Our monthly report of activities on the banks of the River Wissey, courtesy of the Northwold Times
A sheet of black noise soared and dipped and circled providing an impressive flying display. The rooks were enjoying the wind and testing their skills just above the treetops. On the ground a newly ploughed field was waiting for the next stage of farming process. The morning was bitter and stark. It was still icy cold from the overnight sub-zero temperatures and the river running along the bottom end looked far from inviting. The borders of sedge reeds bent double in the wind and the surface of the water resembled a rough sea. A row of tall skeletal trees skirted the long field and every year provided residence for the itinerant birds. The trees stood out against the grey skyline in silhouette and displayed numerous nests perched in the upper most branches.
Either exhausted by flying or from their continual cawing the multitude of rooks alighted onto the field. They commenced their quest for food and soon found grubs and worms aplenty in the new topsoil. The instant banquet heralded the arrival of even more rooks and soon the field was awash with activity. At intervals the birds would abandon their feeding to merely strut about with heads held high looking just like a convention of undertakers dressed in shiny black coats and tails. Then in their well-rehearsed way they would flap and clatter and all but take to flight always to return to their feasting. All the time just a few select birds on the perimeter patrolled and performed the role of sentries ready to raise the alarm if any danger threatened.
Beside the river and in stark contrast nothing was happening. All wildlife had long ago taken sanctuary under the ground or inside the hedgerows and would remain so until the warmer weather reappeared. Giant cobwebs decorated with frost hung in shrouds as if someone had joined up as much undergrowth as possible with a continuous delicate pattern. The grassy riverbank was crisp and crunchy and showed the heavy imprints of large boots, which went in one direction only confirming that someone was still ahead. Suddenly a flash of emerald green disappeared down the river and signalled the perennial kingfisher. For a moment the mood was uplifted. Around the next bend of the river was my fishing pal. Alien-like he sat inert and bent over with a light powdering of frost covering his back and cap and you could easily have imagined that he had spent the night alongside the river. In truth he had arrived only shortly before me but already his pike floats were riding the waves.
To add to the seasonal delights heavy rain with sleet funnelled down the river and despite thermal underwear and many layers of clothing the cold gnawed at exposed fingers to question common sense. Pike fishing can be slow and today would be no exception. However we were staying for the day and our carefully positioned red-eyed herrings up and down the river would surely work eventually.
To pass away the hours it seemed a good idea to also tempt a few roach but alas we only had bait for the pike. However the rooks were still feeding fast and furious so (silly us!) worms galore were only a few paces away. Before long a shoal of silver roach had been found and we now knew that by the end of the day the pike would also circum. Thus two solitary fishermen and several hundred rooks in a remote freezing cold field alongside the good old river Wissey could easily have been overlooked if the world had stopped and started again. But fear not, all concerned were completely preoccupied and the cold weather almost forgotten!