Tuesday 23 February 2010

Week 95

Week 95

Cold, rain and sleet, bog and mud underfoot with the river level about where it should be. Someone flicked the Snowdrop switch and in the space of a couple of days the majority came into flower. Daffodils and Bluebells should be the same having benefited from a proper winter cold snap. The river temperature is low and there is no sign of the mad midday Olives that can sometimes appear at this time of the year.
The tin shifting the silt is working well with the good flow and some parts of the gravel are starting to regain their sparkle. The Bittern that we disturbed the other week appears to have moved on, and a few birds sound like they have changed their tune in the hope of an early onset of spring friskiness. Plenty of Pheasants are strutting around, once the banging stops they can become quite bold. Pigeons have hammered the maize that I rolled down and several friends had a good few hours shooting, they are still pitching in from mid morning to mid afternoon but not in the numbers that they were when it was first rolled.

I have once again taken up arms, in the perennial struggle to repel invasion and occupation by Snap Willow. The stuff is indestructible, growing high, falling over, and taking root to climb high again. Someone once said that in the event of a nuclear holocaust there would be one survivor, the equally indestructible Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, who in a barren wasteland would emerge dazed from behind a tree to declare “I saw the lights and I thought we were on” The tree from which he took shelter would undoubtedly be a Snap willow and it would still have green shoots. The Willows that I have been clearing this week have started to starve the bankside fringe of light leading to it thinning and exposing the bank to erosion. It only takes a few years of diminished light for severe damage to be done to a bank. I have also been killing the ivy on some of the bigger trees in the wood, cutting through the ivy at the base of the tree. At this time of the year it is easy to see the trees that need doing.
Once again Otters are to the fore this week. One or more has found the flight pond, and despite Mssrs Fine Fleece and Sandals, assurances that an Otter’s staple diet is Eels, has started to work his way through the Carp. Scales are scattered like confetti along the bank with three corpses so far, the biggest a Common Carp of around ten pound that was over thirty years old, two others also met their end despite the pond holding a good head of Eels. There are two large Koi Carp in the pond that I rescued from someone’s derelict swimming pool, they stand out a mile, and must be highly visible to an Otter but these have yet to be eaten. Maybe the answer is to issue fish with High Viz jackets to deter this latest threat. There is over a thousand pound worth of stock in the pond that we are powerless to protect, and will not be able to replace until the problem of a burgeoning Otter population is addressed.

Friday 5 February 2010

Week 94

Week 94

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.