My musings yesterday about dab-chicks prompted an email from a correspondent reminiscing about the bird life at the Tarn in times past. He recalled seeing tufted duck, pochard, teal and mallard, but was particularly delighted by the drumming of the snipe which could be heard regularly on still evenings.
Well, the good news is that the snipe are still there. I took a group of locals up to the proposed site of the pennine bridleway crossing (just up-river from the Tarn) a couple of months ago and we were entertained on our walk by a percussion orchestra of snipe.
We don't seem to get the variety of duck now but we do have a semi resident population of golden eye that seems to be growing year by year and Canada geese regularly fight the resident swans for squatters rights. The year before last a pair of bewick swans took up residence for a few weeks, presumably treating the Tarn as a transit camp on their migration.
It goes to show that you don't have to fish the Tarn to get immense enjoyment and satisfaction from it.
I almost forgot, It's a bright sunny morning here with light, fluffy cloud and not to warm as yet. Although with no real breeze it already feels quite warm.
There is a marked change in the weather here this morning. It's dull and overcast, cooler with a light westerly breeze. The cloud cover is high, just touching the top of Pen y ghent but its thick enough to bring a little rain perhaps.
A couple of days ago I was up at the Tarn fixing the boathouse door to a background accompaniment of high pitched whinnying. As some members will know I write a piece for each issue of the Horton Parish News under the title Tales From The River Bank. These articles have covered such diverse topics as the migrations of salmon and sea trout, the Horton hatchery, mink and most recently the mayfly. One was a musing on this whinnying phenomena at the Tarn and set a few people recalling their own sightings of the little grebe or dab-chick which produces this sound. It beats me how you can spend so long by the water where this bird is known to exist, hear it but very rarely see it.
They seem to have an uncanny knack for secrecy. The reed bed at the top end of the Tarn is not large and only grows a couple of feet high but it's enough to conceal both the animal itself and its nest.
They have clearly been at the Tarn a long time since there is a record in a 19th century nature journal of a dab-chick population at Newhouses Tarn.
Keep doing the rain dance!
It's back to dry, sunny and very warm this morning. I really do think that I am beginning to dislike this weather. It's too hot to do anything useful outside, trying to work in the office is tedious and sleep seems to have become a thing of the past. I look at the river and all I see is a dry, rock strewn ditch linking shrinking pools. What the trout make of it Lord knows but it's deeply depressing.
It's amazing by how much structures move as they dry out. Doors that have stuck for years open at a touch. Other doors refuse to close as the heat warps the frame. I have adjusted the hasp on the boathouse door to make it easier to lock, but it's still a bit of a sod.
I suppose there is a brighter side. Haytiming this year should produce a heavy crop but quality must be suspect as there hasn't been the rain to grow much bottom. A few days of steady rain and all will seem different.
I will try to find something more positive to say tomorrow.
Well, the rain yesterday did not amount to much. Just a heavy shower for about an hour and a half so it's made very little difference to conditions on the Tarn or the river.
This morning its much fresher with a pleasant westerly breeze, plenty of cloud cover and just the possibility of some rain.
Despite the arid conditions the Tarn continues to fish well. Fish are a little slow to the take but they are taking and seem to be in very good condition when landed. The consensus is that you have to be patient and work at it but effort will be rewarded. The pity is that so few members are fishing the Tarn. Visits have dropped to 4 or 5 a week and since most of the takes are being returned there is still a healthy population despite not re-stocking in June.
I shall continue to monitor conditions and make a decision over the weekend about re-stocking next Tuesday.
The good news this morning is – ITS RAINING. So far we have had steady rain since 7 am, but it's now virtually stopped. There is heavy cloud cover so the prospects for more rain seem good. What difference this will make to a parched river remains to be seen but it's certainly cooler and less oppressive. If the river does rise it will be interesting to see how quickly trout return to the lies that are denied to them at the moment and what condition they are in. They must be suffering some stress at present with so much of the river dewatered.
I now have S30 approval to stock the Tarn on 25th July so let's hope conditions improve a bit to enable this to go ahead without compromising the welfare of the fish.
Conditions here are as they have been all week. Let's see if we get the promised change tomorrow.
The crayfish put up a good display last night. Mostly youngsters as I suspect that the older creatures were further out in cooler water. We saw about 50 or 60, feeding and doing what young crayfish seem to spend most of their time dining, just sculling about. Everyone seemed impressed.
Monitoring the water late last night showed only a marginal variation on the readings taken during the day. pH and ORP were fairly static, but the temperature had dropped a couple of degrees.
I have posted a couple of pictures of Paul Bradley demonstrating the correct way to handle crayfish under licence. These show a pair of good sized males but not the largest we found yesterday.
Ye Gods it's hot! Before the students arrived this morning I took the opportunity to get the boat out and monitor conditions on the Tarn. Visually it looks fine, Very low but very clear with little algae other than some bloom in deep water. pH hovers on the acceptable at 9.95 at the top (boat house end) and 9.82 down near the duck wall. Temperature is high. 22.5 at both ends. The real concern is ORP which gives a reading of minus 125 at the top and minus 118 near the wall. So despite plenty of healthy weed the oxygen absorption is struggling. Let's see how it is when we take the students up there at midnight tonight. Despite the warm water there were a good few rises this morning, mostly slashing at surface fly but surface feeding none the less.
Paul has a really enthusiastic group. A real mix of backgrounds, some English Nature, some EA, one from British Waterways and some freelance. They spent a relaxed but highly instructive morning measuring and recording about 30 crayfish trapped over night. It was good to see a good distribution of ages and sizes but predominantly males. Some evidence of porcelain disease but Paul assures me that this is not serious for the general health of the population.
The hope is that there will be a good display tonight with plenty of active crayfish. I will post up pictures tomorrow.
Conditions here are unchanging . If anything it's hotter than ever this morning. Off to the Tarn now to play with crayfish so I will post an update later today.