|a wonderful place for wildlife ... before otter|
It’s dawn and our naughty little otter has just returned to the scene of the crime, her wet footprints leading away from the pond by our cottage, trashed even worse this time because there were only half a dozen minnows that had survived for her to hunt since the last attack. If that is all she can find to eat it is symptomatic of deeper ills and I certainly worry for her future and that of the rest of our rivers wildlife.
|... and after ... the trashed and fishless remains|
We used to be privileged to receive regular visits to our garden from kingfishers. They found a minnow banquet waiting for them, especially valuable when the river was a raging flood but what now? If kingfishers don’t eat for three days, they die. They have already suffered a 30% decline this past year.
|Paintings by Rodger McPhail from our 'Catching the Impossible' book|
|male and female minnows in breeding garb|
God help us if we believe what the media tell us about how good our rivers are now … and even worse if we believe that otters provide a ‘litmus test’ of the health of a river as told us by the BBC among others. I was taught that predator numbers are controlled by the abundance of their prey. So with otters having to hunt minnows in garden ponds and ten otters having been killed on Dorset’s roads in just three months before Christmas, I believe that this not only indicates an increase in hungry otters but a lack of suitable prey … and if you release captive otters into a river system, does that make the river healthy? No, I don't think so either.
|RSPB's Mike Clarke with Minister Richard Benyon|
|the updated version - not much has happened!|
|will politicians ever look after our freshwater ecosystems?|
|water gives life to all, including us!|
|some birders find them attractive|
|dramatic decline of roach in our local River Stour|
|simply too many eating too much c. Stewart Canham|
|Matthew Wright, Guy Linley-Adams, Paul Knight, Janina Gray|
|changing anything for the better is a long process|
|Matthew Wright, TV and radio presenter and journalist in full flow|
- Abstraction leading to low flows.
- Diffuse and spot pollution from agriculture and road run off, killing fly life and even fish themselves.
- Fly life has declined by 70% in many places
|mayfly c. John Slader|
|increasingly rare despite protection c. John Slader|
|the 2012 smolt run down by about 50%|
|it's out there and spreading - bio-security required now!|
|killer shrimp a major threat c. EA|
|Himalayan balsam destroying river banks|
|more algae than ranunculus c. John Slader|
|Paul Knight trying to convince the Minister Richard Benyon to act now!|
|R.Test trout but not a healthy sight c. John Slader|
|S&TA's CEO Paul Knight and scientist Janina Gray with Matthew Wright|
What’s more, fish are far more difficult to research than birds so the truth of their declines is always going to be difficult to substantiate. We must hope that this recent S&TA initiative, produced at great expense, leads to the government being forced by the EU to uphold the law and actually provide the funding to save our rivers.
|suffocated with algae c. John Slader|
|great crested grebe by Rodger McPhail|
|spectacular strike action from my adventures in Scotland|