An unexpected encounter by the river
There are days where I simply enjoy being within nature, where there is no forward planning and I go out to certain spots to see the wildlife around me. On this day in particular, I went to a secluded spot next to the river that flows through and around my hometown. It is a spot I had previously visited throughout my childhood and early teen years, so I had an idea of what wildlife would be present there. I took my camera with no inclination to find a particular species, but I had it with me ‘just in case’ — a phrase which resonates with me more and more.
I watched some mallards paddling on the water, a moorhen picking at the edge of the river opposite where I was positioned, and a grey wagtail briefly perched on an exposed piece of rock in the middle of the river, before flying upstream. I listened to the rustling of leaves in the neighbouring trees, a distant cry of a young magpie begging for food from one of its parents, and the trickling of the water as it ran down over the rocks.
After spending half an hour immersing my senses, I walked into the shallow area of water behind a overhanging willow tree and looked around the bend. I noticed multiple shapes on the water ahead of me; it definitely resembled a species of waterfowl but I couldn’t work out what from that distance. So I retrieved my camera and tripod and went back into the moving water. I set up my tripod so my camera was close to the water level up ahead, and when I peered through the viewfinder, I was simply amazed at what I saw.
A female goosander and her nine young chicks were swimming up river towards my position — notably the first brood to be recorded in this county. Her head was a dark chestnut colour and her chicks still had their cream and dark brown striped appearance, a feature which disappears the older they get to soon resemble that of their parents. I watched the mother closely to make sure she didn’t seem disturbed, and began taking images as she slowly made her way upstream with her chicks. She got closer and closer to where I was positioned — still in the water but not blocking the route. For twenty minutes, I watched the family feeding and preening and one chick was happily resting on its mothers back all the way up river. The mother continued to bring her family upstream, and was now in close proximity of me. To make sure that she wasn’t uncomfortable or distrubed by my presence in the water, I slowly retreated to the bank behind me and once again set up my tripod close to the water’s surface. As soon as I was set up, the mother made her way up a small cluster of rocks in the middle of the river and the chicks followed closely behind, clambering their way up one after the other. The mother continued to behave normally as she pushed her head underwater to search for food, and the chicks either copied her or briefly stretched their tiny wings and preened themselves. For another ten minutes, the mother let her chicks explore this secluded area before once again leading her chicks up another cluster of rocks in the river and continued on their way upstream around another bend.
The fact that I am almost always experiencing these unexpected moments is, for lack of a better word, wonderful. Nature and wildlife constantly surprise me each and every day and to be able to record and share these encounters is one of many reasons why I do what I do; for the pure joy and wonder that I receive from it.