy and the goggles uncomfortable. I much preferred gliding down with the parachute, talking with the pilot and watching the ground rise to meet me (without goggles). Yes, these were tandem jumps — I was my pilot’s 10, 630+ jump! Our landing was text-book perfect. Now I would like to hang glide. My younger son, Erik, hang-glided in Switzerland 20 years ago. His photos look like it’s the perfect place. Are there good places to hang glide in Washington state? Not many cliffs here in MN.

    Connie Saunders

  3. Ann sorenson says:

    Thought I should tell you I am still
    Enjoying your bird observations.all the best.

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