Saturday, 11 May 2013

Ending in Eels

 Wandering round the reserve in recent days counting nests, I came across my 19th Coot's nest in a ditch and what a nest it was - 13 eggs must be some kind of record! Possibly two birds have laid their eggs in the same nest and left it to just one to brood them but it's doubtful that all the eggs will be kept sufficiently warm enough to eventually hatch, I shall try and see the outcome.

 On the same day, in sedge stems alongside a ditch, I was led to this recently emerged Hairy Dragonfly by my dog. It was standing close to the sedge and snapping it's head back as it does when coming across a grass snake, which I thought it was going to turn out to be. However a close inspection found this dragonfly, just emerged from its larval case and still drying it's wings out. Apparently the Hairy Dragonfly is usually one of the earliest to emerge in the spring.

 The strong winds and sunshine this week have really begun to dry the reserve out quite dramatically and we now find ourselves, after a very wet winter, in that never satisfied position of saying that we could do with some rain. The Flood field above, still looks well wet in the photo, but only a few weeks ago all that vegetation was under water and it is now beginning to recede back to the normal large splashes. Mind you, it has been a very successful part of the reserve this winter/spring, attracting large numbers of birds and even now has one of the best Avocet colonies that we've had on the reserve for years.

Every spring I can never resist a photograph of one of my favourite sights, the combination of dark green and gold when the rape is in full bloom. Even on a dull day the yellowness of the rape can brighten things up and give the appearance of sunshine and millions of insects must benefit from it's flowers.

Finally, those of us who have wandered various marshes throughout our lives, or indeed been involved in eel trapping, as I once was, will know that in recent years the eel populations in our ditches and fleets have plummeted dramatically. Indeed eels in Britain are now considered as under threat as their numbers have fell by more than 80%. The most dramatic fall seems to have occurred over the last thirty years because when I was catching eels in the 1970's/early 1980's it was still possible to get really good catches in fyke nets on Sheppey each week. A couple of years ago, by way of experiment, I spent a few days with a small rod and garden worms on the reserve, trying to catch some eels and see how many were about. Three lengthy visits saw me catch just two eels (which were put back), something I found quite shocking given that we used to catch them on rods every few minutes at times.
I was therefore at first heartened and then dismayed, to read an article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday that reported that fishermen have seen a tenfold rise in elvers (baby eels) returning to the Severn in Gloucestershire this spring. Fantastic news until I read on to see that fishermen there in recent times have only caught just a few million elvers each season but this year they claim to have already landed up to 100 million already. Some catching stations along the river have been recording one to two tons (four million elvers) per night, which to me seems appalling at a time when the fish is becoming almost rare throughout the country, and all to be simply ate in restaurants like whitebait.
Apparently this year, 660,000 Severn elvers have been donated for restocking rivers elsewhere in the country, but when you consider the predation threat to these tiny fish from all manner of other species, just 660,000 out of 100 million caught already, seems a minute amount to give back and hope that stocks will increase.


  1. You might find that rape cheers you up, I just find that the pollen makes my eyes stream and my nose sore!

    1. This year I'm not streaming for once. I've been taking bee pollen capsules bought from Troway Medibee for about 6 weeks now.

    2. Yes Christine, I also find great relief from pollen impregnated honey, my source the Hive Honey Shop online!!

  2. Tony, I realise it's misery to many people, me I love the smell of it's pollen.