Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Things to Do on a Bank Holiday

Yesterday was a bank holiday. I am sure many people plan well in advance exactly how they are going to spend their time on such occasions. No doubt some of you had earmarked the day for some birding and were delighted to see the Met Office predicting cold, crisp and sunny. Personally I had a full day's piking planned and could not have wished for a less inspiring forecast. Still, a plan is a plan and 'you have to be in it to win it' is a cliché, so there I was on the canal at first light. Pretty soon I was noticing what other people were doing with their bank holiday...

Some were propelling a quad skull through the water as fast as possible. Those things can fly. The first came by while most decent citizens were still in their dressing gowns, and the crew were clearly experts. Eight oars in perfect harmony is very impressive. I doubt they improve the pike fishing though. However, people doing strenuous exercise on a thin boat in scanty clothing on a freezing morning were in the minority; far more popular were walking the dog, walking off the festive bloat, jogging, cycling and birding. There were so many people around that I couldn't avoid having to talk to one or two. None of the passing birders stopped for a chat though, which surprised me a bit because I spent quite a lot of my time scanning around with bins and looking vaguely birder-like. Yes, I had decided to write down a list of 'Birds Seen While Fishing'.

My final tally was 44 species. It probably would have been higher if I'd worked at it a bit harder but I did spend a few hours trying very hard to catch a pike, which involves active effort and concentration. Once I'd resigned myself to the inevitable blank which the weather had made so likely my list increased rapidly. I wonder if a birder would be able to work out where I was fishing simply from my bird list? Of course there are already too many other clues in both this post and recent NQS in general to make that question much of a challenge, but how many places in the UK could you be fishing for pike and see this particular combination: Brent Goose, Grey Plover, Redshank, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Avocet, Cetti's Warbler, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and Barnacle Goose? Of course, there must be loads of places where you might see most of that lot. But where else could you see all of them? Now that is a challenge.

So, I spent a nice bank holiday soaking some dead sea fish in a canal. Dusk came, darkness fell. The sky was amazingly clear. I brewed up a fresh cuppa and leaned back in my chair to gaze upwards. In a short space of time I saw four shooting stars, one the brightest (though not the longest) I've ever witnessed. Stunning. I packed up around 7pm. Everything was already covered in frost...

9 comments:

  1. Gav, birders coming across other birders doing other things can be; for them, confusing.
    I've done this fishing and plenty of occasions while out running. My most memorable was running past a birder who was watching Yellow Wagtails at Ruislip Lido.
    I had already discovered these birds a few minutes earlier so had had pre information.
    As I approached, the birds (two) called. I stopped dead in my tracks and declared, "Yellow Wagtail!". Cue one astonished Dick Middleton.
    That was two jolts for the price of one. First that I was a birder and two that I apparently ID'd the birds in a fraction of a second on call alone.
    As for the birds you have just listed. It is with some embarrassment to admit that I have yet to get a Barnacle Goose which wasn't plastic.

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    1. Nice Yellow Wag tale Ric ;-)

      The Barnacles (14 of them) flew in at sunset and landed on a lagoon out on the marsh, but I doubt they were truly wild; there are many large feral flocks around.

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  2. So is blanking fisherman-speak for dipping? I imagine there must be a whole lexicon just like there is in birding, you must be in a relatively unique position of knowing both. Perhaps a future post to enlighten us all?

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    1. Basically, yes, it is. Good idea re future post, as I'm sure many will appreciate being enlightened about the subtle difference between a peg and a swim, for example.

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    2. I know one of these: a swim is something your wife forces you to take the kids for on a Saturday morning when you would prefer to be birding.

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  3. Gavin, you did incredibly well to stick at it for the whole day, me and the boys had seen enough by 10.30 hrs (we'd started at o6.30) to know we were on a hiding to nothing. As for other canal users? Boats don't seem to bother the fish on the RMC, although rogue kayaks can spoil it for the majority. The dog walkers always seem interested to hear about your captures, joggers and cyclists, generally good humoured. I suppose I am fortunate, in as much, as the few birders I encounter are aware of my birding past and are happy to engage in conversation. However, birders do very little to endear themselves to other user groups with a very public demonstration of social-phobia.
    Over the years I have seen/found some exceptional birds whilst out fishing. Avocet and Storm Petrel on the Tring complex stand out from my Herts days. I've had 1st yr Night Heron, Wryneck, Long-eared Owl, Red - crested Pochard plus European Beaver during my time around a very intimate drain system on the East Kent marshes. There are an awful lot of benefits from sitting quietly and watching from the same spot instead of chasing around?
    Have a great 2017 & tight lines - Dylan

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    1. Dyl, it's a fair old trek from my home to the venue, so there was no way I was packing up and coming home early! Plus, it's all part of the learning curve on somewhere new. And I'm very pleased I did stay, for another reason: just on dusk a chap stopped to ask how I was doing, and it turned out he was an angler who has been fishing the venue for three years with some success, though not for pike. He kindly showed me several photos on his phone of some of his and his mates' captures, and was refreshingly forthcoming with gen. We shook hands, exchanged names and he headed off, leaving me with a wealth of info to mull over. Priceless. Jolly glad I didn't go home early!

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  4. Careful Gavin, we'll be working out where you go fishing next!

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    1. Yep, definitely not a poser of Mastermind-level difficulty!

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