I explore the river for the first time.
Finding the path which runs from the Irfon bridge in Llangammarch towards the
Lake Hotel I amble beside its dark, busy waters. The banks are well wooded with
hazel, sycamore and alder and in the fields sheep graze; in the first field
backing away as I approach but in the second seeming to follow me at a safe
distance. Passing over stiles and through gates I come to a stretch where rocks
jut out into the river and think to myself 'there must be dippers here'. I
searched for dippers for many years in Welsh rivers without ever seeing one,
particularly in the nature reserve of Gilfach from where I once heard a radio
programme that rejoiced in the abundance of dippers that were found there. But
I never saw one. Eventually on the river Tanat in North Wales I did catch sight
of a dipper far upstream, and was delighted, it was even more satisfying than
the spectacular sight of a migrating osprey which I saw later on the same
river. Dippers are deeply entrenched in my childhood memory. Looking at them in
books I immediately loved their perky brightness and white flashing chest. When
I saw film of them swimming underwater I became a devoted admirer. Then when we
were holidaying near Dartmoor I remember searching for them in the fast running
streams of that wild country. We never saw one but did catch a breathtaking
glimpse of a feral mink.
Now I descended to the rocks and squatted down. A little way downstream a flash of white attracted my eye and when I fixed my binoculars on it, it was, sure enough, a dipper, preening himself on a rock in the middle of the stream. Round and round he turned as if to make sure that I got a good sight of him from every angle.
I sit by the river in a space where there are no trees on the bank and watch a Treecreeper and Garden Warbler probe and search the sycamore tree opposite. Earlier a fast flash sped up river. A Kingfisher, perhaps.