Sunday 10 July 2016

Back Down by the River.

Well, it's June 25th (or was when I wrote that), the river season is well under way, young life of all sorts is aboundingly plentiful, the rivers ponds and lakes have never looked greener...and I have to go to a bloody wedding.  I used to be good, well brilliant actually,  at avoiding weddings, always found perfectly feasible reasons not to attend, reasons that did not upset the bride and groom.  It is not so easy these days. I also have to not upset the wife.   I knew it was a mistake, attending that first wedding: my own.  I am now lumbered, having to go to other peoples' weddings too. My two brothers have each had three weddings.  I attended, of those six, none!    My youngest brother was first off the mark, and he knew in advance that I would not be there, even without asking me.  He was bright enough to know that all those years ago, fishing came first. He is suffering though as a result of an early leap into wedlock, and is already a great grandfather, poor sod.
But this today is now the third wedding I have been to.  That is one every fourteen years since I got married. Not even the wedding of a close relative, but the son of one of the wife's friends.  Worryingly the lady has two other sons in the pipeline leading towards the aisle.  Only a couple of days into Brexit and already I have to wear a damned tie. Of a colour chosen by my wife.  It is truly awful, and has a look resembling that flick-flack paint popular on some cars a few years ago, the tie veering between purple and blue as the light affects it.  We leave Europe and see what happens: immediate disaster: the pound drops, stock market tumbles, weddings and ties!   I am sure Brinit would have been a far better choice by far.  I dislike the term Brexit intensely, but at least they never thought of saying Brinit.  Had they done so, no doubt we would have had to suffer slogans such as "It's Brinit, innit, to winit?"    I'll have to pause here, whilst I explain to Nina that it is customary for guests to try to outdo neither the bride, nor the bride's mother, in the fashion stakes.  I don't have any chance of changing her mind of course (although she will change it herself a number of times herself in the long runup to actually wearing something), and she will be late as usual, after making damn sure she is right up there front running with the other red carpet dressers and posers.

Two hours to go and I watch a young magpie near the bird feeders. Its plumage does not yet have the precise black and white sharp definition of a fully grown bird. It likes bread, but has not yet learned the tricks of the adults, who always dunk dry bread into the water bath before eating it.  The garden is busy with young dunnocks, goldfinches, robins, blue, coal and great tits, blackbirds and the occasion jay.  Many of these nested in the garden this year.  The jackdaws, nesting on a neighbours roof have not yet brought their own young down to feed, but they will, at which time the magpie/jay/jackdaw three way fights are likely to escalate.  We also have young greenfinches.  Every year one or two fly into the lounge window, and knock themselves silly. One did so recently, taking over thirty minutes to recover.  A very few die, most I can pick up, and place safely on a safe tree branch whilst they recover, eventually flying off apparently unharmed.   Such is their dazed state that the scarcely notice my picking them up. Greenfinch, the grayling of the avian world, so often needing a bit of help. 

Excuse me: have to go and zip up the wife's dress.   Maybe that is why women are so keen on marriage: it gives them someone to zip up the backs of their dresses. Most women would have to go around stark naked were it not for the men in their lives.

A Moorhen Feeds its Chick
Down by the lakes and rivers other birds have their young.  All except for the tufted ducks.  Although tufties seem to form very devoted pairs, I don't think I have ever seen any young tufted ducks.  The two or three ornithological types, who live welded to their binoculars,  and whom I have asked,  have also not seen any.   I wonder why?  But the mallards have near full sized young, there are seven swans a swimming in the local lake.   The mandarins and goosanders are all guiding their young along the local streams. The kestrels have raised three young which are just starting to make their first short flights.  They remain very near to the nest site though, and their plumage does not yet look well developed.  Good enough to fly just those short distances.
A Small Goosander Family Pauses and Preens by the River.
A Little Further Downstream: Three Juvenile Mandarins With Their Mum.
 The kestrels have raised three young which are just starting to make their first short flights.  They remain very near to the nest site though, and their plumage does not yet look well developed.  Good enough to fly just those short distances. I was a little jealous of a friend who caught the three of them side by side just filling the nest box, rather like the three "see, hear  and speak no evil" monkeys, with one of the adult kestrels on the roof of the box. He photographed them the day before their first flight. But I am happy with my own efforts, although a longer lens at sometime in the future would see some use. 
Two of the Young Kestrels
And the Third.

200 Feet up a Chimney
I took a trip to revisit the peregrines, as I was informed they now had two chicks. The trip turned into three trips, but yes, there are two young peregrines now.   Initially after seeing both adults, with the female chasing the smaller male for some reason or other, I finally spotted the two youngsters.  One hiding on the edge of a roof, the other so far up a very tall chimney that it must already be a competent flyer.
Young Peregrine Falcon
   It was high enough to have terrified Fred Dibnah. I did a bit of brick counting and mixed in a bit of 11 plus maths, and came up with a height of 230 feet. I continued to watch and saw the two youngsters chasing a group of pigeons: pigeons which seem to live far too close to the nest site for their own good. The young peregrines failed to catch any, but did not seem to have developed the surprise stoop high speed attack.   The chase, ineffective as it seemed to be, will no doubt strengthen their wings.  As ever, they did not pose close enough for my camera to take a really good picture, but the results are good enough to see that a peregrine in flight ( adult or young) may well be a sleek and graceful machine, but once it starts to lounge around on a high building it looks to be a right scruffy old bugger with its fluffed up feathers.  The day before, walking along the river I saw one of the adults chasing and screaming at a passing buzzard.  Would have made for a good photo, but for amateurs such as myself to take such photos, requires a lot of luck, and a goodly dose of needing to be in the right place at the right time.  I managed the right place, and the right time, but was not carrying the camera. Professionals have the time and background knowledge to be able to wait for such photo opportunities.  They know the right places, and can wait until the time is right. They are not constrained by their  equipment to about a maximum of 25 yards for a good photo. Success is never guaranteed, but they are able to gain a great advantage.  I would probably get bored all too quickly.  Oh yes, and professionals always have a camera handy!

Some of you may well be wondering how went the fishing.  Not too badly really, I finally broke the sequence of big tench blanks, landing one of 8-13, although a second one managed a hook pull and
At Last!
was lost.  Far less success with the big tench this year though. A lot more time has been spent on small local ponds.   This has had the advantage of being near to home, I can float fish with bread, usually on lift method, and catch a few fish of varied species, in shortish sessions,  without having to work too hard for bites.  

Nothing huge, but with fish like this gorgeously coloured rudd, who cares.  Only about 10 ounces, but a young looking fish, and so maybe the pond holds older and bigger. Another of the ponds I fished, a club water, has some wels catfish in it.  Always ready for something different, I decided to have a go. The carp on the pond were spawning when I arrived, lots of heavy splashing and cavorting in the lilies that cover the shallows in the centre of the pond.  So if the cats were not feeding, there was nothing else much to play with.   But over the evening and night a quartet of small catfish demonstrated that any fish capable of swimming both forwards and backwards, needs a larger landing net. It was fun, but all were landed and returned safely. 

Managed a couple of river trips, for a few chub, grayling and a small barbel.   It was almost a 1/2 scale model of what a barbel should really be, at about a pound and a half.  An odd fish: being 25% short on its barbule count.   It came from a swim I had identified during the close season, and was convinced no-one else knew of it. 
Mini Barbel
However when I went onto the river about the 19th, someone had beaten down the bankside screen of nettles that had previously hidden the fish, and flattened an area big enough for a bivvy.  The fish I had seen right near to the bank as I gently moved the nettles a inch or two, had now gone.  A couple of the chub had lumps and bumps where there should be none.  One had a marble sized deformity on its lower lip.  These industrial rivers, once polluted to the death of any resident life may now support fish and many other creatures, but they are still far from perfect.  There are a few distorted, bent back barbel, and many of the chub are imperfect.  Whether the remanent chemicals in the stream bed are responsible, or whether low populations have led to a degree of inbreeding I do not know.  But these fish are probably doing well to survive at all, raw sewage being pumped in during any period of heavy rain, and there being an ever present risk of incidental pollutants being allowed, intentionally or otherwise, into the rivers.   Being already none too clean, these incidents can take the river over that knife edge.  I have to remind myself how good things are now, for 40 years ago nothing lived in them, neither animal, nor vegetable. Far too much mineral content.

Finally have a look at what Nina eventually decided to wear.   And then tell me that she listened to
my advice not to outshine the bride's mother.   No-one else came close, save, possibly,  for some girl dressed in a big flouncy white dress and rather odd headgear.  She seemed to be  quite important, as she welcomed all the guests into the meal area. 
Nina, in Blue Flowered Dress, NOT Overshadowing Bride's Mother...or so She Tells Me.

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