As habitats go, a river is a particular favourite of mine. Not only does it make one of nature’s most soothing sounds, but it’s usually a hub of wildlife activity.
When I arrived, the first bird to catch my eye was a blue tit, which was loudly serenading everyone around it with its ‘tea-tea-lily-lily-lily’ call. Beneath it, flickering from rock to rock, was a grey wagtail. Similar to other river-dwelling birds, grey wagtails have a high-pitched call that cuts through even the chattiest of rivers.
On the calm pond beside the stream, a pair of mallards swept around in slow circles. Surely one of our most under-appreciated beauties, the male mallard shimmers in direct sunlight.
I’d come to the river especially for dippers. This patch has a Rocky Road structure of stones, logs and twigs jutting out of the water, providing countless opportunities for perching and dipping.
On some occasions, I’ve had to settle on the bank and wait a while for the flash of brown and thrum of stumpy wings as a dipper zoomed by, but today I timed my visit perfectly. Just as I was peering along the water channel for a white bib, a dipper came zipping past me and landed several feet away.
I crept closer and watched as it ducked down behind its perch until only the top of its head was visible. It emerged holding an enormous clump of moss in its bill. With another dip, it sped back downstream, returning minutes later without its foraged cache.
For the next hour I watched a pair of dippers gather moss almost continuously. I’m always heartened and impressed by the diligence of some bird parents. Chicks were obviously on the way, and they would have a luxuriously cosy nest ready for them when they arrived.