We hadn’t communicated much, there hadn’t been months of emailing, exchanging photographs, we hadn’t shared any intimate secrets or lists of our favourite Marvel film characters, colour, sports team or smurf, we didn’t find our profiles on twitchermatch.com yet here we were. We hadn’t arranged to wear red roses, though my ‘date’ was instantly recognisable wearing a genuine feather boa. We spent an intimate hour together, a grey heron and I; a date on the River Goyt.
River Goyt, Cheshire
It’s a walk I take almost every day, walking our pocket wolf, Spike along the Peak Forest Canal and River Goyt in Marple. It never gets boring, every day is a new adventure, even on days when the sun doesn’t shine and it’s grey and dull, there is something different to see or experience.
Another day with Spike: Pocket Wolf Adventures in the Peak District
There are the comings and goings of local wildfowl, the arrival of the first geese, and when their first hatchlings arrive, the constant squabbles of mallards. The occasional exotic visitor, mandarin ducks, goosanders or even a cormorant, all add some extra spice to the daily routine.
Grey wagtails zip along both banks of the river, while dippers flit from rock to rock, stranded log to log, bobbing up and down whenever they land, sometimes taking a dip in the fast-flowing water, looking for insects to feed their young.
The staccato rat-a-tat of woodpeckers can often be heard and as the first buds of spring appear, the possibility of hearing a cuckoo call is reason enough to leave the house. As daylight gives way to twilight, the hoots of owls take over, interrupting the birdsong of evening, small murmurations of dozens of birds may even fly overhead on their way to roost.
On an especially good day, there’s the chance to spot a kingfisher, it’s the highlight of any day by the river. A sighting is rare, sometimes limited to a fleeting glimpse of iridescent colour flashing past, when particularly lucky it might even land. Perching on a branch, staring intently into the river, looking for dinner, possibly an immature salmon or trout, which are apparently common in the clear, fast running water of the River Goyt.
Becoming a twitcher: Bird Stalking Adventures on the River Goyt
There are also large barbel in the river, the powerful, torpedo shaped fish which is as prized by course fishermen as salmon is to the game angler. These outdoor sportsmen can regularly be found along the banks of the river, while other spin for perch or pike on the Peak Forest Canal.
Dog walking is a popular pastime, all varieties of breeds, from water loving spaniels and retrievers jumping in the river at every opportunity, to little characters like jack russells and west highland terriers.
There are even a couple of terrapins in an isolated pond near the canal, hibernating throughout winter, but now the sun is beginning to appear, they spend their days bathing on any piece of wood protruding above the water.
This day however, my date was a grey heron, which aren’t especially rare, I probably see one or two every day, but as shy birds, they rarely stay around, or allow me to get close. They usually appear quite regal, although a wet one can also look especially bedraggled.
More from Cheshire: Postcards from Chadkirk Chapel
My date hung around for about an hour, allowing me ample opportunity to grab some shots, though admittedly it stood perfectly still for about forty-five minutes. I was beginning to hope it might fly off, possibly a passing dog diving into the river and disturbing it, so I could catch it in flight.
It must have been enjoying my company however, as it showed little inclination to move on, and as we’d been so intimate for so long, I wasn’t keen on scaring it off either. It would have been easy to creep closer or throw a stone into the water, but it just didn’t feel right.
Like any good date that ends well however, it was to be my lucky day, just as I was beginning to give up and think of heading home, my date decided to leave. With a quick, powerful flap of its wings, it swooped off down the river, in search of a quieter fishing spot, or possibly another date?