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Wednesday, 18 November 2015


Repeated from my other blog: Nature is never far away..., hope you enjoy!

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You know that excited knot you get in your stomach before something really exciting? I felt that this week. 

What was I doing? I was minutes away from ticking off something that's been on my bucket list for years. I thought I'd have to make a special trip - maybe to Scotland - to tick this one off so had ruled it out for some time much later. But...

On Sunday I got a tip off from a friend that at a weir on the Derbyshire / Staffordshire border Salmon were leaping. Bearing in mind that its hard to get much further from the coast in the UK I hadn't even thought to check that this spectacle would be available to witness just 30 minutes drive from my house. Needless to say I didn't need to be told twice and immediately made plans to get over there as soon as possible. Two days later that I was walking the short river side footpath up to the weir; that was when 'the knot' arrived. 

This was the view that greeted me as I made my way down the bank of the River Dove. Although I knew the Salmon (and Sea Trout too) had been seen a few days before we had also had a few days of torrential rainfall. I was expecting the water level to have risen, and I wasn't sure how this would have affected the behaviour of the fish. I needn't have worried as it turned out, they were still very busy. 

Just seconds after I approached the weir itself a massive Salmon leaped clear - box ticked, but I wasn't going anywhere! A few of the people there (word had got out, in fact I was relatively late to the party!) mentioned that when they had been a few days before, with lower water levels, the fish had been leaping more.

While the fish were leaping there wasn't a lot of succeeding going on - none in fact. No-one I spoke to had seen one make it, and if you take a look at the picture above you can just about see a steep step right at the top of the weir. I'm not a fish expert by any means, but I would be amazed if any fish could make it up and over that last seemingly insurmountable obstacle, especially with the water running as fast and as high as it was while I was there. 

I allowed myself the luxury of just watching for a while, I've missed too many natural spectacles by trying to get them on camera. Also when I first arrived there was a bit of queue for the good spots so I initially had to watch through a small screen of trees, leafless of course at this time of year so I could still see well enough but it would have been pointless with a camera. I never kept track, despite having intentions to do so, but I would say there was a leap or at least some visible activity every 2 minutes or less, with occasional flurries of activity which drew excited calls and cheers from the observers. 

Trying to describe the leaping itself is a bit of a non-event, it really is something you have to see to capture the magic. If I told you I stood for two hours by a river bank on a grey November day and watched fish of varying sizes jumping about and failing to get to their destination, you might think I had a very dull life for that to be a better option... but it was thrilling. Better than the cinema any day, and the tickets are cheaper! 

The suspense is tangible, you never know exactly what's going to break the surface next, or where, or when! You can't be sure whether it will be a tiddler 40 yards away in the shadow on the other side of the river or something like this...




Now I wasn't there to take photo's - I was there to watch, but I wanted to make some record of breaking my Salmon duck, if you get what I mean. When I initially set the camera up I just left it on a tripod videoing so I could watch without being distracted. Later I attached a remote release and set it to continuous shooting so I could trigger the camera without having to have my hand on the shutter button. It was just a few minutes after I changed to this mode that this monster leaped just in front of me. I'm guestimating but this fish has got to be more than 2 feet clear of the water at the highest point of its arc. 

Still images just doesn't convey the power of these fish or what they are achieving here. Even the video's don't quite do it justice. I've managed to condense over an hour of footage down into just a few minutes. 

While the fish stole the show, the river wasn't entirely devoid of other natural interest, although not exactly teeming either. Not long after I arrived a pair of mute swans winged their majestic way over the weir and down stream, their loud wing beats clearly audible even over the rushing water. Later a Kingfisher whirred down stream looking for all the world like someone had put it on fast forward, they are so fast aren't they! Its brilliant blue wasn't looking at its best but I suspect this was mostly to do with the light on the day, which was, to be kind, soft - it was pretty grey and miserable to be honest, but as no rain fell I refuse to complain.  

Eventually I had to call it a day and get home and get on with some work. I'll try and get back before the run finishes - just because it's ticked off my bucket list doesn't mean I won't make the most of this awesome (in the true sense of the word) natural spectacle so close to home again.


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