Comings and goings on the riverside

My local dipper on its favourite girder perch.
My local dipper on its favourite girder perch.

Despite a cold north wind keeping temperatures down at the weekend, the sun shone and it was pleasant to be out and about.

My usual Ettrick riverside ramble is full of interest at the moment with almost too much to take in. All six warbler species usually encountered were singing their heads off and I am still struggling to tell the difference between garden warbler and blackcap by sound only. These are the only two species I really find difficult to separate by song, despite years of trying.

The tree leaves are now partially open and it is becoming harder to see the arboreal birds, but watching the river birds suffers no such impediment.

I like to find a nice comfy seat, partially hidden, with good views up and downstream and sit quietly to see what comes along. With the likes of waders, such as common sandpiper and oystercatcher, you will hear them long before you see them, their strident calls preceding their arrival. At least two pairs of oystercatcher have chosen to nest on huge shingle banks thrown up by winter floods and are quietly incubating eggs.

Amongst the partially submerged stones at the water’s edge, both pied and grey wagtails busily search for aquatic insects and hatching mayflies.

I even watched a pair of robins flying out from riverside rocks to hawk for flies above the river – behaviour I have never witnessed before.

A pair of dippers obviously has a nest near the new hydro-electric turbines on the cauld, as I often see one of the birds using a girder at the head of the fish ladder as a staging post.

On the water itself is the odd mallard drake, temporarily redundant while the female raises her brood and the usual occasional goosanders, swimming with their heads underwater, looking for unsuspecting fish to grab with their serrated bills.

There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting on a riverbank in May, with the sun on your back, watching the comings and goings.