Waking wildlife

The warm spell has definitely kicked things into action. Parent Hobby’s have been hunting for rodents for their new young. The first of the adult brimstone butterflies have woken from their woodland winter sleeps, and who can blame them it’s been lovely.

The vegetation is waking up…..

….. and being eaten.

Burrows, dens and setts are being spruced up.

All the cheery sights of spring are on their way.

And some of the not so cheery ones. Great weather means lots more people enjoying the outdoors (yayy) and some thoughtlessly spoiling it for everyone else (boo). Tidying up after them is just another part of my job….. It’s a lovely day for a walk, I’ll just have to make sure I take my litter picker.


Stonechats and swans wishing a Happy New Year

This is Magnus and Muriel’s son Mo, who I have known since a couple of days after he hatched. He has always been comfortable in my company and comes when I call him but today was even braver and more demanding than usual. I was getting some tools out of the shed for the day and he hopped out of the water and came right over to see me. He was giving me the hungry eyes my dog has perfected, so I had to defrost some peas for him and his new partner Matilda before I could fire up the outboard up and get to work. It’s only right to be kind to the neighbours.

Today’s main task was to remove the commemorative wreathes and artwork we put out to remember those lost in the First World War now the centenary year is over. Thankfully I have a volunteer / husband who is willing to be my boat pilot. It’s pretty awkward holding the boat steady on the engine and unscrewing things from the bridge wing walls when you are on your own. For jobs like that company and boat crew is always very welcome!

Even after the years I’ve been here there are still some new sights to see. Today a male stonechat was kind enough to perch right next to where I was boating. I’ve heard them here plenty of times but it was the first time I got a really good view. That’s the problem with spending so much time strimming and mowing, you scare things away and don’t get to see them. That’s why days like this are so special. You can hardly complain about working New Years Day when this is the view.

Keeping it old school… to celebrate trees

I’ve been getting ready for Tree Dressing tomorrow and that had required some crafting that has taken me back. The tradition of dressing trees, in the non-Christmas sense, is something that many different cultures over the millennia have celebrated. The more recent incarnation started partially in response to the devastation in the wake if the 1987 ‘Michael Fish’ storm and has been gathering followers ever since. It also marks the end of National Tree Week. I’ve always been a fan of trees and the chance to celebrate them and do some baking is a win win.

The first time I made flour and salt paste decorations I can’t remember how old I was, but it required the use of a stool to reach the kitchen bench. Doing it again made me feel like a kid. As did the collecting and pressing of leaves.

Following the rain I can’t travel far from the weirs at the moment so the decorating will have to wait ’til tomorrow. I’m sure the trees won’t mind.

Atmospheric skies over Papercourt

Putting the flood boards out at silly o’clock this morning gave me the chance to spend a bit of quiet time before much of the world woke up on armistice day. The centenary of the guns falling silent has not be lost on us here at the Navigation or by me. The atmospheric skies only added to the somber but hopeful mood with the sun making its way through the clouds

I planted a woolly poppy left over from the barbed wire wreaths for Alfred Wye by the lock. He grew up here and would certainly have followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps to become the lock keeper here had he lived. Instead he died as a teenager on the battlefield in France never to see home again.

As I’ve told you before, everyone who has worked on the river before feels like family, whether you knew them or not. My family have tried to do their bit to ensure he is remembered by organising to get a sign installed last week for his tree which was planted with the help of some of his actually family a couple of years ago.

If I’m honest my husband with his carpentry skills was far more use than my dog but he prefers to take pictures than be in them, as do I, and she doesn’t mind.

His service and sacrifice is commemorated by his neighbours on the village war memorial but now he has something closer to home too.

Night time visitors

After spotting the signs and knowing they were here for ages, I have finally caught my first Walsham badger on film. I’ve been finding the obvious scrapings in the lawn and set the camera up lots of times but mostly got pictures of mice, swirling leaves and my dog having a wee. Finally the trawling through countless grainy images and videos has paid off. There is something special about getting a look into what happens in your garden when you aren’t there to see.

This is my badger having a snuffle at my hedgehog door but deciding against it.

This is an unexpected night time visitor that was waiting for me when I opened the curtains the other morning. As you can see from the volume of…. let’s call them organic deposits, this bedraggled male kestrel looks like it’s spent the night for some reason.

He flew off into the trees after a little bit if a sit and think and I haven’t seen him struggle since so I’m hoping all is well. As a gift he left a couple of pellets which I’ll have a rummage through at some point to see what he has been eating. They are hard to find compared to the larger owl pellets so it’s a rare treat to have one to dissect. A treat for me can come in the form of something coughed up by a raptor. As I type that I realise I’m probably in a very small minority… story of my life.

Here, as you can imagine, we also have lots of nocturnal visitors that are pretty hard to spot. They don’t all just come and sit on your window sill. Moth trapping is a great way to find out some of the smaller ones, that can be investigated over tea and toast. Luckily my husband knows what I’m like and just got me a bat detector for my birthday so I can now hear what’s there but too quick to I.D. too. Yay.

Watery weeding

Normal people use normal things when they do a bit of weeding.

Usually a trowel and fork will do it. If you are really keen or over run you might even break out a hoe but here things are a little different. 

Today’s pennywort weeding was all of the bank side, dry feet variety. Through hard work and the help of Environment Agency this year is dramatically better than last year but that doesn’t mean I am being complacent. I go with the little and often approach and for that a grappling hook and extendable pruner come in very handy. With the smaller bits of weed you can’t surprise them. If you do the mats break up and one small raft can turn into dozens of big ones within a couple of weeks. The trick is to gently persuade it onto the bank to desiccate in the sun in one piece. At the moment that isn’t taking too long. With all the practice with the grappling hook my aim is getting pretty good, my netball teacher might finally be proud.