The otter side of the story – the fishy tale of today’s Irish Times front page photo

Keen amateur photographer Brian Tansey knew he had something special when he uploaded his photo of an otter on the Dodder

The photograph taken by local resident Brian Tansey

In 2014 aged 61 and during a random check-up I was diagnosed with a faulty mitral valve in my heart and was sent to Dr Charles McCreery, cardiologist in Blackrock Clinic, Dublin. Open-heart surgery resulted and on my subsequent check-up visits to Dr McCreery he had one mantra. ‘Walk, walk, walk.!

And so I did.

I was always a keen photographer and decided to combine my love of photography with my new walking regime. Weather permitting, each day, I head out of the apartment, which is on the banks of the Dodder near the Dropping Well and do a one-and-a-half-hour walk from 11am to 12.30pm.

The walk can take me to Bushy Park in one direction or Ringsend in the other.


I am retired and one of my favourite spots to pass some time and to stand and wait is quite close to home, just 200 yards away.

It is the Packhorse Bridge. You can stand there and watch the birds – blackcaps, chiffchaffs, bullfinches – perched high up on the adjacent trees.

Packhorse Bridge is a footbridge and is regarded by historians as probably the oldest surviving bridge in Dublin dating back to the mid 1500s.

I was standing on the bridge last Thursday (March 2nd) and looking downriver when I spotted this otter heading towards me. I hadn’t got time to get a photo before it disappeared under the bridge below me.

I moved to the other side of the bridge and saw it swim into a channel which ended in a “dead end” – that is it ended in short stretch of dry land. Looking back I now think it is possible that the otter steered the trout into this channel as a place of no escape.

Knowing the otter would have to emerge from the water at the end of the channel, I ran – well jogged, my cardiologist would be pleased to hear – the 40 yards along the bank to a spot adjacent to the channel’s end. The otter emerged and I just started taking photos.

Seconds later it was gone, fully submerged once more and I lost track. When I looked at the screen to review the photos I thought I saw something in its mouth but was unsure, so I hurried back the apartment and loaded the photos on to the laptop.

As soon as I saw the full-sized image on screen, I knew it was a bit special. I loaded the photo onto my Flickr page, where it got some good comments.

The following day, while on my usual walk, I met Richard Kelly a good friend of mine and a keen fisherman. Richard walks his young labrador puppy, McCoy, along the Dodder each day.

I opened the Flickr app and showed him the pic. He was astounded by the size of the trout which he described as a “good two-pounder” .

He further added: “You should send that into The Irish Times. It’s the type of photo that could make the front page’. And so I sent it in to the paper.

Some days later, I had a call from The Irish Times picture editor Frank Miller, he seemed impressed by the photo and I think just wanted to check its bona fides and make sure there had been no photoshopping involved.

I assumed if it appeared at all it was going to be in some inner page on a nature theme.

When I woke this morning, I saw many messages on my mobile – one from a good friend congratulating me on making the FRONT PAGE!

I went down to the local newsagents and could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the stack of Irish Times with my photo holding pride of place.