11th December


Sanctuary in action

The new fry sanctuary looking the part with an extra foot of water in it. The banks are still looking raw but next spring will see the fen habitat soften the picture.
The large lime trees in the background are absolutely smoothered in mistletoe. Very little will get picked for Christmas, the remainder will be enjoyed by the thrushes.

10th December


High water

It seems a long time since we have enjoyed the sight of coloured water over the spillway. Whilst the river has risen and coloured we have not had anywhere near sufficient rain to ease the low water risk. Hopefully the first of a run of wet weather and at least the salmon will feel a little more comfortable in coloured water on the redds.

John has been down again and produced another great video of the Starlings. I hasten to add this was yesterday's footage not this evenings. If you look closely the Peregrine giving rise to the avoidance manoeuvres can be seen harassing the flock. In the opening shot, ten seconds in, one minute twenty and two minutes fourty six seconds there are at least two other brief appearances but don't get mixed up with the seagull that is flopping through the scene. Only half the flock is present, which went immediately into roost after the last shot in the video, the remainder of the roost straggled in over the next ten minutes dropping into the reeds in dribs and drabs.
Starling murmurations with the attendent Peregrine

8th December


Frida and Nana at the Starlings

Frida meeting the Starlings.

Syndicate member John Slader was down this evening and produced this great video of the Starlings.

Starling murmurations

7th December


Running seatrout Seatrout

Before the effect of the overnight rain was seen in the Dockens the last of this years seatrout run were on their way to the redds. There is a hen fish tucked up under the bank in the first shot and a pair running the shallows in the second. Within an hour the depth had doubled and the water was the colour of tea and the fish could travel unseen.

The low pressure and overcast conditions not only inspired the seatrout, the salmon were also attempting to move upstream. I spent an hour visiting a neighbouring set of hatches to see how they were managing in the low water and I have to say what I found didn't come as much of a surprise. There were a pair of fish attempting to scale the fish pass. In the forty five minutes I was leaning on the railing a cock fish tried twice to jump the first 500mm step of the fish ladder. The hen made three attempts, on the second she actually made it but instead of moving on to attempt the second 500mm jump of the four step ladder came back down five minutes later. She tried once more before I felt enough was enough and headed off to work. This is exactly the type of barrier I was speaking of in the entry a day or two ago. Just how many attempts will those two fish make at that barrier before either making it or dropping back exhausted to spawn or die lower in the river. The next stage will be that same bloody fishery expert who informs me these fish passes are efficient telling me fish that spawn in the lower catchment have lower recruitment - perhaps its because they are knackered!
I'm reliably informed the fish are on the redds throughout the estate with one or two very large fish amongst them. I personally have yet to see them but will be out and about over the next week or two counting and recording.
Still on the topic of salmon. I have been spending several very pleasant hours going over the syndicate members responses to the salmon management review we sent out with the renewal info. I have to say it restores my faith in the angling world to receive such positive comments and suggestions. Whilst it is to early to make any definite changes by far the greater part of the replies to date favour a particular direction. I do not wish to prejudice any responses yet to be submitted so I will leave further comment at this time to simply saying, thank you so much for taking a very real interest. I will sort out a more complete response in a week or so.


Piebald squirrel

It could be fifty shades of grey as far as I'm concerned its still a beech bark eating, nest raiding tree rat!

Starling roost Starling roost

Continuing to grow, trying to get a shot of the entire flock for a count is proving almost impossible.

A further point of interest in the bird world was the recovery of a ringed Snipe that had travelled from the Czech Republic, in excess of 1300km to our east. It has always been believed that Scandinavian and continental birds over winter with us but this is the first hard evidence I have ever seen of their travels. Just what has became of the Avon Valley Snipe population remains a complete mystery. Along with the Lapwing, Redshank and Yellow Wagtails they have moved from our valley. As with our salmon and roach populations we do not have the answers. Climate change, demands of society, pollution or disturbance the list goes on and on but we seem to be no nearer getting any answers.


6th December



Pollard Pollard view Upstream view

Still pollarding. The willow on the left is in urgent need of attention before the weight of the head snaps the trunk. The view downstream, over the removed head, from the top of its neighbour as the swans return upstream from the meadows in the late afternoon.

4th December


I've not found time to complete the Starling count, which is probably just as well as the flock continues to grow. Just how long the reed beds in question can support their attention I wouldn't like to say. I'll continue to record their numbers and eventually get a count when the roost reaches its peak.
We are approaching that time of year when the salmon head for the redds to fulfill their evolutionary role. Just what's going to happen if the river remains in its present state I have no idea. If recent low flow year are any measure we may see increased numbers of fish cutting in the lower catchment down with us. If you're out on the river in the next few weeks and come across cutting fish, please drop me a text if you would be so kind, I always try and record the number of fish cutting on the estate.


Pike on the fly

This shot taken in the mellow light of the late afternoon sun as a Jack, taken on the fly, comes to the net. A nice way to spend a day with the river remaining low and clear, please make sure you stay clear of the glides and shallows to avoid getting mixed up with the salmon. In the event you do hook one be it on a fly or double red maggot, the latter seems irresistible to cock fish, it goes without saying, NO photo's, unhooked in the water and well rested before return. If you can't unhook salmon in water please remember it takes just thirty seconds before damage begins to occur. I can't recommend too highly the rubberised, knotless landing net mesh that is now available, its saving on split fins and scale removal is fantastic.
For that matter the same applies to the incredible specimen coarse fish we continue to see on the Avon. Whilst a photo is acceptable, on most occasions, with our tougher coarse fish make sure its only out of the water for the very minimum of time. Well recovered, in the landing-net, before carefully released.

30th November


Digital counting

I'm sure there must be a programme for this by now! The photo captures about 80 percent of the roost on the night in question and the coloured sections, either end of the flock, totals 2500. I'll let you do the sums and if I ever finish the count I'll let you know how close you were.

24th November


As many of you are well aware I am an ardent supporter of removing barriers to the passage of migrating fish. As such my favourite website at the moment is “Dam Removal Europe” where efforts are made to rid river systems of many of these life denying structures. Recent news from the team included efforts under the auspices of the Severn LIFE Project to remove structures on the UK's longest river. It also included Albania's fight to protect one of the last truly wild rivers in Europe from the clutches of industry, “society” and politics. Four thousand people turning up to experience a festival to highlight the plight of the river in question. I wonder how many were there for the river and how many were there for the music? If I were to try and find four thousand people to turn out in support of the Avon I think I might struggle. I sometimes think that apart from the angling world and of course the ten thousand or so readers of this diary, I would be hard pressed to find four thousand people locally who actually knew where the Avon was, let alone the issues it faces. Whose fault is that I hear you all cry - please DON'T write in with answers on a post card.

Back to the dam news and what was particularly of interest to me was a paper produced at Glasgow Uni. “The impact of a small-scale riverine obstacle on the upstream migration of Atlantic Salmon” (Newton et al, 2017) As I was previously saying, my often expressed argument that to allow many of the structures on the Avon to operate as they do is damaging to the best interests of the Avon fish population, would appear to be supported by this paper.. In fact this paper would seem to add considerable support to this argument. To allow a water company to bang weirs across a river at the tidal limit and operate them for commercial gain is beyond the grasp of many in Europe. What makes it even worse in our case is that the EA support this barrier with their use of it as a means to count fish. This would also appear to significantly increased the risk as a jump to gain access to the higher level is often required, as opposed to a flume. I recognize they have to count fish to meet the requirements of the current legislation related to conservation limits etc I find it somewhat puzzling that this counting is implemented at the expense of the Avon fishery that they have an equally legislative responsibility to Maintain, Improve and Develop?


The impact of a small-scale riverine obstacle on the upstream migration of Atlantic Salmon

We are continually told by the EA that salmon can pass these barriers at times of increased flow. A fact I have never disputed. What I have always maintained is that these barriers; delay, exhaust, increase predation and add considerably to exploitation, in an unnatural and artificial fashion. I have always maintained if these fish were not confronted by these artificial barriers they would take up low water lies in the slower deeper sections of the lower river as they do in natural regimes around the world. In the case of the Avon I would expect the lower gradient beats at Bisterne, Tyrell and Winkton to be the chosen summer pools.

It would now appear someone else is thinking along the same lines and taking this problem seriously. Whilst our obstacles fall well down the height scale determining a small riverine obstacle <5m most of the potential impacts apply. In keeping with the old adage, the scientist is the most destructive element of any salmons life, you may also have reservations about method and means. Having said that, they meet all current methodologies and practices so are considered sound, peer reviewed science.

As one reads the paper the varying time span of delays is clearly shown. Apart from the obvious barrier its potential to adversely impact has other factor such as low flow and water temperature that is undeniable. Perhaps the most interesting aspect from the Avon fisheries perspective was the proof that the smaller, shorter fork length fish over came the structure with the least impact. If you take that to its obvious conclusion on a river such as the Avon, which is famous for its large MSW catch, any impact will be significantly increased on these larger fish. Apart from the significantly increased impact of the delay on MSW fish the success enjoyed by grilse will ultimately favour their population dynamic. In light of the proven “grilse beget grilse” principle it doesnt take a genius to work out a long-term result. As in the case of the previous three or four decades our flows have become more erratic with any migration impacts increased on our MSW fish. Its no good me trying to quantify the impact with our current state of knowledge. What can be said is that with a fish having a four or five year life cycle a swing in favour of any element of the run will quickly multiply.

The other significant and I must stress, extremely significant, impact of these structures in upon our coarse fish population. This paper was written solely looking at salmon our most powerful, anadromous swimmer. Many of our coarse fish in a natural environment undertake spawning migrations of tens of kilometres within the river system when the urge takes them. It is assumed that along with the riverine fly populations these lengthy upstream migrations are undertaken to compensate for the downstream drift of larval stage fry. I have often discussed on here the impact of these weirs and our dependence on the network of braided channels the water meadow system afforded the Avon with regard to its coarse fish. I could name half a dozen weirs, structures or fish farms on the Avon that offer huge potential delays, distractions or barriers to our coarse fish and these aren't even on the agenda.

I could rant on here for a further ten pages about precautionary principles, the polluter pays, licence fees or future representation but I need to get some sleep and I'm sure it I've reached my rant limit and your indulgence quotient. I can also bet it won't be too long before something else winds me up about this topic and the red mist rises once more.


23rd November


Evening murmurations

Part of the Starling roost heading for the reed beds this evening without any attendent falcons to worry them. Numbers continue to grow with in the region of ten thousand birds currently in the flock. I'll do a digital count in the next day or two if I can get a photo of the entire flock.

Low river conditions Bathing House Sparrows

Continuing the bird theme with a shot of the exposed gravel due to the low water in the river. Taken on Sunday during the WeBS count with Tufted Duck and Goosander lounging in the shallows. Finally the shot on the right shows our House Sparrows enjoying bath time as if it were still high summer.

19th November


Darrel Hughes with a 16.08 barbel

Hardly needs any caption and to catch such a fish under the difficult conditions we find ourselves enduring at present makes it even more remarkable. Wonderful fish Darrel and at 16.08 congratulations on your new PB, many thanks for the phone call and the photos.

Come rain or shine the work of the estate continues as do the comings and goings of the valley. Today was a WeBS count, which was probably as species poor as any I have done in the last decade or so. With the mild weather and low flows failing to flood the meadows there is little to encourage birds to move into the valley at the moment. About the only thing in any numbers were the feral Canada and Greylag geese flying out to feed on the maize stubble, plus hords of Cormorants heading north up river to feed on the juveniles of the middle Avon. The river is in desperate need of a good scouring before the salmon and seatrout cut and to add a little depth and colour to the water to slow down the ranunculus growth that is currently spring forward in lush green fronds across the shallows and hide our fish from the murderous beady eyes and beaks that seek them out.


Pollarding Starling murmuration Fallow deer

The "Treemender" team were in doing the pollarding, which along with the oxbow and the scrapes forms part of the GWCT conservation project. Many of these fabulous Crack willows are probably as old as the water meadows dating back to the 17th or 18th century and we are losing them at an alarming rate as they succumb to old age. In an effort to reduce the canopy weight and encourage new, vigorous growth we are pollarding about twenty of them. They provide homes for an enormous array of wildlife from bats and owls to hornets and bees. The middle shot shows the starling murmuration that is currently to be found in the Ellingham reed beds. If you look closely at the photo you will see two hawks or falcons that are harrying them in hope of an evening meal. Unfortunately I was too far away to be able to identify just what species they were with any certainty, although there were two Peregrines with them a day or two ago so it may have been them again. The final shot shows just part of the fallow herd that spends its time eating every bit of scrub and cover we try and encourage for the lakes biodiversity.

Elian with a double figure pike

You will have seen Elian on here before with some of his great catches. Here he is with a double figure pike caught on his light drop shot gear. What I enjoy so much about the photo is that Elian's face captures the thrill of wonder we all felt in those early years out on the river bank. Absolute magic, well done Elian and thanks also to grandad Colin for the photo.

16th November


Scrape

The latest conservation project in partnership with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust is drawing to a close with just the pollards to be completed. In the forground one of six new scrapes that have been created in an effort to improve the lot of the breeding waders. If you look closely at the tree line in the background a Starlings murmuration can be seen as they turn and twist prior to dropping into the reeds to roost.

13th November


30+ Common

A new PB for Chris at 33 pounds one of a brace of 30 plus commons taken over the weekend.

12th November


Interesting news today. In light of Environment Secretary Michael Gove's desire to establish a statutory, independent environmental watchdog, free of Government influence. I assume the Riverine trusts will be at the head of the queue in demanding a significant voice. Water and sunlight are the fundamental blocks on which our environment depends that puts riverine trusts in pole position. I'm sure the Wildlife trusts will be making a claim, which is fine but lets keep the protection of rivers under the control of riverine interests not financial expedient necessity. Get the transfer of staff from the agencies without incurring debilitating financial burden sorted out and the future looks well. River trusts take note, get your backsides in gear, it should have happened decades ago! Coming hot on the heals of a change of stance from the Secretary of State, with regard to supporting the ban on neonicotinoids, perhaps there is an environmental light on the horizon.


11th November


This for the main part is directed at the syndicate members who look in on the diary from time to time. We have just established our own flock of Romney sheep and the reason I tell you this is in the event you spot a sheep in distress or looking down in the dumps, would you kindly notify us. They are an in-house flock and as such our direct responsibility, with no tenant involved, so it is to the office during normal working hours or my mobile 24/7. I will get a further direct mobile number for you to contact once I have warned him you may be calling! Hopefully such occasions will be extremely rare but livestock will be livestock with all their odd habits. for a month or two at least they are unlikely to be near the river but I'm sure you will get to meet them in the future.


Romney flock

Our new arrivals settling in down in the Park. Don't be alarmed at any of the odd colours, they are simply raddle colour marks to check on the effectiveness of the rams and this chap certainly seems to be up to the task. I'm sure that's as near to a smile as you're likely to get from a sheep!

7th November



Moylescourt ford Dockens flood

The rains have arrived and the forest streams are in flood. Hopefully the first run of seatrout are on their way to the redds high in the forest headwaters.

New oxbow Oxbow confluence Kingfisher

We continue to make progress with the oxbow and with the 400m of old oxbow now cleared we are linking into the main channel. The recent rise in water allowed us to see the potential of the site and with a rise of just ten inches, water backed into the cleared channel providing instant refuge for the summers juveniles. At least one local seems to approve, there's a Kingfisher in the first shot, with a closer view in the third to help with location.

Roadkill

I'm sure their will be mixed emotions among the readers at the sight of this chap. It looks as if he fell victim to a Goodyear Roadmaster out on the A338 by the garage. Probably crossing from the ponds in behind the small industrial units or the Linford brook to the main Avon, or the other way about. We pick up one or two a year and the EA come over and collect them for analysis over at Cardiff Uni. They are carrying out post mortems looking at several body condition indicators and generally recording the condition of our otter population. A quick glance at this chap will tell you he seemed to be in the pink, he was a big lad at over ten kilo's and seemed in extremely good condition. Excluding the Goodyear tread pattern of course. Just why the dopey things insist on crossing the roads as opposed to safely following the streams is somewhat of a mystery.

3rd November


Silver-washed Fritillary
"Look at that"

Mockbeggar Butterfly Transect Report 2017

For any butterfly followers amongst you all. With many thanks to the New Forest Transect Group for producing such an informative report.

28th October


Biodiversity poor willow car Progress

We are making good progress in turning three thousand square meters of biodiversity poor willow car into a biodiversity rich habit, flood water sanctuary and open valley flight line.

28th October


Misty starts Clearing up

With the end of summer time tonight I suppose we are officially entering winter? If not winter certainly autumn with its misty mornings and wind blown trees.

26th October


New bridge

This will cheer up one or two of the members. Kevin and Phil putting the finishing touches to a new bridge, replacing its 25 years old, somewhat testing, predecessor in the background.

21st October


Red Koi

Sad occasion as one of our old koi died today, the red fish in the shot above. I'm not sure of her pedigree or her exact age but she was well over thirty, which is a long time to know a fish.


Oxbow maintenance Reeds establishing Oxbow sanctuary in action Oxbow during low water

I expect readers of long standing will remember the shots above. A decade or so ago we dug out a couple of our silted up oxbows to act as sanctuaries for our juvenile cyprinids. The shots capture the devastation of the initial work at Coomer. A year or two later when the reeds began to establish. During high water, acting as a huge brake on the flood. Finally last Friday lunchtime during our current low water.
Of course not only fish, if we got things right, they also had the potential to act as wonderful habitat for many other of our valley birds and mammals. In the intervening years we have seen floods and droughts and the vegetation has established very much along the lines we wished to see. We can say the birds and mammals love the result with Mute Swan, Bittern, Water Rail and even a sighting of Bearded tits. Add the use the otters make of them and you can see we could not have wished for a better result. Just last Thursday at midday a large dog otter, not my old lab in the pic, lazily loping along beside the reeds probably frog hunting as the reeds have been packed with them in recent weeks. The downside has always been accessing the effectiveness as a sanctuary for our fish. During the summer if you stand alongside the reeds and stamp your feet there is a shock wave of swaying reeds as what ever is living in there bolts. Unfortunately when its in flood and hopefully working as we intended to shelter our juvenile fish we can't get near enough to assess its effectiveness. Suffice to say that the large area of protected water sheltered from avian predation by the phragmites looks perfect. Perhaps a little controversially the otters remain close at hand which would point to a food source being not too far away. I should also add I don't have a problem with their presence as the apex predator they have a role to play and any fish that is unable to avoid them, in the matrix of stems, is perhaps fated to become part of the diet. Add the recent work of the Barbel Society project at Lifelands, the flood bays at Harbridge and the careful flow control of seven miles of carrier and we have the first steps in sustaining our cyprinid and salmonid populations.


Park Oxbow at summer level Park Oxbow at high water

Park Oxbow at low and high water.

Enough of the thinking behind our previous work at Park and Coomer we are now embarking on an even larger project in clearing the Ellingham Island oxbow. In partnership with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the work is now under way to remove the decades of accumulated silt. With added significance in this instance, the management of decades of neglected willow that is acting to the detriment of the valley summer breeding wader population. Syndicate members arriving at Ellingham car park will find considerable change under way but fear not the car park remains in action. We will also ensure a significant plug of material remains between our work and the river channel itself. This will act as a barrier between our work and the river ensuring no ill effect on the river as a result of our disturbance. One warning in that we may erect a temporary electric fence to ensure the livestock does not access the work area, just make sure you identify the crossing points!

In the previous paragraph I referred to our efforts to create a sustainable coarse fish population that does not depend on outside stocking and is buffered from the efforts of society that currently seems set on destroying our watery environment. Of course, despite my best efforts to isolate our fishery and keep my head well below the political parapet, life is never that simple.

In a perfect fishery world our stock would have access to rich feeding grounds and safe havens to spend the day secure from predation. They would also be able to satisfy their natural urge to reach the higher spawning grounds in an effort to mitigate against natures efforts to flush their vulnerable off-spring from the system. Alas our fishery world isn't such a happy place. Perhaps at Somerley we are fortunate in having miles of carriers and tributaries contained and protected within the estate. Many of our juveniles need never leave us if they were just aware of the habitat available to them. Unfortunately this is not the case. In line with the adult urge to migrate upstream to spawn and here I'm referring to cyprinids not salmonids, the larval stages, fry and juveniles, assisted by nature, head in the opposite downstream direction. With the increase in flood events of recent decades these downstream migrations have been significantly magnified with many areas of the river becoming devoid of stock as higher spawning grounds have been flushed through the system. I used to wonder why when we set the eel stages with the first summer floods of the year the first fish we would see on the stages would be skimmer bream. It provided the answer to why even with such a large Avon bream population they never over populated the river. With one hundred year probability floods coming at one a decade throughout the latter part of the last century not only bream but our roach faced flood events they had not evolved to deal with. The wonderful roach of the Tweed disappeared under the even more dramatic deluges the river suffered through the 90's and 00's. It provided the answer to why Tim and Sylvie Edgell caught carp in their seine net below the Black-house on the Mudeford Run. Should we have been surprised our fish populations suffered faced with these greater flood events? Not really, especially when experiences elsewhere are taken on board.

A classic example might be the state of affairs in east Anglia in the 60's and 70's when, with my father, we used to travel to Downham Market to fish the Relief channel and Great Ouse in search of Zander. It wasn't easy fishing, great tracts of at first glance featureless water. Miles of parallel canal banks seventy meters wide and as cold as a fridge. Half a dozen rods, each 20 meters apart, all set up high with the silver paper from an Embassy packet pinched on the line just in front of the tip ring. Hunkered down beneath a brolly at the up-wind end of the line of rods watching the silver paper through the bino's in hope of seeing one start to creep out toward the middle of the channel. More often than not the gradual leap frogging of the rods went on throughout the day as you slowly headed off into the grey direction of a Kings Lynn ten miles away. Enough of our self inflicted torture, more of the incidental occurrences we watched as we whiled away the hours. One of my rods usually had lobs or maggot on as bait and apart from four or five pound bream and the occasional pound plus roach no sign of fry was ever witnessed during these two or three years we visited the place. Not unlike our Avon bream and roach you might say! All our deads had to be caught from farm pounds that were alive with crucians, roach and rudd alongside the channels. Not unlike the ponds and lakes beside the Avon you might say! As we became more accustomed to the ways of the far east it became apparent that the channels didn't react to natures biding, which isn't surprising really when you consider the name of the channel and its raison_d’ętre. It may not have rained for days yet all of a sudden the channel would start to run at a hugely increased rate. Nothing like the Avon but certainly a great deal quicker than what we considered the norm. It didn't take long to discover the cause of the flow was the water board that controlled the flood waters in the region releasing water, pumped into the Relief Channel from the surrounding land as a safety valve, through the Denver and South Lynn Sluices and out into the Wash. The massive open matches that had lined the banks of the Relief channel had ceased simply through lack of suitable fish to fill the nets. The odd huge catch of bream and no follow up weights. We were enjoying the fishing at the time prior to the angling media getting involved putting on trial the Zander as the arch villain gobbling all the fish in the region. As the hue and cry whipped up by the media about the dastardly Zander reached its zenith we decided being seen as Zander supporters wasn't very PC and we stopped our pilgrimages. Although we no longer travelled over to fish the waters in the east I always kept half an eye on the hysteria in the media demanding the complete culling of the Zander as the only way to restore the fish stocks. I was amazed when the realisation that the greatest cause of the collapse of the fishery was the management of the sluices flushing the stock out into the North Sea, the silence from the media was deafening.

Where does this leave us on the Avon. After years of inappropriate weed cutting, dredging and channel realignment by the managing agencies in recent decades, all our fish have faced a significantly increased risk of being flushed into the lower river. If we except that is the natural progression of events for juveniles, which the upstream spawning migration of adults had evolved to compensate, then surely we have nothing to worry about? Alas life's never that easy and where man rears his ugly head it is likely to become a great deal more complicated. The very nature of our river is of an artificial channel, for the most part man made and man managed. Ladies please forgive me, I use the gender reference purely in its abbreviated form of mankind and you might be glad to disassociate yourselves from the cock-up we have made of our riverine environment. That may be a little harsh when I say cock-up as for the greater part it wasn't deliberate but a progression of events driven by societies needs, water abstraction, agriculture, aquaculture, waste disposal etc. If we look at the Avon at its famed height as a fishery, associated human population was considerably lower with considerably less demand for potable water and detergent and chemical enriched sewage disposal. Agriculture was yet to discover the “benefits” offered by such socially considerate companies as Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and Dupont, Monsanto, etc. Agriculture for the greater part was dairy and hay production, certainly in the middle and lower river on floated or water meadows. Meadows that involved miles and miles of associated channels and drains that since the intensification of the farming world have been allowed to disappear. Even with us, our existing ten miles would probably have been twice that. This huge lattice of water allowed populations to remain localised, avoiding the main channel flows and the associated flushing over the weirs and through the hatches. In our changed world we have less side or braided channels and the salmon action plans, established to protect the EU designated Atlantic salmon, consider the impoundment of water behind the long established weirs as undesirable. Our current fish populations are faced with an entirely new and different regime. Local distinct populations can no longer survive as the braided and impounded habitat they depended on has disappeared. Where remnant roach populations do cling on they are usually associated with historically impounded sections of the river. Fordingbridge and above Downton spring to mind.

Just what are the number of upstream migrations of adult and juvenile cyprinids through or around Knapp Mill, Winkton, Sopley, Ibsley, Bickton, Burgate, Breamore, Stanlynch, nil in several instances and very little in others. How long are fish delayed and exploited at these structures when they might be in more preferred, safe havens upstream? You may say what of Ibsley? I can assure you that at no point during any period of cyprinid or salmonid migration is there any barrier to passage. The mass movement of dace and chub we see in June use the Trout stream and the trout stream bypass gates, with the interconnected culvert, completely unimpeded. We insisted that the EA designed, WWPlc abstraction compound weir that formed a barrier was altered with a section removed to allow salmonid migration. The cyprinid passage through this structure is also due for further modification. The main gates at Ibsley have run for several years throughout the summer months at a maximum gap permitting passage for the majority of coarse fish and all salmonids. For the majority of the time no migrating fish have to jump or face a head of water in excess of 0.6m with the associated lower flow. I have not witnessed at any period during my time at Somerley significant numbers of fish trapped or waiting in the weirpool. It has never provided a point of salmonid or coarse fish exploitation over and above that of any unimpeded section of the river. I would dearly like to know how this translates into some of the other structures I mentioned. Why is there not a maximum head and water velocity our fish have to face at man made structures throughout the river? An interesting perspective can be found on the EU weir removal website. Not quite the objectives I would seek for the Avon but some very hands on policy implementation.

Where does this leave us? We have a system that has changed dramatically through a process of natural degradation, restricting the available habitat for the fish stock. If we remove from the equation the destruction of the riverine ecology through weed cutting, dredging, snag removal, we have a legislatively imposed regime advocating the cyprinid stocks, now restricted to the main channel, are exposed to increased flow regime. A situation brought about through having statutory protection for a small element of the stock at the expense of the remainder under a promoted salmonid strategy. Having been flushed through the system by the increased velocity at these structures these same structure with their increased velocity or artificially held head of water, prevent natural compensatory upstream movement. Seems a pretty one eyed approach to the holistic management of a river! Thankfully we have enjoyed several years without significant flood events and we are seeing a remarkable increase in fish numbers. Barbel, chub and dace which are gravel spawning species are thriving with year classes from top to bottom. Roach and perch pleasingly are also increasing I only hope we don't see a further prolonged period of flooding that will undo the good of the recent benign winters.


Finally just a word of caution. "PLEASE DON'T FEED THE BLOODY BADGERS BOILIES" and if you are baiting up ensure you clean up around your bivvie, especially if you're using sweetened peanuts. With increasingly bold behaviour any further encouragement is a no, no. Whilst the prospect of a over eager brock ending up in your mates bivvie might at first appear like a good idea it has plenty of potential to go seriously wrong for both badger and angler.


15th October


Bramble eaters Meeting the donkeys
Donkeys Donkeys

I always enjoy the appearance of the donks for their winter stop-over.

14th October


33 pound common Good fish on 30+ common

Luke Browning has enjoyed some wonderful daytime sessions in recent days. Here he is with a brace of 30's that were accompanied by half a dozen further twenties. Well fished Luke, true autumn colour, congratulations on a fine catch.

Chestnut season

This is most definitely a chestnut and acorn year. The Jays, Pheasants, Pigeons and squirrels are all furiously laying in their stores of fat for the winter ahead.

13th October



Brooke and Astrid

The most important event in the Avon valley by far last night was the arrival of Brooke Ellen and Astrid Rosa. At 7.10 and 6.15 well done doesn't seem to adequately express my emotions or feelings toward mum Jade's achievement. Congratulations to Richard, Jade and big sister Frida on becoming an even more perfect family. My diary also enables Great gran to see the twins as she has a tablet where she follows my ramblings.

10th October



Low river
The river remains low and clear.


Water weed diet
What's that all about? A field full of grass and they want to stand in the river and eat weed!

A meeting with the planners in the morning to discuss “portable loos” left me feeling in need of a little time to reflect. In an effort to get back to basics I felt that after weeks of low clear water, which has sent the fish deep under cover, I needed a little assurance all was well in the fishery world. I decided on a walk beside some of the less frequently visited sections might prove distracting. Where anglers are frequently on the banks and have tried all the tricks in the book to deceive the fish into taking a bait they have become remarkably noticeable by their absence. You can walk long stretches without sight of a single fish and you begin to doubt their very existence. You then begin to see the odd tail or snout sticking out from under the weed or bank. You become accustomed to spotting the dark shape of chub drifting across the gravel and under cover as you approach. Bumping into a member who had landed three barbel from a shoal he had spotted in just a couple of feet of water beside an overhanging willow. Thankfully, things weren't looking quite so frustrating and bleak on the fishery front.

Low clear carriers Invisible shoals

Low clear carriers make for deceptively difficult fish spotting. The first shot apparently has little on show. A closer inspection of the darker areas provided literally dozens of dace, numerous chub to a pound, the odd decent perch and even a shoal of roach, in the dark area under the far bank. Five minutes later I had further proof that the carriers are also deceptively deep as I managed a ducking through paying too much attention to the fish and not enough to the bank ahead. That awful split second when the foot fails to find solid ground and you just know things are going to get rapidly worse. You desperately attempt to throw yourself backwards onto the bank, trying to keep mobile, wallet and camera above water. The relief as you sink past your waist and suddenly feel the solid gravel of the river bed, meaning you're not going to be swimming! The relief is soon displaced by panic as you hurl yourself back up the bank, through the nettles, trying to keep your mobile, camera and wallet above water. Back on dry land and the decision whether to head for the car or carry on as there's an interesting mile of carrier ahead? Anyway, its quite mild and the water will probably be coloured with autumn rains before I can get another chance. All in a days work, two or three hours out in the gentle breeze will probably dry me out!

What did cross my mind as I crept about the fishery was the where abouts of our salmon parr. We have several very impressive adults tucked away in the pools, one or two of which are becoming very restless and aggressive as their spawning season approaches. Parr are easier to spot on the shallow gravel such as the crossing the horses and cattle keep cleaned in the photo above. We seem to have reasonable numbers of parr but I have no idea just what numbers are needed to support our fishery and just how important our mile or two is to the Avon population as a whole. How many juveniles have to leave us to see sufficient numbers of adults return to provide our sport and sustain the species. How many get eaten by our chub, barbel, pike, perch, cormorants, goosander and herons? How many die at sea through being unable to find sandeels and capelin that have been over exploited, or become the diet of our bass, seals and dolphins?

Yesterday was the last day for submissions to the EA consultation “Managing Salmon Fisheries in England and the Border Esk” Unfortunately, or not, depending on your take on matters, I failed to get a submission prepared in time. I had asked the EA for some information on matters that I considered relevant back in August and only received a response four days ago, leaving little time, which unfortunately was already well spoken for. I can't really blame the lack of time as in common with a great deal of my paperwork it takes place, as with this blog, in the early hours of the morning. What I can blame is the futility of the exercise as an institution bereft of ideas or answers continues to control our fisheries.

On many rivers on which salmon stocks continue to decline or fail to reach their conservation limit, new measures to stem the decline are deemed necessary. This is within the current raft of legislation and byelaws that control our activities and are incapable of evaluation or assessment. The information I had requested from the EA was related to the effectiveness of Catch & Release. On a river such as the Hampshire Avon where we have had total C&R for almost two decades are there measurable benefits of the practice? The answer was based on assumptions and guesswork. Yes, the obvious benefit of more spawners should be self evident. Unless of course there is insufficient juvenile habitat, or climate change is putting food sources out of sync with first feed fry, or pollution is changing food availability or, or, or, or, we simply don't know and the easy option, the cop-out, is to place further restrictions on the fishery.

More season restrictions, method restrictions, bait restrictions all or any are easy but as with C&R they are incapable of evaluation. Many such restrictions I may well support but not without funded research to evaluate such measures. All I would have had to say to the EA is stay out of fishery management and get on with dealing with issues we know are in need of attention. Water companies that place barriers to migration across our rivers and turn them into one way streets. Agricultural chemicals that leach into our rivers at alarming rates funded through the RPA ! Trout farms that act as further barriers and pollutions sources. Micro-beads, they are up in arms about them in the seas yet most get there through our sewage works and down our rivers, where out alevins and fry feed on them. Endocrine disruptors, detergents, antibiotics, high seas mortality, highways drainage, the list is endless and has been for the most part known about for decades but I bet the fishery world get shafted again when it comes to taking the brunt of the next wave of “Protective Measures” and Defra will continue to hide in its ivory tower and back agriculture against the environment the determines all our fate.


9th October


Morning flight

The Greylags over the Park.

Timber stacks Douglas timber sticks

The Douglas thinnings starting to appear roadside.

8th October


Jenny and foal Today's catch

Meet the family and a sample of today's catch, the bream are already in the oven.

6th October


Low river

The river remains low and difficult.

4th October


High Bank

The turn of High Bank and the willow swim today and both look perfect for a spot of waggler fishing with maggot in hope of finding the large perch Meadow is known to hide. We used to catch fish to four pounds on single or double maggot when all else failed. Loose feed a couple of pouch fulls to get the swim going and top up with a dozen maggots every cast. It has to be worth a shot, no one seems to fish for them these days, the only downside are the shoals of bits that seem to be everywhere in the lakes these days. Getting through them may prove a problem requiring a change of tactics to lobs or small red worms.

Whilst I had the boat down to clear the swims off High Banks I took the opportunity to clear some of the lost line on the night ropes and the channel. I also had to re-attach the Dayropes as I had to cut them Sunday evening when I had a snagged fish to free. I try and get out to clear the lost tackle on a regular basis but for some reason the Nightropes had been missed on the last two or three occasions. he amount of line and number of leads I recovered is a stark warning to be more thorough in future. How so many snap off can occur in such a obvious and open situation is something of a mystery to me and just why three ounces of lead is required to flick a bait thirty meters leaves me totally baffled!

Lost tackle

Firstly I have to say Geoff is not responsible for the humungous tangle he is holding up. He was just in the wrong spot when I landed the boat and wished to record my efforts. Not that he was unduly concerned about my bobbing about in his swim as he had already landed commons to over 37 pounds. At least it looks as if I'll be alright for leads next time I get the opportunity to fish the beach!

1st October


Avon perch Good pike

The start of the traditional pike and perch fishing got underway today and both Dominic Longley and Adam Martin made it an enjoyable start. Well done both and thanks for the reports and pix.

30th September


As it happens there was more to come in relation to Andy's mirror as in yesterday's entry. When I stopped yesterday to take the photo for Andy he told me he had just finished a night on Mockbeggar where he had struggled, failing to persuade the ever active fish into fish on the bank. His session at Meadow was a short daytime visit in the hope of a more bait friendly fish as a confidence booster before heading home. As I left, having taken yesterday's shot, Andy was an extremely happy angler and he still had fish rolling out over his bait so one never knows!

This morning I had a text from Andy to let me know how he finished up. It turned out the fish remained over his bait to the extent he was late home for his dinner. After my leaving, in a very hectic three hours a further thirty plus, the great looking common just four ounces short of thirty, another twenty and one dropped at the net. Magical stuff, great fishing Andy and many thanks for the further pix.


Common carp Mirror carp

An excellent way to restore the confidence! (Just look at the size of the paddles on those two)

29th September


Mirror carp

It may be the last night on Mockbeggar this season but never dispair, I came back via Meadow this afternoon just as Andy was returning a 30+. Nice one Andy

28th September



A perfect day

A perfect day. I'm sure many readers will know this view and will have stopped to enjoy it. This morning, during my rounds, I stopped to soak in the beauty of our river. Bridge viewing is a constant source of pleasure, to stand and wonder at the life of the river carrying on below is the finest therapy I know of for frustrated anglers. The swans and grebe were accompanied by vast numbers of dace and good numbers of roach all visible in the clear water. The dace and roach were in turn accompanied by a good double figured pike that struck up from below the shoal looking for his breakfast. Chublets and baby barbel in the weedy runs throughout the fishery bode well for the future and a good double figure barbel high in the weed upstream of the bridge. Add a very large coloured salmon moving in the pool downstream all in all that makes for quite a river.
A syndicate member joined me to say hello and let me know of his recent captures before once more leaving me to get back on the banks himself. His captures were bordering on astonishing and in common with most of the members he was over the moon with the fishery. I think "Perfect Day" fitted well with my mood as I left the bridge to head for a meeting with the timber cutters.

Autumnal woodland colour Architectural douglas stands Woodland fruits

My visit to the cutters changed the backdrop but not the mood as the woods looked dramatic in the morning light. Architectural douglas towering well over a hundred feet, shedding a dappled light on to a damp, mysterious, fungi rich forest floor below.

27th September


Today was the turn of the "Wide Swim" for a clip and brush-up. The Wide Swim was one of the swims that came to epitomise Somerley Lakes in the early days of the fishery way back in the 70's and early 80's. In those days we did not fish nights and as I opened the gates in the morning at 07:00am those that had slept outside, to guarantee their chosen swim, would race to bag the spot of their choice. One of the favourites was always the Wide Swim. Oddly in the carp world fashions change and over a couple of decades the swim fell out of fashion and became narrow and overgrown. Well times change and it has been a very productive area out in the open water along the side of the point of late so we decided to open up the swim again to see if the fish are still to be found in residence. I must admit I have a slightly selfish motive behind the task in that I had some wonderful bags of tench from the deep, silty hole that was four or five rods length out in front. It would be a very welcome trip down memory lane to repeat some of those bags.


Wide Swim Clearing swims All cleaned up

Clearing underway as the willow and alder that have encroached are cut back. With the aid of a rope and the truck some surprisingly large lumps can be dragged clear. Looking a bit more like it. A further clip of the grass next spring and rake a gap in the lilies and we should be ready to intercept those tench.

26th September


Behind New Point New Point Canada Bay from New Point

The tree work has started in earnest with New Point getting a trim.

Blackberries and butterflies More Commas

Bear with me until I find time to write a missive in praise of the humble bramble.

25th September


A top weekend, if only they could all be so enjoyable. A bright sunny start and an early visit to get a little more of the “Wendy House” under the belt. Two or three hours nailing and fixing before heading for the lakes to get the last butterfly transect of the year sorted out.

Conditions were as good as I could have hoped for at the end of September with full sun and a temperature in the high teens. The wind may have been a little on the blustery side but one of the advantages of Mockbeggar is that from which ever point of the compass the wind arrives from there is always a sheltered meadow. As it was the last full weekend of the fishing season on Mockbeggar I was a little surprised to only find two anglers fishing and after a quick natter to discover how they were faring I set off to count my butterflies. With almost all of the nectar providing flowers over it has fallen to the lot of the blackberries to provide the necessary sugars to support out remaining butterflies and on the first section from the tower to the gate, sheltered from the south west wind in the lee of Cherry Orchard firs, they didn't disappoint. Comma, Speckled Woods and Red Admirals made up the vast majority of sightings with a sprinkling of Small coppers and a couple of whites. Over fifty Comma and almost as many Woods made for a great way to round off the butterfly season and I'm already looking forward to next summer.

I may not have butterflies to count for the rest of the year but as it happened Sunday was the first of our valley WeBS counts. Unlike the butterflies that require a weekly visit the bird survey is a monthly event that doesn't need quite so much effort. An early start to see if the Cormorants and Heron numbers would be out and about provided high numbers of both. Apart from the resident species there wasn't a great deal about as the winter cold and floods have yet to drive the birds down from the north and over from the continent. I was home by mid morning and heading for Chew Valley to enjoy a day with Jonathan who was treating me to a day chasing trout. I have always enjoyed Chew, apart from providing good fishing, its size makes it a real challenge as in theory you could be a couple of miles from the trout. As it turned out I think we spent the greater part of the day at the wrong end of the lake! Jonathan did manage a not overly welcome pike and we finished with a reasonable brace of trout which, was more than sufficient for our needs. Apart from its challenging size Chew offers some quite extraordinary bird watching as the boat drifts through the assembled birds they seem to accept you are no threat and remain at close quarters. Osprey, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier and perhaps the stars of the day sixteen great white egrets. Presumably they are the birds that are breeding down on the Somerset levels. Where ever they originate they looked well sat out in the shallows amid even higher numbers of Little egrets. Add Pintail, Wigeon, literally hundreds of Tufties and many others out enjoying the exposed muddy shore of the low water level. On getting back to the lodge it would appear we were not the only ones who found the fish reluctant to join in with our brace enabling us to hold our heads up. Fish or no fish it was a wonderfully enjoyable way to spend the day and I look forward to next spring to see if I can fit in another visit..


Blackberries and butterflies Wendy House Trout for dinner

A great end to the butterfly transects with high Comma numbers enjoying the blackberries. Before the transect a couple of hours getting to grips with the latest project as the Wendy house takes shape. I forgot to take any photos down at Chew so a shot of the result of our efforts heading for the dinner table will have to suffice.

18th September


Clearing brambles
Clearing brambles.


Conservation mowing
Conservation mowing.

Its that time again when we begin to think of tidying away the lakes in readiness for the winter to come. I spent the day chasing around in our old woods tractor with the heavy swipe on the back. Before we bring the winter grazing stock into the lakes I needed to take the top off some of the brambles that had encroached on the meadows. Its important the stock can reach the grass to graze yet its equally important to leave sufficient bramble protection to provide cover for the over-wintering invertebrates. The pattern of cutting only covers twenty or so percent of the meadows and we cut in stripes to enable disturbed life to pick up its bed and walk, should it wish to move quarters. The swipe is set at six inches or so above the ground ensuring the creatures disturbed have sufficient cover to enable them to survive even in the cut sections. By getting the brambles topped off at this stage it allows a month or so for fresh regrowth to attract the stock into the areas we wish them to graze, balancing the flora for next year.


Impressive mirror carp

Another entry for the carp guys in the shape of Owen Cutler with one of our old girls looking very well at 37.04. Owen was fishing as a guest with dad Mick and showing him the way to go, not that Mick will mind, having had fish of a similar size this summer. Super fish Owen, congratulations and thanks for the lovely pic.

16th September



New swim

Despite the gin clear water and fish that spook at the slightest shadow or vibration the river still looks magnificent. Several of you may recognise the swim in the photo, one or two of you have spoken to me about removing that branch, the remains of which can be seen in the foreground. Its a great looking swim but I'm afraid this afternoons rain and the low angle of the sun made fish spotting almost impossible. As I attempted to peer into the depths I could only see the bottom in the first four or five meters. That limited glimpse showed a brace of typical Avon chub, probably between five and six pounds, sitting behind the cabbages to the right of the trot, intercepting anything that looked remotely edible the current delivered to them. It had to be left to the imagination just what may have been hiding in the remaining forty five meters of that swim, down at the tail, on that six feet of gravel under the over-hanging willow.

15th September


Blackberries and butterflies Comma Comma butterflies

Despite the wet and windy weather there remain surprisingly high numbers of butterflies around the lakes. The banks of blackberries are providing a great sugar source for species such as the Speckled woods, Red admirals and particularly Commas. In a casual count along the route of the transect, on a wider tract than the set five meters of the transect count, I managed to find one hundred and four Comma, fourty five Speckled Woods and over thirty Red Admiral. Its worth remembering that its not only butterflies that enjoy blackberries. I've certainly caught plenty of carp and chub on them and they are a perfect bait for ease of presentation and free offerings. They also have the definite advantage of being free.

12th September


Cracking common Big mirror

A couple of shots for the carp lads in the shape of Chris with a beautiful common off the top from Kings-Vincents and Terry with a very big mirror from Meadow. Wonderful looking fish and a delight to see. Thanks to Chris and Terry for the reports and photos.

8th September


swallows

I had occasion to take the day off today and where did end up? Over the lakes working out how to remove the unwanted stock. The occasion to put the chest waders on and wander about in the lake doesn't arise that often and today, with no one fishing, I had to make the most of the opportunity. Wandering about up to my middle in North Bay at Mockbeggar, looking for snags and removing branches, is remarkably therapeutic. The wildlife seemed to accept my presence once away from the bank, Kingfishers and deer just watched as I wandered by. The hundred or so Swallows in the shot above, that were sheltering from the wind and rain on the dead branches behind the islands, showed little interest as I passed. I suppose its a different view of the lake achieved from out in the middle and the added concentration needed to avoid a ducking that makes it such an odd experience.

Dead oak restoration Blocked gate

Autumn thinking turns to the tree work and some need a little more thinking about than others! Other thoughts have been directed toward the movement of materials as we repair the Park after recent events and consider repairs on sections of the river bank. Moving materials and machine work is a subject we're quite practiced in at Somerley in one form or another. The shot of one of the pits being restored, to include another lake, shows the extent of some of the operations. To provide a little scale the dumper on the left of the shot weighs in at over sixty tons when fully loaded! On the right is a plea to give me a break in that if you are to disappear up the river bank and leave your vehicle at the bridge please don't block our gate. Its not very often I need access but its a real pain on the rare occasion that I do.

4th September


Summer has waned and the season of mellow fruitfulness is upon us, the shots below capture the extremes of the estate and the changes of the year.

Moylescourt Ford

A summer scene from one of the busiest spots on the estate as visitors enjoy the New Forest. A scene now drawing to a close as the autumn weather brings wind and rain to keep the visitors indoors

Autumn river mist territorial disputes Autumn Light

The other extreme as the wonder, beauty and solitude of the estate is captured in an early morning visit to the river.
Thanks to James Agar for the stunning shots of the estate taken last week

1st September


Wheatear

Before you click on the silhouette can you identify the bird? Left click will tell you if you got it right.

30th August


Birch logwood Thinned woodland Thinned birchwood

Having been busy with the events I have neglected our woodland programme for a week or two. Today I dropped in to see how the contractors were progressing and was pleased to find the recent dry weather had help speed their progress. Hundreds of tons of birch logwood extracted and the newly thinned woodland looking considerably tidier.

The report below will be of interest to many of the stillwater syndicate who will have seen Brenda going about her work around the lake throughout the spring and summer. In isolation the report does not provide many answers but as a base document for ongoing recording it would point to us providing valuable habitat for our local warbler population. It is still very much work in progress, not only the recording but the management of the habitat that we are slowly continuing to change from species poor dark willow and alder into interspersed areas of margins rich in reeds and nectar providing plants.

Many thanks again to Brenda for all her efforts with the ringing and also providing this report to allow us to further enjoy and understand the wonderful environment we are charegd with managing.

Finally if I may just add that Brenda is a trained and registered bird ringer with the necessary expertise and experience to handle these delicate little packages, it goes without saying that we should not go looking for nests ourselves. Finally, finally, ensure you do not go crunching about in the reedbeds in search of that hidden swim, or a little unsanctioned swim clearance, you risk destroying nests and disturbing our wildlife and really p"**"^g me off. That's the reason the defined swims only policy is in force on our fisheries.


Reed Warblers

Reed Warblers in the phragmites bed.

REPORT FOR REED WARBLER NEST STUDY AT MOCKBEGGAR LAKE 2017

Brenda Cook - August 2017

Reed Warbler chicks

Reed Warbler chicks showing characteristic, naked bare skin blackish-red, pale yellow gape flanges, mouth orange-yellow with two oval black spots near base of tongue.
Photograph Brenda Cook

The first two Reed warbler nests were found on 31st May in phragmites beds, at the entrance of the NW bay of Mockbeggar Lake, where we park for our CES (Constant Effort Site) ringing project. Each nest had 5 eggs, but they were both predated at the egg stage. I soon discovered that this area was continually predated at egg or young just hatched stage. There are Magpie, Jackdaw and Jay in this area who have a variety of watching posts and fences where they sit and watch the activity of the Reed Warblers. It became very frustrating and disappointing for predation to happen again and again, but these other species had young to feed and of course it is part of nature for this to happen. Monitoring began properly from the 6.6.17 the visits took place each week going round all the clumps of reeds which surround the lake. Once chicks hatched I then did extra visits to ring the chicks at the correct stage. My last visit was on 10.8.17 to check that the last pulli had fledged from the final nest.

The males sing persistently until they are paired up, then only in the mornings and evenings usually close to the nest from a song post. It soon became apparent that watching using my binoculars and listening to the males was a good idea and I would get an idea of an area where a nest was likely to be. I then entered the reeds by parting them with a stick to minimise too much trampling of stems. The stick was also very useful for gauging depth of water. Once a nest was found I then returned along the entry route placing markers so the nest could be found again, I also took a GPS reading for each nest. The only effective way of finding nests is by this method. I was soon able to detect territory lengths and get to know the height to look out for the nests. The Reed Warbler nest is a deep cylindrical cup of grasses, reed flowers and algal threads with plant down, moss and spiders’ webs woven around old and eventually new stems when the new reed growth begins to shoot up. The nest is lined with finer materials. I was delighted when I was able to notice just a few strands around some stems which meant a nest was beginning to be built. Nest height varied from 50cm to 1m.

At all stages and particularly once the young had hatched the adults used a grating churrr alarm call and often approached quite closely when I was near to the nest. I always tried to be as quiet and quick as possible when checking and ringing so as not to disturb them for too long. They all quickly resumed either incubating or feeding depending on the stage of the nest. The eggs are laid when the female has lined the nest. Numbers of eggs vary between 2 and 6 laid each day and incubation takes place from the penultimate egg. The eggs are greenish-white variably speckled, spotted and blotched olive, green and grey often concentrated at the blunt end. The tiny young hatch after 9-12 days and were then ready to ring between 6-9 days old at IP(in pin) or FS(feathers short). I found the more chicks there were in the nest it was better to ring at the IP stage because it was much easier to fold up their wings and legs to return them bottom first into the tiny cup of the nest. The next thing I discovered was that Reed Warbler chicks leave the nest before their wings are fully developed. They remain close to the nest hidden in the reeds calling for food to be delivered by the very attentive parents( I successfully saw this on many occasions) until they are able to fly and collect their own food.

The weather was particularly hot at various stages of the monitoring. The chicks all survived during this time, but when we had a couple of very wet days I did find a couple of dead chicks where parents had not been able to find sufficient food to keep the whole brood alive. Adult Reed Warblers are very attentive to their young and both the male and females feed the very fast growing chicks in the nest. Reed warblers can have 1-2 broods and it is said they sometimes refurbish the same nest but I did not find any nests re-used. I am unable to say definitely whether adults did have second broods as this would only be able to be confirmed by trapping and colour ringing the adults which would be very difficult in the reed bed and disturbing for the adults during the breeding season. There was certainly continuous building happening as I managed to find new nests every week.

I was able to record 32 nests to completion. 18 nests were successful and 14 were predated usually at the egg stage. I did find other nests at various stages of building, but these were not always completed and could have been the males building loose cock’s nests. All nests that reached the egg stage and beyond are included in the final outcome of the study. It became more difficult to find nests once the new reed growth came through, but it provided more cover for the nests and predation became less and even at the CES parking reeds young fledged successfully. A total of 58 Reed Warbler Pulli were ringed. A really pleasing result was when we re-trapped S970561 during our CES 10 mist netting session at Blashford Lakes on 6.8.17. I ringed this bird as a Pulli in the nest at FS on 3.7.17 from a brood of 3 in a nest in the second clump of reeds to the left of the gate entrance.

The first two Reed warbler nests were found on 31st May in phragmites beds, at the entrance of the NW bay of Mockbeggar Lake, where we park for our CES (Constant Effort Site) ringing project. Each nest had 5 eggs, but they were both predated at the egg stage. I soon discovered that this area was continually predated at egg or young just hatched stage. There are Magpie, Jackdaw and Jay in this area who have a variety of watching posts and fences where they sit and watch the activity of the Reed Warblers. It became very frustrating and disappointing for predation to happen again and again, but these other species had young to feed and of course it is part of nature for this to happen. Monitoring began properly from the 6.6.17 the visits took place each week going round all the clumps of reeds which surround the lake. Once chicks hatched I then did extra visits to ring the chicks at the correct stage. My last visit was on 10.8.17 to check that the last pulli had fledged from the final nest.

The males sing persistently until they are paired up, then only in the mornings and evenings usually close to the nest from a song post. It soon became apparent that watching using my binoculars and listening to the males was a good idea and I would get an idea of an area where a nest was likely to be. I then entered the reeds by parting them with a stick to minimise too much trampling of stems. The stick was also very useful for gauging depth of water. Once a nest was found I then returned along the entry route placing markers so the nest could be found again, I also took a GPS reading for each nest. The only effective way of finding nests is by this method. I was soon able to detect territory lengths and get to know the height to look out for the nests. The Reed Warbler nest is a deep cylindrical cup of grasses, reed flowers and algal threads with plant down, moss and spiders’ webs woven around old and eventually new stems when the new reed growth begins to shoot up. The nest is lined with finer materials. I was delighted when I was able to notice just a few strands around some stems which meant a nest was beginning to be built. Nest height varied from 50cm to 1m.

At all stages and particularly once the young had hatched the adults used a grating churrr alarm call and often approached quite closely when I was near to the nest. I always tried to be as quiet and quick as possible when checking and ringing so as not to disturb them for too long. They all quickly resumed either incubating or feeding depending on the stage of the nest. The eggs are laid when the female has lined the nest. Numbers of eggs vary between 2 and 6 laid each day and incubation takes place from the penultimate egg. The eggs are greenish-white variably speckled, spotted and blotched olive, green and grey often concentrated at the blunt end. The tiny young hatch after 9-12 days and were then ready to ring between 6-9 days old at IP(in pin) or FS(feathers short). I found the more chicks there were in the nest it was better to ring at the IP stage because it was much easier to fold up their wings and legs to return them bottom first into the tiny cup of the nest. The next thing I discovered was that Reed Warbler chicks leave the nest before their wings are fully developed. They remain close to the nest hidden in the reeds calling for food to be delivered by the very attentive parents( I successfully saw this on many occasions) until they are able to fly and collect their own food.

The weather was particularly hot at various stages of the monitoring. The chicks all survived during this time, but when we had a couple of very wet days I did find a couple of dead chicks where parents had not been able to find sufficient food to keep the whole brood alive. Adult Reed Warblers are very attentive to their young and both the male and females feed the very fast growing chicks in the nest. Reed warblers can have 1-2 broods and it is said they sometimes refurbish the same nest but I did not find any nests re-used. I am unable to say definitely whether adults did have second broods as this would only be able to be confirmed by trapping and colour ringing the adults which would be very difficult in the reed bed and disturbing for the adults during the breeding season. There was certainly continuous building happening as I managed to find new nests every week.

I was able to record 32 nests to completion. 18 nests were successful and 14 were predated usually at the egg stage. I did find other nests at various stages of building, but these were not always completed and could have been the males building loose cock’s nests. All nests that reached the egg stage and beyond are included in the final outcome of the study. It became more difficult to find nests once the new reed growth came through, but it provided more cover for the nests and predation became less and even at the CES parking reeds young fledged successfully. A total of 58 Reed Warbler Pulli were ringed. A really pleasing result was when we re-trapped S970561 during our CES 10 mist netting session at Blashford Lakes on 6.8.17. I ringed this bird as a Pulli in the nest at FS on 3.7.17 from a brood of 3 in a nest in the second clump of reeds to the left of the gate entrance.


Ringed Reed Warbler pulli

Ringed Reed warbler pulli.
photograph Brenda Cook

29th August


Where's the Comma Brimestone search

Its that time of year when the Commas begin to sample the blackberry crop and become drunk on the fermenting sugars. I can assure those of you that like a challenge that there is definitely a Comma hiding in the first shot of the blackberries. For Chris and those that struggled with previous searches its a case of where's the Brimstone in the second pic, you know who you are!

28th August


We seem to have dialled up the perfect weather for the beer festival with sunshine and still warm evenings making for a wonderful atmosphere. After several extremely long days the festival is now behind us allowing my thinking to once more return to the fishery.


Beer Festival

We enjoyed perfect weather for the beer festival.

The salmon season is all but run and with autumn rapidly drawing in the coarse fish will be reaching peak condition in readiness for the harsher weather ahead. Its hard to see just where our fish have room to improve as we have seen summer barbel over fifteen pounds and chub over eight. Just what weights fish of such calibre may achieve in the months ahead is the material of dreams.

I make time today to take a relaxing walk around one of the pits and reset my equilibrium after the hectic events of the weekend. The sunshine and warmth of recent days has given the butterfly world a boost providing lots to discover on my wandering. The Marbled Whites are long gone, the Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Silver-washed Fritillaries and Common Blues won't be far behind and we are seeing the beginning of the Autumn broods of Clouded Yellows, Painted ladies, Small Tortoiseshells, Brimstones, Commas and Small Coppers. Wonderful richness of colour and after a good summers feeding the autumn broods look huge compared to some of the battered spring broods.


Small Heath Small Heath Comma
Comma Rich margins Red admiral
Small copper Small tortoiseshell Comma

The first and middle photo in the top line show a first for the Mockbeggar transect with our fist recorded Small Heath. Not a rare butterfly in many habitats but not a regular with us and this one had the good manners to flick open its wings just as I pressed the shutter providing a rare open winged shot. Don't get distracted by the shoal of 30's and 20's that can be seen in the shallows its the rich margins that are the star of the middle photo. Hemp agrimony, fleabane, purple loosestrife and perhaps the most important at the moment, mint. Apart from the butterflies the bees and hoverflies are creating a continual hum that fills the air.

Back down to earth and reality with a bump this evening with a run-in with several members of the our nomadic community offering to break my face for giving them their marching orders. I suppose I must take comfort from the fact that little changes in the rural scene, feral communities driving a pony and trap through holes in failing legislation and running rings around its regulators. Its like some scene out of Dickens! No that's not true, no such flagrant breach of societies rules would have been tolerated a hundred years ago.


18th August


Trespassing Paddle-boarders

I think this had to be some sort of record. Only my third set of paddle-boarders and by far and away the most. Fortunately having explained the situation they apologised and left the river. Oh for every incident to end in such a trouble free manner!

16th August


Horse drawn hay tedding

Not only is this a romantic possibly nostalgic scene, depending on your age, its the most efficient and environmentally friendly manner in which to work on the current soft ground of the water meadows. To venture out with a tractor drawn tedder would result in a rutted, quagmire. The horses travel over the ground, completing the urgently needed turning of the hay, with the minimum of impact and the added benefit of a rare working scene.

Strimming the paths Woody cover Marginal cover

A wonderful day strimming the paths up at Ibsley gave plenty of time to consider the current state of the river. I have to admit to having neglected my strimming duties in recent weeks due to the busy event season on the park. With two of the larger events now behind us I can once again get my fishery head on. I will need to strim for several weeks to get the banks back in hand and ready for the winter. I also needed to ensure that Pete Reading could lay down his scythe, for which I must add my thanks for his considerable efforts, able to venture forth without fear of further painful rashes brought about through that most startling of experiences, the stinger up the shorts!
My deliberations about the fisheries state came to the conclusion we are doing okay, given the pressures society inflicts upon us through its demands on our river. The impact of my simple task of strimming the banks has many connotations other than the obvious ease of access. Our autumn clean up can get underway as the nesting season is now over and we do not risk disturbing our residents. The clean up isn't total, many areas marginal reed beds are left to provide cover during the coming winter for our birds, mammals and insects. The provision of cover also applies to the river channel itself with overhanging margins and woody debris left wherever it doesn't create flood risk problems. With the current water clarity a glance into the sunken stems of the poplars that have fallen into the weirpool shows chub, perch, dace, pike and minnows. The fallen willows between the weirs provide cover from Cormorant and Goosander attack for large shoals of dace and chub. It may look untidy and neglected in parts but we have a plan, it is all considered and very deliberate.

Bullfinch

Bullfinches seem to have enjoyed a very successful breeding season with several pairs about the lakes. The one in the photo is feeding on ragwort seeds one the Cinnabar caterpillars have failed to eat back to bare stems.

13th August


After the concerns for the state of the ground, after the recent rain and the damage sustained from the Focus take-down, the Ellingham Show enjoyed a fine day and from what I hear with good crowds coming along to enjoy the attractions. Another twenty four hours to clear the site and we may just have got away with that one!
The river continues to produce huge barbel and chub and now multiple catches of single figure barbel are showing in one or two spots, which is a comfort for the future. The lakes have produced both mirrors and commons to mid-thirty with great back-up fish which is all one can ask of a fishery. As the night time temperatures start to fall and the water temperature follows we are being to feel the misty morning chills of autumn catching up with us. After the morning dew had burnt off I stopped my playhouse building once again to head out to the lakes in search of butterflies on my weekly transect.


Musk Beetle Flower rich margins Across to the forest Comma

The nectar flow is an ever changing scene with the creeping thistles and trefoil being replaced with fleabane, hemp agrimony, mint and loosestrife. The Superb looking Musk Long-horned Beetle was one of two that I disturbed on today's transect. They are a very large beetle that looks quite intimidating but is completely harmless, so please treat with care if you bump into one, or more likely, one bumps into you. In most instances the count remained well above that of last year with the sun breaking through sufficiently to keep the butterflies on the wing.

9th August


Somerley Beer Festival

Here's a date for the diary if you're down in this part of the world and fancy a beer.

6th August


Parasol mushrooms

With "Focus 17" finished and gone its been a rush to get the park back in shape in readiness for the arrival of the set-up crew for next weekends Ellingham Show. From what little news that has filtered through to me the river has continued to produce some fine specimens whilst the lakes have been a little more hit and miss. There have been several big carp yet others have struggled. I guess that's just fishing. The Parasol Mushrooms are a shot from the Park where they are putting on a fine display under several of the large oaks. It looks as if I may have to lay in a large supply of garlic as I'm fond of them fried down in butter with lashings of crushed garlic.

30th July


Wasp spider Wasp spider from below

Several of these great looking Wasp Spiders in the meadows today. The two views are from opposite sides of the same web, top and underside of the spider.

27th July


Definitely a carp Proof

Jonathan popped over with Katie and Nathan for a couple of hours the other evening. Leaving the children with Nana we headed for the lakes for a couple of hours before dark in hope of a bite and the chance for a natter.

24th July



Playing a tench Landed tench

A couple of nice shots of John playing and landing a fine male tench this evening. The rain of the weekend has brought the river up which can only be good for the fishng. There were reasonable numbers of grilse in the system last week so I imagine there will be one or two added to the tally this week. As the river has been fishing so well for barbel and chub prior to the rain I find it hard to believe it has much room to get any better but I can't see it doing any harm. I hope that's not tempting fate!

19th July


There's a bit of a bug fest going on at present with the weather of late seemingly suiting our insect population. Butterflies, dragonflies, damsels, beetles and bitey things are on the wing in swarms. I don't want readers to think I'm softening when I attached the pix below but the moth populations would also appear to be enjoying the current conditions. Simon was with us again a couple of evenings ago and ran his trap down by the Lodge with, I have to admit, a fascinating haul of beautiful, multicoloured specimens that went a long way to dispell my long held "only grey and at night" views on moths.

I would have put this entry up yesterday but my computer succumbed to the thunder storm of that evening. Despite having two surge protectors in line and not running through the height of the storm, I switched on after a twenty minute lull only to have a single thunderbolt from above render my machine a jibbering idiot. Twenty four hours without my AI assistant was all too much and the sound of his father in tears brought son Jonathan over tonight to calm both my and my machines nerves. It would seem my parallel hard discs have been knocked out of sync, causing windows to throw a similarly unseemly spat and refuse to allow me to boot up. Well I'm prepared to take Jonathan's word for all of that but I'm extremely grateful for him getting me up and running once more.


Moth trap Moth trap Moth trap

Moth trap Moth trap Moth trap

Moth trap Moth trap Moth trap

Its good to see a man content in his work! Simon delving into the mysteries of his overnight catch. I'm not going to name them all as it would just involve me replicating what I have just had to look up. Far better those of you that are interested take half an hour and look through some of the ID sites that can be found on the net. Suffice to say there are "Lovers Knots", "Footmen" and "Yellow Tails" to name but a few, the lid of the trap alone was a delight of form and colour. Thank you Simon, a thoroughly enjoyable half hour.

Perhaps a timely occasion to give a seasonal warning about ticks. As many of you are aware the wretched things will swim the lake to get at me and I have had a fine crop in recent days. Please take care and do a thorough inspection of inner thighs and tummy buttons when in the shower. Thats your own thighs and tummy buttons, I'm not advocating any voyeurism here!


17th July


Painted Lady Peacock
Brimstone Silver Washed Fritillary

Butterfly Bonanza

15th July


Bream fishing?

After a day cutting and constructing my latest project, in the shape of a play house, a walk around the lake seemed a good idea this evening. It was good to meet one of our new members, Mike Blackmore, making his second trip of the season in the hope of a Somerley leviathan. Openings on the syndicate are all too rare I'm afraid but there is always hope as Mike's appearance proves. Tightlines Mike, lets hope Lady Luck smiles tonight.
I also bumped into long standing member, John Slader, out looking for the tench and bream. Unfortunately, despite scaling right down to a 3 pound bottom and a size 16 banded pellet, it had been hard work. Fishing such light gear on a very soft wand always gives rise to the question of just what happens if one of our larger inhabitants joins in?

As things stood it looked as if John was more likely to get a bite from one of those ducks as our tench seem to have switched off for the day.
In typical fishy fashion just as John was about to call it a day several patches of classic fizzy bream blows started to rise right on the spot he's been baiting. Nothing else for it, another cast was called for, in fact another two or three. Eventually the tip nodded in response to an inquisitive pull, sufficient to strike at least. Thankfully resulting in a solid resistance to save the day and answer that earlier question.


13th July


Six plus tench

That's better, the man behind the tench. Hugh was back again today and as I arrived this afternoon was busy with this six plus hen. To add to the seven fish the other day when I turned up today the tally stood at a further four, which included a 5+ male. As can be seen the tench have spawned out completely and whilst we won't see the massive spawn filled hens of the early spring they provide great fishing, in lovely weather in the perfect setting.

30+ mirror carp 28+ common

James Channel also enjoyed some great fishing when he landed a round dozen carp last night, all but one of the fish was in excess of twenty up to the thirty plus mirror in the photo. Quite a wonderful nights fishing but James looked a little the worse for wear through lack of sleep when I saw him in the morning. It was also pleasing to see the carp have spawned out completely allaying some of the fears for their wellbeing in the warm weeks ahead. Well done James and thanks for the pix.

12th July


Focus17 Hay and silage making infull wing Ellingham Bridge.

"Waggons roll" twenty odd trucks heading for the park as the set up for "Focus 17" gets underway. The recent warm weather has also seen the hay and silage making in full swing adding to the feel of high summer. Many of you will be pleased to hear we have renewed the deck on Ellingham Bridge, which should make the passage to the river a little smoother.

White Letter Hairstreak 6+ tench Silver Washed Fritillary

To give a further flavour of the summer the butterflies are enjoying the warm weather with numbers remaining satisfyingly high about the meadows and lakes. I did manage to find a White Letter Hairstreak (see the white "W") actually on the transect, which after many frustrating near misses raised the spirits at the weekend. Whilst I don't normally put "A fish on a net" photos up, peferring to have the captor captured for posterity, this one is slightly different in that I don't get to see that many tench photos. Thanks to Hugh for this lovely shot of a classic "tinca green" specimen. Green is my favourite colour by a long measure and "tinca green" must be high on the preferred shades. The only problem with such a shade is that it only looks right on a tench. Trying to match and use that colour anywhere else in life just doesn't do it justice. Our fine tench is bordered by yet another butterfly in the form of a beautiful Silver Washed Fritillary. The sight of half a dozen specimens on the brambles and thistles in the sunlit meadows beside Mockbeggar provided final proof of summer's arrival.

5th July


Sadly I have to report that Orri Vigfusson, that most passionate campaigner for the protection of our salmon, has passed away. The long standing readers of the diary will remember Orri as a staunch supporter of our local salmon trust from the early days of the Wessex Salmon Association. His fight for the protection of our salmon took him all over the world and into the presence of Presidents and Kings yet he remained committed to the grass root supporters that shared his passion. He brought with him from his Icelandic home a very clear and considered message that we all shared. He will be missed by those that had the privilege of knowing him across the entire range of the North Atlantic salmon from Russia to the States.


Orri Vigfusson

Orri addressing the Wessex Salmon AGM in 2006.


Juvenile Spotted flycatcher Brenda ringing the pulli Ringing.

On a happier note and as an effort to expand our knowledge and aid in the conservation of species, one of which Orri would have thoroughly approved, the photos above are a series of shots showing Brenda Cook ringing a brood of Spotted flycatchers up on the estate. Many of you will have seen Brenda recording the warblers around Mockbeggar and we are delighted that she was also able to find time to ring these delightful little birds that are sadly decreasing in numbers across their range.

2nd July


Silver-studded Blue Fallow fawn White-letter Hairstreak.

A wonderful weekend for the butterflies. The forecast showery, overcast weekend failed to materialise and we enjoyed sunshine on both days. The flowers had been refreshed by the recent rain and the butterflies were making the most of it. I did the transect Saturday lunchtime and had the astonishing count of eighteen species totalling over seven hundred individuals. Off transect I added a further four species making a count of twenty two for the weekend. As with my birding I am someone who might be considered a "patch man" butterflies don't come any better than that on the home patch. We seem to have our own little embryo colony of Silver-studded Blues with five males being present at one point. The fallow fawn required a detour but not before I had counted the two Marbled whites and the Meadow brown that can be seen in the photo if you look closely. Finally I found perhaps our rarest species again with the appearance of a freshly minted White-letter Hairstreak on a patch of Creeping Meadow Thistle. Its a pity I had finished the transect when I found that little beaut.


As flaming June leaves us flaming July arrives and the fishing would seem to be carrying on in a similarly hot fashion. A shot of Kevin Welch with a fine looking common of 32 pounds, the best of four he enjoyed in his short session. Dave Winter was just packing up having enjoyed four off the top when Kevin arrived. Kevin had forgtotten to pack the mixers so Dave kindly left his pack of floaters, on the condition he didn't land a lump. I think Kevin owes Dave a pint! Great fish Kevin and thanks for the photo and report.

29th June



28 off the top 30+ Mirror

Chris Ball with a 28 off the top, the best of well over a dozen fish from a couple of short day sessions. The second is Chris Flack with a thirty plus, one of several 30+ fish last week with Paul Sladers 34.5 the best I heard of. Its pleasing to hear of these fish have come through the spawning well. Thanks for the photo's Chris and Chris

Clearing Hoodies Dead salmon Chublets, dace, roach, perch and barbel.

Rain at last and not a moment too soon. I don't imagine it will be sufficient to lift the river but it will certainly save our acres of newly planted grass seed and reinvigorate the nectar flow on many of the wild flowers on which our bees and butterflies depend. I've still been strimming in an effort to catch up with the summers growth, Ringwood and Ibsley are looking a great deal tidier but there's still plenty left to keep me occupied for a day or two elsewhere on the river and lakes. Whilst out on the river I came across a couple of sights that gave rise to very mixed emotions. The first, two dead salmon, caught up in the weed raft that drifts downstream and collects above the hatches. Just what killed them wasn't obvious, in that there appeared to be no large lumps out of them. Lost fish? Badly returned fish? Fish that have suffered injury and have subsequently succumbed to a secondary infection. We will never know but if you are tempted to try for a salmon now the water temperature has dropped below 19 degrees please be very, very careful when playing, unhooking and returning any fish that you are lucky enough to land. The second sight was spotting a huge shoal of dace, barbel, roach, perch, gudgeon and most notably chub, literally dozens of chub to about two pounds. There are several such shoals dotted about the estate, consisting of many different year classes that bodes very well indeed for the future of the fishery.

28th June


Some of you will be aware that I have considerable misgivings about the way in which our rivers, or more correctly our catchments are managed. You will have seen my frustrations at a local level where those currently charged with the issues impacting on the Avon seem incapable of dealing with problems such as the continued menace of the aquaculture industry and water quality degraded through abstraction, discharge and agricultural leaching. The failure to meet the legal obligation to maintain, improve and develop the fishery asset is conveniently ignored. I spent a great deal of yesterday down at the bottom end of the fishery strimming paths around Ringwood Weir and Lifelands. Always a difficult area of the fishery through the proximity of the road, which contributes to the frequency of trespass as well as the continuous noise of the A31. It also has the abandoned weir that the EA refuse to manage as it functioned at the time of the notification of the SSSI.

I've had it confirmed that the EA consider the current management of the hatches at Ringwood to be in the best interest of the fishery at a species level. This of course fails to recognise the complete destruction of a multi-thousand pound private asset and absolutely no stats or data to substantiate their policy. In actual fact the only stats I can find related to the Avon, which are produced by the EA, would seem to point in completely the opposite direction. I refer to the Avon salmon population that was at its numeric height at the time of the EA taking responsibility for the river to its current stuttering base level. In all seriousness I do not believe the EA are responsible for the perilous state of our salmon but they certainly haven't done anything capable of evaluation to assist in any recovery of Avon fish. The fact they were responsible for dredging the heart out of the Stour and the Avon in the 1960's, destroying the natural regime of the river for over half a century with their weed cutting boats and removing every shred and vestige of cover from the channel, doesn't seem to have any bearing on their competence or suitability to manage.

The history of outside agencies, NGO's and Quango's meddling in the Avon is an extremely long one. Management of catchments goes way back into the 19th century when the concerns mainly focused on flooding and drainage concerns. Sounds familiar! As far back as the 1930 fishery interests came under their wing of the Catchment Boards,. The Catchment Boards became the River Boards in early 1930's, which in turn in 1963, became the River Authorities. From the River Boards, Regional Water Authorities oversaw the policy and allocation of government funding. Next came the National Rivers Authority, shortly followed by the EA, when the water companies were hived off to line the pockets of private interests taking with them the funding that protected the river from their own abstraction and discharge excesses. That final issue is the one of real importance, when the water companies were privatised the funding base was no longer guaranteed.

It was the income, derived from the water companies, that underwrote the GIA begrudgingly released by the Treasury. That reluctance on the part of the Treasury, read government, to fund the protection of our rivers has been further demonstrated by the continued reduction of funding. Is this down to ignorance on the part of the government/Defra I don't imagine that to be the case. Cynical political manoeuvring would I imagine be closer to the mark. You might refer to the piece I wrote about nationalisation by stealth many years ago to see that private control of the rivers is not where the government wish to go. I've written before about the loss of rates as a funding source when sporting rates were removed from the rivers at the time the EA came into being. The withdraw of the rateable system, that went to the Local Authority, was to clear the way for the introduction of the 142 payment system which was to be paid directly to the EA and subsequently reinvested in the maintenance, improvement and development of the fishery. Political lobbyists, many of whom purported to represent rural communities, saw off the need for riparian interests to put their hands in their pockets. Where does this leave the protection of the river? Firmly in the hands of an under funded, emasculated organisation, with a sidelined management, totally incapable of meeting its statutory obligations. I will refrain from pointing out the glaring gaps in the capabilities of the EA, they are all too well known to us all. Our regulators no longer regulate, they react, its about time we had another reshuffle and changed their name to the Reaction Force.

What of the future? Unfortunately it looks as if it will only get worse as we head out of Europe under the guiding influence of Michael Gove as the minister responsible for the environment. I hope there are some hidden green credentials that I have missed in our shiny new minister. Our rivers will remain under the mandatory control of the EA who in turn will look to enter into partnerships with every Tom, Dick and Harry in an effort to keep a profile on the banks. Funding will include the million or so from the rod licence and the ever reducing GIA, which doesn't hold out a great deal of hope for any improvement of the situation. Probably sufficient to keep the offices and fleet of vehicles on the road and hide behind a national policy incapable of evaluation. The river and the private fishery asset will continue to bear the cost of the EA cuts. Just how long do we sit and allow the government to ignore the plight of our rivers, allowing water companies to use them as a free source of income for both abstraction and discharge without any direct form of conservation levy. Heavily subsidised through the public purse, agriculture continues to pollute the catchment without consequence or responsibility. The pariah of aquaculture that at local level uses the river as a waste disposal system. The consequences of the escapes, the pathogens and the entrapment still after fifty years remains any ones guess as the EA rush around like headless chickens every time we endure another escape or batch of unexplained salmon mortality.

Perhaps its time for serious consideration of removing Fisheries from the responsibility of the EA. The Rivers Trusts are established sufficiently to take on the mantle. Dependent of course on Defra finding sufficient balls to stick its nose out from behind the curtains of its Ivory Tower to fight the corner of the rivers against the cold, reptilian approach of the Treasury.

In conjunction with the universities the funding can be targeted at catchment level where local concerns can be met. Issues such as enforcement simply revert to the police who are already supposed to enforce the criminal laws of the land. Today's situation, where-by the EA and the police double up regulating the same legislation would seem a profligate waste of money. From a personal perspective the proper funding of local Countryside Watch Officers, who would be versed in our concerns, is a far more attractive proposition. Unfortunately the local police have fallen foul of the same political manoeuvring that has seen their funding drastically cut with the rural community taking the brunt of the belt tightening. Believe me I feel pretty exposed each time I approach poachers and trespassers on my own. There is absolutely no chance of any back-up from the EA and only a lucky fluke if there's a police officer in the area to come to my aid in the event of trouble. When I say the rural community is taking the brunt of the cuts, its worse than that, its simply being ignored. To the extent the police website that enables the reporting and recording of incidents, in conjunction with 101 and the lack of officers, doesn't have a single business category to cover any rural occupations; no farming, forestry, fishing, shooting, greasy pig catching or pole sitting. I usually put academic in the box to describe the occupation of the affected business. Perhaps the government might think of funding the traffic cops entirely from the road tax and leave the element of local and central government funding to support the day to day policing of the community. It might also consider giving those over in Black Horse House, totally insulated from the realities of rural life, a lesson or two in the real world. I believe that's where the CPS hide away with their coverall, “its not in the public interest” to avoid prosecuting bandits.

Enough of the “Grumpy Old Git” back to our rivers and here's the paradox. Our fishery is for the most part thriving. Our stillwaters do have problems, one of which many of you are familiar with is having too many fish. Who or what is responsible for that? Circumstance, good spawning bays, that warm quickly permitting high recruitment and ample natural food. Given such conditions fish will thrive. All we have to do is remove the excess and keep an eye on the place to provide the backdrop we desire. Our river is also in brilliant form, wonderful specimens and recruitment that has literally thousands of juvenile year classes throughout the fishery. Who or what is responsible for that? A more difficult question. You first have to discover the extent of the fishery success. That's a relatively simple task, you simply ask the anglers. It may be dismissed as anecdotal, I prefer to think of it as empirical information. It would appear that we are fortunate at Somerley but the rest of the Avon is catching up quickly. The number and size of the chub and barbel we enjoy is quite remarkable. Fish that in many cases are over twenty years old that possibly enjoyed the benefits of the estate not allowing the EA to cut the weed in waters that we controlled. The new generations of fish that appear more widely spread throughout the river are perhaps benefiting from the recent change of weed cutting regime. It may of course have nothing to do with weed but climatic as conditions have been more benign. All I can say with certainty is that nothing the EA has done has had a positive impact capable of evaluation.

27th June


Fishing exhibition

A photo of John Hawkins, local archivist and historian down at The Meeting House, in Ringwood. John is currently putting on the By-Gone Fishing exhibition a the Meeting House, if you have an hour when you are in town I can recommend you take the opportunity to drop in for a look and perhaps a chat with John. Unfortunately the Meeting House is only open between 10 and 12 Monday to Saturday with an extension to 02:30 on Wednesdays. The exhibition is running until the 8th of July. If you can't make it before the 8th July all the docs will be available in a folder from the Meeting House archive. You can buy a coffee for 90p and spend a pleasant hour browsing the records.

26th June


Big barbel

Paul Fuller with a cracking summer barbel at 13.4 Congratulations Paul and thanks for the photo.

Small Skipper Comma

A lovely transect today at lunchtime with 471 butterflies on the route.

23rd June


The Back Lagoon Chub Double figure barbel

The carp are still shoaled up in the Back Lagoon waiting to spawn. Just what they are waiting for is any ones guess. Judging by the number of fry in the margins something has managed to spawn, I only hope its roach and rudd fry and not the bream. On the right is a photo of John McGough with his second eleven pounder of the day. Pleasingly both fish were completely clear of spawn looking as if the fish that were cutting on opening day were the last to finish.

Cocks-foot grass Grasslands Grasslands.

Whilst I am delighted with our flower meadows that result from our winter grazing regime the stands of tall meadow grasses are equally important for many species. Many butterfly larval stages, Small skipper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Speckled wood feed on the grasses that we find in such patches of timothy, cocks-foot and fescue. Getting the balance of flowers and grasses in harmony on such a small area of land such as we manage around the lakes is fraught with problems. The demise of the rabbits through myxi and hemorrhagic disease has given the edge to the course grass. The flocks of moulting geese many with their rapidly growing broods are tipping the scales back in favour of the flowers.

21st June


Mockbeggar sunset Ibsley sunset

Solstice Sunsets.

Meadow Lake sunset Kings-Vincents sunset

18th June


Upper 20 common Chub Salmon on

The coarse river season, the beginning of bait for salmon and Meadow lake opening made for a pretty hectic week. Despite the chaotic rush to get banks and swims trimmed and cleared it all seems worth the effort when we see the anglers back on the bank. The first shot shows Dave Winter with a 28, he went on to add a 27 and a 23. His fishing buddy, Malcolm Tryhorn had the pick of the catch with a 37+. It all sounds almost too easy but in reality it was a very difficult couple of days, hot days and cold nights provided the backdrop for a typical beginning of the season. John McGough in the middle shot posing with a sparkling little chub, John had landed nine to four pounds when I last spoke to him with the witching hour yet to come. The chub would appear to have got their spawning over and done with the barbel yet to complete. There were several shoals of barbel cutting on the shallows and I was pleased to see members spot them yet leave them undisturbed to get on with their efforts. Dominic Longley also enjoyed a day doing what he does so well, trotting maggot with the pin. Pleasingly numbers of dace, grayling and chublets would seem to have held up well over the winter with fish throughout the section of river he visited. The start of the salmon bait fishing saw four fish landed and several more lost. Paul Greenacre took the laurels with three on the bank, taking his tally for the year to eleven. With the water temperature now back over 19 degrees it would seem we will have to wait before we see any more fish in the book.

Eristalis nemorum Flower meadow Coupled Meadow Browns

Three male Eristallis nemorum, doing what we associate with hover flies, hovering, in this case as part of their mating ritual over a female of the species. The middle shot shows a "Where's wally" shot of the flowers with a Meadow Brown hidden in there somewhere. The Meadow Brown numbers have risen from a single specimen on the 31st May to several hundred in the meadows by this evening.

Big common

I have to admit to having been a little distracted myself in recent days with preparations for the off, yet I did get some time to fish, landing some stunning specimens.

Frustratingly I have to report a break in from a members car last Thursday evening whilst parked at Ibsley Bridge. Sadly if you park at Ibsley Bridge sooner or later your car will get broken into. all the forest car parks, both Ringwood Forest and the New Forest and all the open anglers car parks get visited on random occasions. We must see these people as we go about our daily routines unfortunately we are unable to recognise them for what they are. The answer is NOT TO PARK AT IBSLEY BRIDGE use the new car park at Fools Corner, which is behind the locked gates of the estate.

14th June


Large Skipper

I haven't put up a photo of a butterfly for over a fortnight, so I'm sure you all must be missing them desperately! To make amends for my tardiness the shot above shows the first Large Skipper that emerged with us at Mockbeggar this week.

13th June


Reed Warbler chicks

If you have been fishing Mockbeggar recently you will undoubtedly have seen two people, Brenda and Simon, staring at the reed beds in an effort to locate and record our Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting population. Brenda is a schedule 1 bird ringer and will hopefully provide the base information for the warblers we have present on the lakes. Hopefully in the not too distant future I will get a few shots of the actual ringing in progress and at the end of the summer I will let you know just what they found. Thanks to Brenda Cook for the photo and also for taking on this difficult and time consuming work.

Dace shoals Dace Big dace

They may disappear every winter but as regular as clockwork, when the water clears, they are back in their summer haunts as if they've never been away. The shoals in mid river were mainly C3 and C4 but if you looked in a deeper hole, tight under the bank, much larger speciemens can be seen.

Track down to the lake Basking carp

The track down to the lake. Only three days to go and the lakes and the river open up again for the coarse season. It was the first really hot and sunny days for weeks and the carp were soon up on the surface soaking up the warmth. The fish in Meadow have yet to spawn and it looks as if they may be spawning when the season starts. If they are still spawning I will shut the Back Lagoon, between to car parks, to allow them to complete their spawning with the minimum of disturbance.

Laying Emperor dragonfly Damselfly

The dragon and damselflies were also out in force today with flocks of Azure and Blue damselflies on the wing. The female Emperor in the photo on the left is engaged in egg laying.

12th June


Wild flower meadow Bee Orchid Wild flowers

Worth another look, the flower meadows looking magnificent including a scattering of Bee Orchids, this one being a much richer colour than our usual creamy white blooms. Despite this relentless wind one or two butterflies are doing their best to enjoy the surplus of nectar. The first Large Skipper and Marbled White of the season put in a brief appearance, disappointingly proving too difficult to get a decent photo.
Like the butterflies there are one or two salmon still reaching us despite the less than favourable conditions, well done to Colin Goh, Paul Greenacre and Richard Murawskifor finding fish in the last day or two that was willing to join in. After I had finished picking up the empty crisp packets and pop bottles left by the weekend trespassers I returned to my strimming in an effort to get the lakes and the river ready for the arrival of the members as the new river coarse season gets underway on the 16th. The river is looking well if somewhat weedy which should provide plenty of food and cover for the fish as they go through their spawning rituals. Due to the poor weather spawning has been a little eratic. I think most of the chub have managed to complete their cutting but I'm not sure the barbel have finished which means we may see fish on the shallows at the beginning of the season.

7th June


Treecreeper

The Treecreeper that is feeding young in one of our workshop walls carrying a beetle, I hope the young are close to fledging as that will be quite a mouthful!

7th June


Wild flower meadow

A wonderful summer wild flower meadow, the only problem is not a butterfly in sight. The constant wind we seem to suffer these days appears to have driven them all into hiding, lets hope its only a temporary dip.

5th June


The Night Ropes Buzzard Juvenile Grey Heron

Lots going on but just a flavour of one or two interesting pieces that cropped during the week. The "Night Ropes" clipped up ready for the off in a fortnight. My strimming and topping has proven of interest to the local Buzzards as a new source of insects and small mammals were exposed. The Heron is a juvenile from the heronry just over the river at Ashley. They young have just fledged the nest and juveniles can be seen dotted about the lake trying out their new found fishing skills. Unfortunately one or two are learning the hard way that landing on the water isn't a good idea. Should you bump into one of these individuals ensure you keep hold of the beak and don't let your dog go near it as they instinctively strike for the eyes as a defensive measure.

Ermine caterpillar web Spindle Ermine caterpillars Peacock caterpillars

The web of Ermine moth caterpillars high in a Sallow tree and a closer look at the caterpillars. There are also several hatches of what I believe to be Peacock caterpillars on the nettles, lets hope they all grow into adults later in the year.

Southern Marsh Orchids looking well in the meadows Pyramidal Orchid Emperor Dragonfly

The Southern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchids are looking well and we have one or two early Pyramidal Orchids now in full flower. After my earlier concern over the appearance of the Bee Orchids we now have thirty plus putting on a show in two areas on the lakes.

31st May


Mandarin brood Juvenile Long-tailed Tit

Good to see the large Mandarin brood is still intact with all fourteen ducklings looking well in today's sunshine. There is a second brood that has about nine ducklings but the duck is far more secretive and we rarely see them about the lakes during the day. Not quite so rare but very much as welcome are the broods of Long-tailed Tits that are to be seen in the willows and alders all around the lakes.

Small tortoiseshell Painted Lady Meadow Brown

Today's sunshine was just the tonic I needed at lunchtime to ease the stresses of a very frustrating morning. What to many appears the perfect job has several drawbacks and one is the almost certain knowledge that these days I will have an argument with some trespasser, poacher, canoeists and the latest disrespectful intrusion on the private property of the estate, bloody drones. Three in recent days who seem to think they can fly just where and when they feel like it. I must take my telephoto lens around to their place and stand on the lawn taking pix through the windows, the mind boggles! Back to my lunchtime walk and today's selection from the transect, the first Small tortoiseshell for some weeks, another fine example of our summer migrants from Africa and last but not least the first Meadow Brown of the year.

29th May


Ranunculus

The River water-crowfoot (R. fluitans) is well established in some sections of the river.

28th May


Salmon Fishing appears to be okay today.

I'll move the Knappmill link to the header on the diary to enable ease of access. It may be sensible to click on the temperature link to ensure you have the correct day.

27th May


Salmon fishing is suspended on the Hampshire Avon as in accordance with the riaparian owners agreement when the water temperature at Knappmill is reading in excess of 19 degrees centigrade salmon fishing will cease.

I've been informed that the EA thermometer at Knappmill is not functioning correctly and we may fish up to 19.5 but as this is not confirmed by the EA and we do not have any means to notify the membership I fear we must adhere to the original agreement and fishing ceases at 19 degrees when shown on the Knappmill webpage. If it is simply the case the thermometer is caput I'm sure the EA will be on the case first thing Tuesday and have it sorted asap.


Knappmill website

26th May


The river has cleared, dropped back and the water temperature is rising to within a degree of the fishing cut-off point. We did see a surge of activity when the spinning came in but the few fish we managed were for the greater part colouring up and had been in the system for a week or two. We are in desperate need of a really serious summer spate to get the fish that are now down in the harbour and lower river up into the system but I fear a flood of such proportions is unlikely. I should most definitely say well done to Stephen (Mr Consistent) Hutchinson who has done it yet again. In four visits between the 12th and the 19th of May he landed four fish, a habit that stretches back many years, just how he does this is starting to take on the proportions of legend!!!

If you're wondering why the diary has stuttered to a halt again it's because I've spent three nights out on the lakes looking to test my skills against one or two of our commons. Its been an interesting time and I've seen some fine fish but not the leviathan I was hoping for. I also discovered it takes me a geat deal longer these days to get to my rods when the action kicks-off and three nights has tested the system to the limit!


Returning a fish at dawn

Safely back at first light.

Syndicate member John Slader paid a visit without his rods when he came down to do a kick samples up on the shallows at Ellingham. Nothing like a bit of pond dipping to conjure up the kid in me and I was delighted to join him for an hour. John has considerable experience with riverine invertebrates through his work with the Salmon and Trout Conservation UK and his teaching work with young anglers. The new weed growth has yet to provide the habitat for the huge number of creatures we will see in a couple of months but there was still plenty to provide interest. The Salmon and Trout Conservation have been taking a close look at the invertebrates in many of our rivers including our southern chalk streams. Their findings are proving extremely interesting and more than a little worrying. The 2015 report can be found at the link below, it's well worth a look.


S&TC Riverfly Census 2015
Kick sampling grannom caddis More familiar caddis cases Less desirable capture

John, out on the shallows at Ellingham taking a kick sample. A sample showing the grannom in their vegative cases and a sample of the more familiar stone clad caddis. The final photo shows a less welcome visitor in the form of a tiny Signal crayfish.

Southern marsh orchids beside the lakes Bee orchid Juvenile Lapwing
Southern marsh orchids beside the lakes. Having earlier in the week said during a conversation that the bee orchids weren't out, two days later I find a dozen! On the right is a juvenile Lapwing tucked down in the grass where it hopes to remain unseen by any approaching predator. The problem with this tactic is that we may also fail to see them and tread on them, so please be careful if you are off the beaten track. Not that being off the beaten track is the only place you are likely to see such behaviour. Last week a brood of Little Ring Plover attempted the same tactic in the middle of one of our gravel tracks, which is certainly bound to fail in front of approaching vehicles.

Common Blue Cinnabar Moth Small Copper on an Ox-eye daisy
Just a shot or two of the weeks butterflies and moths of course.

21st May


Mandarin brood Small copper Sunbathing fox

A thoroughly enjoyable butterfly transect today, not perhaps the perfect weather as it was a little too windy but it was near enough. As well as the butterflies the first brood of Mandarin were out and about. There are fourteen in the brood although the photo only shows thirteen, one must be tucked in behind the others. The Small copper is in recognition of having found specimens on seven of the ten sections, which is a definite record. The fox just resented my disturbing his sunbathing to the extent he almost braved it out and sat tight until I got within twenty meters of him.

Painted Lady

I always enjoy the arrival of the Painted Ladies as they migrate north from their African home. Across the Med, up across Europe, across the channel to arrive on our shores. It never ceases to amaze me just what Mother Nature can achieve.

Juvenile Starlings Bumblebee on Southern Marsh Orchid

The back garden is full of juvenile Starlings as the broods in the nestboxes on the side of the house fledge. The second shot is of a bumblebee hoping for a little pollen or nectar from a yet to fully open Southern Marsh Orchid. The bumblebees have struggled with the late frosts and limited supply of early pollen, from a promising start with higher than usual numbers on the wing in March, April saw numbers tumble.

18th May


Southern Marsh Orchids Tadpoles Sunset at Mockbeggar

The rain has done wonders for the meadows which have already flushed with green after the slow, cold start to the year. The tadpoles have survived well with thousands in the shallow margins of the lakes. On my way home from the river this evening I called at Mockbeggar and was rewarded with a wonderful sunset. Such a sight makes even the toughest day seem a great deal more worthwhile.

17th May


Kestrel

Not everyone, or everything, was as pleased as me to see the gentle rain we have enjoyed all day. The rather damp Kestrel sat and watched us from the top of a nearby lime tree as we carefully dug across Ellingham Drive, doing our best to avoid the fibre optic cables that the water main has to cross at this point. The river will undoubtedly benefit from the fresh water and this evening the forest streams were beginning to add some colour to the main river. There was a very large, fresh salmon lost today after being played for some considerable time, lets hope the fresh water will encourage others to push on into the river.

16th May


I took the opportunity this evening of getting a Woodcock count under my belt. The late frosts and recent windy evenings have been less than ideal. This evening started well but as sunset came and went the rain arrived too, spoiling the final half an hour. Having said that no evening spent in the forest can be classed as wasted or spoilt. My survey square seems to be as far from roads as is possible to arrange and the walk to the count site provided some interesting viewing. A pair of Curlew drifted in to the nearby heathland where Cuckoo and Stonechat could be heard calling and making the presence known. Thirty odd fallow does and a pair of Nightjars as the light faded along with thirty million midges. Added to that I did spot seven roding birds beating their bounds so I will enter the count and return when a more settled evening is on the cards.


Dusk in teh New Forest

Dusk at the survey site.

The valley is beginning to fill with the broods of the Mute swans, geese and duck. The terns are collecting fry on every beat and the Black-headed Gulls are up to their usual trick of pillaging the scattered hatch of Mayfly. A spell of warm wet weather would be gratefully received if it could be arranged.

Add to the new life in the bird world we have the barbel and chub busily cutting on the gravel shallows. As with the carp in the lakes their chasing and cutting easily visible if you stand quietly and keep a low profile. I also spotted a 20+ hen pike being closely escorted by a pair of Jacks. Late for the pike to be spawning, I presume this is a second attempt, the earlier more normal time having been delayed by the week or two of frosts we experienced during March.

One of the odd things about the spawning in both the river and the lakes has been the size of the fish involved. Strangely its the number of small fish that has come as a surprise. In the case of the lakes I was beginning to think we were getting near the correct balance of large fish. Some of the members catches have seen multiple numbers of thirties and high twenties giving rise to an average considerably higher than in previous years. I was expecting to see these large hens almost out numbering the attendant males. Nothing could have been further from reality with probably the larger fish being outnumber in the region of thirty of forty to one. Its normal for hens to have three or four cock fish following them not the numbers we witnessed. It looks as if a further five or six hundred smaller fish will have to be removed. On the river the shoals of chub on the shallows appeared to have far higher numbers of small fish, two to four pounds, than the huge fish we were seeing being landed throughout the winter. The big hens were present and we certainly have no intention of removing any of these smaller fish. It would be interesting to discover if the small fish were males of similar year classes as the large hens or younger fish coming through. I'm not sure we are going to answer that question but it was good to see them however old they are.

Yesterday on the salmon front spinning came into season and we have seen a couple of fish falling for the Mepp. Perhaps the most pleasing fish from my perspective was a fresh twenty plus cock fish that Rob Smyth landed Sunday evening before the spinning began. The fish came on a floating line and was seen taking the fly just below the surface. Surely the finest way to take a salmon, especially an Avon fish of such proportions.


First cygnets of the year Coloured hen Frosted phragmites beds

Cygnets have started to appear about the valley along with a multitude of other juveniles. That man again, Paul with a 20+ coloured hen he took on the mepp today. I'm not sure you've worked out how those waders work yet Paul! Luckily Colin Morgan was on hand to do the honours and take the snaps. The final shot shows a frosted Phragmites bed which I'm sure will recover but it will be interesting to watch to see if it effects the warbler and Reed bunting nesting results. Not only phragmites was hit hard by the frost, bracken and pleasingly Japanese Knot Weed were also blackened and knocked over. Hopefully such a hit will slow the invasive progress of both these undesireable species.

Salmon were not the only fish we have seen landed in recent days as the invading hoard has moved through the estate. They have been caught down as far as Ringwood and Ellingham and Mike Beauchamp landed forty of the wretched things today at Ibsley. Hopefully the next day or two will see the latest round of rainbow escapees clear through the estate and any that remain are quickly devoured by the pike. Its surely time that Defra had a very close look at the trout farm industry and made them accountable to the law. I'll await the EA investigation into this latest incident with considerable interest.


14th May


Common blue Escaped rainbow trout Brown argus

Ah, summer's here at last; Common Blue, escaped rainbows and Brown Argus!

11th May


Juv Oyster-catcher Queen hornet Greater spotted woodpecker at nest hole

Whilst its interesting to see the spawning carp, especially as it appears to be a mirror, its the juvenile Oyster catcher on the island that's particularly worthy of note. It's the little guy at the front watching the carp so very nearly ready to fly I would imagine. The middle shot fails to do justice to the size of the magnificent queen hornet photographed inspecting a patch of lichen, she must have been approach 35mm in length. Being a European hornet she has legal protection and if you leave her alone she will not bother you. Just enjoy her company and remember like many of the fair sex she has a sting in her tail! I put up the shot of the Greater spotted as we seem to have flocks of GSW and Greens about the lakes at present. I assume, in the case of the Greens at least, its to do with the ants nests.

10th May


Spawning carp Spawning carp

The carp have been very busy with their spawning for the last couple of days.

9th May


Underwater salmon photo

Paul sent through this lovely underwater shot of his third of the season, taken last week. He landed his fourth this evening, from the lower end of the estate, which is quite an achievement with low numbers of fish struggling to reach us at present.

8th May


Swift box

This week has seen the Swifts return and our four pairs are back in their boxes on the back of the house. They join quite a list that are already in residence in the garden and our nestboxes, it includeds; 5 pairs of House sparrows, 3 broods of Starlings, 1 Blackbird, 1 Song thrush, 1 Wood pigeon, 1 Collar dove and probably a Wren and a Dunnock. The last two can be seen in and out of the various shrubs and ivy but I can't locate their nests.

7th May


Small copper Small copper aberrant

I don't imagine the majority of readers will share my enthusiasm for the difference between the Small Coppers in the two photos. As with the photo from yesterday the one on the right is the aberrant form; caeruleo-punctata, its all about the little blue dots.

Green Veined White

A picture in shades of green as the Green Veined Whites go about their business.

6th May


Peacock on May blossom Green and Greater spotted woodpecker Greenwoodpecker in flight Small copper aberration

An enjoyable walk despite the best efforts of kayakers and bogged down cows to take the edge off the day.

3rd May


Weirpool salmon Ringwood Weir Weirpool salmon

Despite the fact the fishery value of the Ringwood weirpool has been totally destroyed by the mismanagement of the weir I still find myself down beside the pool strimming out the banks. I was down there at the weekend to witness the passage of a boat through the gates in line with the EA management strategy of setting the gates in the best interest of the trespassing boaters, completely ignoring their statutory obligation to; improve, maintain and develop the fishery value. The two bordering pix are from the days when the pool was operated with a fishery interest in mind. These days it seems that unless you are a water company or a trout farm hiking up the head of water and exploiting your fishery asset is frowned upon. We were promised a meeting to sort out the management, or should I say mis-management of the hatches but that seems to have been forgotten. As with the Highways Department and their obligation to keep the nearby balancing pond clear to prevent pollution of the river, you can ignore any statutory obligations you might have toward the river and the assets of the owners as no bugger is going to fight that cause. When the fly tipping and squatting travellers turn the place into a tip once more we might see some action on the part of those insulated from reality in their publicly supported ivory towers. Chocolate bloody fireguards spring to mind!

1st May


Bank holiday weekend and I was hoping for three days of torrential rain the forecasters had promised us. To put the river up of course, not to keep the Great British Public from stamping all over the estate, although rain is always a blessing on holiday weekends.


Dark skies

Not the rain we were promised but several good showers did arrive providing some dramatic skies.

As it happened we did see a little rain but nothing like the forecast deluge, we also experienced the GBP in the form of a couple of idiot boaters in an inflatable. Totally ignorant and too stupid to understand the concepts of English law and respect for other peoples property. Whilst I was at Ibsley Bridge I also bumped into a potential poacher who turned up and asked me if he were to have a fish what was the likelihood of the keeper coming along! I assured him it was almost a certainty as the miserable bugger that looks after this bit of river is backward and forward over this bridge all the time. Thanking me for the tip he headed off upstream to try further afield. Add a couple of individuals who couldn't read or understand what a simple; private, no unauthorised access, meant and it wasn't an overly taxing weekend on the trespass front.

The unforeseen bright start today did hold a bonus in that I was able to get the early Breeding Bird Survey completed on the valley route I survey each year. My recent travels, frosts and high winds had made last week unsuitable and I was beginning to worry it was getting late to get the route walked. From the results it would seem the birds had yet to get into full breeding mode with numbers down on recent years. Despite the low numbers it was a fine morning to be in the valley and I worked up a good appetite before heading home for breakfast.


Reed Warblers


Reed Warblers not overly advertising their presence today.


Mute swan nest
Nesting Mute Swan, one of twenty pairs and sixty non-breeders currently on the estate.

This evening my rounds took me through the lakes and out into the river valley once more. The lakes continue to fish well with some superb carp being landed, which always cheers me up on my travels around the estate. I also enjoyed a call from Simon Tomkinson telling me of his second salmon of the season in the shape of a fresh, twenty plus fish. Great result, congratulations Simon, well fished.

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Harrier that was spotted at Ibsley yesterday, unfortunately luck wasn't on my side and it looks as if our visitor has moved on. There was a Montagu's recorded in the valley down at Christchurch yesterday and it would have been nice to think it was this bird, unfortunately the description didn't tally so I think this one will have to go down as a “don't know”


28th April


Donkey foal

I spent the day strimming, which didn't provide much opportunity for any photography, so I will just put up this shot from yesterday of the new donkey foal up on the Marsh.

27th April


Goosander brood White-fronted goose Mandarin ducks

Not perhaps as dramatic yet even with this stubborn north wind the Avon valley is a wonderful place to be at this time of year. The first Goosander brood of the year, the single Whitefront that has been in the valley all winter remains with us and at least three pairs of Mandarin are currently sitting. This particular pair have learnt that anglers bait is an easy hit for dinner.

Bluebells Kingcups Mandarin ducks

The flowers are also looking well with the bluebells enjoying the extra light where we have coppiced the hazel. The kingcups on the Northern Marsh surrounding the first donkey foal of the year and the cowslip over the lakes putting on a brave show despite the overnight frosts.

30+ common 30+ common Big 20 common

Despite the frosty nights and the cold northly wind the lakes continue to provide some excellent fish. Richard Handel with a brace of thirty plus fish and a big twenty for Russ Breckon.

26th April


Macaque
Enjoying some rest and relaxation.

Paradise
Paradise Island, Anne just beyond the boat.

As some of you were aware Anne and I have been away for a break in celebration of a significant birthday and monumental wedding anniversary. Having enjoyed some wonderful R & R in warmth and sunshine, which doesn't do justice to the sun and the sea we enjoyed, I am once more back in harness. Probably a strimmer harness as all the salmon pools could do with a trim by the look of it!

I have to admit to being a little surprised at the state of the river and the lack of growth of the vegetation in many spots. I was expecting the banks to be waist high but it would appear the cold north wind and frosty nights you have endured have applied the brakes to the spring growth. It was a little disconcerting to see the new growth on the brambles limp and blackened by the frost. You also appear to have experienced a total lack of rain, hence the low clear state of the river. If ever we could do with a good soaking to reset Natures time clock now would seem a good time. The fish will still be creeping through and as if to prove a point to welcome me home, Colin Morgan had one stay on in the shape of a sixteen pound cock fish, which I was very pleased to spot in the book. Well done Colin, good fish and thanks for the photo.


Elephant parade Butterflies seeking minerals

Elephants and butterflies, it was all very dramatic.

13th April


Number two

Well done Paul, second twenty of the year in the shape of this great looking 23 pound hen and I've heard just this minute that Mike Tolley has added his second to his 2017 account in the form of a 12+ fish. Congratulations all around and I appreciate the updates.

Fresh summer salmon

That's more like it, yet another fish, in this case a bright summer fish for Pete. Smart fish Pete plus a smart photo.

6th April


Ray Finch springer

A most welcome sight. Ray Finch with a fabulous Avon Springer. Great stuff Ray, congratulations and thanks for the pic.

3rd April


Julian with a stunning common

Its the Julian Ward show! I just had to share this as its one of the best looking commons I've seen. Julian kindly sent me a couple of shots of this fish, which was 25.8 and was one of three 20+ fish caught last night. From a fishery perspective this is where we're looking to be with absolutely scale perfect fish. Wonderful common to add to the catch from Meadow last week. Brilliant stuff Julian and thanks again for the photos.

31st March


Julian with a 34.14 mirror


Julian with a wonderful 34.14 mirror.


Eleanor with a 20+ common
Eleanor with a lovely 23.12 common

Like father, like daughter. Julian has had a good week to round off his Somerley Lakes season. He did a single night session with daughter Eleanor and between them managed six 20+ carp up to 29.12. Not content with his haul he spent a couple of hours beside the lake today and landed this magnificent looking creature, quite one of the most stunning fish you are ever likely to encounter, an absolute gem at 34.14. Well done Julian and Eleanor. Its somewhat odd for me to see Eleanor with her dad as many moons ago, when I was secretary of one of the local angling clubs, I used to take the junior section with Julian as one of the young anglers when he wasn't a great deal older than Eleanor! I can assure you that a great deal of water has run under Ibsley Bridge since those far off days. Julian and Eleanor weren't the only members to finish in fine style as Nigel Keats added to his top catch of last week with a further eleven carp to 31 pounds in his last two night stint. Nice one Nigel, you should take Adam along with you to show him how to do it, like Julian and Eleanor!
Along with Kings-Vincents the lakes have done us proud yet again this year. There have been lean spells but that is what makes us all keep coming back, if we caught every time we went fishing it would soon loose its appeal. With Mockbeggar now open again after its six month rest the challenge of a wild more natural water lays before us once more and the old girls of Somerley can take a well earned rest for the close season.


Juvenile roach by the thousand

Odd world; this is not a tenth of the roach that I netted out from behind a hatch board today as they were struggling to get through into the lake beyond. The problem is I don't want them in the lake in question as we already have far too many small fish already in there. I am also reluctant to apply to move them into any other water as although I didn't spot any today, there is the chance that hidden amongst the many thousands there may be rudd or hybrids. If I were being hard nosed about the management of the lake I should take them out, dig a hole and bury them! That doesn't quite fit with my philosophy, particularly when applied to roach and I lifted them over the hatch. I just hope the Cormorants and Grebe are hungry to help balance the scales.

Orange-tip Orange-tip

Yesterday I spotted the first Orange-tip of the season, which was an early record for us. Today I spotted three different specimens! Just what that has to say about the climate change our butterfly populations are undergoing I wouldn't like to say but its certainly not the norm with us. The photo's are of different males with the classic orange wing tips and the wonderful pattern on the underwing.

27th March


Old Girl Big Old Girl

Thanks to Karl for the shots of the two "Old Girls" he managed from the lakes at the weekend. I'm not axactly certain how old those two fish are but they are well over twenty and are probably approaching thirty years old. I believe the second fish, which is an ounce or two short of 35 pounds, is a personal best for Karl from the lakes. Well done Karl, great result.

26th March


With Anne having just finished her fourth night shift the chance to soak in some vitamin D in this afternoon's sunshine was just too good an opportunity to miss. It also provided me with the excuse to visit the lakes as we have now removed the last of the winter grazing stock and I wanted to have a look at the sward to see how it might fare this coming summer. One of the meadows running north south and sheltered from today's cold north east wind seemed as good a place as any to spend an hour peering at my feet. Anne stationed herself on a sunny bank over looking my eratic wanderings as I sought out the sorrels and the plantains, sorted the bents from the fescues and the colts-foot from the cocks-foot. With cowslip and dog violet seemingly established well and not forgetting that important food plant for so many of our resident species of butterfly, the common nettle, I have to say the meadows are looking very well indeed.


Dog violets Welcome Comma

I was pleased to see increasing numbers of dog violets, I'm sure the fritillaries will be even more pleased than me to see them. It was not only Anne that was enjoying the sunny aspect of the bank as within 50m of her at least six commas and three peacocks were also soaking up the sun.

25th March


Scaly 20+ mirror

I was supposed to be bobbing about in a boat off the end of Portland Bill in search of turbot today. As it happens it was wisely decided by the skipper that Portland Run was no place to be in today's blow so it was cancelled. On the principle that its an ill wind that blows no good I did get to visit the lakes this morning and timed my visit to coincide with Paul Powell photographing this scaly 20+ mirror. Cracking looking fish which I would like to know a little more about, if any members have landed this fish in the last couple of years could they email me any pix they might have. The lake has produced several good fish this week with Nigel Keats timing his visit on Wednesday night to find commons of 25, 32 and 38 nice one Nigel, that'll do nicely.

That didn't take long to find out a little more of its history. There's a photo of it on here on 3rd October 2015!


Whilst on the subject of stillwaters. All members should have received an email reminder that subs are due at the end of the month. Contact the office if you failed to receive the email.

22nd March


Red-eared terrapin Small tortoiseshell

Spring's here, the Red-eared terrapins are basking in the trees beside the lakes. We don't see as many of these as we did a couple of decades ago, which is probably a good thing. Still plenty of "Red-necks" about the valley, which probably isn't a good thing! The Tortoiseshell is a shot from last week, which I've put up just for balance and because I like it.

21st March


Returning a good common

Peter Morrison returning a good common, despite the cold snap that has slowed the fishing considerably this week.

15th March


After a dinner of seared pigeon breast, on a bed of mashed potato with romanesco broccoli, pigeon courtesy of Acker and a glass of fine port courtesy of an extremely considerate traveller returning from Portugal, I feel almost human. I never did get out to look for a super chub, or mega barbel come to that but knowing so many of the members had a great end to the season is reward enough, honest!

With the coarse season on the rivers over we can draw breath and look back at events that made up the year. As I write I sit with my aching muscles slowly recovering having spent the best part of the day over at Mockbeggar clearing a window through the willow and alder to allow light onto an area of meadow that lay in shadow. As regular readers are probably aware I have a thing about light and flow, the balance of the two control a significant proportion of all our lives. As with the light and flows in our rivers being critical in ensuring their health, light, along with a drop of rain and a few other bits and bobs, controls the life in our meadows and woods. My current distraction involved managing our fishery habitat for the greatest benefit of the creatures that share our valley with us is strapped for time so every opportunity is welcome. I had a couple of hours clearing the last of the swims and waiting for the loos enabling the chance of a little light and shade balancing. It was of course also the opening day on the lake, providing the opportunity for a chat with some of the members. As it happens I didn't see any anglers, only the toilet delivery man and Frank Lamb, who I caught up with just as he was leaving. I'm not saying Frank isn't an angler, or the toilet man come to that, but Frank didn't have his rods and I don't know the toilet guy, he may well be a fisherman elsewhere. Frank was just out on a recce and expecting to see others on the water, he convinced himself the lakes weren't actually open and was about to leave when I bumped into him. The lakes looked superb in today's warm sunshine and as Frank and I chatted, looking out to the islands, several large carp threw themselves clear of the water returning with seriously impressive splashes. I know the other lakes are fishing well but not a soul on opening day is slightly disappointing. I guess tearing yourself away from the known and taking on the vast unknown of Mockbeggar is a hard choice. Whilst talking of Lakes I should say well done to Alan McAvoy who landed eight fish in his session last week including a new English PB common. Nice one Al, well won.

Back to those mega barbel and super chub, the numbers that we are currently blessed with is simply astonishing. I find it hard to believe the Avon has ever produced fish and fishing of such quality. Certainly not the chub in the fifty plus years I have fished it. Perhaps in the dim and distant past the chub may have achieved such size but never such barbel as they simply didn't exist. To see the shoals of chub moving over the gravel last summer gave a hint of what lay ahead but this angler friendly winter had excelled itself. The prolonged clear water of the late summer and autumn, combined with the reduced flows of the winter seem to have held the weights back a few ounces. I didn't hear of an eight pound plus fish this season, having said that the number of seven plus fish in the last week or two of the season was just fantastic. Not only huge fish but scale perfect, as if just out of the makers mould. A maker who has obviously smiled benignly on us at Somerley for yet another year.

There are probably over a dozen barbel that exceed fourteen pounds to be found on the estate at the current time. At least four or five of those huge fish are upstream of Ibsley Bridge where members appear reluctant to fish for them. I appreciate its our mile or so of shared bank and being a club water is busy. In fact extremely busy but it is a wide river and several of those fish spend a great deal of their time under our bank. A little disappointing not to see that big brace in Botney on the bank this year. Plenty of other doubles and thankfully shoals of baby barbel visible on the shallows. The chub and barbel are undoubtedly in good shape, lets hope it continues to be the case for the foreseeable future.

I know a man that knows how to cheer me up in the form of Mike Tolley who rang this afternoon to let me know he had just released a 21 pound Springer. Just the news I needed after the recent loss a couple of fish and the numbers starting to come out at the bottom end of the river below the Great Weir. Well done Mike, may it be the first on many in 2017. With the Wessex hydrology making pretty depressing reading I fear we are going to struggle in the higher river as fish hold for longer and longer periods as they wait to run those bloody hatches. We are entering the most productive time for the salmon with the next couple of months being the cream of the Avon salmon fishing. Make the most of what flows we have as the fish will still be getting up to us at the present time and cross everything you have in the hope of regular rain to keep the river topped up.


Hidden Comma

To end with a slightly easier spot the bug shot. The Red Admiral on the tree trunk proved vexing for several readers so this one will hopefully restore the confidence.


13th March


7.2 chub Ollie's Avon Second 7+ chub

One day left of the Coarse season on the river and this is a taste of what is possible, alternatively of what you've missed! The shots are of Ollie Johnson with a brace of sevens at 7.2 and 7.1 that are simply stunning. To complete the day, Ollie added chub of 6.10, 6.3, 6.2, 5.14 and a tacker of 4.8. What can you say to such a bag other than well done Ollie, brilliant catch. Perhaps the icing on the cake was that they came on the traditional Avon tactic of float fished maggot. Ollie used one of his own Avon floats, part of the Clearwater series he designed and manufactures, which are almost tactile they are so elegantly balanced and have tips that even I can see, if I could get out that is. I suppose that's the coarse equivalent of a salmon on a self tied fly, surely a personal Red Letter Day of a lifetime and the chub catch of the season across the country. Superb Ollie and thanks so much for the report and the photos.

12th March


Double figure barbel Avon Springer Double figure barbel

Coltsfoot Coppicing Common toads

Buff-tailed bumblebee Small Tortoiseshell Tree Bumblebee

A few photographs to provide a flavour of the last day or two. The top line shows two good double figure barbel, the first by Mark Sherborne the Second Jim Innes, both taken when the fishing has been difficult over the last few days. The middle shot shows Bob Windsor and Paul Shutler with Bob's salmon from the compound last week. Nice one Bob, even if you did catch it on the wrong part of the river! Thanks to all for the photos, there have been some stunning fish in recent weeks.
Elsewhere, the middle line starts with a shot of the coltsfoot that is a welcome sight signalling the change of seasons in the meadows. I'm desperately trying to finish the coppicing, the stools are all cut I now have to pile the brash over the top to keep the deer off. Beside the lakes the toads are in full spawning mode with what can best be described as toad balls as clumps of males fight to gain prime position with the females. The two males in the shot having turned their backs on the melee as they stopped for a rest. The bottom line captures some of the other welcome arrivals as the weather warms. Buff-tailed and Tree bumblebees in their dozens, all seeking early pollen to get their new nests underway. The over-wintering butterflies have emerged in good numbers from the cool dark shelters they have occupied for the last four or five months. I imagine the old control tower and the other WW2 shelters that are dotted about the lakes have provided perfect cool, cave like quarters to pass the cold months.

, 9th March


A day or two of sharp contrasts, particularly when it comes to the weather we have experienced in the last seventy two hours. We had strong winds and heavy rain at times earlier in the week that made fishing extremely difficult yet there were some great fish caught. Today we enjoyed a wonderfully warm afternoon, we had bright sunshine and light winds yet the fishing was really difficult. What the sunshine did manage was to bring out the syndicate members and I believe we enjoyed probably the busiest day since the fishing came back in house. With less than a week until the end of the coarse season the river coarse members were doing their best to get a last session in and the near perfect state of the river for salmon has brought the salmon rods out onto the bank. From what I can make of it and according to those I spoke to today the salmon rods fared no better than the coarse guys with no sign of any fish being landed. Thats not quite correct in that Bob (The Mars Bar Kid) Windsor departed south to the the Great Weir compound and produced a 18 pound hen fish, at least proving there are one or two in the river. I should mention one other fish that came out during the rain earlier in the week, that being a 7+ new PB chub for Mark Tutton, well deserved for persevering through the rain and wind, great fish well done Mark. Mark also happens to be a fellow butterfly enthusiast who spotted the first Small tortoiseshell of the year during the earlier part of the week. Today butterflies seemed to be everywhere and during my travels I spotted 8 Brimstones, 4 Commas, 5 Peacocks, 1 Red Admiral and my first Small Tortoiseshell, definitely good for the soul.


Peacock butterfly Red Admiral Comma

Hooray summer is here! Long may it last.

7th March


Wild dafodils Red hind Otter skeleton

The Snowdrops have faded back into the woodland floor litter and the wild daffodils have taken their place. Its a good year for the dafs with carpets of yellow covering the undisturbed woodland floor. The middle shot is of a Red deer hind, which are now becoming a more frequent sight on the estate. They are a very large beast and increased numbers grazing alongside the existing fallow, roe, sika and muntjac would be a disaster for the wild flora we are attempting to preserve. Finally its been a bad week for otters with the second dead one of the week turning up beside the Trout stream. Just what killed this one is a mystery. It looked as if it had been dragged out of the water by a fox scavenging a free meal but there were no obvious signs of the cause of death.

4th March


Mike Skittrall PB

I just love getting reports and photos such as the one above, it shows Mike Skittrall with one of our lunker chub that beats his PB of 20 years standing. I don't need to go fishing when I can share in the pleasure such a fish brings, its simply superb. Congrats on the PB Mike and many thanks for the great report and pic.

Avon Perch

You know how I feel about Avon perch, they absolutely conjure the magic and mystery of the underwater world of the Avon. That's Dominic Longley holding that piece of perfection for which many thanks for the pic. I'm now convinced I have to get a trip or two in before the close in ten days time.

Two Great White Egrets Curlew

Definitely three in the valley this year. Two Great White Egrets both unringed, going to prove we had three in the valley for several weeks this winter. I think the regular ringed bird has now gone back as I haven't seen it for a day or two but these two seem to be happy in each others company. There has been a very large number of Great White Egrets in the south and south west this winter and it won't be long until they are breeding as they do down in the Somerset Levels. The Curlew have been here for about a fortnight. They arrive every Spring as they make their way back to the nesting grounds, either further north or out on the forest.

Finding the two Great White Egrets today was the icing on the cake for what was a fine walk from Ibsley up to the northern boundary of the flooded marsh. Last nights rain had done its job and the water had risen to spill out into the fields attracting a diversity of our valley wildlife. I'd parked at the Botney car park and climbed the style that immediately allows a view out over the river to the Ibsley Splash and Harbridge Church beyond. The swans and geese could be seen dotted about the meadows enjoying the shallow flood. Canadas, Greylags, Egyptians and if I could be bothered to scan the flock with the binoculars I would probably find the White front that has been with us for several months. The far bank of the river was also dotted with the coarse lads who are keen to fit in a few last visits before the close in ten days time. The barbel fishing, along with the chub fishing, has been unbelievable with multiple catches of big fish through out the river. I'm not sure we've seen the biggest barbel on the bank yet this season with several of the summer fourteen pound fish yet to show this tail end. With possibly six different summer fourteens between the weirs and what ever lives in the section I was now walking beside, I imagine we may well see a sixteen or even a seventeen plus fish if someones luck holds. Certainly the big brace in Botney are under threat judging by the attention they are receiving in recent weeks on the far bank.

I waded across the dodgy bridge just below Ham Island and out onto the southern marsh. Twenty or so Tufties departed upstream and as I watched them go I spotted a pair of Goldeneye keeping them company. The first Redshank of the Spring piped his annoyance as he drifted off up a side carrier where he joined a Green Sandpiper seeking his lunch in the soft ooze of the margins. As I drew level with the top of the island a group of seven Goosander flushed and followed the Tufties up river. The gravel at the confluence of the Hucklesbrook was well under water and a pair of Little Egrets stalked the margins seeking unwary fry. On reaching the Hucklesbrook stream the depth meant I had to detour upstream to the ford just below the Red Bridge car park. At least the extra couple of hundred meters allowed me to wade the stream and approach the North Marsh without being seen by the wildfowl enjoying the flood. A hundred Wigeon even greater numbers of Teal and good numbers of Mallard and Gadwall. The Shoveler were tucked up under the clumps of Soft Rush and the odd Snipe could be seen picking its way from clump to clump. A scan of the marsh with the bino's showed several pairs of Lapwing, a pair of Oystercatchers and the first pair of Shelduck I'd seen for quite some time out on the shallow flood. In the far distance I could see the flock of Curlew that has been with us for a fortnight but they were too distant to get an accurate count so I headed over to Gorley to follow the river north in an effort to get a closer look. A Cetti's on the corner and a second called from the island to let us know this was their patch. Another Little Egret and a couple of pairs of Coots departed as I made my way upstream and as I cleared the corner I came across a syndicate member sitting at the head of the island shallows. Ten minutes chewing the fat and hearing the highes and lows of recent weeks and I left the river bank and headed out directly across the field toward the Curlew. As soon as I changed my direction from following the river, where I was taken as an angler and no threat, the heads of the geese came up to take a closer look. The Crows and Jackdaws decided descretion was the better part of valour and left for fields anew. The geese also decided to walk to a safer vantage point whilst the Curlew failed to even notice my approach. I didn't have to get too close to establish that there were nine preoccupied with probing the soft soil and turned south back toward the river and the car. I hope these birds are heading north to breeding grounds in Scotland or even further toward the Artic Circle. If they are local birds I hold out little hope for their survival in what has now become the New Forest urban park the uncontrolled dogs, ramblers, mountain bikers and horse riders that will eventually drive them out. I think I might suggest to the National Park authority they stop playing lip service to conservation and ban ALL people from the majority of the New Forest as they do in areas of the world where the well being of creatures that share this planet with us are taken a little more seriously.

Having got that off my chest, back to my wandering, which now took me back to Gorley Corner and the Old Man with his attendent Buzzard watching my approach. I hadn't taken much notice of the bird as I walked by, aware he was still there watching me splash through the shallow flood water. I has thirty or forty meters beyond the Old Man when a Red Kite drifted no more than twenty feet over my head. Definitely a case of failing to check the obvious. No panicked departure, a casual drift with cocked head looking down at me through his pale yellow eyes, truly magnificent bird at close quarters. I would imagine he is one of the resident breeding pair we have in this section of the valley, what ever the reason his presence is certainly a welcome sight.

On over the culvert on the central drainage ditch where the presence of our otters was very evident in the number of prints in the soft mud. A casual look over the white lumps of the Mutes out on the marsh, just checking the obvious, where two slightly smaller stationary lumps looked out of place. The photo above captures the reason for the odd appearance of the lumps making for a super end to my walk.


On a different subject I'm sure many readers will be aware that the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust have been monitoring breeding waders and the various predators that impact upon them for more than twenty years at Somerley and other estates in the valley. This has taken many different paths to establish the various impacts such as mink and otter monitoring, corvid counts etc. Just yesterday Mike Short of the trust contacted me to ask if they could collect fox scat (poop) to analyses to establish diet of flood plain foxes. Not unlike the recent otter paper on here.

Bottled scat

To say I'm impressed with the GWCT is an understatement, just 24 hours in and they have the foxes trained to crap into bottles ready for collection!

1st March


Road casualty A338 rubbish Goldfinches

I walked a couple of hundred meters up the A338 from Ibsley Bridge this morning to check on a road casualty that Phil had spotted on the way into work. What ever your views on otters the sight of such a beautiful creature laying dead amidst the accumulated rubbish beside the road is a pretty depressing sight. It was the bitch that was a regular visitor around the river at Ibsley, she has certainly been with us for three years. It probably means we will have a new incumbent taking up residence in the near future, I just hope she is as well behaved as this one. The middle shot shows the accumulated rubbish I referred to previously. What is going on when it comes to the people and I use that term loosely, that throw this rubbish alongside one of the finest rivers in the country? What sort of individual leaves such rubbish anywhere? We have fly tipping down at Ringwood weir that the Highways Agency are supposed to be responsible for clearing. Its probably been there almost a year without so much as a hint of removal. The regular tipping at Ellingham beggars belief, its almost become a weekly event. If you ever see rubbish being dumped see if you can get a car reg or a pic on the mobile and text it through, I'd just love to find out who our local cowboys are. The final shot is to brighten the mood, its some of the thirty odd Goldfinches in the front garden. I was actually trying to photograph the Bramblings but they would never stand still long enough. With 96 Starlings, 70 House Sparrows, 22 Chaffinches, 10 Siskins, 16 Collared Doves, the 30 plus Goldfinches and an assortment of Blackbirds, Thrushes, Robins and the odd Blackcap the front garden is thankfully pretty busy at the moment.

28th February


Undulate Ray

The last day of February and the star of the photo above made me feel a great deal more positive about winter finally loosing its grip on the countryside.

20th February


Here's an article that many of you may find of interest, produced by Bournemouth Uni's; Prof Rob Britton, Matthew Berry, Samantha Sewell, Corina Lees and our very own Pete Reading.


Avon Otter Diet


Definitely a foot in many camps when it comes to work in recent days. Liming and clearing line from the lakes, trees, ditching and strimming on the river and resetting the water meadows in readiness for the new growing season. Add in a sea fishing trip and my weekend breadmaking, time has been in short supply. The river continues to fish well for chub, pike and barbel with the lakes providing some lovely days in the recent mild spell, I really must get the rods out before the end of the river season and have a look for a chub or barbel or two.


Undulate Ray

Tom Fowler grinning over the top of a fine double figure Undulate Ray. We also managed Thornbacks, Spotted and a good 20+ Blonde, add several Conger to 35 pounds and some reasonable Whiting, we enjoyed a good day for a February boat. We organise our boat and beach fishing through our local Armfield and Ringwood Sea Fishing Club, of which Tom is our chairman and in reality is a small group of about a dozen of us who meet for a couple of hours each month to plan our events. We are always on the lookout for new members so if you feel like adding seafishing to your calendar on a couple of occasions a month drop me an email. If I could remember who our membership secretary was I would give you his email but I've forgotten who we voted into the post in their absence!

Cheese sourdough


Camembert sourdough bread.


Cherry and chocolate sourdough
Cherry and chocolate sourdough dusted with cocao.

Sourdough bread making becomes a routine where producing the leaven, making up the dough, folding, resting, proving and baking all take set times which can't be rushed. I enjoy the set routine of producing the basic loaf and the ability to try out all sorts of recipes that you are unlikely to come across in the local bakery. I think it must be the total opposite from the never ending changing aspects of my usual day that appeals.


17th February


Scarlet Elf Cup

Even in the grey of late winter there are splashes of colour supplied courtesy of Mother Nature in the form of the Scarlet Elf Cups.

15th February


Mockbeggar grazing Great white egret

I was pleased to see the livestock we have grazing Mockbeggar have managed to get out on to the islands. This will save me hours of strimming and provide a far richer flora for the butterflies in the coming summer. Its the hope of a warmer spring for the emerging butterflies this year, which is at odds with my wish to see higher flows in the river for the well being of the valley creatures. I don't suppose I will influence what we eventually receive, which ever way it goes I must take the positive view that it will benefit one or the other. I noticed the number of Shoveler at Mockbeggar is beginning to reduce as the birds begin to return to their summer haunts. Today there were less than two hundred, down over a third on the counts of three hundred plus earlier in the year. The number of Shoveler that have been present throughout the winter are of national importance, which would seem to point to us getting something right. It was good to see four pairs of Goldeneye had joined the Shoveler today, the displaying drakes always make a fine show.
The second photo shows the unringed Great white egret that has been with us since the middle of November. Usually seen on the Ellingham meadows, often with the long returning ringed bird. I did also spot a further one at Hucklesbrook but I can't be certain it wasn't one of the usual pair so I will have to settle for just the two. Goshawks, lots of croaking Raven and pleasingly, at least one and possibly two Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, spring is on its way.

14th February


Island Run

I think that's the first cut of all sixty pools complete, at least they're all fishable, unless of course you know differently! I will replace the seat at the head of Blashford when we can get out on the meadows without sinking. In the meantime treat with care as we have lost a further meter of bank alonside it this winter.

13th February


Frog spawn


Frog spawn and Crassula helmsii in the new puddles.


Cabbage Garden
Looking down Cabbage Garden to Middle Cabbage on the far bank.

This morning I had occasion to walk some of the hundreds of acres of restoration that we have on the estate and despite being bare gravel a twelve months ago many puddle seemed to be full of frogs spawn. Perhaps a less desirable re colonisation of the site was the presence of so much crassula in an equal number of wet areas. In the afternoon I was up at Cabbage garden cleaning up the last few salmon pools, which despite the cold clear conditions looked wonderful in the late light of the day.


12th February


Mute swans

WeBS day and we have 149 of these in this section of the valley. Twenty five pairs of which are busy re-establishing their nesting territories with swans scrapping where ever you seem to look.

11th February


Dog Kennel upstream Dog Kennel downstream

"Can't get the staff" Feeling pleased with myself having managed to get the long distance pools down at Lifelands and Ashley all clipped out and ready for the off I had forgotten the pool nearest the Lodge. I made amends this morning and the couple of shots show Dog Kennel looking a lot more user friendly.

9th February


First of the year from Somerley

There's absolutely no doubt about what this fish is! Its the first salmon of the year off Somerley, a 3SW fish in the twenty pound class, landed by Paul Greenacre this evening. Paul rang at about ten to five to say he was into a fish, which was behaving like a big fish, very steady and repeatedly returning to its lie. Five minutes later I was heading for the river out across a very wet and splashy field that made progress extremely tough. I arrived with the fish still reluctant to leave its lie with the occasional foray into the deeper water at the far side of the pool. After ten minutes the pressure was telling with the fish now moving more freely about the pool with a couple of jumps on a very short, tight line thrown in, miraculously Paul stayed in contact. Down to the tail of the pool where she was succefully scooped up on our first attempt. As I drew her toward the bank the hooks dropped out and snagged in the rim of the net, by then too late, she was safely ours. Well done Paul, congratulations on a great fish and opening the account at Somerley.

8th February


Below is one of those fish again! If you caught this in July you would confidently believe it to be a fresh run sea trout, which it certainly looks like. The only problem, apart from being out of season, is it shouldn't be here at this time. The first big, fresh sea trout usually enter the system at the end of April or May and given reasonable flow and water height continue to run until they cut in November. Low flow summers are different and as with this year just past, the fish all end up bottled up at the bottom of the river but that's a different story. That being the case it doesn't alter the fact these early fish don't fit the pattern we might expect. I believe they are fish that entered the river last autumn to spawn during the normal cutting period and are taking their time to run back to sea. The Avon is full of invertebrates and fry right through the winter so why would any fish rush to get back to sea. Once they decide to return to the coastal feeding, just like their earlier juvenile smolt run, they silver up. So this fish probably had an easy run into the river late in the year on one of the few spates we enjoyed at the beginning of November. Its had two or three months of good feeding getting back into reasonable shape and now taking a leisurely trip back to the seaside.


Sea trout

At about three and a half pounds a good looking fish, for which I must thank Thom Board for the photo.

5th February


Ibsley Pool

There just has to be one in there somewhere! Perfect running conditions that give the early fish the chance to reach the higher river in safety. It has to be remembered all fish that make that journey pass through every pool on the fishery, all you have to do is be at the right place at the right time, easy.

Southern Marsh Northern Marsh W|ildfowl over North Marsh

With the high water the Hucklesbrook Marshes have sprung into life with wildfowl numbers looking a great deal healthier than they have for most of this dry winter. With over 150 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 55 Pintail, over a hundred Shoveler, a 150+ Lapwing, 140 Canada Geese, Little egrets, Great white egrets, Kingfishers, Mute swans, Goosander, Tufties, Heron, Egyptian geese an Oyster catcher and all sorts of odds and ends, things were definitely looking up.

Ronnie with Chance Largue and Chance

Ronnie was about to feed "Chance" when Largue and myself arrived at the Lodge today providing an ideal photo opportunity.

1st February


First of the season

Here's a great shot of a delighted fisherman, with a wonderful Avon Springer to open the new season. Paul Shutler proudly holding his magnificent 22 pounder he landed from the compound down on the Royalty today. Fantastic opening day fish and it couldn't have come to a more deserving rod. Many congratulations Paul and thanks to Danny Taylor, who accompanied Paul today, for the pic. Lets hope its a fore taste of things to come in the season ahead.

Whilst we didn't manage to see such a stunning fish today up on the estate it was a enjoyable day to see the fishery buzzing with nine or ten rods out seeking the fish of a lifetime under the difficult conditions. Perhaps the greatest pleasure for me was the social activity at the Lodge as the rods met up for the day and enjoyed a leisurely lunchtime catch-up. High expectations and enthusiasm, making for a really positive vibe.

31st January


Rising water

Still rising this afternoon and further rain forecast. The colour of the water is strong, milky tea, which will make fishing difficult on opening day tomorrow. I have long since learnt never to say never with regard to fishing but the next day or two will be hard work if we get the forecast rain which will maintain the height and colour. I would suggest that other than a visit to straighten the line keep the bulk of your effort for a little later in the season when conditions will be more favourable. Its very easy to become jaded through too much effort early in the year and miss out on the peak run in a month or two.
If ever there was advice that was guaranteed to put a fish on the bank on opening day, as we managed last year, that is it!

water height  Coloured water

Up another six inches and still raining. If you listen carefully I think you may well hear the chanting and stamping of feet as the local salmon community frantically leap and reel their way through yet another rain dance and thankfully it looks as if it may well be working. Looking at the river this morning if I were to ask for perfect conditions for an early fish those we are currently enjoying would fit the bill perfectly. I would actually like to see the river continue to gently rise and hold its height for several weeks to allow the ground water aquifers to completely fill to safeguard our summer flows. It may possibly make the early fishing difficult but for the long-game we need the summer flows so keep on dancing!

30th January



water height

The water height and colour at Ibsley Bridge this morning. The EA flow stations that can be found at the links below will provide a good indication of the river state for travelling anglers.

East Mills

Two or three miles upstream, showing an 0.2m/8 inch rise in levels with yesterday's rain.


Knapp Mill

Down at the tidal limit showing a less distinct rise.


Bickerley Millstream

A mile downstream reacting in a similar fashion as the main channel.


The Dockens Water

The Dockens that enters the Avon on the Lifelands, Ashley boundary, showing the rapid flood spike of the forest streams.


23rd January


Old hazel copse
Old over stood hazel copse.


Coppicing
Coppicing whenever I can find the time.

The first shot shows a hazel coppice that is past its prime as a usable wooodland resource. It has value as logwood but the young five to seven year old timber, historically used by the hurdle maker, has grown out. This particular parcel of woodland is too small to be economically viable so I have always attempted to keep on top of the coppicing purely as a wildlife resource. Alas it has outgrown me and along with the increased deer population, eating out any remaining undergrowth, much of the copse is looking very sorry for itself. When we first brought the hazel back in hand twenty years ago Nightingales took up residence within a year, we found dormice and the only deer we ever spotted were the occasional roe. I haven't heard a Nightingale for ten years or more, dormice for a similar time, although I have to admit I haven't looked and we now have a dozen fallow deer stamping about in the wood most nights.
The second shot is quite interesting as it shows several aspects of the wood that can be easily overlooked. The hazel is easily cut back and the logwood salvaged, The top brash is stacked back over the stools in an effort to keep the deer off the young regrowth. In the middle distance are two oaks I planted fifteen or twenty years ago, to replace the over-story that draws up the young hazel below. The better specimen will be selected the weaker will join the log pile. The Holly beside the ancient old oak is the home of a tawny owl who will appreciate the rejuvenated undergrowth, patches of wild raspberries and blackberries will attract a new fieldmouse and vole food supply to suppliment his diet. I'll also have to have a word with Kevin, who keeps on top of the fallow population in the forestry, to add the hazel coppice to his list of vulnerable woodland. I have to admit that I always enjoy a day spent in the hazel copse, my only problem is its very difficult to justify financially so even this freezing fog that puts pay to much of our usual work has a silver lining.


21st January



Good pike

This is a good photo for which I must thank syndicate member Colin Ives. It shows Colin's grandson Elian with a good pike, taken on the coldest of days with the frost still on the ground but judging by the grin on Elian's face the cold is the last thing on his mind. Its a photo that will stir memories in most of us older anglers as we think back to the days when we experienced the magic of our early years with the rods. Elain has accompanied Colin for many years and loves his time by the river, a grounding in angling that will stand him in good stead for many years to come. He also managed a 15.07 PB a week or two ago so he's starting to make his teacher look to his laurels! Well done Elian keep up the good work.

20th January 2017



Bonfire

The perfect frosty weather job.

17th January 2017



Mark Gillard Gill Gill

Sad, sad news for those in the carp world and the commercial fishermen of Mudeford, in that “Gill”, Mark Gillard, has passed away. I suppose during the shared dark nights beside the carp lakes and the close company of the fishing community, we often glimpse the deeper side of our friends. Gill was very much part of his chosen environment, be it beside our lakes or at sea and he lived that part to the full. His laid back ways, dodgy beanie hat and knowing smile will be sadly missed. I'm sure I speak for all the carp community when I say our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

16th January 2017


I did make it down to the river today and found several members out making the most of the change in conditions. A coloured river, with mild overcast conditions, it looked spot on and it was certainly producing the goods with some amazing chub bags coming out. The chub fishing is quite simply staggering, the number and size of the fish throughout the entire length of the fishery is providing fishing to dream of. I did also get a further update on the lakes with Frank Lamb manageing five fish during a single night session last week. That included at least one thirty and a couple of twenties so it seems to have continued to fish well in my absence.


Ollie with a 6.06

Ollie Johnson with a great looking six that he landed as I walked the bank today, one of half a dozen superb looking chub. Good to see you today Ollie and thanks for the photo.

15th January 2017


Back from my travels in the West I may be but it hasn't allowed me a great deal of time to catch up with events on the fishery as yet. The shoot season is drawing to a close with the last major shoot of the season at the weekend, add a WeBS count and a Bakehouse24 bread class learning how to make sourdough bread and it left little time for the river.


21 pound common

I did get the opportunity to drive around the lake at lunchtime on Saturday, just as John Keirle was landing a common of 21 pounds. Just reward for sticking it out during the bitterly cold conditions. I'm not sure how Andy Grant his fishing partner at the weekend fared, I think bream were involved somewhere along the line!

Bread class Finer points One at home

I have to say the prospect of a day kneading dough felt a little daunting first thing this morning as we set off to our bread class at "Bakehouse24" that we both had so generously been given at Christmas. I needn't have worried as the wonders of sourdough bread includes not having to knead it into submission, thankfully its more to do with timing! I found the entire experience thoroughly enjoyable and very enlightening. Whilst we have been customers at BH24 for some time I hadn't appreciated just what goes into providing our daily bread. A big thankyou to baker Pete and his partner Jo for producing a top notch day and not an aching muscle to be found anywhere!

Sheltering Shoveler

The Shoveler were still sheltering from the cold north wind behind the islands.

13th January 2017



2.9 roach

Now this has to be a pretty good start to the New Year, Darrel Hughes with a 2.09 roach, its certainly the finest roach I've seen for a good many years. Great fish Darrel, congratulations and thanks for the photo. Lets hope we see a rise in water that brings a little extra colour and you never know what we may find. I've been over in the Welsh mountains for a week which accounts for the lack of entries but I'm back on station and looking forward to catching up with events.

4th January 2017


Hucklesbrook low water
This was taken back in November and the gravel shoal that extends below the Hucklesbrook is even more exposed now.


The Fishing Lodge
The Lodge, where we may be spending more time than we should if the water remains as low as it is now through into the salmon season.

I was up at Hucklebrook North Marsh this morning where the low water has exposed an unprecedented volume of gravel on the Hucklebrook shoal. This is the gravel that the flash floods up on the Forest, through the Latchmore area, bring down to us. If as we have experienced this winter flash floods in the forest, bringing down fresh gravel, yet the flow in the main channel is too low to scour it on into the main system this shoal grows dramatically. I'm not sure the volume of gravel the shoal comprises of, somewhere between fifteen hundred and two thousand cubic meters, in the order of three and four thousand tons of material I would estimate. If this material grasses over and becomes the new profile of the main river channel it will dramatically alter the natural regime in that area. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad for the river, we will just have to wait and see, it will be an interesting aspect of low flows to keep an eye on in the future. I noticed the other day in the press that the Forestry Commission have seen their plans to rewild the Hucklesbrook up in the forest thrown out by the National Parks planning committee. Seems an odd way to carry on when the process of rewilding is seen in such positive light in most areas of the country, I think world might even be applied there. Still, I'm sure the Latchmore area will continue in its main use as an urban playground and dog latrine.

3rd January 2017


Frosty weir pool Teasels White out

A cold, very frosty start to the day.

Kingfisher

Seems sensible to sit in the sun whilst you await the lake to thaw.

1st January 2017



First catkins Constant companion

First catkins of the year and the anglers constant companion.