It was the middle of June and summer had finally decided to arrive in Hampshire. I sat in a blazing 30 degree centigrade heat sweating profusely. It made me wonder how I ever survived Australia’s summer when temperatures were often 10 degrees higher than current. Night time over there was the worst. Even placing ice blocks on our toes and under our armpits at night did not help!
I had chosen to make the most of this gorgeous weather was munching on lunch by a small bubbling stream. The water was beautifully crystal clear. I could almost hear it calling out to me enticing me to dip in my hot toes. Obediently I obeyed ripping off my socks and shoes. I was pleasantly surprised at the warmth of the water. The burn was relatively shallow so was perfectly warm. Just as I was beginning to relax and forget about the woes of work I noticed a large ominous shape move across the riverbed/ It had large, front pincers or claws, eight smaller, thinner legs, a fan like tail and an abdomen made up of segments – a crayfish. It crawled along the gravelly substrate inching closer to my fleshy, juicy toes. Noting the size of its fierce and strong looking claws I decided not to leave my toes in for much longer. It reminded me of the yabbies’ we used to catch by the bucket load in Australia. I wondered if they would be as tasty.
White – clawed crayfish.
There are seven species of crayfish in the UK. Only one of these is native – the white-clawed crayfish. It tends to be brown but can often be blue. Looking back now I wish I had payed more attention to its features. I guess I was just worried about my toes! Here is a helpful guide if you happen to find yourself at the mercy of a cray (not the notorious London gangsters…although they were known to chop off body parts)!
|White-clawed||Brown/blue colour – <12cm|
|North American Signal (1970s)||Smooth bluish-brown/reddish brown – c.16cm – big, chunky claws|
|Narrow Clawed (Turkey 1980s)||Olive green to honey brown mottled – elongated claws c.15cm|
|Spiny Cheek (N.America 1990s)||Smooth and pale or dark brown or olive green – c12 cm|
|Red Swamp (N. America 1980s)||Rough dark reddish-brown – 10-15cm|
|Noble (mainland Europe 1980s)||Variable in colour = dark-brown, beige, red, blue….c.15cm|
|Virile (N. America 1990s)||Smooth chestnut/chocolate c10-12cm.|
As the anonymous crayfish crawled off (I swear it shook once of its great claws at me) I focused my attention elsewhere. A grey wagtail was flitting back and forth across the stream. I reckon it was catching a spot of lunch too. Its beautiful yellow breast shone gloriously as it danced about the water. I was quite honestly in awe as it twisted, turned and darted over the ripples catching flies. It was as if I had front row seats to the gymnastics at the Olympics! I think it had a nest nearby as it kept drifting back to the same spot – a small hole in a concrete bridge. It was either that or it was politely letting off some steam away from prying eyes. Before I knew it lunch was over. I headed back to the shop with the “tzeet –tzeet!” calls of the wagtail ringing in my head. It’s amazing what you can see in 20 minutes.