A Day at the River The River Don, ABerdeenshire, Scotland

As dawn breaks, the sun slowly begins to lights up the top of the trees, gradually highlighting the array of splendid colours of woodland, nearby fields, and the river, as it gently rises in the sky. A blanket of mist lingers over the river as it slowly meanders through the countryside. On one side are the fields of barley and wheat, whilst on the other, is the woodland deep in a cloak of shadows before the sun has penetrated the interwoven leaves that contains an abundance of wildlife, to which they call their home. The river, dark and brooding is the lifeblood of this area, it begins its existence high in the Grampian Mountains then slowly and gradually increases in size and in strength as it makes its way past mountain and through glen, east out to the cold, uninviting North Sea, after travelling over 80 miles. Valuable nutrients are transported along this watery highway, supplying the building blocks from which life emerges.

It’s still early in the morning and the Roe Deer are making the most of their solace, grazing and warming themselves in the glow of the early morning sun before they are startled by the foot tread of man, to which, will send them into the dense woodland nearby.

A Doe with two young in tow moves cautiously towards the riverbank, feeding as they go, on the lush grass which grows there. The mother is always on guard for any signs of danger and lifts her head at the high-pitched call of a passing Dipper as it skims over the waters surface, towards a small group of rocks.

The Dipper is the only aquatic songbird in the UK, and it gets its name from the fact, that it is always bobbing up and down as well as dipping in and out of the water looking for small fish and aquatic insects to feed on. Time after time the small bird disappears from the rock it is on, into the fast flowing water in search of food, reappearing in a glistening cloud of silver as it breaks back through the surface with its reward.

Then around a bend in the river, gliding effortlessly close to the water appears an Osprey; it swoops up into the branches of an overhanging tree, a perfect spot to observe any unsuspecting fish below. After only a few minutes the Osprey has spotted something, it suddenly launches itself from the tree into a dive, it pushes its talons forwards and its wings back to crash into the water at speed but this time the fish is too quick and the bird comes away with nothing.

Further up the river, along the bank a Grey Heron stalks slowly, moving along the edge of the riverbank in search of its next meal, they are a resourceful and opportunistic bird that will catch and eat a variety of prey, amphibians, fish, small mammals, and even ducklings. The Heron suddenly stops, cocks its head, and observes for a minute without moving, and then very slowly moves its head around and closer to the waters surface until with an explosion of speed, it plunges its head into the water and then comes back up with a small fish for its effort. After a few more minutes the Heron is off in search of a new place to hunt.

A sudden but familiar flash of blue indicates the presence of a Kingfisher; it is only a fleeting glimpse though, as it flies off up the river in search of a suitable perch. He finds a branch overhanging the edge of the river, which is ideal for him to spy on any unsuspecting small fish. Once his target is found he launches himself from the branch, pushing back his wings to form his body into an arrow to punch through the water to return with a tiny fish for his efforts.

On the opposite bank from where the deer were earlier in the day is the woodland. This area explodes with the tuneful song of a variety of songbirds that inhabit there, such as the Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackcaps, Robins, and smallest of them all, the Wrens.

These diminutive creatures let everyone know that they are there, the small size hides a very distinct and loud song. Every time these small birds with the massive personality pop out into the open to sing and mark their territory they put their lives on the line, as a Sparrow Hawk patrols this area. The Sparrow Hawk is a supreme hunter that is well adapted to manoeuvre at speed amongst the dense woodland in search of an unsuspecting victim and a Wren singing out in the open is a prime target.

A sudden splash as a Brown Trout leaps out of the water trying to catch a flying insect just above the surface, has caught the attention of an Otter relaxing under a tree by the riverbank. The Otter slips into the water with a soft splash and goes to work in search of a meal. This intelligent and effective hunter soon reappears on the surface with a fish, which is soon devoured before he dives for another. A couple of fish later and the Otter has had his fill, so he now decides it’s time to play and searches for something to keep him amused. Two unsuspecting adult Mute Swans are happily and gracefully gliding downstream when suddenly one lets out a mighty hoot, flaps vigorously and torpedoes its head underwater but this is a fruitless act and so it comes up with nothing. The Swan resumes its peaceful swim but this only lasts a few seconds before the same thing happens again, this time a line of small bubbles appear on the waters surface, and gives the game away as it’s the Otter who reappears further up river and then suddenly disappears just as quickly.

The day is all but over, the birds are beginning to settle down to roost for the night, but life is not on hold until the sun returns, for now it’s time for the nocturnal creatures to emerge from their sleepy day. Soon a bat swoops through the trees picking off the flying insects in the dusky sky, then, gradually more and more bats appear until there are hundreds in the air, the Pipistrelle bats are hunting in the woods and fields while the Duabenton bats use their large feet and tails to hunt for insects from the rivers surface. The constant adjustments and change in direction show how manoeuvrable these small mammals are in the pursuit of food. They use echolocation to detect the tiny insects they feed on. As the bat fly, most of the time in complete darkness on the hunt thy are constantly shouting and listening for the returning sound waves to tell them where the insects are.

The bats are not the only mammals out this night, a snuffling sound comes from the undergrowth followed by a movement in the long grass until suddenly out into the open appears the familiar black and white stripy face of a badger, rooting about for worms or something else juicy to eat, from small mammals to amphibians and even birds. Slowly and playfully the rest of the family appear to go about their nightly routine. As the sky gradually get lighter the familiar red and yellow glow of sunrise is now beginning to appear on the horizon and with this, a new day begins at the river…………………………

Created By
Stephen Crossan
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