A flooded River Usk.

15th September 2017
I have decided to pull the plug on my Kingfisher site on the River Usk for this year, the weather since mid-July has been dreadful. The river is swollen continually and the usual secluded section of the river where these birds fish and also sometimes breed is flooded right out. They along with the Dippers, whose rocky areas are completely submerged, are really struggling through this period of horrendous weather. They are both having to find backwaters that are a little calmer and these are few and far between. I went down to the river early yesterday morning to retrieve my flower pots filled with concrete, (see previous blog, photographing Kingfishers), and my perches that I have hidden away. I was carrying my Canon 600 and a tripod just in case there was anything about in the distance. I put them down on the river bank safely away from the flood and waded into the river to the hidden place where I hide my perches etc, but to my surprise and dismay I couldn’t get near them although I was wearing wellingtons, I was ten feet from them and the river level was at the top of my wellies. This was a problem because I didn’t want to leave them there over the winter because I’m sure they would be swept away. There was only one alternative, I came back out of the river and took my wellies and socks off, rolled my trousers right up as far as I could and waded barefoot into the river. It is surprising how cold the water is, even in September, I also took two small fallen branches in with me to act as balancing aides because the current was so strong. I can say with confidence that I would have over-balanced without those branches to counteract the flow of water. With great difficulty I retrieved my paraphernalia and made my way back to the sanctuary of the river bank and I have to admit I was quite relieved to be back on dry land!
I dried my legs and feet with some kitchen roll that I always keep in my bag and got my wellies back on, it’s very comforting to have your footwear reinstated, somehow you feel vulnerable in bare feet. I sat down on a log under some willows to drink a cup of coffee and to just see if anything came along. After about ten minutes I heard very large wing beats above me and to my surprise a Mute Swan flew low overhead and then landed about a hundred yards up river. I knew it would have to come back down river because of the strength of the current and sure enough it drifted towards me. There was a small recess of calm water under an overhanging canopy just slightly up-river on the opposite bank to me. The Swan gratefully made for this calm and just floated around in there away from the current. However, it is quite dark under there but the sun was shining strongly on the bird. I have had this scenario with Kingfishers in the past and it allows a photographer to deliberately under-expose the scene. This has the effect of correctly exposing the Swan (in this example) and really darkening the already darkish background. This can be very effective because you then have a white bird like a Swan contrasting against an almost black background.

I made two trips to my car to load my kit, perches etc and left the river until next spring.