Nature Notes

If you spot anything of interest, please send it in and I can put it on this webpage.

Ducklings rescued by Dorset eel pass - August 2015

Ducks on the up:

The recently installed eel pass at Gundry weir, on the River Brit, Dorset is not just helping eels... but ducklings too. Up until the installation of the pass, ducklings would often be swept downstream and unable to return to their nesting area due to the steep steps of the weir. Bridport photographer Hilary Smith, spotted a mother duck rescuing her ducklings by using the eel pass to return upstream and managed to get a quick picture of them.
Roger Genge, fisheries catchment officer for the River Brit, said: "It's important to work closely with riparian owners, fishermen and those interested in the environment and we are very fortunate to have a good connection in West Dorset with Friends of Rivers (Bridport) who campaign vigorously for improving migration in our rivers. Hilary has also captured pictures of salmon leaping, but failing, to scale the weir before the Agency installed the fish and eel passes."
Note that the duckling uses the elver pass and mother duck uses the eel pass!

Water vole spotted near Bridport - October 2010

These two wonderful photos were taken by Hilary somewhere near Bridport. Apparently, the vole was trying to eat an apple and ended up rolling into the water with it. Water voles are being seen more regularly on the Brit in recent years; this may be due to a decline in mink numbers which are known predators.

Water vole: Lunch time:

Yellow wagtails

A pair of yellow wagtails appear to have returned to their favourite tributary, near Loders. Although they are too shy to get a good picture, it is lovely to see them bobbing off down the stream, keeping a tantalisingly safe distance ahead.

Water rail spotted near Loders

This month, in the Eggardon & Colmer's View, it was reported that a water rail had had a lucky escape after being caught by a cat and being presented, still alive and unharmed, to its owners. Since these birds are relatively shy, it is good to know that one was spotted near Loders and we will have to make do with snaps that are less than ideal, but still good evidence of their existence. These pictures were taken in March 2008.

Water rail: Note red bill:

Australian fisherman - Oct 08

Since local news is a bit thin on the ground, I thought I would put in a bit of a treat from Australia. On a recent trip to Rottnest Island, offshore Perth, we spotted an osprey which made a useful catch in the sea but then had to literally swim to the shore since the fish was too big to allow it to take off! After a short spell of drying its wings, the osprey finally managed to fly off with its prize:

Aussie fisherman: Getting his feet wet:

Off to lunch: Later that day:

Owls near Loders - May 08

Early in the month of May, two young owls were spotted in a nest very close to a local footpath near Loders. The chicks were quite unconcerned by photographers!
Two young owls:

When returning on another day, Mum was spotted flying off and then she posed on a branch in a nearby tree:

Finally, the chicks left the nest, but the larger of the two was spotted on the far side of the tree:
Tawny teenager:

Frogs & egrets Jan 08

A rather fine (if Common) frog was out and about in the garden in January, and John Hughes spotted frogs' spawn in his pond on 13th Feb which seems early.
January frog in garden:

Also, a white egret was spotted by the Asker near Loders, supporting evidence elsewhere that the bird is starting to colonise the south west. It had also been seen several times last year.

Pymore fish ladder cleaned out - 27th Jan 08

Local resident, Richard Gillingham led the way in a cleanout of the fish ladder which had become badly silted up after the recent heavy rains.
Opening a channel at the top:

Clearing the lower ladder (with moral support from John Hughes):

The lower ladder flowing free:

Know your snails!

On the first walk last year, from Jessops to Loders, John Blanchard spotted a collection of snails that looked interesting.
So see how many you can name:


If you can't guess them all, here are the answers! (kindly supplied by John):


Protecting wild brown trout

Check out this link to the Environment Agency to have your say...

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Trout- The Great Escape! Dec 07

Check out this link to the Daily Telegraph...
The link may not stay up for ever, please let me know if it fails.
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Kingfishers spotted Nov 07

After 2 years of tramping the river environs, I had yet to spot a kingfisher...
Then, one day at the St. Michaels trading estate in Bridport, I saw my first glorious example perched on a pipe by the river, just feet away from the road! A couple of weeks later, I saw another, near Loders, in flight. It was a dazzling streak of blue as it sped through the autumn sunlight.
Apparently, kingfishers are generally rising in number, which is a very good sign for the health of the waterways.

Torridge salmon March 07

Check out this link to the BBC...

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Otter due to global warming...? Feb07

The remains of an otter's breakfast have recently been spotted on the river bank in Loders:

Trout head: Back bone protruding:

It would appear to be the remains of a 1-2lb brown trout which was in perfect condition when first seen (subsequently roughed up a little by inquisitive dogs)

The clue seems to be the remains of the back bone that is still protruding from the shoulder section.

Salmon leaping at Loud's Mill Nov 06

Check out this link to the Dorchester Fishing Club Diary
The photo is a bit of a blur and unfortunately the salmon was not successful.
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Water Purity

The fresh water larvae(nymphs) of many flies such as the may fly, stonefly and fresh water shrimp are very sensitive to pollution and low oxygen. If these aquatic creatures are present in some quantity, one can be reasonably certain that the river quality is good. Absence or low numbers would give a contrary indication. Looking at the undersides of stones for these creatures will soon show the water quality

Bird life

Apart from the more common water birds such as mallard and heron, the water rail, moorhen, king fisher, dipper and egret have been sighted.


Whilst the water vole was plentiful some 20 years ago, the population is now very much reduced. They have been decimated by the mink. Otters are returning and have been seen in Loders and at Mangerton Mill


These are fast flowing, spate rivers. In the upper reaches, only trout, millers thumb, lamprey and eels are present.


Brown trout abound throughout the Brit river system, and there is a significant run of sea trout into the lower reaches. Salmon are also occasionally caught by anglers, and juveniles have been recorded in the lowermost reaches of the Asker.

The Brit and tributaries have been harnessed for water power for hundreds of years, both for flour milling and for industrial purposes, and many of the head-retaining structures remain, causing barriers to fish migration.