There was enough rain during the week to encourage us to nip over to the river this morning and check out the Sea Trout situation. The air was crisp and a wonderful frost lay settled on the seed-heads of the umbellifers and thistles. The water levels were higher on the weir, but no fish were running it. We explored the over-hanging banks, discovering that there were still a few fair-sized Trout waiting in the dark shallows, some showing the scars of failed weir jumping and one sadly demised - we hoped that it had died after the final act of mating. When we arrived at the river, Rosie had seen a Little Egret flush from where the dead fish was and had probably been feeding on the body - I guess that Egrets must be our equivalent of the North American Grizzlies!
Also among the tangle of roots that draped into the water,
a Wren made its way quietly through the deep shadows - time to paint!
We were delighted to discover that a Long-tailed Tit had popped into the garden for a visit this morning. But a Long-tailed Tit on its own is simply wrong - they should be in a gang bustling their way through hedge and garden, blowing raspberries as they go about their business.
I just had time to make a few scribbled notes before our little friend was gone in a blurr of wings. 'Birds of feather', foremost in my mind.
I hadn't realised that this mild dry autumn was having such an impact on the water reserves. A knock-on effect of this shortage has been a dramatic drop in water levels on our rivers. Which in turn has made life tricky for the Sea Trout as they make their way back up river to their spawning grounds. The difficulty being that little water was running over the weirs, making them virtually impossible to cross.
We finally had a spot of rain last week, just about enough to make the weirs run effectively. We were very keen to watch the trout jump and a friend who had been studying a site for a number of years, promised to let us know when they were active. He was very interested in our reaction to seeing them - Wow! They were huge, some up to three feet in length. Before trying to clear the obstacle, they gathered in the calmer waters, looking like torpedos waiting to be fired. The urge to migrate must have been deeply engraved, with many showing the scars of previous failed attempts. For a few hours we watched their endeavours, all to no avail, not one made it over. We felt a little helpless, but assured that with a bit more rain (which has come) they will cross the weir with ease.
We were also lucky to see their breeding behaviour. Occasionally a female would swim into the shingle shallows and quiver her tail, in order to create a hollow for her eggs and to attract males, who needed little encouragement. The males fussed around her flicking and rolling onto their sides, eventually fertilising the eggs. Sometimes the males jumped clear out of the river, we wern't sure if this was a practice jump for the weir or an act of bravado to impress their fellow suitors - whatever the reason, why didn't they put the same energy into leaping over the weir?
After the fun and excitement of last weekends show at Titchfield Haven, this week, it was nose firmly back to the grindstone. Working on interpretation paintings for Cow Green Resevoir and grabbing any moment while the washes dried to paint the garden birds.
It's starting to feel more like autumn/winter, so it won't be long before the Blackcaps are back and feeding on the fatballs - providing the Starlings leave some morsels for them.
If you're expecting words of wisdom from Dan and Rosemary you may be sadly disappointed. However, if you want to keep up to date with our current projects then pick up the feed at the top of this column.