The Otter’s Tale at Harestanes

'Coorie up' by Eben Rautenbach.
'Coorie up' by Eben Rautenbach.

How well do you know one of our most mysterious native mammals? This spring, otters are the centre of attention at Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre where a unique exhibition reveals their hidden world through art and science.

‘The Otter’s Tale’ showcases a diverse range of otter-themed work by Borders-based artists including pyrographer Eben Rautenbach, sculptors Angela Hunter and John Tolland, engraver Martin Wilson, glass worker Julia Linstead, artist Hannah Longmuir and renowned Berwickshire wildlife photographer Laurie Campbell.

South African-born Eben Rautenbach uses a soldering iron on wood to create highly detailed and textured work. His sought-after studies of otters are finely observed and full of vitality.

Eben said, “It’s the easy access to nature in the Tweed valley that keeps me inspired and motivated.”

Otter researcher Melanie Findlay, of Findlay Ecology Services, has provided video footage for the exhibition that shows rarely-observed behaviour between adults and cubs.

Developments in technology have opened up new opportunities to investigate otter life without the risk of disturbing these protected animals. Even as a professional ecologist Melanie is still moved by her memorable encounters with otters.

She said: “When I watch otters porpoising in the Tweed rapids I see an animal that is superbly adapted to our rivers.”

Harestanes remains a focus for wildlife recording and the visitor centre has partnered with The Wildlife Information Centre (TWIC) to encourage visitors to provide records of their sightings of otters from across the region. Although a widespread animal across much of the Borders, actual records of otters still leave many gaps to be filled. Good coverage makes it easier to detect any future changes in distribution.

Harestanes Centre manager Michael Scott said: “In the Borders we’re fortunate to have a rich natural world on our doorstep and also a great many artists and scientists who are motivated by that natural heritage. ‘The Otter’s Tale’ is a great illustration of how the worlds of art and science take inspiration from one another.”

‘The Otter’s Tale’ is open daily in the Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre Gallery from 10am to 5pm until Sunday, June 7.