A word on: THE NATURE

This morning we woke up to the lovely sound of rain pattering on the steel roof above our heads. A soothing, cat-snuggly-on-my-feet, this-is-the-life moment for me; a frantic, leap-out-of-bed-for-the-nearest-saucepan moment for the Owl.

On my way to the station I passed a fleet of ducks, sheltering head beneath wing on a weed-float in the middle of the turning pool, and a scattering of small gulls sailing about industriously. They weren’t having as much success as after the catastrophic rains a few weeks ago, but more on that in a minute.

Dick and Liz occasionally pay us a visit on their way to the barrage and back – they live a little further up-stream.

20130809-195040.jpgMother Goose pops by regularly with her two teenagers for an overnighter on the orange tub. She knows her game and is right over for a biscuit (never mind the kids) the second she spots a likely biscuit-bet up on deck.

We have a host of commuter pigeons who come home (presumably from a hard day’s hustling in Trafalgar Square) to roost on the Grain Store every evening after a sociable pint or a dip at the folly. Inevitably, some individuals have more accomplished pro-flyer skills than the others who mostly skid, anxiously flapping, down the slope of the partially submerged metal tank in scant control, and reach the waterline all flustered and slightly embarrassed. But I saw one crazy gun actually hover, dip her fluffy undercarriage down and lift herself up again seconds from a major water-logging. I’ve never seen anything like it, foolhardy fowl (henceforth to be referred to as Maverick. Or maybe Goose.)

We even have the odd sight of a pair of these rare little beauties, who very occasionally alight on the folly to do a little waggle-tail dance and then disappear again…
20130809-200041.jpg At least I think <a href="http://this is what they are. It’s too far to really see let alone capture them on an iPhone, look, I tried:

20130809-201209.jpg (he’s the blob in the middle top right above the tank…) Whatever, just indulge me. The thought it might be brings a touch of magic to my life.

A Tribe Called Coot make a daily educational perambulation* down the gap between our boats and out around the edge of the river and back.

20130809-201605.jpgSo dangerous! Their obliviousness to the 60-odd tons of steel that could crush them at any point is humbling (it won’t, don’t worry – there are bollards holding us apart. Still).

(*I know they’re in water – but you should see their freaking feet)

And then these are some of the fishes.

20130809-202513.jpgOr at least, these were some of the fishes – until some bizarre, apparently ‘normal’ ecological crisis hit the night of the heavy storms, and they all woke up dead.

We initially thought it was because we were using too much soap, I’m not going to lie. But it quickly became too big for us.

The first sign (which I missed) that something was wrong was the sight of these dinky little flat fish kissing the surface when we woke up.

20130809-204846.jpg‘Cute!’ I thought as I left the boat. ‘Happy rainy fish!’. When I reached the weir however, this definitely didn’t look right.

20130809-205032.jpgAnd to the left, an outgoing tide of little white bellies heading relentlessly towards the weir (beyond which the gulls were having a field day) looked even wronger.

Almost immediately the Barking Community group email started pinging. One neighbour estimates he saw about two thousand dead fish float past on the outgoing tide. (The following morning these poor creatures were still anchored in the mud behind the barrage gates. The one in the middle was about a foot long and we reckon was a roach, if you’re interested.)
20130809-210321.jpgThe mooring managers called the Environment Agency who came down, did tests and found no chemicals, ruling out the ‘Beckton Sewage Works Bastards’ theory and reassuring us the seagulls at least would be ok. They did however find that there was no oxygen in the water. My little fish had been not waving but drowning.

Another neighbour circulated this link on the state of East London’s rivers from the charity Thames 21.

Toxic run-off from suburban driveways and roads, suddenly released from the banks into rivers by heavy rains. Which is as punchy and futile a conclusion about the terrors of inner-city Tarmac as I ever saw. He proposed a community clean up, which we pretty much all agreed with. It’s heartening how bothered everyone is, and how keen to do something.

But still. I feel weirdly frustrated, incompetent and dissatisfied. After a week’s holiday I’m working full time in town again, and most of these photos were taken during my week off, but still – I’ve not seen any more fish. The wagtails are absent.

Where are A Tribe Called Coot? And how can this be normal?

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4 thoughts on “A word on: THE NATURE

  1. Reblogged this on theowlnthepussycat and commented:
    I have not got the hang of posting drafts weeks after I started them. Hope this works. For the record, I wrote it yesterday and have been trying to post the sodding thing ever since…

  2. Amber says:

    Fish kills in low or no oxygen water aren’t too uncommon- here at least. Some of the shallower lakes here will have kills in harsh winters. They either freeze to the bottom, or freeze a lot of fish into one remaining pool of water, where they breathe it all up. If there’s a particularly bad algal bloom, they’ll die in summer sometimes, too. Our Madison lakes had a rough go last summer in the terrible heat we had, the water looked like pea soup. There were basically no fish for us to catch come ice fishing season. And yeah- agricultural runoff and other pollution run off does the same here. We had a very wet spring/summer, and with all the fertilizer run off into the waters here, there’s a lot more algae than normal- not a bloom, just a lot of green in the water.

    Oh, and if you want some more coots, we have a ton. When we go out duck hunting, we see tons of the goofy blue footed things. We can take 15 a day, but I don’t like the taste of them. They amass in huge flocks in Fall before they migrate.

    • Wow – I didn’t even know coots we’re migratory. I know I’m mainly being a city-lubbing rookie laced with slightly hypocritical middle-class guilt, and it’s all just part of life’s rich tapestry. Abundant wildlife and all that… But it was a somewhat sudden and brutal wake-up call, that’s all!

  3. […] weekend. We’re adding to a problem that’s already particularly bad around here (refer this post from the […]

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