Riverwatch revised - March
Spring is on its way! It may be slow but the tell tale signs are out there. The willows alongside the river already show a hint of green. Daffodils and bluebells are awaking. Days are growing longer and warmth will soon return. Stirrings under the ground are happening and within a few weeks the countryside will be a picture of bright colours. There is every reason to look forward and be of good cheer.
Today patches of blue sky and sunshine help to break the cast of winter. Suddenly a flash of emerald blue and green disappears down the river. It is gone in a split second and leaves behind surprise and amazement. The resident kingfisher is always a joy to behold and leaves you wishing to see it again but in slow motion. Those few seconds of time make the day a real pleasure.
The kingfisher is not very far away. It has perched on the lower branches of a tree overhanging a dyke. It leads from the main river and contains a bounty of small fish all escaping the fast current. In a few weeks they will return to the main river but for the time being they have found a sanctuary. Alas such respite is not guaranteed. Our kingfisher is searching for food and is watching the fish. She dives with beak and body in line like a dart with wings tucked in and there is a gentle plop. In no time at all she returns to the same branch with a meal across her beak.
Further along the same drain someone else is spotted. He is also hungry and looking for food. A heron has also realised that this stretch of water could answer his needs. Perhaps he has even watched the kingfisher. He stands in the dyke with his unassuming grey and white colouring blending with the surroundings. Alas his stretch of water is without any fish but he has extreme patience and continues to watch and wait.
The kingfisher has now dived twice and has partly digested two small roach which will be shared with her underlings. She returns homeward in the same fleeting manner skimming the surface of the river so closely that her wing tips sometimes kiss the water. Then under a bridge and past the otter retreat she returns back to her family nest in a riverside muddy hole.
Light is now fading and soon an impatient moon will try to penetrate a thin veil of cloud but for now it provides a backdrop for a flight of geese. They pass overhead in their disciplined V formation. Their normal honking is missing today and there is just the sound of wings beating. They are anxious to settle before darkness finally falls as it will soon be the hour when all God's creatures change places and the night folk will start their shift!
However the heron is still without a catch. His patience has at last expired. He looks lonely and bemused. He unfolds his wide wing span like a person slowly putting up a large umbrella. Then with a mere jump and a flap he floats away but he has not finished. He is still answering the call of hunger and is now heading to where a rich reward awaits but where the risk is greater.
Within minutes the kingfisher returns for one last feed of the day. She is so well practised that we know she will be successful. As for the heron he has found good fortune and he is now wading amid fish galore. He is in someone's garden pond with a choice of many captive coy carp.
Therefore our story ends on a happy note as both feathered friends will end the day well fed!
By Ivor Hook