Saturday, 20 July 2019

THE HEROES OF KINGSBRIDGE

 
                      

Les caught several nice roach
War is a truly awful result of unresolved conflict but while horrible humans are in positions of power and corruption, they will always be a threat to our peace and safety. So we should be eternally grateful that there are those that are prepared to put their lives on the line to protect us and our country’s interests.

Casualties of these horrible conflicts are almost inevitable and though those who suffer are ‘only doing the job they chose’ we need to show our gratitude for their courage in any way that we can. So last week, the Wimborne and District Angling Club reached out to military charity Help for Heroes who support service personnel and Veterans whose lives have been effected by their military service and organised some fishing for them at our delightful three lake Kingsbridge complex in sunny Dorset.
Chris Yates talking quietly about the joys of stalking ... and it worked

WDAC Welfare Officer Sean Harris offering some amusing encouragement and leg pulls
committee member Ian helping them to catch lots of fish in the sun

Many of our members attended to help and coach those that needed it and everyone had a great day, with numerous fish caught, including roach, bream and many good carp. Several families of the servicemen joined in and caught lots too.


Rob Hughes showing the way to success
Rob with a pretty ghostie

There was even a BBQ laid on to sustain the Help for Heroes participants so they could catch even more and with England’s International Carp Captain Rob Hughes and the legendary ex. carp record holder Chris Yates there to help, a good time was had by all.
a happy gathering of friends
 What’s more, one or two who never have the courage even to go outside enjoyed their time by the waterside, maybe because they were among those whose easy and light-hearted manner allowed them to relax and catch fish.
 Keith with yet another skimmer

Veteran himself and club secretary Stuart's great friend Mark with another chunky carp
There is no doubt that angling provides rare healing properties and it’s the club’s intention to repeat the dose for Help for Heroes as often as possible. Long live those brave men and women who struggle as a result of looking after us all ... and what we all enjoyed on this day was the smiles and laughter. Happy days for all our Band of Brothers.
friend Steve finally landed this lean and fiesty carp after the sort of battle he enjoys
WDAC's indefatigable secretary and organiser of the event Stuart Hitchman enjoying the moment with Mark

Monday, 24 June 2019

PURE GOLD

                                                 
                                                  

 
Once upon a time there was a large gloopy hole in the ground and our club turned the mud into gold – crucian gold.

Those who bother to read our excellent newsletters will know that with the help of the EA, the Angling Trust and the Angling Development Fund, along with much extraordinary hard work from a core of volunteers, we now have a beautiful lake that is full of tench and tricky crucians, all of which are growing on at an impressive rate.
an EA tench fom Culverton which has grown very rapidly and become FAT!

the larger lake provides a welcome home to lots of carp to 20lbs
Both of the WDAC lakes at Edmondsham are full of fish and for those who think the cormorants and otters have eaten them all, you’re wrong. Only yesterday evening I counted 28 good carp and saw a shoal of big bream sunning themselves so where are you all? These are beautiful lakes to fish and as peaceful as they come, so I hope to share the waterside with you all soon.
friend Chris with a beautiful common caught stalking along the edge


a delighted Phil with a good un - what a fighter
Yesterday the club had the good fortune to be walked through some significant habitat improvements by our committee member Phil Turnbull, a freshwater scientist who worked for the Dorset Wildlife Trust and who sadly is now leaving the area to take up a post with the West Country Rivers Trust. But he came up with lots of ideas to enhance the lakes for fish and wildlife, so we have exciting times ahead and lots of hard work.

another special from the EA's Culverton Fish Farm - such a delightful creature and growing so fast
In the meantime I shall continue to try to winkle out a crucian or two from our new lake and the fact that they are difficult adds to the enjoyment. Having caught four now, I’d suggest you fish as close to the bank as possible with a tiny float and small hook, using either bits of sweetcorn or a 4mm banded pellet.
a top section of pole with the tiny float close to the edge - or you need a short rod
not long before this is a two pounder - maybe
 

tench don't come any cuter than this and proof that the lake is already producing ideal breeding conditions
Use maggots and you’ll be catching tench all day, though that isn’t such a trial is it! We’ve caught at least 50 tench in a session several times and though many are cute little baby ones, there are more than enough ‘proper ones’ to keep you on the edge of your seat. Good fishing by any standards and there’s lots of wildlife to enjoy as well.
 four pounds of elastic stretching muscle

our star club secretary Stu with a good un
I love it because it’s such a delight to be there, a perfect world of peace and tranquillity, until you hook one of the four pound tench and then you have a real battle on your hands … and if you get even luckier, you’ll fill your eyes with bars of gold – crucian gold.
few fish come close to matching the beauty of a pure strain crucian

For further info please visit our website _ www.wimborneanddistrictanglingclub.co.uk

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

OUR JEWEL IN THE CROWN

                 

the future's bright - the future's gold
If you’re a lover of wildlife, you’ll know there are places that you visit which touch your soul. I’ve recently returned from just such a place. 
                            
This place isn't grand, it's just a shallow half-acre lake surrounded by woodland and fields with a little river running through it. Neither is it ancient, for until recently it was a silted up hole in the ground which required three years of hard graft by members and volunteers to transform into a haven for wildlife. It's become very valuable.
carving the lake from the overgrown countryside with the owners blessing
 
thousands of tons of silt were removed


drastic measures but what a transformation
nature's powers of recovery are remarkable and when clean water is provided, extremely rapid

just a few of the large numbers of tench and crucians stocked into our lake
Why it has a magical quality is a mystery but lying in a hollow in a quiet corner of sunny Dorset, it is the very essence of peace and tranquillity, apart that is from the deafening birdsong. In just two visits I’ve already identified thirty-seven different species, so all of them think it’s a special place too.

With a steady flow of crystal clear water, weed growth is prolific, so the lake makes an ideal home for tench and crucians. The club has stocked lots of both this past couple of years and they are growing rapidly. They have even bred successfully. The water is alive with food and fat fish.
what a cute little tench, hardly out of nappies



all the tench are in superb condition and fiesty when hooked
1st May was the day our members were allowed to fish it for the first time so a couple of days later I arrived at sunrise to see whether our club had created the ideal fishery for some traditional angling.

The mist rose gently from the calm water as I carefully cleared a narrow strip in the weed, using a small rake on the end of my landing net pole very close to the bank.
 

Tench love weed and the food and cover it provides, so I was careful to only scrape out enough to provide a clearing for my tiny pole float and create a spot for my bait to rest on the silt.

Quietly lowering a small pole cup of chopped worms in dark groundbait along with a pinch of hempseed, pellets and maggots into the swim, I inched my little bit of worm over the top before enjoying the damp air rising above the willows and alders.

Those moments when waiting for the first signs of interest from the fish are as good as they get, though I didn’t have to wait long before the float tip trembled before being pulled slowly under. A gentle strike, a wriggling resistance and the fattest little tench lay in the landing net and made my day.

my very first tench from our new pool, tempted by a bit of worm
Luckily it was the first of many, so another little pot of tempting morsels was added to the swim after every couple of tench and didn’t they fight, stretching my elastic to the point where I thought I’d be broken. They were the most perfect fish, golden red-eyed beauties, the females so fat that spawning was surely imminent.

they are the most perfect example of tench
It was a little cool and early for the crucians to add to my enjoyment but they will surely be delighting us all before too many weeks have passed and I was more than happy with the eleven tench caught in the four hours I was able to escape the world. 

butter melting in the early morning sunshine
Chris casting into the future
They weren’t all small either, several being around the three pound mark or more and really feisty too. Neither did I  catch as many as several other members, so for our Wimborne Club, it has been mission accomplished.

a happy angler with a good 'un
Three years ago the WDAC set out to create a traditional tench and crucian fishery for our members and with the help of many volunteers and organisations like the EA and Angling Trust, the results are simply delightful. I’d strongly recommend you give it a try ; it really is a jewel in our crown.
Chris catching the future


For further info on WDAC membership and our other waters, please visit our website :   http://www.wimborneanddistrictanglingclub.co.uk/


Wednesday, 6 March 2019

FANCY DAN THE SPARROW HAWK MAN

it's disconcerting to be ignored by a hawk that is just eight feet from me - only this once did he pay me any attention
Many special events have happened in our wooded wildlife friendly garden but few come close to this summer when a pair of sparrow hawks decided to nest in the heart of our patch in sunny Dorset.

they are long gone now but the nest was up in the birch tree on the left
a Scottish nest photographed from a forty foot scaffold hide carefully assembled over three weeks to minimise disturbance
I have filmed them in several wilder places around the country and if one character epitomises them it is shyness, so to have a pair that decided we were harmless and allowed us to carry on gardening while they sat watching was remarkable. I write a lot about the privilege of living close to wildlife but this was as good as it gets.

our tame male at his fast food restaurant

Over the years we've seen sparrow hawks fairly regularly around the garden but the first time I noticed something ‘different’ was on the 16th January. A male was perched above the bird feeders in our magnolia in what I guessed he considered a fast food restaurant.

I took a happy snap or two from the office window, then crept downstairs to get closer to the target. Pics through double-glazing are never going to be that clever so I carefully opened the door and he didn’t even look at me, even when I stepped outside. He stayed for twenty minutes, looking around and preening, seemingly without a care in the world.

the female was almost as confiding as our male

He was back on the 31st, perching above the feeders close to the side of the cottage, I say ‘he’ but when I came to download the pics the eye colour was yellow instead of orange, so this was a female and tame too.

no wonder we named him 'Fancy Dan' - he was always preening his colourful feathers
He was back by the feeders on the 4th March and I decided to be bold, stepped outside and ever so slowly stalked to within a few metres. It was exciting being so close but he didn’t even bat an eyelid and stayed there for an hour.

the female was calling her mate as we dug the garden below

On the 24th the female was in a tall birch above us, calling to what had become her mate in the wood. 


Next day he was back by the feeders but I had to creep right around our wild flower meadow to get a clear shot and then ever so slowly stalked to within eight feet. It was a moment of magic. There is so much beauty in nature, usually at a distance but for once I could admire his colourful plumage intimately. Isn't he a little cracker!




I love this pic, the only sharp bit being his claw. I need a faster camera! 
It was disconcerting that he almost completely ignored me for half an hour, only glaring at me forcefully once and flying close to my head when he left to join his mate. He was good at providing food for her too.
our female eating a blackbird on the giant oak outside my office window

I left them undisturbed when they were mating for fear of putting them off

In early April I missed photographing them mating but the next few weeks I saw them do so several times and spent hours in the wood watching them collect sticks for the nest and building up the structure in a birch tree that we could see from our bed. The whole episode was quite remarkable.




they built the nest in a tall birch in the middle of our woodland walk

it was exciting seeing her breaking off twigs for the nest - the male helped a bit too.

she placed the twigs carefully on the base of the nest
building took more than three weeks as the leaf cover for the nest increased
They had decided our garden was home and nothing was going to convince them otherwise but we decided to be cautious so that they could lay eggs undisturbed and started to avoid walking under the nest. However, they seemed completely bomb proof and would happily sit around in the branches while we sat watching close by.
he was so cool he slept even when we sat a few feet away - quite remarkable

her tail just visible as she formed the cup for her eggs
By the end of April they had completed the nest and were paying a lot of attention to the cup, fiddling with little twigs and wriggling down to make it comfortable. By early May the female was laying and with a telescope I could watch her tail rising and falling as she forced the egg out.

Over the next three weeks the male brought food to her regularly and it was amusing to see them both chasing away any intruders to the area. They all got energetically pursued, wood pigeons, crows, magpies, jackdaws, jays, even grey squirrels. I imagined they quite enjoyed putting the fear of god up their visitors asses!

he would sit happily on the tree tops soaking up the sunrise while she incubated their eggs - it's a man's world

By early June we watched the female feeding small young and by now we had nicknamed the male ‘Fancy Dan’. He would regularly go and bath in the stream close to the nest, then spend hours preening in the sunshine. Who’s a pretty boy!

Fancy Dan at his morning shower. His mate would bathe in the afternoon while he did his duty on the nest   © Mike Read
A great friend of ours Mike Read came round to take a few pics. He’s a professional photographer with proper gear, [I just had a Panasonic ‘bridge’ camera with small zoom], so we were really grateful that Mike could take delightful pictures that did Fancy Dan justice.
he loved having a thorough soak in the shallow pools, spending many minutes at his ablutions   © Mike Read

his bathng became a daily routine so no wonder we called him Fancy Dan   © Mike Read
a different female eating a kill close to our nest - quite a surprise    © Jane Adams 
On another day we had a great friend round, Jane Adams, who hoped to see the chick being fed and Mum duly obliged. However, we were looking at Sue’s veg plot when a sparrow hawk zoomed across and landed with its’ prey in the nearby weeping willow. I assumed it was Fancy Dan with another kill but it was another female, only fifty metres from the nest where our female was feeding the chicks, surely a most unusual happening.

Fancy Dan would pluck some of the feathers off his prey before presenting it to his mate    © Mike Read
the food pass usually took place close to the nest   © Mike Read
our precious cuddly bundle would soon turn into a fast flying killing machine that are not always popular with bird lovers
Fancy Dan seemed to be providing plenty of food for the chicks but by early July there was only one survivor in the nest. Perhaps the tropical heat of our wonderful summer had taken its’ toll? However, the chick successfully fledged and within a few days the show was over, the birds dispersing into the surrounding woods. We were sad to see them go but were now free to walk under the nest again.  We had made a self-imposed curfew to avoid disturbing them too much.

We still see Fancy Dan occasionally as he sits quietly on one of his favorite perches or zooms past in pursuit of some intended victim and we’re hoping that they return next year to try to raise a family in our presence once again. It was a remarkable privilege for which we will always be grateful.

If you would like to see more of Mike Read's splendid pictures then please visit : www.mikeread.co.uk