We had our last shooting day of the season. Beaters and Bums trudging through the drives, firing at anything that flies to finish off the season.
For a variety of reasons, our penultimate shooting day had to be called off; a first in this watch, but the result was a Wood full of birds for the final the day. Otis and I ran the top water meadow down, and put up twenty Snipe, who jagged their way towards the guns before doubling back and heading back up the valley. The Geese got up, and got down onto the neighbouring Big fish water, and ditch dwelling Ducks climbed steeply and made their way safely over the line of guns, mostly Mallard, a few Teal, and a tight group of Widgeon spectacularly whistling away high on the wind.
The Partridge had gone; the sparse hedge and game cover in the top drive offering little warmth. The Pheasants had hunkered down in the warm meadow and provided steady sport for the remainder of the day. The odd Woodcock got up, and just before lunch, a Bittern put in a suicidal lunge in front of a Cock Pheasant that someone had in their sights, a hasty cry from a neighbouring gun saving the endangered bird from an appearance on the game cart. With all eyes peeled for white tiger and dodo, little lead/bismuth was fired in the final drive.
Otters, a popular topic amongst keepers in this valley, raised their head at lunch. This stretch of river has been relatively untroubled in recent months, but prints in the snow on the middle Test revealed an Otter motorway between various stew ponds, and a two acre pond providing fishing for a cash poor fishing club, has seen it’s stock significantly diminished by the Cuddly Critters. The club have limited funds to restock and are reluctant to do so, understandably, if all their replacement stock is to end up on the bank with a bite out of their back.
In a recent article, the newly formed Angling Trust highlighted the problem of Otters taking stock from rivers and lakes, and the futility of the compensation scheme put in place by the EA to cover losses from Commercial fisheries. This year £100,000 has been handed out to those who have lost stock to Otters, which constitutes a quiet night in for the nation’s Otter population. For Seals on Salmon Rivers, read Otters on trout and coarse rivers and lakes.
The springs up an down the valley are now running well. The ditch that circumnavigates the village football pitch is now flowing, always a good sign that a decent amount of water has got into the ground. No sign of any fungus on fish in the river although the water is still fairly cool. The Roach look in tiptop condition and the clear water in the pond has revealed that we have some very chubby Bream!
Following the final day of the shooting season, I rolled one of the strips of Maize. This has drawn Pigeons from Trafalgar and beyond and will provide some good pigeon shooting in the weeks to come.