Thursday 2 October 2008

At a Bend in the Whiteadder

I always liked the fact that there really is a place called Blackadder in Berwickshire. Previously, I had assumed it was a name made up by Rowan Atkinson for his comedy series. There is also a Blackadder Aisle in Glasgow Cathedral - and in his first Blackadder series, he plays the Duke of Edinburgh. Is Rowan Atkinson a secret Scotophile?

As well as the Blackadder River, there is a Whiteadder River too. I spent a while at a bend in the river last weekend, just watching. It was a mellow, early autumn day, and I was glad to be outside in some rare sun. The birch is turning yellow, but plenty green remains to turn. No orange or red leaves yet, treetops waving in a breeze. Ducks in the river, a couple of dippers in the racing waters. My heart always warms to see a dipper bobbing up and down. I could see minnows and small trout in the shallows, and knew that somewhere in the deep pools are much larger fish - maybe even salmon. A flash of blue - a kingfisher! Above, crows attacked raptors. One crow was enough to see off a kestrel, but it took three of them in a wave to see off a buzzard. The buzzard shrugged them off, glided on a bit, and continued hunting a few hundred yards further on. What were the crows protecting? A grasshopper jumped into a nearby pool, and I pulled it out the water, its long, Usain Bolt-like legs stretching and drying. And then with one bound it was away in the grass. A frog jumped away from my feet into the water, and I wondered if it would eat the grasshopper later. Nature does not do mercy.

In the evening a bat landed at my feet, squeaking. I left it on a window sill, and it took off again, flying round and round before disappearing into the darkness.


Billy said...

Yep, Nature is red in tooth and claw as Tennyson wrote.
Or as Dawkins puts it

"The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. It must be so.

Maybe the grasshopper was trying to escape the frog.

I thought everything would be polluted down there. Glad its not. I remember the first time I did the west highland way, there is a river you pass (before loch lomond). It was pristine and I went to cool my feet. It had shoals of sticklebacks, minnows, trout and loach (I had never seen loach in the wild before) I think there were even miller's thumbs - a real rarity. A few years later when I did it again, the water was overgrown with algae (probably fertilisers) and the fish were gone - real bummer

Robert Craig said...

No, it's not polluted. But I'm pretty sure the river is heavily monitored and controlled. It's the only way they can be sure of keeping it clean.

Saw leeches there earlier on in the year, loads of them. Pretty common apparently - yet I didn't know you got them in Scotland!

Billy said...

Saw leeches there earlier on in the year, loads of them. Pretty common apparently - yet I didn't know you got them in Scotland!

We've got loads. They can transmit fish sleeping sickness