By Rob Rowe (March 2020)

I am startled by a pair of mallards rising from the river directly below me, as I flush them into panicked flight. Lifting me too, from inward thought, to where I stand below the silent rookery. Why their absence?

A solitary raven croaks by low overhead as if to answer in Corvidian tongue.

On the old pipe there is fresh otter spraint, the first for two weeks, perhaps just an occasional visitor here or when the river is low. No sign of prints, the mud is hardening fast.

As the river has dropped there is now sign of badger diggings and latrines.

The deep fast water had kept them over the other side of the river where the first wild cherry is flowering, part of a small plantation in a sheltered spot.

The larger new pool has stopped overflowing although there is still a steady trickle coming in and on one of the tiny islands a solitary black-headed gull is resting.

From all four directions around me I can hear distant drumming of great spotted woodpecker as they claim their territories.

As the morning warms a good number of small tortoiseshell butterflies are on the air joined by a few peacocks. One sips delicately at nectar from a primrose flower, a group of which are tucked safely down in the dingle.

Decades of constant sheep grazing have given little hope to broad-leaved plants. This has long been a grass producing area and the few bursts of brilliant dandelion yellow and lesser celandine are like tiny golden oases.

Today the pressure is off and one goat willow in particular breaks the silence with the hum of feeding bumblebees, their bodies dusted in the yellow pollen.

In their tree guard greenhouse homes the hawthorn are in early leaf and blackthorn buds are breaking into flower.