Saturday, 28 July 2012

Early Morning by the River

Amazed to find myself wide awake at 6.30am after having stayed up to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony (glad I did) I slipped down to the river with Teazle this morning. It's lovely to get out early as somehow it seems virtuous, and there's no sense of rush.  It's also wonderful to feel so well, long may it last!

It wasn't long before I found myself down on my knees photographing an interesting hole that I hadn't noticed before.  Having found water vole feeding remains by a nearby rhyne a while ago I am sure they must be on the river too. I haven't found anything definitive yet as the banks are very overgrown at the moment, but this hole was a long way up the bank, close to the path, and so visible I wondered how I have managed to overlook it. I had put my keys next to the hole for scale, and was wondering whether it was the work of vole or rat, when my reverie was interrupted by barking.  Not an unusual occurrence! I jumped up to grab Teazle and apologise to the poor dog walker, who was probably just as startled by the muddy woman appearing from nowhere as she was by the black Labrador trying hard to sound ferocious. We chatted for a while, then I walked on.  Fortunately I decided to go back and have another look at the hole, I had completely forgotten my keys and could have quite easily got all the way home before I realised they were missing.  Still not quite sure about the architect - have a look and see what you think.

A bit further on I found a brood of small tortoiseshell caterpillars on the riverside nettles that I regularly fall foul of.  Good to see that the butterflies have managed to bounce back a bit after the atrocious weather, but there still aren't nearly as many around as there should be.

Tortoiseshell butterfly caterpillars

'My' otter is obviously still about, but I haven't seen any spraint for ages. It makes me wonder if she is trying to be secretive.  To be honest, although I think of her as a she I don't actually know, it's just a hunch.  I haven't seen her, although a local boy who was grazing his ponies by the river did, about a month ago. From his description she was a relatively small animal (a dog otter can be up to 4' long) but definitely not a mink.  I'm happy for him, it's a wonderful experience for anybody, and I think he was pleased to find someone that believed him, but I still can't help thinking it should have been me...

A rather more prickly teazle

Monday, 2 July 2012

Banded demoiselle

This afternoon I saw a banded demoiselle perched motionless in the wet grass, I held my finger close and the beautiful little insect climbed on and sat apparently unconcerned as I examined it closely. I patted my pocket with my free hand and mentally cursed as I realised I had left my camera at home.

Persistent heavy rain had been followed by fine drizzle and everything seemed to be taking advantage of the slight improvement in the weather.  The buzzards were wheeling over the field below the woods, for once not bothered by crows, and house martins were swooping over the flooded soft rush after invisible insects, or dashing up the river in a manoeuvre that always reminds me of  X-Wing fighters in a Star Wars bombing raid. 

I caught an unmistakable whiff of fresh otter spraint as I walked back towards the broken sleeper bridge.  I had a cursory look to see if I could find it, but the river bank was covered in nettles.  She, I think it's a she, was seen late one evening, a couple of weeks ago, by a young lad who was grazing his ponies nearby, good to know she's still about.  I've heard a lot of reports of otter sightings recently - one day it will be my turn.

Sunday, 1 July 2012


A bright windy afternoon after heavy rain, the river is bursting its banks and Teazle, my black Labrador, is strangely reluctant to follow me into the mini torrent that is flowing across the path at the kissing gate.  She isn't particularly confident with water considering her breed. She loves to wallow up to her chest, but rarely goes any deeper, and avoids fast flowing rivers and waves.

I notice a kestrel hovering over the field by the river. I watch it for a while with my binoculars, hoping that Teazle doesn't take advantage of my temporary preoccupation to wander off and eat, or roll in, something revolting.  It's a rather scruffy looking female, with a couple of tail feathers missing, seeming to have some difficulty holding position in the wind.  I'm pleased to see her. Hopefully she's here to stay, the grass is long so the hunting should be good. I love kestrels and she is the first I've seen here since late winter. In previous years they have been a regular sight, and I always keep an eye out for them.

I turn and walk along the rhyne, resisting the temptation to part the bank side vegetation and look for fresh water vole signs.  I know they're there, and that's enough for me. I'll leave them in peace for the time being and save myself from the inevitability of being stung by hidden nettles. The meadowsweet is flowering, reminding me that it’s the first day of July, hard to believe in this strange weather.

I walk up the path through the growing maize crop to the bottom of the wood looking for fox and badger footprints as I go.  The dog shoots off and I have to call her back and put her on the lead to stop her from trampling over the young plants.

It's surprisingly dark in the woods, the canopy has closed in and the beech leaves have lost the translucence of spring.  Shafts of sunlight pierce the gloom.  I hear a chiffchaff and realise that up to now the wood has been silent. As I listen I hear a few notes from a distant blackbird, it's a while before the song thrushes will start their evening chorus but, for me, it's time to go home.