American signal crayfish are an invasive species introduced by the government in the 70's as a potential export to the Scandinavian market, but these crayfish are carriers of a plague that is thought to kill our native species - the White-clawed crayfish. They also tend to dominate the smaller native for food and river habitat. The native White-clawed crayfish is now an endangered and highly protected species. The American signal crayfish is found in huge numbers on some chalk streams with their burrowing riddling the banks to the point of making them unstable. Trying to eradicate the crayfish by licensed trapping works to a point. But if only the larger adults are removed then this method tends not to be successful as apparently the adults eat juveniles so the result is more juveniles survive thereby increasing the population yet further!
River keepers try to keep the numbers down and the large numbers trapped are popular with restaurants! Vicious things though with their claws. The creature in this image is clearly cross and would gladly have grabbed my finger and squeezed harder with its teeth lined claws.
Probably the most photographed scene of the River Test - the eel traps and fishing hut on a beat of the Leckford Estate. A view that has probably not changed in a hundred years. This evocative scene is visible to all from the public road.
The photograph will be in the book as part of the section on fishing beats.
Sadly, the image above was taken last Tuesday only 3 miles from the source of the Wylye. The river here should be crystal clear running over clean gravel, but instead the river bed is covered with this revolting algae and the sparse ranunculus is choked with sediment. The spot where this shot was taken with my underwater compact camera is only two hundred metres from a dairy farm beside the river and fifteen metres from the outlet from a cress farm.
My book is mainly a photographic record of and lay guide to our wonderful, rare and precious chalk streams and to highlight the rich variety of wildlife they support. My aim is to illustrate why they should be preserved. At the end of the book however, I have a section on the threats they face. This stark image demonstrates this all too well.
I was lucky enough to see a barn owl while undertaking a commission for Anthony Edwards to photograph his fishery on the Avon. When returning to their car one evening, one of the fishery syndicate members had mentioned he had seen an owl quartering a field next to the river. Last Monday by early evening I had completed my target images of the day, photographing Anthony's house from distant viewpoints, so decided to walk around the fishery hoping to see the owl. On a previous occasion I had spotted a Little owl on a post, but it was some distance away and the only photographs I could get were of the owl looking the other way before it noticed me and flew off. However, on this evening I saw a Barn owl quartering the field and managed a few distance shots in the failing light. Quick reactions and a long lens achieved a reasonable result but with many wasted shots as the auto focus struggled to focus on the fast moving bird rather than the dominant woodland background. This and another shot shows the owl in the context of its hunting territory. My other shot I might use for the book shows the bird more clearly against the background of the field but less of the face which is such a distinctive feature of the species.