A chiff-chaff is singing again on a path that goes down through trees and shrubs to Millbank Lock near Thornhill. When we walked here three years ago we invariably heard at least one chiffchaff singing throughout the spring and into summer. The following year we heard the chiffchaff only once or twice and it was the willow warbler, with its wistful song, that became the signature bird of Millbank. Last year foot-and-mouth restrictions put the path out of bounds throughout the nesting season.
Some boys by the canalside pub have caught 5 or 6 gudgeon. These are bottom-feeding fish with their mouths set facing downwards and their eyes near the top of their heads. They're flattened beneath. Two barbels hang like a droopy moustache at each corner of the mouth. These barbels can be used to locate prey by touch, but also, as with the barbels of the catfish, they are probably equipped with taste receptors.
On the continent the gudgeon lives in fast-flowing water but it's equally at home here in the canal. In the Thames estuary it is found in brackish water.