Fringe Box



Riff Raff Diary – January 2017

Published on: 9 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 9 Jan, 2017

Riff Raff Cottage and Weir

Riverbank tales from the local St Catherine’s lengthsman and weirkeeper

by Robert Craig

The low rainfall in December meant that conditions were good for getting on with the winter cutback on my length of the navigation towpath. This has now been completed and will help me to identify the areas of bank requiring repair as well as clearing the old vegetation making way for new growth.

At the beginning of December I was helped for a day by the Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers, the task in hand being to remove the encroaching ivy from the bargate stone wall by Langton Priory, just downstream of Ferry Lane.

On the day we also carried out some bank repairs on that section of towpath. A very productive day and the help was greatly appreciated.

With the cutback completed now I shall be continuing with bank repairs and filling in areas of ponding on the towpath, and also dealing with any hedging or tree work prior to the beginning of the nesting season.

Here are some of the birds I am currently seeing whilst working on the river:

A male gadwall duck. The etymology of the word gadwall is not known, but the name has been in use since 1666.  Photo – Wikipedia commons.

There are a group of mallards that have been joined by a single male gadwall*, who seems very happy with the arrangement. There are also dabchicks, grey heron, cormorants, long tailed tits, bullfinches, stonechats**, redwings, greater spotted and green woodpeckers, kestrels, and common buzzards.

Male stonechat. Both sexes have a clicking call like stones knocking together. – Photo Wikipedia commons

Wishing you a very Happy New Year.

See you by the river.

*In Great Britain, the gadwall is a scarce-breeding bird and winter visitor, though its population has increased in recent years. It is likely that its expansion was partly through introduction, mainly to England, and partly through colonization to Great Britain, with continental birds staying to breed in Scotland. It has been reported in the River Avon in Hampshire and Wiltshire. (Source Wikipedia)

** The stonechat is 11.5–13 cm long and weighs 13–17 g, slightly smaller than the European robin. Both sexes have distinctively short wings. European stonechats breed in heathland, coastal dunes and rough grassland with scattered small shrubs and bramble, open gorse, tussocks or heather. They are short-distance migrants or non-migratory. (Source Wikipedia)

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