AS I MADE my way along the bank of the River Devon at dawn, a dark swirl materialised in the water below my feet.

At first I thought it was a large fish, a salmon perhaps, but a furry head bobbed up, and then another – a pair of otters!

I have been walking the river at dawn regularly for the past six months as part of work on my new book on river wildlife, which will be published later next year.

Spotting otters had been one of my main focuses for these morning walks, but I had continually drawn a blank, so I was thrilled with this encounter.

Daybreak had still to gather pace and the light was poor, but I followed the dark shapes of the otters as they made their way slowly upstream, periodically diving and then surfacing again, before they disappeared under the roots of a bankside alder.

Amazingly, when I retrieved my trail-camera later that week from a nearby secluded section of the river, I found that it had captured on film the same pair of otters (a still from which is shown here).

I think these were probably young animals, independent of their mother but staying together for the time being for companionship.

Otters are undoubtedly one of our most endearing and captivating animals and here in Clackmannanshire we are fortunate that both the rivers Devon and Black Devon hold healthy populations.

Despite this, they are incredibly elusive creatures and over the last 12 years, I have only seen otters on the River Devon on around 10 occasions.

But their signs are all around, most notably their droppings or spraints, which are often deposited in prominent places as territorial markers, such as on top of rocks.

So, the next time when out walking the river, it is well worth keeping an eye out for such signs – and who knows, perhaps you might even strike lucky by spotting an otter in the water.

Now, there’s an exciting thought!