Front door, St Ives, February 2021

Our house is on a narrow plot in town on the river, with the front door on the side. It is built to allow the flood to come up around and underneath, and to flow back again with some assistance from me to brush back debris and silt. We are used to floods that hang around for up to a week or so, and I always enjoy the birdwatching on the flood meadow opposite at such times (see Sights and Sounds November – March 2020).

On this occasion, however, it has lasted six weeks from Christmas Eve. As usual, I opened the door early to schlepp up to the postbox for the paper. Half asleep, I was startled by a bright blue flash and a whirring of wings that made me jump out of my skin. It took me a few seconds to register what had happened.

A Kingfisher had been sitting on the low wall immediately outside the door, presumably peering down into the shallow water lapping against the house, and hoping for a movement that might indicate breakfast. It made me realise how difficult it must be for these wonderful birds to continue to catch small fry when the river is so high, fast and coloured. This particular bird must have viewed our little ‘backwater’ as a potential feeding ground. Small fish must presumably mass in eddies off the main stream during a flood and, as long as visibility allows, the bird can snatch a displaced fish from such places.

Another opportunity might be offered on Holt Island Nature Reserve just upstream. Here the receding water level traps fish in temporary pools and our local Grey Heron has been seen to make regular visits. On a previous occasion we rescued a small, but contented, pike from one pool.

  Diving Kingfisher
The low wall perch with water receded    The sight I missed! Photograph by Nigel Sprowell 


Trustee Ian Jackson