27 December 2010

I hope that Santa brought you everything you wanted.  Amongst other goodies I now have a day's hawking to look forward to in the New Year. That's if the snow departs before Easter.  Another 6″ falling here this morning has once again turned everything white and I am kept busy topping up the bird feeders and making sure that the blackbirds don't run out of raisins.  We are promised a bit of a thaw later on before more snow arrives on Wednesday.

The biggest problem round here over Christmas has been keeping livestock supplied with water.  Everything seems to have frozen solid.  Even the river has a skim of ice away from the faster current.  Just how trout survive in these conditions is a mystery and when you do spot a fish they look almost to be in a trance, hardly a fin moving and just the gentle pulse of the gills to show that they are still with us.

I've been looking for tracks in the snow, but found very little apart from evidence of the comings and goings of the local cat colony.  Even the foxes seem to have vanished  from the home pastures and the hares that usually live around the Tarn are not in evidence this winter.  What we do have is a pair of collard doves that have taken to sitting snuggled up together on the phone wire outside the office window.  As I write this they seem to be peering at me over the top of the screen.  Probably waiting for the next raisin instalment.

See you in 2011.


19 December 2010

After a brief respite early in the week when temperatures reached a balmy 40 we are plunged back into sub arctic conditions with the thermometer reading minus 6 even during daylight.  A light flurry of snow yesterday adds to the fun and the Tarn is again frozen over.

We are now playing host to a flock of a dozen blackbirds of assorted ages and sexes who have learnt that the runner ducks get fed twice a day with mixed corn.  This gang are ready and waiting for breakfast when the ducks are let out at seven each morning and have taken to bouncing up and down and shouting until the feed trough is filled.  The back garden blackbirds get raisins and these too bob and shout until the feeder is replenished to their satisfaction.

They say that sparrow numbers are falling nationally.  Not round here as I counted over two dozen males and females in the back garden yesterday busy picking up the spilt seed and peanut bits dropped by the blue tits and robins.  We have a pair of collard doves like grey battleships compared to the SBB's that frequent the feeders.  They seem inseparable and spent much of the day cosying up to each other on the phone wire by the barn.

What I haven't seen this year are the rabbits round the house that we had last winter.  Either the weather is not yet severe enough to force them down to the houses or the suffered so much last year that their numbers are severely depleted.  If the latter then the foxes could become a real pest this lambing time as the fells around seem to be alive with Mr fox.

I need to do an invert check this week and am building up enthusiasm to spend a couple of hours up to my knees in a part frozen river with numb fingers and a dripping nose.  Roll on spring.

Have a great Christmas.


12 December 2010

A rapid thaw over the past 48 hours has largely removed the snow that has blanketed the dales for the first two weeks of December.  The river has responded by rising to a level sufficient to get our wild brownies up to the spawning gravels so fingers crossed for a good breeding year.

We have often speculated about the reasons why both Cam and Gayle becks under perform as breeding areas for wild brown trout and without good solid data and scientific research its been impossible to develop clear strategies to tackle the underlying problems that may be restricting trout recruitment on the upper river.  Gripping may be a factor, but the truth is that we simply do not know.  That may be about to change as plans are being formulated that may well see an MSc student working on the problem next summer.  If these plans come to fruition then we may begin to understand a little more about the factors that are limiting trout numbers above Selside and we can then begin to develop strategies to mitigate these factors.

At the Tarn nothing much has happened this week as its been frozen solid and is taking a while to thaw.  The webcam has been performing well providing some interesting views of an arctic landscape with no cormorants.  I think the batteries finally died yesterday in the misty gloom, but a breeze and some sunshine today should bring everything back up.

Finally, we were intrigued this week by news of a native crayfish found just above Nanny Carr.  Received wisdom is that this creature should not have been there because of the devastating plague event ten years ago.  It's a long way from the only known residual population above the Ling gill falls on Cam beck and we know of no populations further up Gayle beck.  If you are fishing above Selside next season keep your eyes open and if you spot a crayfish where a crayfish ought not to be do let me know.  It's just possible that a small population survived the plague and is beginning to recolonise.


5 December 2010

It's been an exiting week here weatherwise with the biggest dump of snow since almost exactly a year ago.  By Tuesday there was a drift 5ft deep in the lane that prevented all but those with off road tyres from venturing forth.  I made a foray to the village and almost got stuck on the hill coming up from the Crown.  If we are to continue to get these snowy winters then I will have to bite the bullet and invest in some winter tyres.  Damn the expense.

The lane was ploughed and gritted on Thursday which prompted a mass exodus from Newhouses and all points north.  Visits to the Tarn and river have been almost impossible, but thanks to the Tarn webcam which has been buzzing away despite the snow its been possible to keep a distant eye on things up there.  On Wednesday the pictures revealed the activities of some suicidal sheep that had ventured out over the ice.  Fortunately this is now so thick that frozen mutton remains off the menu

It thawed a bit yesterday, but then froze overnight so conditions here are once again a bit slippery.

I went along to a hugely enjoyable presentation in the School last night given by a consortium of all the caving clubs that have cottages in the village.  This consisted of a series of audio visuals interspersed with some lively presentations about the activities of the clubs.  Free beer and a buffet made the whole thing go with a swing and it was a pity that many of the primary audience (local farmers) were absent due to a conflicting celebration in the Lion.  The organisers really do deserve much praise for laying this on.  I took the opportunity to try to find out if any of the club members had, in the past, done any water tracing in the upper valley.  I know that some work was done back in the 60's, but there is no record of anyone tracing the source of the Tarn water.  Who knows what may come of this.

Keep warm.