Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sounds from the river at night

Its about 100 paces from the house to the river. Living on the side of the valley means the sounds from below are often magnified, so a heron calling in the middle of the night can sound like its under the bed. When two are squabbling over the best fishing places they often wake us up. Every so often a ‘wild rumpus’ starts along the river bank with every bird causing a din, encouraged by their neighbours. They will remain jumpy all night, never really settling down, especially the moorhens.

A moonlit night like this is perfect for tawny owls. They talk amongst themselves in the wood opposite and really get going in the early evening. You can lie in bed and listen to the progress of the fox along the river bank as each water bird gives a shriek of alarm when he pokes his nose into the river margin for a sniff. In a few weeks we will hear the vixens calling their single bark or their eerie scream.

On muggy, short summer nights with the windows flung open for air, fish jumping to dislodge a parasite can be heard slapping their sides on re-entry. But the best sound of all is made by the dippers soon after dawn in the spring. Their song rises above the dawn chorus and suddenly the river seems to be in the bedroom with you.

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Derby Uni LL.B.yr4 Birmingham Uni (field lecturer)