I was up at the Tarn first thing on my way to do the monthly invert check at Turn Dub. This warmer weather seems to have brought out the water fowl and I got a tally of two heron, five goldeneye, eight coots, two mallard and three swans. No pear tree so no partridge!
The new gate is not quite finished, but looks and works very well. A good investment I think.
The invert check showed continued good populations of riverfly including an increase in the number of cased caddis on recent years. Baetis numbers were down on last year, but February 2011 was an exceptional year for baetis. Evidence of the recent spates was all around with shifted gravel banks below the riffles and lots of foam on the back eddys.
The club has been asked to participate in a study of salmon numbers that the River Ribble Trust will be doing this spring. basically the idea is to net salmon as they come into the river and fit them with tiny radio tags. These will transmit a signal to a series of bank side stations above Settle. Volunteers will also walk the banks with hand held monitors to track the movement of fish in real time. The aim is to find out how many fish come up above Settle, where they rest and how far up our water they travel in the spring run.
It's the first stocking next weekend when we will put in fifty browns as well as the usual rainbows. Then a slight pause before fishing commences in mid March.
Don't forget the AGM next Friday and see you soon on the river or at the Tarn.
A busy weekend hence the lateness of this posting. I spent a very enjoyable evening on Friday as a guest at Settle Anglers' annual dinner. A trencherman's meal was followed by a lively talk from Malcolm Greenhalgh who regaled us with tales from a life spent fishing the Ribble and rather more exotic locations. We then repaired to the bar to set the angling world to rights and assemble a hangover.
The latter was in full force the following morning as I set off with Paul at 7am to travel to Goole for the IFM organised Predators of Fisheries workshop. This turned out to be a highly informative and thought provoking day where we looked a a range of predator threats posed to fisheries and discussed ways of mitigating some of the risks. I found myself very much in the minority as a game fishery manager. Most attendees seemed to be associated with clubs and commercial fisheries providing specimen carp and it was interesting to hear some familiar prejudices trotted out. There was a propensity to jump from a perceived problem to a simple solution as n the case of otters where time and again it was demonstrated that observed phenomena were more likely to be symptoms of mink predation that their larger mustelid cousin.
The final session shut everyone up. Stephanie Peay who we know well from her work on Buckill Ghyll beck presented a chilling assessment of the effects of red signal crayfish on biota. Basically where you have large numbers of signals you have damn all else.
Yesterday morning was taken up by a MAA council meeting where arrangements for the AGM were discussed and a work plan agreed. Good news is that the old stile beyond the Tarn lodge will be replaced next week by a self closing gate. So no more risk of going base over apex off the wall as you head for the duck wall.
A freezing week with some truly appalling weather on Thursday hat saw heavy rain falling on frozen ground and deep snow. Conditions were the worst I have ever seen with every surface coated in a thick sheen of ice. We still have a lot of snow lying on the fells and fields, but this morning there is just a hint of a thaw.
I read an article last week about a trial being conducted to control the spread of zebra mussels which are another invasive species that is wreaking havoc on some waterways. The plan is to try to poison them using a targeted method. This got me thinking about how the method might be adapted to control non native crayfish. Having talked it over with colleagues we decided to set up a trial to see if the method will work under laboratory conditions. If the results are encouraging then we will present this to the EA and seek support, permission and funding to conduct a field trial. We probably won't eradicate well established populations, but could control spread and reduce recruitment at sensitive sites.
On the subject of non native invasive species I am off on Saturday to Goole to attend a seminar on non native species control. This should be an absorbing day looking at a range of threats to native fauna and riverine ecology. More on this next week. Fingers crossed for a thaw.
If you log on to the tarn webcam you will see a very wintry scene this morning with the water iced over and under 4 inches of snow. We are waiting for the plough to come up before venturing out as the lane is blocked to anything lacking 4 wheel drive and off road tyres.
I was out first thing miking goats, feeding ducks and hens and got mobbed by a gang of male blackbirds who seem very partial to layers pellets. In fact they seem to prefer pellets to the mixed corn that went out into the croft for the hens to scratch up. Mind you, the hens seem far more interested in the warmth of the goathouse than doing any scratching in the deep snow.
I may take a wander later today along the river up to the Tarn. This covering of snow is ideal for spotting and marking the presence of predators especially mink.
I got a phone call in the week from a chap who is writing a book about the history of game fishing in the north of England. It looks as if the MAA and its past keepers will get a mention. I'll pass on more details when I get them.