29 May 2010

Its been a bit wet on and off for the past couple of days so there is just a smidgin of water returning to the river.  We have rather more persistent rain this morning so fingers crossed that conditions may improve still further.  I have been much taken up with Council business following our hotly contested election here on Thursday so I haven't had chance to check on the swan family for further disasters.  What I have been able to do is to complete the arrangements for building a gate through the cross wall just west of the lodge, removing the rotten stile and rebuilding the wall down to the Tarn.  This should all be completed by mid July.

It's Horton Gala next weekend so if you are in the vicinity of the village why not pop along.  The Hon Sec will be there with his ferrets and Mrs Fleming, fresh from her success in the Council election, will be doing something silly on the WI float.


26 May 2010

It turned cold and windy yesterday after a scorching weekend, but the rain that threatened all day failed to materialise so we remain dessicated and waterless.  I went up to the Tarn in the afternoon to show contractors from the Woodland Trust the site of the winter tree planting.  They were to suppress the weeds growing around the bases of the new plantings to limit the competition for growth and give the plantings a better chance of survival.

The swan family was noticeable by its absence from the Tarn and were found down by the river wall close to the start of the newly planted area.  On the way down I saw only two cygnets so had a closer look on the way back.  Sure enough just two little ones were tucked up close to the pen who seemed agitated.  I ventured an even closer look much to the anger of the cob who made a lunge every time I came too close.  Just as I turned to walk away I noticed out of the corner of my eye a small grey head bobbing about level with the ground.  A cygnet in a deep hole.  No way was the cob going to let me get anywhere near enough to fish the little blighter out and after getting whacked a couple of times by him I put plan B into operation. 

Back to the lodge to summon the Tuesday boys who were lunching.  Armed with the boat net we approached the scene of this family crisis again and whilst I kept the cob (who by now was incandescent with anger) at bay with the net Quin managed to fish out not only the missing two cygnets, but also cygnet number three who had joined its siblings in the hole.  Without a by your leave or thank you the family trooped off whilst we filled the pit with rocks.

I wonder if this might be the reason for missing cygnets in past years?

Thanks to Quin and Andrew for their help in swan wrestling.


21 May 2010

Its been a very warm day which has me in a bit of a quandary.  On the one hand it's nice to get some warmth after a bitter winter and cold spring, but on the other it's a bit worrying that we now add heat to a seriously depleted river.  Even the Tarn is beginning to suffer as the level has dropped a good nine inches and I can see signs of algae starting to bloom in the shallows.  This will grow exponentially if we don't get some cooling rain soon.

The lower level on the Tarn has created an unforeseeable problem for one member who was surprised to find the boat house door off its hinges as he hauled the boat out.  Now this door is a big, solid hunk of timber built to withstand a charging elephant so it takes a bit of unhinging.  What must have happened is the boat being lower than normal on the lowered water slid under the door and as our intrepid angler moved to the stern with his back to the door it cantilevered up and lifted the door off its hinges.  It took the efforts of the Tuesday boys and the victim to get the thing re hung.  You have been warned.

I have seen some excellent news about our endangered native crayfish.  Warren Slaney the Head Keeper on the Haddon Hall estate in Derbyshire was confronted recently by a small boy who swore blind that he had seen a lobster in the river.  Now this particular river has been devoid of native crayfish for the best part of 20 years since plague wiped them out so warren gave little credence to the tale.  A few days later he was idly kicking over stones in the river bed as you do when he saw a crayfish claw. He began turning over stones and soon came across two adult white claws.  So it seems that the creatures have managed to repopulate from a side beck and a crayfish desert is once again host to a decent population.  If only that would happen on the Ribble.


18 May 2010

As Shakespeare almost put it “Summer isacummin in”.  Its been a glorious day here with warm wall to wall sunshine.  As if to celebrate this sudden change in temperature the swans now have a family of four cygnets.  Two look to have hatched yesterday afternoon and two this morning.  The two older chicks are already sculling around the reed bed near the nest, but their younger siblings are still close to mum on the nest.  I managed to get some decent photos this morning that I will post up tomorrow.

Whilst jigging about trying to get some photos of the nest I spotted a little bobbing head out in the reed bed.  Closer examination showed this to be a moorhen sitting on a carefully constructed nest out in the deeper water.  The sitting hen seemed oblivious to my presence, but was no doubt well aware that I was looking at her.

I was up at the Tarn to put a stile in the new fence so that the planted area can be accessed without tearing the crutch out of ones waders.  This is now done and all the barbs removed from the wire above the stile.  The old fence has been taken down and removed so the area looks nice and tidy.  It will be interesting to see what grows here now that the cows have been permanently excluded.

As an added bonus the Tarn is continuing to offer exceptional fishing with an average of four fish per visit recorded again this week.  The water is beginning to look a little murky and could certainly do with topping up, but according to the forecast it looks as though we shall have to wait a while yet for any decent rain.  Time to dig out the black cat bones and start a rain dance.


17 May 2010

Sorry for the absence of any posting over the weekend.  We had a crisis on the broadband front with no Internet access since first thing Saturday morning.  Al is trucking along fine again now. 

The river is absolutely dire now with nothing going over Settle weir and almost no flow up her at Horton.  It's shades of summer 2006 and there seems to be no respite on the horizon.  Our fish do seem to survive even these extremes of low water and the blessing is hat its been so cold her that water temperatures have remained well with in tolerance for brown trout.  We are due a warmer day with some sun tomorrow, but a few days of steady rain is what we all really need.  Even the grass on the pastures is only growing slowly so livestock are finding little sustenance and milk yields of the yows must be well down.  Even so the lambs that now fill the pastures are looking fat and fit and the air is full of constant vibrato bletting as the little ones call to their mothers. 

We have a healthy stock of swallows around the house with at least two nests I can see under the eaves.  These little winged torpedoes seem to feed more actively in wet weather or perhaps they just feed closer to the ground so are easier to spot from the kitchen window.

Yesterday I emptied the stagnant mess that the duck pond had become.  Quite how four ducks manage to transport so much mud absolutely beats me, but I must have excavated about a foot of gloop from the bottom of the pond before refilling it.  Since then the ducks have barely left the water and from the constant quack seem highly delighted with their clean bath.

If we do get a  a decent sunny day tomorrow then the plan is to do some work up at the Tarn taking down the old fence, installing a stile and generally tidying up.


13 May 2010

I was up at the Tarn first thing this morning to take a look at progress on the new fence.  It's finished and looks really cow proof.  Thre is still a bit of tidying up to do such as removing the trampled mess that's the old fence and setting back up one or two tree guards that the cows had a go at before the fence went up, but I will attend to that next week.

The new fence runs off the end of the duck wall rather than starting in the water so the whole boggy area at the foot of the Tarn is now enclosed.  A stile or two will be put in so that we can get access to the area to tend to the trees and carry out any other habitat management that's necessary.  It might be an idea to experiment with some native shrubs as well as trees.  Anything that will provide habitat and cover for invertebrates  and there is no knowing what else may colonise the area now the cows are excluded.

Despite the chronic lack of rain here the Tarn continues to fish very well with 53 fish caught on 13 visits by members last week.  That's over 4 fish per visit which is well above average.  Even in the chill of early morning I saw frequent rises as I looked out across the water.

The forecast is for a significant amount of rain tomorrow so let's keep or fingers crossed that it arrives and puts some life back into the river.


11 May 2010

Another cold, dry day with an occasional sprinkle of snow would you believe.  The fence at the Tarn progesses and is beginning to look sturdy and wholly cow proof.

I had a visit this afternoon from Jack and Kyle of the RCCT and EA respectively who wanted to talk about doing a river survey up here in June.  It looks as though funding for this is now in place so the three of us should be able to tackle the job in a few weeks time.  The plan is to do a thorough survey of the river up from Helwith Bridge measuring the width, taking water samples and measuring temperature and pH.  The aim of this is to establish baseline data so that future changes can be monitored and some further research done to establish why recruitment of salmonids may be restricted.  It's all part of the Water Framework Directive and should lead to the unlocking of Government money to fund major catchment wide habitat programmes such as grip blocking.  All very beneficial for our fishery.

It looks as though I may be trusted by RCCT to do weekly water quality checks to build a long term picture of how quality changes in differing water level conditions through the seasons.  This data will be a valuable adjunct to our existing invertebrate monitoring programme.


8 May 2010

I have just got confirmation that contractors will arrive at the Tarn on Monday to erect the new fence round the wildlife area and put in the new gates on the cross walls.  Consequently there will be a bit of noise and disturbance down by the duck wall over Monday and Tuesday with posts being driven in.  This work will be just in time as the cows are now out in Tarn pasture.  So far they have been much more interested in the grass, but once the novelty of being out after close confinement over winter wears off they will inevitably get curious and start investigating the new tree planting as the existing fence has more holes that the nations finances.  Mind you, the former were caused by cows, the latter by a bad tempered Scotsman.

In the post today came the CD with the Wild Trout Trust new  Upland Rivers Habitat Manual.  This is a PDF based guide to managing upland rivers for wild trout and a quick skim through shows that it is packed full of good advice, sources of information and contacts and example projects.  One of the featured projects is our own effort at Nanny Carr a few years ago.  I had forgotten that the WTT had asked for details of this so it was a surprise to see the familiar photos and my blurb.

Let me know if you would like to see the guide.

Whilst wandering around Tesco yesterday I almost walked into a member standing gazing in bemused fashion at a list.  His slightly dazed demeanour was explained by his having been up since the crack of dawn overseeing the counting of votes at Skipton.  Mike told me about the tussle he had with a large brownie at the Tarn on Thursday and his disappointment when he realised that the camera was still in the lodge so no photo.  Probably just as well as posing in the punt in a stiff breeze is a hazardous past time and a quick way to an involuntary swim.


6 May 2010

I'm not going to mention the obvious today as this is a politics free zone.  What is news is that after a number of false starts the new bridge over the river at Drain Mires to carry the bridle way will be built this July.  The project manager came to see me yesterday to tell me that all permissions and funding streams are now in place, contracts have been let and materials purchased so in a couple of months we shall see the first signs of work taking place.  Once the bridge is built the linking trackways will be laid down across Far Moor and up Drain Mires Lane to the High Birk with road.  The fencing will be installed to keep users off the surrounding fields and the river bank and sign will be put up.  I have asked that a couple of our “Private Fishing” signs be fixed to the bridge.

It looks as though we got the gap we left in the new tree planting here just about right as the estimate is that we shall only lose six trees out of the thousand that were planted.

Only time will tell if the presence of this new route creates problems for the security of the fishery or the environment through which it passes.  The fences should deter trespassers and since there will be no access to the river for horses  there is no reason for riders to stop here.

The drought here continues unabated with just a light shower this morning.  The river is now looking pretty dire.


5 May 2010

It's a gloomy and rather chilly day here with only a light breeze to just ripple the surface of the Tarn.  I went up this morning to see if our contractors had arrived to begin work on the fence and gates.  No sign of them or any material so a rather sharp email has been sent reminding them that a promise is a promise.  The cows are now out in Tarn pasture and the new trees are very vulnerable.

I was treated to a majestic display of swan power.  The cob was sculling around out in the middle of the water when I arrived and after doing a bit of tidying up in the lodge and collecting the return figures for last week I went out on the boardwalk with a couple of slices of bread.  This prompted a high speed dash towards me with wings beating and feet slapping the water.  as he got to me he applied the breaks sharply throwing up a slew of water. If only I had remembered to take the camera I would have got the photo of a lifetime. Ah well!

The fish from the last stocking seem to have all settled well and despite the unpromising conditions there was a lot of heading and tailing going on with fish taking small black flies.  These seemed to be on the menu of the resident swallows that are now busy nest building in the boathouse.