‘When nature feeds you must know when to look’. One of my few Nature Notebook columns for The Times (in amongst some letters)
Always look slowly over the edge of a bridge. I’ve done it all my life — perhaps all anglers do.
As I peer at the water a big fat brown trout is still under the bridge. Neither sunlight nor I are his friends and he knows just when to move. He is always gone by ten in the morning, replaced by naive youngsters, inches from a grey wagtail snapping up late summer insects from the surface.
To watch wildlife properly you have to work when it’s the best time to observe it, getting close enough to seeing how different creatures run their daily lives.
This is the time of year when nature knows it’s feeding time, before cold brown winter waters sweep down from the Black Mountains, washing away any vestige of food until next year.
“Zeep zeep.” That’s a fly-by from the local dipper, hurtling upstream, dodging red-rooted alders to rendezvous with its mate on a slippery midstream stone. (As a kid, on the banks of a Scottish stream, I remember making a rough hide of rocks to marvel at these dumpy yet slick aquatic songbirds diving under water to catch larvae and tiny fish.)
Overhead, a grunting goosander makes his way purposely towards the deeper pools up the valley, where he will use his long red bill to grapple with fish. In the stream the young trout also have their place in the food chain. There’s a whiff of wind, and a tiny beetle falls from the bridge as the white-lined mouth of the lead fish takes his prize. The “plop’” in the pool is ignored. But not by the grey squirrel in the hazel tree, which has one eye out for cob nuts, the other on a buzzard wheeling near by.
All of wildlife is filling its belly as I pass over the bridge.