The Fowey Estuary is good. It has clear water (unlike the Torridge and Tamar estuaries) and is packed full of scenic interest, and usually good wildlife.
On a cool, grey day in October it offers a very pleasant half-day paddle from Fowey to Lostwithiel and back. Flat water, well-sheltered from the wind and a bit of assistance from the current if you have bothered to look at the tide tables. About twelve miles in all.
If you like wading birds, it’s particularly good for ‘shanks’. The loud, piping calls of both Red and Greenshanks resound around the wooded valleys. Superb sensurround sound, better than any IMAX cinema.
Listen to the evocative ‘teu,teu,teu’ of these Greenshank. Rubbish video, I know, but it’s worth it for the calls.
Just a month or so ago these birds were probably nesting in some bogland far away from civilisation in the far north of Scotland.
At high tide the waders loaf about on dead branches waiting for a bit of mud containing their lunch to be exposed.
Today there was enough water in the river Fowey to enable me to paddle right through Lostwithiel and beyond , battling through a couple of sets of small rapids.
I then drifted back down, cup of coffee in hand, as Dippers and Kingfishers zipped past.
On the way back downstream I was surprised to see a couple of Mandarin ducks, the first I have observed here.
Then I saw a little posse of Mallard ducks close to the shore, acting very strangely. They kept swimming towards the bank and then suddenly turned away. My eyes came out on stalks when I saw a Stoat jumping about on the mud just beyond them. It was leaping about all over the place and lashing its tail around like a lure, and clearly trying to mesmerise the ducks in the same way it would for a rabbit, so it could nip into the shallows and grab one.
Its dance certainly seemed to be working because the ducks were enticed to within a couple of feet of the crafty carnivore. It is so wrapped up in the performance that at the end it even grabs a leaf in its mouth and rushes off with it. You can see that (just) in this video:
Now give yourself a bit of a slap to ensure you have not slipped into the Stoat’s hypnotic trance. Then look at this bit again in slomo. It’s a window into something that goes on all the time but that we hardly ever see (pity I didn’t have time to set the camera up to allow for the dark conditions. Good lesson….always be prepared).
Clever little devil!
It then took the branches of a tree. Another first for me, I didn’t know Stoat’s climbed trees.
For its finale it apparently just went berserk along the bank. I’m not entirely sure for whose benefit this was because there weren’t any ducks around that area. Maybe it was trying to catch something by surprise or perhaps it had just eaten an orange Smartie.
Action over…..a serene paddle/drift back to Fowey with wind and tide in my favour.