Country diary: Clean water brings the dippers | Phil Gates

3. března 2023 10:00

Příroda

Wolsingham, Weardale: The cock bird, an operatic tenor in immaculate evening dress, delivered a avian aria that I could hear above the tumult of the riverUpstream, the river glides past, a liquid mirror reflecting the overhanging alders. Here, tumbling over rocky ledges, swirling around boulders, it fizzes with bubbles. There must be a dozen wriggling riverfly nymphs attached to the underside of the first rock that I lift from the water. When these stone-clingers are washed into the collecting tray, they squirm with convulsive energy, then settle: a broad head, a yellow, flattened body, legs with brown zigzag tiger stripes, a trident of tail filaments, abdominal gills beating furiously, extracting oxygen from the water. They are yellow May duns, common mayflies in this stretch of river and, along with stonefly nymphs, are here because the water is clean and well oxygenated. And dippers are here because they are here.I watched a pair courting on this spot in early February. First the female arrived, fanning her tail, fluttering her wings. Then the cock bird, an operatic tenor in immaculate evening dress: black plumage, spotless white bib, chestnut cummerbund around his portly midriff. Drawing himself up to his full stature, stretching his neck skywards, he delivered an avian aria that I could hear above the tumult of the river. Sometimes, his startling white eyelids closed. Blinking, cleansing the eye surface? Or winking, sending a signal? Continue reading...
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