'I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out 'til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.' John Muir

I've seen the top of Everest (from a long way off), smelled the breath of a whale (from way too close) and lived on a boat in Greece (for a few years), but I continue to experience some of my most precious moments right outside my backdoor.

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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Postcard from the riverbank

The River Alyn flows through my patch, at least it does until the summer or when there’s less rain.  Then it flows under my patch.  It’s swallowed up by great yawning caverns, old lead mining tunnels and natural limestone fissures.  I’m always sad to see it go.  One minute it’s murmuring along at my side and the next day just a few silent pools remain.  I’ve never seen a kingfisher or a dipper on my stretch of the river but I’ve seen them upstream and downstream where the river stays at the surface.

After the heavy rain we’ve had recently, the River’s back and I hope so are the otters. I join Kate from North East Wales Wildlife to look for signs. 
The sky’s the blue of a jay’s wing feathers.  We walk along the squelchy banks, sinking into cattle trodden mud and slithering over sycamore leaves.  When we reach the holt and the camera, Kate scrambles down and removes the memory card to check later.
I love this section of the River.  The woodland opens out into a meadow and today the trees glow and the river fizzes and sparkles like someone’s dropped a crate of alka-seltzer tablets into it.
I turn from admiring the amber view and see Kate stooping over some otter spraint on a lump of limestone.  She points out tiny fishy vertebrae in the oily splodge.  We mark the place on the map, photograph the poo and amble on.

Coming around a bend in the river, we disturb a female goosander.  She hurries skywards leaving trail of water droplets hanging in the air like pearls.

At the foot bridge we find more spraint. Kate tells me about the otter slide she discovered here earlier this year when the snow was thick on the ground.  She said it looked like they’d been sliding down the steep bank and plunging into the river over and over again.   We stand at the spot imagining an otter water park.
On the other side of the River is an old willow with one branch leaning right across the water, a perfect play tree for otters.  We find more spraint.  There are definitely otters here then, and even though we don’t see them, just knowing they are around is exciting.
Back in the office with mugs of tea, we hunch over the computer screen to watch the footage.  The camera is triggered by movement.  The computer shows that it’s been triggered many times. But when we watch we see we’ve been out foxed by a fox - a badger, an annoying bit of Himalayan Balsam blowing in the breeze... and a bouncing Jay with sky blue wings.

I've a feeling we'll have more luck with the camera on our next survey...

The next otter surveys are on:
Tues 19th and Wed 27th November 2013.


1 comment:

The bike shed said...

Have you read Miriam Darlington's Otter Country? Nice pressie if you haven't