A pleasant and sunny afternoon today to celebrate the first day of April, which is when spring seems to make its first tentative forays into Argyll. I wandered down into the paddock to check for goose eggs (none to be found today) and then took myself off down along the river for a poggle.
The river is relatively small, only about ten metres across at the widest, but fast in the shallow sections near The Chookery. Below our ground the river reaches the water meadows approaching the loch and slows down, gets deeper and forms pools where fishermen are occasionally found lurking in the undergrowth.
The land here is formed of glacial deposits and the river bed is cobbles from material deposited in the last ice age. One section of the river has an exposed bank of glacial boulders alongside it which is covered in mosses and the odd tree.
Characteristic of the river are the strange anthropomorphic deposits which can be found here. The river bed is littered with broken white ceramic marmalade jars and old bottles; sometimes these can be found intact and brought back as treasure for the Queen of the Chooks to admire. I have mentioned before the strange but obvious stratum of old boots which the river has exposed in its banks. My personal theory is that all of these deposits of debris originated with rubbish from the hotel which used to operate in the village (now sadly closed down) and that, before the days of universal binmen, the river was the waste disposal option of choice. I can picture the “boots” going down to the bridge each morning with the bins and hoicking the contains over the parapet.
A little further down is the eroded bank of silty sand which is used as high-rise accommodation by the sand martins – saw a few around today so they are returning from their winter holidays and getting ready for the serious business of nesting.
Bright green spears of marsh flag are starting to spring through the dead grasses and rushes along the boggy river margins; these present a spectacular display in the spring and early summer.
In the shallower, sunny margins of the river itself there was a positive frog-fest, with about one every square metre of river bed. Most alone, but some firmly coupled and waiting for the moment of spawning. I reached down and was able to pick one of the frogs up and was astonished to discover that I could hear it squeaking underwater. It seems very optimistic to me to lay frog spawn in a river which has a habit of being spateful and washing everything down to the loch, but these hoppy boys have been around longer than me and doubtless know the moods of the river better than I do.
Oh, and the osprey is back. Haven’t seen it myself, but bearded blokes with binoculars are starting to clog up the road to the village again.
Writing this reminds me that I came across an interesting botanical blog from Donegal in Ireland. The Queen of the Chooks, who is no mean botanist herself, was absorbed by the site and its photos. It’s a fascinating exercise with some good photography – have a look at Donegal Hedgerow 2006.