Sunday 9 June 2013

Cheek! Caught a Tench in MY Swim

I fished a new water today, not really expecting to catch anything at all.  The water is big, very big, new to me, gin clear, and I knew little of it  other than its name and location.   But it looked good for tench, and to me that is always enough to get the juices flowing.    And indeed, catching nothing is exactly what happened. The trip became, as expected, merely a reconnaissance expedition.  As such it was not wasted, and as with most of my trips, there were wildlife moments to see and savour.

I cast in as dawn broke, to much birdsong.  I am not the best of people to identify bird species by their songs, and that is possibly as a result of being tone deaf and never singing myself.  When I was eleven, on my first morning at grammar school, I stood immediately behind the music teacher, who played the pipe organ right in front of the row of new boys.   After the first hymn, he turned around    "You boy!  Name?"
  I told him.
 "YOU, boy, are banned from singing for the rest of your life.  I consider it my duty as a musician, to protect the rest of mankind from your intolerable caterwauling."
I have never burst into song since.  I quote him, word for word, and to be honest he was right,  Even if I try to sing to myself, inside my head, silently, I know the notes are wrong.    I didn't pass GCE music.  Wasn't even entered for it.    Ah well, I just hope the rest of you are duly grateful for what you have been spared.

A Songthrush: Listening for Worms.
I did recognise the song thrush almost at the very top of a nearby tree.   After all the easiest way to identify this bird's very variable song is to count the phrase repetitions.  If he usually sings it three times: song thrush....simple mathematics...I was good at maths.

Massed Toadpoles
But let me return to the lakeside.   Soon after dawn a little dabchick emerged from the nearby sedges, and slowly swam right across the lake,   several hundred yards.   He, or she, came back about an hour later.  This epic journey was to be repeated about 4 times during the day.   Why there was no suitable food any closer, I have no idea.  The margins seemed to be brim full of all sorts of little bugs and critters.   Like every other place I have fished recently there were massed toadpoles.    Not seen any frog larvae as yet, but toads are everywhere this year.  Toadpoles are blacker than tadpoles, smaller, and with a shorter tail.  There was more life in the margins than I expected, several times a great crested grebe came, and pushed its way through the marginal rushes and sedges.   Not seeing me it often came as close as a couple of feet from my couple of feet.

A crèche of Canada goslings drifted across the lake, and came on land quite near to me to eat the fresh grass in the field.   There were 23 young, along with four parents.  I don't know why, but most of the Canada  geese  on a lake do not seem to breed, but often those that do guard their offspring collectively.  I have seen three such crèches this year, each attended by four adults.
 Swallows swifts and house martins flew constantly above the lake.   The swifts, so aptly named, flew rapidly, higher up than the other birds, their uniformly dark brown colouration and thin swept back wings clearly identifying them. The swallows, with their thin v tail flew mainly near the water surface.  A speed, and with many twists and turns, they never let a wingtip touch the surface, despite being constantly as low as an inch or two.  The house martins, with that conspicuous white rump, flew at an intermediate height, below the swifts, yet above the swallows.  No sand martins, the smallest of the quartet.  They will be over the river, near their nest holes, and enjoying themselves in exuberant flight, more than any other bird species I have seen.  I watched some flies hatch, emerging from the water surface, and venturing tentatively into the air.  Most were caught by the swallows, who slowed down only slightly as they take the insects in mid flight. Occasionally they would drink from the surface, but also, something I have not noticed before, they often took insects directly off the surface of the water. 

Great Crested Grebe Sharing the Fishing: One for Him, None for Me.
The weeds near my feet moved again, the grebe was back.   But this time, he came back to the surface, with a tench held sideways in his bill.  About four inches the fish was, and as slippery as all tench.  The grebe swam off, all the time struggling to turn and swallow the fish.  Eventually he succeeded, but it found it far more difficult than swallowing a roach..  But the cheek of it: catching a tench, in my swim, on a day I remained biteless.

Heard a cuckoo as well on the day, somewhere the far side of the lake from my position.  Of course that could mean it being a long way away, as the call seems to carry very well indeed.   Odd how the two notes, repeated incessantly as they are, remain enigmatic, and of interest, whereas the five notes of the woodpigeon get on the nerves after a very few minutes.   I did think about going to look for the bird after I finished fishing, but forgot all about it...and it was raining, so I hurried the wet gear into my car and drove home.

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