My usual view was revealed this morning, as I pulled back the curtains on my way to make my morning cuppa. On first sight the weather looked promising – sun was shining and it looked like a warm day was in front of me… and then I opened the window and felt the chilly breeze drift into the bedroom. Not quite short sleeve weather, methinks. How can the sun, through your bedroom window, lull you into a false sense of security, simply by it being there? It was going to be chilly outside despite the sun!
There was no deer, again, across the field but that is as usual and they will return in a couple of weeks. The little goldfinches are still very busy with their nest, popping in and out with their beaks full of whatever they can find and, today, I spotted the first swallow outside the cottage. Sitting on the telegraph wires there was just one, all alone, but soon to be followed by quite a few, if other years are anything to go by.
Morning cup of Earl Grey finished, I made my way down the curving stairs to rustle up some local eggs and bacon. I was off to watch the dipper this morning and needed some sustenance before I left – I didn’t know how long I was going to be out. It goes without saying that I was very looking forward to the prospect of sitting by the river in the early morning sunshine, with a coffee my by side, doing what I love doing – being out in the stunning Exmoor surroundings. I didn’t know how busy the river was going to be, as it’s a popular spot, but as long as I was clothed properly against the chilly breeze, then I was prepared to wait.
On my travels, I always glance into the fields as I pass them, looking for red deer. I wasn’t disappointed as there was a small group of around 15 to the left of me, sitting peacefully against a backdrop of ancient trees, in a corner. I pulled over so that I could watch them for a while and take a couple of photos, but knew that I had to get on with the day. Under the bridge, where the dipper has been seen, the water is flowing fast even though the level has dropped a little recently. There are plenty of exposed rocks and logs for the little bird to perch on and I chose my own resting place amongst the greenery at the side of the river, just a little way from the bridge. It’s not long before I catch my first proper sighting of the dipper. I can feel myself becoming quite emotional and choked up, which is silly because this is just a little brown bird, right?
For as long as I can remember I have always dreamed of seeing a dipper – a delightful bird, with a white bib, dipping up and down whilst sitting on whatever it can find to perch on. About the size of a blackbird, this pretty little bird lives and nests near tumbling, bubbling rivers and it has evaded me. Ok, I’ve seen very fleeting glimpses of them along the way, for they are so quick in their movement, but these glimpses cannot be called a sighting because they are so fast! I can honestly say that I’ve never had a good, clear view of one…until today! Today will be a day I will always remember.
Working hard to feed its young, the dipper flew backwards and forwards for the whole time I watched it. There was only one break taken and that was to preen itself on an exposed rock at the edge of the noisy, tumbling river. It sat there, cleaning each feather, sometimes on one leg, until it was certain it was as perfect as it could be. Then, back to work, collecting tasty morsels of food from the river to deliver to hungry mouths.
It flew in my direction and then up river alternately, stopping periodically for a breather on a rock or piece of log, where it would dip its body up and down, hence its name I suppose. When it was in the crystal clear water, it would disappear for a few seconds, only to resurface and swim, penguin-like, searching for food.
On one such occasion this busy little bird flew to a rock with a worm-like creature in its mouth. Once there, it washed its find in the water, swishing it and banging it repeatedly into the flowing river. Then it was off, to its nest before starting the whole process again. It was simply amazing to watch and to be so close was a bonus. Dog walker and hikers passed by but I was practically oblivious – wrapped up in a world that enthralled me.
After a couple of hours, I called it a day. My rear was becoming quite numb and I was perched at an angle on some small, sharp stones so needs must. But I’d had a fantastic morning and couldn’t believe that I’d actually been watching a dipper at work! Simple pleasures – it’s what I’m all about.
On my return to the cottage, I threw a quick ham and mustard sandwich together and headed off over the fields to see if there was any deer about. Even if there wasn’t I was going to be lunching in an Exmoor field, after a challenging walk, with a view to die for, so nothing lost.
Yet another simple pleasure – Exmoor is full of them!