The sudden cooling has catapulted the birds into a hub of activity. Fifty plus Starling have grouped and lingered on the roof tops and telegraph wires that surround our street. Overhead a herd of Curlew hungrily hurry past, while higher up several groups of geese dent the crisp blue sky with their familiar V shaped flight formations. It's tempting to go no further; to just stop and watch the drifters, passers-by and hangers on. But the water has too much pull for me to stay.
As I make my way along the road to the river, the flanks of trees and bushes contain the usual suspects. Chaffinches, a female Bullfinch (the male won't be too far away), blue tits, a solitary robin and long tailed tits whom I have the biggest soft spot for. By now though I'm too excited to see what's on the water to slow down.
The river is higher than I was expecting and I get a wet foot making my way out to the shape-shifting pebble island that is usually accessible via stepping stones. The small island is not more than twenty metres in length and conforms with the flow of the river.
With our silver Lurcher, Alfie walking to my heel we make our way to the far end of the island where I can get a better view of the events and occurrings down stream. As we make a cautious approach a Kingfisher whizzes into view and lands on a protruding stone just five or six metres away. It pauses and looks at us quizzically for what feels like a minute but is more likely five seconds before flying to the safety of a nearby tree. Below the tree I spot a dipper hopping along the rocks and pebbles. A second dipper lands close to stone where the Kingfisher initially landed. Alfie and I freeze. The Dipper continues its quest for nymphs and larvae, clearly aware of us but unconcerned.
Suddenly splash! A chocolate and white Spaniel has caught us all by surprise. The Dipper immediately takes flight followed by the other Dipper who then gets clobbered by the Kingfisher as it also makes its get away! The Kingfisher follows the curve of the river and glides out of view but the two Dippers stop short of the bend and have a toe-to-toe on a half submerged boulder. This extraordinary flurry of activity is all over in less than thirty seconds and I'm left wondering whether to curse or thank our new four legged acquaintance.
We leave the island and tramp a little further down stream away from the frolics of the island's visitors. This time it's me that ruffles some feathers as I disturb a young Heron fishing. We get tantalising glimpses of bickering Dippers and darting Kingfisher, presumably the same characters observed earlier.
Alfie and I find a quiet spot and lounge. After an hour, a day, a year of drinking in the surrounding sounds, smells and sights we dust ourselves off and head home. Just as we depart several golden leaves land and charge along the surface of the water like mythical dragon boats about to inflict terror on some unsuspecting settlement.
It's the first leaves of Autumn.