A winter’s walk by the Eye Water

White butterbur with their cone like heads with white flowers are just starting to open
White butterbur with their cone like heads with white flowers are just starting to open

We seem to have been on the receiving end of some very changeable and stormy weather these past few weeks, blowing gale after gale, driving rain, a few snow showers and the odd mild sunny day, you never know what to expect when you look out of the window on a morning.

One day last week was no exception, it was blowing a gale and a blizzard of snow one minute then calm with bright sunshine the next.

I decided to take a chance and headed out for a short walk along the side of the Eye Water close to where the Ale Water joins the Eye at Kip Rock. I was in luck, the sun shone brightly and the thin dusting of snow made everything look clean and fresh except for the river which was a fast flowing torrent of brown water.

Sitting on a stone beside the torrent a dipper stood bobbing up and down, showing off its clean white breast which contrasted nicely with its dark, almost black body.

It was in full song and obviously had thoughts of spring and nesting in mind. Nearby a grey wagtail was searching the rocks for tiny insects, its long tail wagging up and down. The grey wagtails tend to leave the river in the autumn and this one was the first I have seen returning to the river where it will nest.

I disturbed a Goosander which quickly departed down the river, they feed on fish which they chase and catch under the water, I am not sure how they find fish when the river is in flood, maybe the fish cannot see the goosanders which are after them.

High on a tree a mistle thrush was in full song, like the dipper, they regularly start to sing in the winter and are also early nesters, often building a large untidy nest in quite an open position on a branch.

They are very territorial birds and can be quite aggressive and will see off crows and magpies which would like to steal their eggs. High in an alder tree a flock of about 15 siskins were busy extracting seeds from the cones, some seeds escaped the birds and drifted down to the ground, where with luck, they may get a chance to grow into a new tree.

Snowdrops were in full flower but were rather lost amongst the snow. A few bright yellow flowers of lesser celandine were poking through and will soon be joined by many more and down beside the river where it was clear of snow, the cone like heads with white flowers of white butterbur were just starting to open (see photo).

The flowers are rich in nectar and will be visited by a good range of early flying insects as soon as the weather warms up a little, which I hope will be soon.

*The next meeting of the Berwickshire branch of the Wildlife Trust is on Thursday, March 3, when Tom Cadwallender will talk about ‘Bird Migration’