Low among the phragmites dreaming of a shade more turbidity, the words of 'Burning Sky' drifting around in my skull. Tumbleweeds of hope roll past each time the tip moves. Earlier the frost lay thick. An overnight sprinkling turned to silver. A water rail squealed in communication with its widespread winter brethren, a sixth successive recording. Then, a flash of white in the corner of the eye through the smudgy mist, and there it was. Tamed by icy circumstance. It's reticence depleted.
"How are things in your little world?", I inquired. Escape route planned and tested with aplomb, its flickering white tail off-putting to the predator. Ravens are in discussion in the grove while the beauty of the roach is studied in the hand for return without drama to the shoal below the gently swirling surface, the hue of which is suggestive of more to come.
A deeper glide overhung by skeletal salix. Three mallard burst vertically in a cacophony of quacks, panicked wing-beat and spray. Engrossment in the event is complete as ravenous roachlet's continually attack the baker's best. Now with gravel beneath the boots and the stream pushing past them the bait is dropped under flood-festooned branches. The day brings comfort but a glance back at the bank brings questions as to extraction. We'd think of something. A treecreeper feebly sips a suggestion. Little fishes relentlessly nibble and with the occasional flip and fizz are drawn out into the air but, with nothing sizeable succumbing, thoughts turn. The explosive chattering of great tits and an alarmed blackbird hint at danger and, high in the willow, there he sits. Staring of eye and fluffed of feather the male sparrowhawk scans for suspects. A bite, a strike and he's gone, no stomach for sharing the world with distractions these hawks. With the urge to wander comes the need to leave this deep ravine and with water levels having dropped only recently a skimming of damp silt adorns the leaf litter. A rigid flood-displaced branch acts as a crutch and, without the slightest slip, up and out and on.
Next, one of the formerly prime swims now succeeded by nettles and blackthorn scrub. No one had been here in the recent past. Pushing through and creating space was enough to scatter the prey as tiny droplets began to spatter the stream. The high pitched tweeting of a goldcrest, indistinct through the rain in the thick spiney trees bonsaied by the annual pressure of floods on the vertical rooting bank, draws the attention. Flycatching, it flutters into the open and returns as a green woodpecker yaffles in the grove. It's getting late and the last supper is delivered with appetisers in a basket, a nugget of bread the irresistable stand-out treat on the washed-clean riverbed as a shrew runs underfoot, full-tilt in its high-paced frenzy to support it's rapid metabolism. It and the goldcrest have no time to waste. The supper presented and served. The fish absent or distracted.
The final subject to consume the mind - the awesome power of water...
References:Burning Sky (Paul John Weller, 1979)