Sunday, December 14, 2008
A significant drop in the temperature this week with two nights of minus five degree Celsius and one of minus seven. No snow, but one morning rain fell shortly after the sun rose and froze on the road; The world’s worst Spaniel – Dobby, struggling with the conditions and like Bambi on ice with his gimpy back legs. Cold Snaps like this are welcome at this time of the year and reaffirm the point to everyone that winter is really here and the growing season has ended. Mild winters can often result in weed, grass trees and birds failing to go into their period of winter shut down, rousing themselves early in the new year with out of season buds and nests that are often caught by late cold snaps in late March and April.
The Flight Pond partially froze over during this week, the pond houses a spring that keeps the temperature a few degrees higher than other ponds but in prolonged freezing periods it will freeze over. It is tempting to divert river water though the pond during cold periods to keep the pond clear of ice, the pond would however act as a silt trap with suspended solids in the river water settling out and the pond eventually silting up, while a shallower pond would still attract Mallard and Gadwall, it would not prove to be as attractive to other types of Duck such as Tufted and Pochard – diving Ducks who prefer a greater depth of water. If there is a significant amount of ice on the pond, many ducks land on the adjacent river and toddle over to where the evening’s food has been tipped.
Cold Snaps always bring Wigeon onto the pond. Arriving en masse and at high speed they are smaller than the Mallard and have a distinctive whistling call. Many of the Ducks that overnight on the pond rouse themselves at dawn to fly a few hundred yards to my employer’s orchard where they are fed everyday. Most days this week when opening the bedroom curtains I have seen half a dozen or more duck circling overhead before pitching on to the river for breakfast. I have never shot Duck here in the morning but I am sure a hide by the apple trees would produce a few brace for someone who could shoot straight. A lot of Duck are shot up and down the valley, mostly wild, some are morning ponds some evening ponds, several estates will also drive the marshes for Duck. In some places they may take a bit of a hammering for a few weeks before learning a lesson and using other pieces of water. It pays to be sensible with wild Duck only shooting them when conditions are right, and leaving them alone when they are having a hard time of it with the weather, do that and they will continue to use your pond.
Few fish were active in the river, not even the Roach; my son failing in his attempts to tempt them or the Grayling while trotting a single maggot. A brief excursion to the neighbouring Put and Take Trout Fishery not only revealed a stunning display of Christmas lights being manoeuvred into place but also a brace of hardy anglers making their way home with a bag of Triploid Rainbow Trout. Sterile fish who maintain their condition throughout the Winter this is where they belong and is what they were initially developed for, a non native fish that is incapable of spawning but will provide good sport for anglers when native Trout populations are going through the rigors of Winter spawning, and not for a half baked, half hearted attempt at protecting a particular river’s wild trout population.
Heavy Rain at the end of the week has turned the river to cocoa, and put the Kibosh on a planned Sunday afternoon of Pike fishing and enabled me to go Christmas Shopping - Oh Deep Joy!