Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Too Many Birds and Not an Eel

Have you ever visited the Somerset Levels? No? Very sensible. Keep it that way, because birding the place will mess with your head. Up until Sunday afternoon I still got quite excited about Great White Egrets, Bitterns and the like. Such previous gems are now completely devalued. I probably wouldn't even raise my bins.

"Ooh. Hello. What's this white thing/brown thing?"
"Tsk. Just another stupid Great White Egret/Bittern/Marsh Harrier."

I blame our friends. Innocently accepting an invitation to go birding with them at the weekend, they drove us to Ham Wall RSPB and dished up an unhealthy surfeit of quality birds. As well as the Marsh Harriers, Bitterns and Big Egrets, they also picked out a distant flock of 8 Cattle Egrets and led us to a pool with 4 Garganey on it.

Pair of Garganey failing to hide

One of my other favourite ducks, Pintail, were represented by two lovely drakes, and Birders I Know were present in the form of Mr and Mrs Sidmouth Clive. There is a reason why I'd never previously visited the Somerset Levels. All-in-all the place is just too much, and I am now utterly spoiled. Apart from the odd seaward glance for skuas I can't imagine I'll bother birding again until autumn at least...

In other news I went fishing last night. The tench campaign continues. Rob had already done Sunday night, though for eels not tench, and mentioned that the area where I caught three tench last week was a bit crowded. So we chose a much quieter section of the canal, a very long walk from anywhere...

The surroundings were magnificent, with the Exe estuary like a choppy sea just behind us and Exminster Marshes across the canal. It was windy, it was fresh and chilly, double-figure flocks of Whimbrel whistled past in the evening (numbering up to 17) and a drake Red-breasted Merganser joined us for a spot of fishing this morning. The stove roared and the kettle boiled. Often. Mix up all that lot and it's pretty hard to beat for atmosphere...

Tench-wise it was dire, our new-location experiment a total failure. I caught one mini-rudd, and Rob nothing at all. Well, nothing on his tench rods anyway. But Rob had a third rod out, for eels again. At 04:45 this morning he woke me up to tell me that his eel rod had scored. Only the culprit was not an eel. It was toothy and stripey and weighed a phenomenal 22lb 8oz!!

22lb 8oz canal pike. A photo simply cannot convey just how impressive are pike of this size in the flesh. 'Awesome' is a dreadfully overused word but entirely appropriate in this case. 'Knackered' is another word, equally appropriate to describe the state of Rob's overtrousers.

In our piking efforts I was the first to score a twenty, also the second, 11 months later. At that point I was feeling a bit sorry for Rob, who had never caught a twenty but witnessed both of mine. This year he's caught FOUR!! Between us we've landed six (four different) twenty-pound pike from the venue in 17 months. The tentative plans we hatched at the back end of 2016 have succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation. And I no longer feel sorry for Rob.

On a different note...

Like some other bloggers I have always adopted the practice of capitalising bird names and highlighting them in the text with bold font. The capitalising thing is simply what I've always done with birds, and the bold font dates from BirdForum days, where I did it to help species names stand out in a post so that anyone speed-reading could instantly home in on the important stuff. With fish I do neither. It just doesn't seem right somehow. I can't explain why not, it just doesn't. So, there we are, a nice little idiosyncrasy to close with...


  1. Gav, how can I put this? birds, anyone can find. They don't belong to any individual and even the finder of rarities are barely acknowledged. So reports of birds are really about sharing them out, so everyone can see them. The bold lettering helps this cause.

    The fish thing is about the capture rather than the ID of the subject. We already know what we are after, and when we succeed, there's no need to embellish the situation.
    There's also the fact that catching a fish is a lot more difficult than hearing about it.

    After all, you mentioned that you and Rob have caught several 20lb plus pike. The actions and achievements of that speaks for itself.

    1. Ric, I think the pike success probably speaks of much jam! But that's an interesting hypothesis to explain my use of bold text for birds. An unconscious desire to share? Maybe. At a more mundane level, it occurred to me that if I used bold for fish, in some posts it would be the same species name highlighted multiple times. Which would be a bit tedious I think, and for non-anglers it's probably bad enough already!