River­side bird­watch­ing with­out welling­tons

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - DAVID SAUN­DERS

RIS­ING IN THE Black Moun­tains, the Monnow, for much of its 40-mile length, de­lin­eates the bor­der be­tween Eng­land and Wales, be­fore merg­ing with the Wye at Mon­mouth. A re­mark­able fea­ture close to the end its jour­ney and eas­ily found at the lower end of Monnow Street is Monnow Bridge, one of only two re­main­ing for­ti­fied river bridges in Great Bri­tain. Built in 1272, it was prob­a­bly in­ef­fec­tive in de­fen­sive terms but jolly useful both as a means of col­lect­ing tolls and as a good place for an­nual bat­tles be­tween those who lived in the main town and those on the out­skirts. The bridge is an ex­cel­lent lo­ca­tion for a walk down­stream to­wards the con­flu­ence with the much larger River Wye. One sur­prise is pass­ing an in­for­ma­tion board with a pic­ture of an ele­phant stand­ing in the river! One es­caped from a cir­cus at the Mon­mouth Mop Fair in 1930 and en­joyed sev­eral hours pad­dling be­fore re­cap­ture. Im­me­di­ately up­stream of the town, the mi­nor road north­wards from the sub­urb of Os­be­ston runs close to the Monnow where the weir and old mill race pro­vide good feed­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for Dip­per, Grey Wag­tail and Kingfisher. Fur­ther up­stream, look out for Lit­tle Grebes which can be ex­tremely elu­sive, spend­ing, it seems, more time be­low the sur­face than above. Man­darins have nested on the Lower Monnow while Goosanders are present in win­ter, es­pe­cially at the con­flu­ence with the Wye, where there is a Cor­morant roost. Swifts, Swal­lows, House and Sand Martins which all nest here­abouts en­liven any walk along the river bank. Look up­wards for soar­ing Buzzards, Red Kites and Ravens.


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