The rainy early part to winter resulted in the River Devon bursting its banks several times – and it is always an occasion when I like to venture down to the haugh to experience the wild drama of the swirling floodwaters.

I wrote in my book on a wildlife year on the Devon – ‘If Rivers Could Sing’ – about this being a time of winners and losers, with small mammals such as field voles, wood mice and shrews having to flee for their lives from the rising water. This in turn makes these small creatures easy pickings for black-headed gulls, crows, magpies and herons, which gather around the edge of the watery inundation in anticipation of a convenient meal.

Indeed, on my last foray down to the river when it had burst its banks, I witnessed a field vole desperately swimming in among rushes as it tried to seek shelter on dry land. It eventually made it, but whether it survived is open to question, for as well as the ever-present danger of being preyed upon, there was the real risk of dying from hypothermia from its sodden fur.

Birds such as goosanders and kingfishers disappear altogether when the river floods. Despite both being regular inhabitants of the river, the sheer strength of the current and the murky water makes it impossible for them to hunt fish. The goosanders probably move to the River Forth, but I’m not sure where kingfishers seek refuge. I imagine places like Gartmorn Dam might prove an attractive option, the water there being clear enough to find small fish such as minnows.

I have noticed that dippers employ an interesting strategy during such periods by moving into feeder the burns that flow into the Devon. Although in spate, these burns are usually more benign than the wild flow of the main river, offering opportunity in the quieter pools to forage for invertebrates.

Just as quickly as the flood waters rise, then so do they fall, such is the dynamic nature of the Devon. This is a river that never stands still, always rising and falling, eroding banks and depositing shingle bars in an ever-present process of taking away and creating, which makes the Devon as much a living entity as any creature that inhabits its bounds.