Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Scything Through the Snow and a Befuddled Quince

Well, I’ve been cutting weed in a blizzard, 

Which was a first. 

Mid twenties last week, below freezing this week, our fruit trees are very confused which may mean there will be fewer of our five a day about this year.
The quince appears particularly befuddled. 

The weed is pushing clear of the water in places and just needs a bit of a tickle up with the scythe to check its growth. Once it flowers, ranunculus often loses some of its vigor. Delaying the flowering via the medium of short back and sides should result in it remaining a viable resource in maintaining mid summer  river levels. 

The onset of trout fishing in this valley is imminent and we are good to go. The river carries no colour and is in great condition following all that rain in the autumn and early winter. Any rain that falls from now to September will provide little recharge to the aquifers so we are where we are for this summer and it looks ok. 
Over on the Itchen fishing is already underway. There’s normally a reasonable hatch of grannom in April that we don’t see on the Dever. Fluttery sedge like critters that always seem to be making their way upstream, they have yet to put in an appearance which may be due to the snow. 

Inspector Monkfish even put in an appearance when I was last over there.
Bankside willows are approaching full fuzz and the inky black flowers of the sedge in the margins are up, out and stand in stark contrast to the recent dusting of snow.
Each morning we wake to the bleats of new born lambs.
These three are sheltering beneath the substantial beech tree that borders our garden. They are popping out all over the place at the moment and we feel for lambs born last Tuesday in the sunlit uplands of a brief spell of twenty four degrees of bright sunshine and now plunged into the dystopian nightmare that arrived from the north of blizzards and high wind. 

Here’s one of a hare.
Hares are everywhere in these parts at the moment. This young leveret popped in for a parley with the chooks this afternoon. Riding my bike up to my allotment to issue stern words to my broad beans I counted twenty hares on the hundred acre Bransbury bank field that borders the mile long lane. It’s great to see as their numbers took a serious dip in these parts during the early part of this century. 

In other fast animal news, here’s one of a peregrine falcon on top of a telegraph pole.
I may have missed him/her, they are that quick. 

There’s a pair about somewhere and they do occasionally nest in these parts. A few years ago, a friend popping at pigeons on our top strip of rolled down game cover in March witnessed a peregrine stoop on his heavy duty plastic whirly gig decoy. It paused briefly on the ground, stunned in order to gather its thoughts. They can hit their target at well over a hundred miles an hour. 

Geilgud (After Moley) is getting grumpy
and Dame Peggy is currently building a nest right in the middle of the path around the flight pond. They abandoned their first attempt at a nest last year, I think it may be a repeat performance this year. They are the only two on the place, have some seniority in the swan world and keep all interlopers at bay. 

This is an owl box I chucked together years ago
It is fixed to the ivy covered dead trunk of a Christmas tree and normally plays host to a pair of jackdaws. We are a very “owl rich” part of the world. The old pig hospital that has been converted into a very expensive letting, often had a barn owl in its rafters that would hunt over the water meadows in the half light. People in fine fleece and cutting edge walking shoes insisted that if the conversion of the building was to go ahead owl boxes must be installed in the surrounding trees. I never saw the barn owl anywhere near them but the tenant’s white cat liked to kick back in them for some shuteye of an afternoon. 

Back in the eighties on the middle river, an estate ran a barn owl rearing programme and placed owl boxes throughout their extensive meadow system. When the people in fine fleece and cutting edge walking shoes arrived to survey the boxes they found a third of them full of nesting mandarin duck, a non native species introduced from the east back in the day and not quite what they had hoped for.

I think that was everything, we are way ahead in preparations for the trout season. A few small jobs remain and banks must be mown but with the weed now cut we are ready to go. There are plenty of fish about, the river is in great condition and I have seen a hawthorn fly. Still no sign of swallows or swifts and no cuckoo yet but when this uncomfortable cold snap is through spring will spring with a resounding Tadah! and will be most welcome after the January through to March that we have all just experienced.

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