Nature’s Mischief

After many dry weeks, the heavens opened at the end of October, soaking 20 odd technicians connecting a new underground High Voltage power line across the Estate. Nature playing havoc with mankind in more ways than one, as this small army of men was mobilised, due to a greater spotted woodpecker making its home in a High Voltage power line pole. It’s not the first time this has happened at Highbullen, as a couple of years ago a great tit nested in a transformer pole and the team of men who had come to do repairs were beat into a hasty retreat due to its aggressive behaviour protecting its nest. I presume that when the lines are checked by the helicopter team, they can’t see such small residents! To top it off this summer, a series of intermittent power cuts over a summer in the past was attributed to a bull rubbing a loose pole and shorting the system.

But the clash between our natural Exmoor surroundings and the day-to-day running of the estate doesn’t stop there, many years ago I peered over my local bridge at twilight to perhaps spy a salmon or otter, and with the river running low and clear I could see there was something disturbing the water, an otter. It had to surface and I would get a better view, so I waited and waited but it never appeared. In better light the next morning, I returned to see a ruptured water main discharging into the river, which was sorted very promptly by the water board. They were extremely grateful as they had been looking for this major leak for a couple of days, and I’m certain this would not have been beneficial to the environment. But it was rectified post haste, and over this last season many stated that the river is it the best condition it has been in for many a year.

November will see the start of sea trout, and some salmon cutting redds (Spawning Sites) in the clean gravel on the bed of the upper river. At present the river is too high and coloured to see this, but the onset of drier weather and some hard frosts will trigger these fish into activity. A brisk, early walk along the upper sections of the rivers flowing off Exmoor, and there is a good chance of seeing this happening. At least it is very easy to see the product of the Salmons’ final labours. Julian and I will walk the River Bray for a couple of miles the first week in November to count the redds, a good indication of the population of returning fish.

The last of the swallows and house martins left Highbullen at the beginning of October, although it was only a week until the first fieldfares arrived, in vast numbers, as our winter guests to feast on the wind fall apples. The smaller redwings and woodcock haven’t arrived quite yet.

On 23rd October we hosted the first shoot of the season, which was a great success, but there were no woodcook to be seen. I consider this a good thing, as on this shoot we leave them alone, despite many guns considering them to be a challenge to shoot. They are most often seen, if not spooked, at dawn or dusk as they fly out to feed in pasture fields, or also easily seen in flight at the edge of woodland on moonlit nights.

The wind and rain of yesterday have bought down all the ash leaves but the oak and beech are hanging on in there and with the sun at the right angle still produce the most inspiring autumn colours to be enjoyed in very mild conditions at present.

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