Mistle thrush can predict the stormy weather

Goosanders feeding where the Cuddy joins the Tweed at Peebles. The debris on the bushes behind shows the height of the recent flood.
Goosanders feeding where the Cuddy joins the Tweed at Peebles. The debris on the bushes behind shows the height of the recent flood.
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I can hardly believe it’s still raining! Give me snow and frost anytime. This so called winter is really starting to get me down. I think I may have developed trench foot, it’s been so clarty.

A couple of weeks ago I used a picture in this column of a fisherman’s hut on the Ettrick near Selkirk, immersed in floodwater, which I thought was quite dramatic. Little was I to know that a week later I would be at the same spot, taking another picture, with the water being a foot higher!

Last Saturday, I had a walk up the Tweed from Peebles and it was amazing to see just how high the river had been, from the debris left behind. It was still running high, but not high enough to deter the resident dipper returning from its refuge on a smaller tributary, where the waters would allow it to feed, or a loch side, where it would be able to forage in the shallows. This particular bird would have already established its breeding territory before the deluge and was reasserting its position by singing loudly from one of the bridge piers. Where the Cuddy joins the Tweed, a calm backwater was allowing a mixed group of male and female goosanders to feed, without being swept downstream.

On Sunday I braved the dreich conditions to have a walk from Old Melrose along the circular Monk’s Walk. The woods were damp and silent, with little wildlife in evidence until I reached the Tweed. Here a couple of buzzards swooped low above the river where a few mallards and goosanders searched for food.

Where the flood waters scoured the banks and low lying woodland, millions of tiny bulbs were scattered, anchored to the exposed silt by the odd rootlet. These are the beginnings of the dreaded alien “few flowered leek” – a plant which will carpet the area with its tiny white flowers and pungent onion smell, in spring. It’s easy to see how it spreads along river courses when you see it like this.

Before getting back to the car, just as the rain was starting in earnest, I heard the unmistakable song of the mistle thrush or “storm cock” as country folk call it, due to its reputation for predicting imminent bad weather and I thought “Here we go again!”