A day off and despite the almost overwhelming temptation to roll over and stay in bed, I am out of the house and walking north along the river. The dark is lifting and world is steely blue. I pause to look at the fingernail sliver of the waning moon – everything is calm and beautiful, and I no longer wish I was back in my warm bedroom.
The river, however, is not calm – it is alive with fish jumping, presumably feasting on invisible insects that are occupying the air just above the surface. Or, perhaps instead, this just some kind of fishy expression of joy. And why not – it is turning out to be that kind of day.
A bit further on a fisherman is setting up his arsenal (four rods!) in the war against fish – I grunt good morning and suggest he might be in for a busy day, with a nod to the river frothing behind him. He’s having none of it and mutters something grumpily about nothing biting. I leave him to it and walk out of the town, under the railway bridge and onto the water meadows.
With the exception of a photographer, waiting to catch the first of the sun, imminent over the horizon, I am alone with just the birds for company. A heron is hunched up and looks to be asleep, although I suspect it is keeping a weather eye on the river. And then a shushhh as maybe a hundred or so starlings sweep over me, silent except for the sound of their wings cutting through the crisp air. They are beginning to collect – the murmuration season will soon be upon us. I watch them for a while when I am distracted by activity on the water. Five cormorants have come to take advantage of the fishy ferment. They don’t waste any time either, diving into the cold river, back up for air and then down again. I have no idea of the size of the fish, other than by making an estimate based on the magnitude of the splashes – small fry is my guess, and the hungry birds will need to work hard to make a decent breakfast of this.
The usual suspects have emerged – moorhens aplenty, ducks and a distant skein of geese, silhouetted against the lightening sky. Another flypast from the starlings and it is time for me to head back. The dog walkers and joggers are up and about now, and I hullo my way back to town. The fishermen is snoozing in his camping chair, safe from the vicissitudes of everyday life, and it looks as if the fish have decided not to disturb him. His rods, lined up tidily, won’t see much action today. But not everybody will be so unlucky – as I approach the bend in the river where I will take my leave, a great crested grebe surfaces with a fish in its beak. With a flick and a gulp breakfast is swallowed, and I take that as my cue to make my way home for mine.