River Wissey Lovell Fuller


May 2009

Another instalment from the banks of the River Wissey

It is mid morning and the sun is climbing. All is peaceful and quiet The cast of winter is a distant memory and longer days bring the expectation of real summer. The hedgerows are full of thick green. Daffodils are spent and bluebells all but exhausted and a host of riverside growth is ready to burst and display. The willows draping the water are already perennial yellow and wave and watch the river Wissey run its meandering course.

Above the first swifis, with their high-pitched squeaks, perform acrobatics with wide circles and loops. At intervals they break formation and dive. They gently touch the water and rise again. Rings of disturbance spread but quickly disappear into the main flow. No one else is about. All is serene and it is easy to be at one with nature.

Under the water numerous nymphs float to the surface. Their change and transformation throughout the winter months is complete. The larvae rise up towards the brightness and warmth whereupon the final miracle takes place as they shed their skins to transfer to beautiful flies. The insect life adds welcome colour to the riverside but alas some only have a life span of mere hours. After waiting so long to join the world it is surely cruel that all is over so quickly! Thankfully other lives are longer and we must enjoy the beauty and glory of all around and not question every reason.

Dark specks in the distant sky grow bigger and clearer and become a further wave of swifts arriving from far away Africa. Their journey is great but their stay is only short. It is said, they return to the same area, the same village and even the same nest year after year. They immediately join their fellow pilots by way of celebration. Their energy is boundless and is another signal that summer is nearing.

As the heat increases more larvae and nymphs are awakened. More float up from the depths and soon the surface of the water is afire with flies They weave invisible shapes, they flit and flap, up and down and across, without stopping for breath. New colours appear amid the blues and yellows and greens. Reds and whites mix the whole array into rainbow patterns. The fascination is endless.

As the number of flies multiply and the colours intensify the birds lower their flight once more and dive repeatedly to enjoy the newfound feast. Their accuracy is uncanny and the process becomes faster and faster as the nymphs and flies keep appearing and cannot stop. Nature's cycle of producing and providing can never be faster than this!

Perhaps there is a limit as to the amount of flies a bird can devour or does boredom set in. Anyway, soon the swifts find a more exciting air pocket and in a sweeping cloud they disappear across the next field and beyond. Meanwhile the insect hatch has ceased until another day but as always the river Wissey never stops and just keeps coming and coming.

By Ivor Hook

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