Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Messing about on the river

I've always wanted to live by the sea but living perhaps as far away from it as it is possible to get in the UK, I've had to settle for hours spent by a meandering stream.

I've tried my hand at the floating fly with some success and landed my share of coarse fish, but seem to spend most of my time gazing wondrously at the flora and fauna that abound near the water's edge, particularly in the summer.

Whether it's the glut of a mayfly hatch, as songbirds stoop to take their share of the winged plunder on offer, or the sight of an unfamiliar and beautiful flower on the bank, being near running water holds a special charm over me.

I took the dog down to a shallow stretch recently to gauge his appetite for water work. In true style, he was in and retrieving before either of us had a chance to think about it.
But while I was there, inevitably my mind strayed. Small boys unnwittingly did their bit for conservation in the dappled pools as they rootled about under rocks for the destructive alien species of crayfish; a Kingfisher piped past with that umistakeable whistle and flash of burning blue; and fry of all varieties darted and sashayed through the cool, crystal water.
I know it's been opined many times before, but it's true what they say. There's nothing so nice as messing about on the river.

Red Kite

I saw a red kite wheeling over the back of our house last week, soaring in that angular, almost prehistoric way they have. It quite made my day.
It is the first I have seen in such close proximity to the village, and considering only 10 years ago I was travelling around the country to catch a glimpse of these magnificent predators, it demonstrates a remarkable resurgence in their numbers.

It was a tradition that on the May Bank Holiday my then girlfriend (thankfully now my wife) and I would travel down the M40 to Stokenchurch to see Red Kites mewing and planing across the chalk hills of the Chilterns where around 50 pairs had been introduced, I believe sometime in the late 80s.
We then lunched at a favourable local hostelry and chatted enviously to locals who told us the birds regularly swooped over their bird tables as they scavenged for scraps.

The afternoon would be spent around local bluebell woods, marvelling at that incredible palette of blue that seeps from the gloaming under the trees. After a pleasant couple of hours following badger tracks and birdwatching among the trunks, we would head home and open a bottle, feeling we had been part of a small but important natural success story.

I can hardly believe that today I can walk out of my back door with my binoculars and find a kite or buzzard hunting alongside me in the local rides and hedgerows, where once only the humble kestrel ruled the skies.

Screaming of the swifts

Spring is getting close to top speed and ready to burst, full-stride into early summer.

We've had an outstanding few days on the weather front, helping to remind me that when we get our dose of decent sunshine, there's nowhere better to be.

The evenings now draw on incredibly late and it's still light enough to walk the dog at 10pm. Those dark, dank winter days seem like someone else's memories, so distant do they seem while I sit sipping a G&T watching the sun go down.

Surely someone somewhere has carried out a study which proves that people are happier when it's sunny? As I write, I can hear kids playing outside, and the smell of burning charcoal wafts through the open window as barbecues get dusted off and wheeled out for a chance to cremate some meaty offerings.
Birdlife is frantically busy, nest-building and chick-rearing, with barely time for a few hours' sleep before the sun is out once more and the whole process begins again. Cats are prowling all hours too, taking their massive toll on our songbirds.

Another added benefit of having a dog is that these furry feline marauders are kept out of the garden. Diesel's training is going well, with multiple retrieves and even some water work taken in his not inconsiderable stride. The light evenings mean fitting this in after a day's work is no problem. The children adore him.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Eyes Have It

Well, as promised, here he is.

Diesel. The new gundog in the making.

Our first two weeks have been interesting to say the least. As you can see, he's a beauty of a dog, and big to boot. But I have to keep reminding myself that he is only a pup still at 11 months. He has all the puppyish attributes too; playing games, stealing cuddly toys from the kids, not doing as he's told when he gets an exciting new scent wafting through those nostrils.

But already I know we're going to have a blast. He follows me constantly everywhere, and whatever I am doing, he wants to be doing it too.

He retrieves dummies very well to the whistle, and obviously has a good nose; finding dummies or a ball thrown without his knowledge into a sea of young wheat takes him but seconds.

And last night, after I had been out and bagged a few roosting pigeons, one fell out of my game bag. Without hesitating, Diesel picked it up and brought it over to me, tail wagging.

I think we're going to have some fun.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Sorry seems to be the hardest word...

Well, it's been a while, and for that I apologise profusely.

Funny how life has a way of taking over things rather rapidly isn't it?

I have been mired in a similar state to many others thanks to the continuing economic meltdown and therefore busily trying to dig my way out of it! Hence, no blog update for many a moon.

More excitingly, I have take the plunge and bought my first gundog - an 11-month-old part-trained black lab.

He too is taking up a lot of my time as you can imagine, getting used to his new home and family as we get used to him.

We've only had him a week and it feels like he's already part of the furniture. I'm looking forward to bringing his training on and hopefully getting out with him in the field for next season.

I will update with some pics shortly and endeavour to keep you posted more regularly from now on. Good health and happiness to you all, enjoy our wonderful British countryside at its best.