Sunday 1 July 2012

All Grebes, Swallows and no Crucians

Set out very early yesterday, still dark as I left home, no glimmering of daylight, although the heavy cloud cover may have blocked out the impending dawn.  I reached the lake, a pretty reed fringed shallow water, with the first rays of light now penetrating the cloud, and I could just about see my float, some ten yards out.  Rigged up in a sort of lift method crossed with float legering.  With bread baited  and bated breath I had cast out into the gloom.  On the grass, in a field to my left were a couple of rabbits.  Black rabbits!   Only seen one black one before, near Manchester Airport, on a grass verge, but maybe they are becoming more common now in Cheshire.  Too far away for the camera.

Bites soon came, tentative little knocks that I assumed were from my chosen quarry: Carassius Carassius.   Crucian carp, another species I have caught very few of lately.  Tenacious little scrappers, Carassius Clays which don't just float like butterflies when hooked.   Hooked? Not a chance, and I missed quite a number of bites before finally connecting with...a two ounce roach.  And so it continued, regardless of bait changes, all that came near my bait were small roach and bream, the best of which would have struggled to register a pound on a set of scales.  And the rest were far smaller. 

But it was a pleasant day, for a moment at least.  Swallows arrived with the light, and drank by gliding on stiff wings, lower beak scooping up water.  Later when the water became rougher, the birds changed tactics, and set down briefly to take that drink, causing a moment's hesitation in the flight, a minor hiccup and splash. They appeared to have a number of regular flight paths, along which they spent much of their time.   It became quite noticeable when swallow after swallow flew past, along the same compass heading, and always exactly over my float.  I picked out several other regular routes, some of which were parallel to the bank.    I wonder if they in some way choose their flight path along routes which optimises the insect count?    Later in the day they had time to play, and chased each other in pairs and at speed.   The reactions of the following birds were incredible, with changes of directions in the tag game, in order to follow the "on" bird seeming to occur with millisecond precision. Some military pilots can experience G-forces up to about 9 Gs.   I wonder how many G the swifts and swallows are pulling during their own aerial dog fights?   Whatever the value, these birds have a good life, certainly enjoying themselves, and each with a long African holiday planned for later in the year.

There was a family of great crested grebes on the lake as well.  Four birds in total, although this was just one adult, with three 3/4 grown chicks.   Another lake I fish also has four, but that family comprises two adults and two young.  There I quite often see them in pairs, with both adults often having just one of the young in tow. And that lake has plenty of suitable fish, together with very clear water to aid the grebes' fishing. I saw as many as 40 or 50 fish fed to the young in a single day, and probably missed others.  The single adult on the other lake has life far more difficult, as the water is quite turbid, with maximum visibility as little as 10 inches. The small fish population in the shallow water is also probably less, so with three mouths to feed the adult was having a hard time coping with the incessant cheeping of three hungry young grebes.
After a couple of hours the largest of the three young attacked the smallest and drove it away.  The bird tried to return, but was again attacked by its eldest sibling, which literally had it by the neck, possibly trying to drown it.   And then the adult joined in to chase off the chick.  The youngster made one more attempt to return, but then wandered around the lake keeping a good safe distance between itself and the others.   Later in the day, the adult was to drive away the second chick.   The largest stayed very close to the adult, even making some amateurish attempts to dive and follow the adult. The youngest grebe kept wandering around the lake, coming quite close to myself and other anglers.  Which gave me an idea.  I offered it a 4 inch roach that I had caught, held the fishlet flapping in full view of the grebelet, which was maybe 5 yards away.   And it showed some interest.  I thought it was going to come and take the fish but it shied away when only a couple of feet away from my hand.    Maybe my camouflaged jacket has its limitations.   The roach was allowed to swim off. But it was all quite encouraging and I prepared my camera for a second attempt to entice the bird.  But it then kept a safe distance so no shot of me hand feeding a grebe. Instead, a shot I took a few weeks ago, before the eggs hatched.

I then suffered the first of 5 or 6 heavy and short-ish showers.   Cowered underneath my brolley and prayed for an absence of bites.   Momentarily, once, just once,  I dozed off...I had been up since 2:30 AM !   As I dozed a fish bit sufficiently well to drag line off the reel.  I struck, and was in contact with a good fish for 20 seconds or so before the hook pulled.   Damn!     As the light faded slightly, more due to heavy cloud than the lateness of the hour, a mink swam across the lake, and took up residence in the willow immediately to my right.   Mink do not seem very strong swimmers to me, and I doubt that they would have much success in catching fish.  This one did dive briefly once or twice, but I remain unconvinced that it had eaten many fish suppers.    But perhaps it did account for the second adult grebe?  So I staked it out for a photograph, but made an error.  I thought that, with the poor light I would need a flash.   The photo is dreadful, and a test shot I did a few moments later, without the mink, showed that I had errored in switching the flash unit on.  Oh well.  But I did get to see the mink quite well as it wandered through the lower part of the willow.

A little later a crow flying over the lake descended, and delicately, with its beak, took a small dead fish from the surface.  It scarely got its feet wet.   I have seen a crow do a similar thing on the River Trent a year or so ago, so maybe it is a quite normal behaviour for a crow.

After the 5th, or was it 6th, short shower, I decided to pack up, and as I reeled my line in, a pike grabbed the bait.   After a short tussle it either let go, or else bit through the line.   Either way, my float rebounded into the alder, from where I was just about able to reach and retrieve it.  

This is one of very few waters on which I have not seen coots or moorhens. Neither revealed themselves all day on this typical coot lake.   More mink action I fear.   The  willow had also harboured a pair of small birds, flitting about from branch to branch. I watched them for ages, thinking they were probably some sort of warbler, but the leaves were always obscuring the birds from my view.   I gave up hoping for a photo, and moments later they were sitting in good view, in the alder to my left.   They were very young, extremely fluffy, blue tits.   One other bird, a bird of prey, had flown across the lake, but with my poor ID capabilities of such birds I do not know what it was. Female sparrowhawk size-ish, but rather paler, and with a grey look to it, but I don't think it to have been a sparrowhawk.  Not an eagle, nor kestrel, nor kite nor buzzard, although one buzzard did show itself as I drove home, landing on the grass near the hard shoulder.  The red kite I saw last week over the same motorway, was no longer to be seen.

All in all, a poor day's fishing, with just  a dozen very small fish to report, but a day rich with other experience, and a day well spent by the waterside.  Just wish I could convince my wife that the time was not wasted.  Any time spent without a paint brush n my hand is time wasted...or perhaps  time to be avoided!

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