Another stirring tale from the banks of the River Wissey
The body of a fleidmouse lay curled up on the grass. Blood dripped from a mortal neck wound. Its small feeble frame was tightly clamped by the sharp talons of a large barn owl and in an instant was devoured. It was dusk alongside the river Wissey and for sure there will be several more killings before the night is over.
A startling sunset has already slipped below the distant horizon and the long shadows of evening have changed to the magic twilight that separates day and night. The air and earth is still warm from the day's sunshine. Clouds of flies and midges form a mist under the trees and above the sedge along the waters edge.
Civilisation is far away and the previously masked sounds of wildlife are now magnified. This is Mother Nature's time to become fully active and as the light continues to fade new sounds take over. A loud rustling comes from within the undergrowth and dry twigs are heard to snap. Mysterious plops and splashes in the river increase as a new atmosphere evolves.
An ivory black cormorant rises from out of the water with a struggling eel in its grasp and flaps away into the gloom. The turbulence transmits large waves across the river. Below a lazy pike is laying in wait monitoring a shoal of tiny fish but has so far resisted the temptation to pounce. A lone coot is making her way home and the disturbed water bobs her violently up and down.
The noises of the night and the unseen company of all about create a feeling of isolation. Imagination takes over and runs riot, Monsters and demons spring to mind but must quickly be dismissed, Smells become obvious and the trees and the riverside growth, as well as the river itself, can all be recognised. The rivers flow is seldom heard but now it makes a strange murmur as it flows along. A vapour rises from the water and soon the far bank is disguised. The veil creeps up the dykes and fills a low hollow. Light has all but disappeared and familiarity and night vision take over.
A faraway dog fox calls out seeking his mate but there is no reply. A fearless water rat leaves the sanctuary of the terra firma and swims away to plunder the coot's nest. A heron across the river in his tree top perch screeches at a minor annoyance. The giveaway white tails of rabbits appear and disappear as they dart about. The coveted vixen sits motionless in the shelter of a long collapsed tree and is alert to every sound and movement. A beating of wings passes overhead accompanied by honking and heralds a skein of geese about to circle and land. Their return is late but time is only our perception and here a whole new world is awaking.
A cold chill becomes obvious. There is no moon and no artificial light reflected in the sky. It is now night. The canopy of darkness is overpowering and as the minutes pass everything becomes deathly quiet. Suddenly the smell of tobacco smoke drifts along and betrays the presence of another being. All but hidden in the nearby bushes is the outline of a person. Neither a shotgun or a fishing rod is obvious but without doubt another predator is on the prowl!
By Ivor Hook