As luck would have it I’m an early riser and since Stephen left I’ve got in the habit of going down for a swim about 6am. I’ve learnt that “early is best”, for seeing wildlife that is, and this morning did not disappoint. Of course it’s cooler, both the air and the water, but it’s quiet, there’s no-one around yet, and that makes all the difference.
As Selkie and I approached the weir, a heron flew up and away. It was there yesterday morning, the first time I’ve seen a heron since February, preoccupied as they’ve been with raising their young.
Swimming upstream , I could see a line far ahead of me that looked like an adult duck and chicks. I couldn’t identify it, but as I got closer I saw that it was a female mandarin duck and two young. That was a huge delight, as we had seen an adult pair of mandarin ducks further downstream a few weeks ago, and noted that we hadn’t yet seen any ducklings. As they turned to go downstream I swam along side them for a while, gentle breast strokes as quietly as possible. Just as I thought I should leave them be, I saw ahead another female, mallard this time, with 5 very new chicks. This must be the one I saw with Marion on Sunday evening as we walked along the river. Strangely I had thought then it might be a mandarin duck. Her young were quite small and I watched her gather them behind her in an opening on the river bank. I swam on.
A brief float on my back, and as I turned a kingfisher flew past me. I thought it was going away, but it flew back onto a low hanging branch by the riverbank. So I swam towards it as quietly as I could until I was only 4 or 5 feet away. I stayed treading water watching it. A beautiful, stocky bird, bigger than I thought it would be, with its orange chest and stunning turquoise blue green back. I didn’t want to move, I was frankly awestruck by the experience. But a chilling down of my body eventually caused me to move and the kingfisher flew off across the river to another branch. I guess it was looking for food for its young.
I started to swim across, and as I did so a dipper swooped close by, landing like the kingfisher on an overhanging branch. I watched it fly from branch to branch as I swam slowly back to where Selkie was waiting patiently for me on the river bank.
I had a boiled egg for breakfast to celebrate! Seemed a bit early for champagne, but the excitement of such a magical start to the day would certainly have warranted it.