Monday 4 September 2017

A Pleasant Summer Update...

I thought I’d give an unusual summer update leading up to our annual fundraiser doo as there is always so much that gets left out through such infrequent Blogging. I’m bloody useless at this game.

Well, it’s been a very eventful year, so far…. Which I guess they all are in some respects.

Bickton continues to please and surprise, as does Project HQ, even after all this time.

The nice summer has meant that survival and growth have been extraordinary, both in the tanks and in the stews. And while summer is always a fairly pleasant time in the ARP year with just maintenance of stews, grass cutting and strimming and generally keeping it all tidy and manageable, it can also be very rewarding as the fish of all ages, throughout the system, are very responsive, especially to the feed buckets. You can almost watch them growing before your very eyes.

We had a slight oxygen stress situation in the extreme heat early on, but this was easily remedied with a partial water change and some extra aeration and feeding adjustments.

The population density in one tank in particular is higher than has ever been known, probably in the history of the project, yet surprisingly the growth rate is on a par with the rest of the tanks. By now I’d have expected a slight natural arrest in growth (nothing to worry about, as once moved to the stews they all catch up and pack on the weight).
This huge number of fish generates an increased competitiveness at feeding time and the fish actually shatter the surface of the water in a kind of frantic feeding frenzy – of course, they don’t know I’ll be back a bit later with more, then again in the morning and afternoon and every bloody morning and evening till they move on to the stews and river and just forget about me – not even a phone call, a letter; nothing! ... Ungrateful little bastards!

When I move on to feed the next tank it sounds like someone is having a wee in a bucket next to me.

The whole project has been pretty mind-blowing of late with us now even having two stews full of fry from the spawning of the few adults we missed when netting for release into the river in March. It just goes to show that they will just get on with what they do if given the chance. These fish will have spawned within a month of us trying to net them for release. This confirms that the fish we did release will very likely have also spawned shortly after in the river. Nice thought eh? And, of course, that’s what it’s all about.

It has surprised us just how many manage to evade capture when we do the netting, despite running it round a number of times with many expert and experienced hands on the ropes until we catch either none, or just one or two. It is as the water clears and warms, and the fish become more active we realise we have missed as many as fifty individuals in some cases, which account for quite a lot of spawn, hence the stews appearing full of fry as the warm weeks and months pass.

This also answers the latest question being asked of whether the issue with Avon roach could be down to Avon water having some kind of effect on the health and wellbeing of the species (For the record, I have never believed this, but folks are free to ask what questions they like. I feel certain that some folks get more from asking almost impossible questions than trying to help find the answers… Well, our Avon Roach are living and growing happily and breeding successfully in Avon water in our stews, so there’s the answer. It would, however, be very difficult to prove definitively without our project – then just imagine all the ‘experts’ inferring, portending, cogitating and extrapolating the almost unanswerable… The eye of the storm is a very cosy place to be, sometimes).

The escapee population in our feeder stream are also sharing space with their own young, which is really uplifting and encouraging, and perhaps further evidence that there is a strong likelihood that the fish in the river will be enjoying similar success.
Reports continue to filter through of multiple catches of roach being taken in single sessions from throughout the river. Indeed, just this week we were told of a single catch or roach of more than twenty fish from just a few ounces up to one pound two.

Spawning was very successful in our new lake at Bickton also this year, so there is yet another ARP box with a big fat tick in it.
As I write this, stress levels are just entering orbit as we frantically deal with final preparations in the countdown to our annual fundraiser doo on 30th September.

Finally, once again, I’d like to thank everyone for the fantastic support and encouragement.

One of eight tanks stuffed full of four month old Avon Roach.
Feeding time reveals the most extraordinary high stock density.

I might move this lot, and probably another three or four tank-fulls, to the stews at the beginning of the winter,
when the water is cold enough, rather than the latter part as they’ll probably be better off over-wintering in
a much larger environment.

While it is an amazing sight and achievement, it does have its risks with so many little lives in one small place.
Astonishing, nonetheless…

It’s not long before the first helping of food is almost gone. I tend to give them two or three helpings at each feed;
walking round and round the garden assessing each tank as I go….
Sounds like I know what I’m talking about, doesn’t it?

It is, of course, tempting to just stand there heaving the food at them, but this can be as dangerous as under feeding.

They get fed according to appetite and as soon as they show less interest, I stop.
Little and often is best, as with anything; even us, I guess.
We might manage two curries in a day, but not at the same time.

Bickton is looking good, with the grass cut and margins strimmed.
This is a view from the shed across the feeder stream in the foreground and over stew number one and zero beyond,
with the lake beyond that and round to the right.

Bickton stews looking back down the line of nine.
It’s difficult to get a real perspective from this angle and this height.

The margins of stew number one. This stew should be empty of adult roach,
but this little lot evaded capture last March and have now successfully spawned, and are thriving….
We’ll get ‘em next time.

Same spot in stew one, but here a few of the fry are visible in the foreground.

At the far end of the ARP plot, stew number six is brimming with roach which are the ones we’ll be netting for release this coming March. Even here, there are much larger roach which we missed when we netted a few years ago, and these too have spawned. You can see here that at feeding time the fish disturb clouds of silt and bubbles. We love it.

This is a shot of the 1+ fish deposited from the tanks to the Bickton stews last March. A year and a half old and growing like stink.

A close-up of the same group of roach. This is their reaction to just one scoop of feed. It’s images like this that make nice warm summers even nicer and warmer here in Avon Roach Project Land.

Some of our little population of escapees in the feeder stream enjoying being spoilt rotten with regular feeds.

There are roach of all ages in here; all thriving in this little stream, demonstrating how adaptable roach are and how they’ll flourish if they are given the chance.

As you can see, feeding time is quite special here as well, for them and us.

This picture shows very clearly the different sizes of roach all living and thriving in our stream. If we are managing this accidentally, goodness knows what we are enabling elsewhere on the river and the streams through our crazy efforts. We estimate the largest of these to be around half a pound.