Thursday, 5 May 2016

Tomlow (longest grass snake I’ve seen)

I used to work for the Forestry Commission many years ago and as such have seen many grass snakes but on Tuesday I came across the largest I have ever seen.  I know people tend to exaggerate but this one must have been about 3’ 6” long.  Trouble is she moved away before I could take a picture.  I say she because it’s the females that grow the largest.  She was sunning herself  in some warm grass and the look on Buddy’s face when he saw her slithering away was a picture.  The only other time I can recall him seeing a snake was on a bridge at Kingswood Junction but I think Buddy was more scared then and backed away as the snake slithered off.

Our cruising lifestyle has completely changed since Karen started working again on 26 February this year.  We have only covered 58 miles and been through 20 locks (an average of 6 miles and two locks a week).  This is still well within the spirit of our continuous cruisers licence.  As a contrast the previous 12 months we covered 1,132 miles through 1,079 locks at an average of 22 miles and 21 locks a week.  Karen works just outside Leamington Spa so you can see we have been getting ever closer over the last 10 weeks.

In the last 10 weeks we have only moved from Lichfield down to near Napton-on-the-Hill
The draft winter stoppages were published this week and as Karen will probably still be working in the winter I have had a look to see what impact they may have on us.  Selfishly (or fortunately) no stoppages are planned that will hinder our movement around this area over the five month winter period around Christmas.

As Wednesday was such a warm day I spent most of it at Stockton Cuttings searching for emerging Grizzled Skippers.  Although I spent nearly three hours there I was unsuccessful.  I met a couple who are on the committee of Warwickshire Butterfly Conservation and they told me that none had been seen yet this year – it has been a very wet winter and spring butterflies seem to be delayed in the Midlands.

Wild Strawberry (much smaller and sweeter than domestic strawberries) - a foodplant of Grizzled Skipper caterpillars
I get quite jealous each day as I hear of yet another new species for the year being found in places like Sussex and Hampshire.  At least I saw our first Small White of 2016 – 20 days later than in 2015, another sign that this spring is later than last year.

On Tuesday evening we were sitting in the cratch and this pair of swans came for their regular evening feast alongside the boat.  They nibble all the growth under the waterline and it makes quite a racket inside the boat – Buddy always gets a bit unnerved and sits up from his sleep.

A pair of swans on their nightly feed form our hull under the water line
When I had my fruit salad on Wednesday the swans were back and were taking a rather close look at the fruit.

Cheeky swan after my fruit salad

When Buddy and I went for our afternoon walk on Wednesday I went on the bike.  It's been pretty good round here for bikes as I haven't had a puncture for two weeks.  We arrived at some woods and locked the bike up whilst we had a wander around.  As luck would have it the back tyre was flat when we returned - still, at least we were less than two miles from the boat so not too far to push it.

It was when we got back home that I remembered that I had used my last inner tube patch that morning, to mend a puncture in the trolley - oh well, no more biking until we can find a place that sells puncture repair kits.

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