DAWN by the River Devon is always mesmerising.

Soft light and still air, backdropped by the steep scarp of the Ochils, and with the perennial capacity to spring a wildlife surprise, as happened to me last week.

As made my way along the riverbank, I noticed a subtle swirl in the water on the far bank by a small willow thicket – an otter!

The animal tumbled and weaved around by this leafy overhang, diving under, its back rolling in an arc, and the tail sometimes pointing straight out of the water.

I have previously witnessed such behaviour by otters on the Devon, and I suspect the reason is to disturb sediment from the riverbed, with the resultant detritus attracting small fish such as minnows, which are then snapped-up.

I imagine that invertebrates stirred from the riverbed by such actions are also consumed by otters.

Occasionally, this otter paused in its swirling and tumbling, and looked across curiously at me with intelligent eyes, its long whiskers glistening in the dawn light.

Soon it tired of its foraging, and with one last glance at me, dived under.

I looked up and down both sides of the bank, but the otter never reappeared, having merged seamlessly within the bounds of the river.

I continued on my way, soon spotting a sandpiper on a shingle back, while a dipper whirred upriver on flickering wings.

The bankside was awash with wildflowers, including the lilac blooms of meadow cranesbill, bringing additional vibrancy to this truly wonderful place.

Exhilarated by the otter sighting, I found a secluded spot and sat down for a while, enveloped by the wild beauty of the river, and played back in my mind this close encounter with one of the Devon's most special inhabitants.