Young people who love nature and the outdoors were invited to take part in a summer writing challenge this year. After a successful launch year in the Isle of Man in 2020, The Young Nature Blogger 2021 went international as Kerry Biosphere and Dublin Bay Biosphere joined the competition. The overall international winner  was announced earlier this week.

Open to anyone under 21, entrants were asked to write up to 500 words about their favourite experience or place in nature.
Each Biosphere participating awarded local prizes with the top entry from each being submitted to the international competition between the three.

This week the two judges for the international element Author Dara McAnulty and Professor Martin Price, Chair of the UK Man and the Biosphere Committee, have unanimously chosen The Otter, by Lissi Nickelsen (Kerry) as winner of the inter-Biosphere Young Nature Blogger 2021.

Dara McAnulty (author of ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ and the youngest ever winner of The Wainright Prize for nature writing) said: ‘I absolutely love the observational detail in this piece. You can really feel that breathless excitement and tension of seeing an otter. The drawing shows how multimedia can be used to great effect in a blog.’

Professor Martin Price, Chair of the UK Man and the Biosphere Programme said: ‘This is a beautifully written blog about a very special encounter. I really get the feeling of what Lissi observed so carefully, and her joy about spending time with an otter! And the drawing is wonderful too!’

Lissi was awarded the overall prize that included a young naturalist writing set from Dara McNulty, a framed Otter picture from Wildlife photographer Vincent Hyland, Wild Derrynane, a signed copy of the book ' A little squirrel who worried' by Katie O' Donoghue , and a family kayak trip in the Kerry Biosphere.

Pictured above is Lissi and her family who travelled to Killarney from their hometown in Cork to accept the award last weekend along with Vincent Hyland of Wild Derrynane, and Eleanor Turner, Biosphere Officer for the Kerry UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

You can read Lissi's entry below:

The otter

By Lissi Nickelson, Age 11, Cork

Even before my sister, Emma and a friend wrote the amazing guidebook ‘Irelands Seashore’, I was deeply fascinated by nature.
My aunt and uncle lend their house in Tousist, Kerry to my family sometimes. The house is overlooking a beach in Kenmare Bay.
A pebbly beach it is, with many rockpools holding wondrous creatures; a lot of them I would research in Emma’s book, including sea hares, pipe fish, broad-clawed porcelain crabs, and eels. My cousin Toto adores eels. I sometimes walk down the beach with him, and we search for one to look at. And with any luck, we usually find one and Toto’d be in his element. I adore that beach. It’s almost magical.

One afternoon, I was sitting in a rockpool taking in my beautiful surroundings when a massive crab seemed to make its way towards me. I was fascinated by it. I picked it up for closed inspection. He was extremely cute to me, maybe not so much to other people though. After deciding the best name for him would be George, I sat and observed him.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of shuffling close by. I turned around. There she stood, staring at me. I was sitting, in a rockpool, holding a crab, and staring face-to-face with a Eurasian otter. I was convinced she was part of my imagination, but deep down, I knew she couldn’t be. Her spotted nose, her deep black eyes, her arched back. I couldn’t imagine something like this.

She leapt down from the rock and swept into the very rockpool I was sitting in. I didn’t dare move. Then she started to perform a strange action: rolling around. I would never have expected this. Which lead to my realisation, she was hunting by stirring the seaweed. She was putting her trust into a human who she’d never met. I was so glad I didn’t do something silly like trying to scare her away. I looked at the otter again. She had to be named, she was a special otter.
‘Púca’ I said under my breath. She looked at me and then went back to hunting.

I had decided upon that name because of how she’d appeared out of nowhere like a ghost, ‘Púca’, in Irish.
She suddenly arose from the luscious rockpool and clambered up onto a nearby rock. I was probably never going to have this opportunity again, so I decided to follow her while keeping a good distance. I was taking notes in my head about how otters hunt on the coast. She looked back at me again and then slid into another rockpool. She didn’t consider me a threat.

After continuing the process of twirling around, Púca climbed up out of the pool and into another except this one was connected to the sea. I wondered if she would swim away but she didn’t. Suddenly, she came out of the pool with a large fish in her mouth. She lay down on a rock and started chewing.
I watched her in awe. Ten minutes passed. I could tell she was ready to go home. She had moved about ten metres away. My family came over to see what I was doing and when they saw her, they looked just as stunned as I was when she first approached me.
When the time finally came, Púca looked back at me one more time, and then she disappeared into the water.

‘Good luck’ I whispered.


Otter Image by Lissi Nickelson.

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