25 January 2009

It's been a wet week and the river has been running bank full so no chance to do the January invertebrate check.  My plan is to do both sites tomorrow provided that we get no more rain today and the river drops to a level at which I can safely wade with the net.  I'm keen to get some data for winter months as none was collected last year due to my being laid up with a broken leg.  This is a crucial time of year for our wild brownies.  Having spawned at the end of the year they need to put on condition quickly to survive the spring spates and go into summer in good fettle.  A good food source is vital for them so I shall be looking for evidence that we have plenty of caddis and shrimp.

The hut is now insulated and lined ready to receive the laminate surface that will provide a bright, durable and easy care surface.  With luck this should be put up over the next week or so and we can then start on fitting out with seating cupboards and work tops.

The cormorants are back.  Only two so far, but this pair have been present most days this week and they are getting bolder, taking wing on my arrival, but merely circling the Tarn until I disappear into the hut when they cautiously return to the water.  I have yet to see them feeding, but they would not be present if not attracted by food.

The winter 2009 MAA Newsletter will shortly be winging its way to members letterboxes.  Do remember that this is published in August and January so if you have an article that you think will be of interest to others do please email it to me.

All the best


18 January 2009

It's not been a bad week and we even got some sun to brighten fell and dale, painting a little colour into a rather drab January.

I have now got about half way with lining the club hut and already it feels warmer with less draught and looks a great deal brighter.  The swans find all this work fascinating and come steaming up when I first arrive to see what's up.  Mind you, they soon get bored with carpentry and sail off to investigate life further down the Tarn.

It's a real pleasure working in the peace and tranquil surroundings at the Tarn.  Just the gentle slap of water against the hut legs, the bleat of sheep and the occasional argument amongst the duck population as some misdemeanour is scolded soundly and the perpetrator given what for.

At least I can work in the warm and dry.  Not so the local waller who is doing a grand job on the lane side wall running up the hill to the Tarn lay by.  He seems to have a job for life here unpicking the tumbled mass that the wall has become and reassembling the stones into a straight, level and tidy structure.  He works swiftly, but has many hundreds of yards to do.  Try as I might I can never get my walling to look as neat and tidy as a professional can achieve.  My walls stay up and do the job, but they often end up looking a little tatty and rather moth eaten.  Still, it's a therapeutic way of spending a few hours and you do get the satisfaction of something tangible at the end especially if the stones happen to fit right first time.  But it's a job I prefer to do in the warmth of summer rather than the hand numbing chill of a dark January afternoon so it's back up to the hut tomorrow.


11 January 2009

The big freeze has finally come to an end and we have rain and grey skies this morning.  It's been about three weeks now since temperatures were this balmy, we have seen snow and freezing fog and the ground has been iron hard.  The Tarn is slowly beginning to thaw out so hopefully the resident waterfowl will return over the next few days.  It's been strange to stand by the hut in absolute silence with no sign of life either on or around the water.  Clearly something has been visiting when I am not there as the ice is criss crossed by a network of tracks and prints.  These are too indistinct for a positive identification, but judging by their size they were probably made by a fox.

You do wonder just how well wild birds and mammals get on during prolonged spells of frost.  Those birds such as snipe that probe feed must have a thin time of it and with the river margins frozen even ducks must feel the pinch.

The crack of dawn found the Hon Sec and me up at the Tarn busy manhandling ply sheets and timber down to the hut.  It was a brisk morning with a sharp frost, fog and a stiff easterly breeze.  After six or seven trips between the lay by and the hut (I lost count) I now know every blade of grass and am intimate with the weight of various thicknesses of 4 by eight plywood sheets.  Still, with all the material needed for lining the hut now in it I can make a start on the job tomorrow.


4 January 2009

So, another year dawns.  It's strange how our acknowledgement of the passing seasons and how we reconcile the passage of time take on almost mystical significance at this time of year.  Why should 1 January be any different to 31 December and why should the passing events of 2009 be any better than those of 2008.  There is no logic to this, but as a story telling chimpanzee rather than 'intelligent man' we weave mysteries and superstition into a cloak of optimistic belief.

I suppose that this optimism keeps us going at difficult times and I sure have had one of those this past few weeks.  Just before Christmas Mrs F fell badly dislocating her shoulder and fracturing her upper arm.  Despite getting the shoulder set the pain was so intense by Christmas day that I had to get her back into hospital. So for the first time ever I spent Christmas Day alone with a turkey.  Fortunately Sheila is now recovering slowly so hence I have time to do this blog.

It's been bitterly cold this past couple of weeks and the Tarn is frozen to a depth of a few inches, a fairly rare occurrence in recent years.  The river is bare bones with frozen margins.  All the ground water is locked up in icy fields.  My back porch got so cold on New Years day that the supply to the back loo froze and the pipe burst just adding to all the recent fun and excitement.

There has been a flurry of publicity recently about Neil H's crayfish breeding programme with items on the BBC news website and in the Telegraph.  This is all part of a strategy to increase public awareness of the plight of our native crayfish and influence the policymakers to consider a total ban on trading in non native crayfish.  The culmination of this locally will be a conference at Malham in early summer which it's hoped will result in a national crayfish conservation strategy.

The hut refurbishment got put back a bit by Sheila's accident, but my plan is to get cracking this week and make a start on lining out the structure.  Gavin P dropped off the rockwool and membrane last week so that can now be put up and I will get the ply lining delivered during the week so that everything can be ready for the fitting out later in the month.  The objective is to get the project finished by 8 March when we have a working party scheduled prior to the start of the 2009 season on 15 March.

The best thing about this cold weather and a frozen Tarn is that the cormorants can't fish so we should go into the new season with some overwintered fish.