Friday 20 February 2015

Ripples at the fishing club

Individual fishing clubs in Indre-et-Loire are affiliated to the départemental FDP37, La Fédération Départementale de Pêche 37. This gives them the right to call themselves an AAPMMA - un Association Agréée de Pêche et de Protection du Milieu Aquatique, a recognised association of fishing (with rod and line) and protection of the aquatic environment. FDP37 is in turn a member of the regional federation l’Union Régionale des Fédérations départementales pour la pêche et la protection des milieux aquatiques des régions Centre et Poitou-Charentes (URFCPC), which is a member of the national federation la Fédération Nationale de la Pêche en France et de la protection du milieu aquatique (FNPF). Got that?

I'm what all the fuss is about. Blup.
Gradually the local associations of the communes bordering the Aigronne have merged so that AAPMMA « la truite de l'Aigronne » is now a body representing 114 fishermen of eight communes. Originally this was the AAPMMA of Le Petit Pressigny which has gradually mopped up the other associations. The latest to be engulfed (sorry, merged) are the Betz-le-Chateau and Le Grand Pressigny associations.

Reading the article in La Nouvelle Republique of 19th February 2015 gives an impression that the AGM on 7th February of the newly merged and renamed AAPMMA "the Aigronne Trout" must have been a rather distressing business. Although the association after the merger now has three vice-presidents, it was still necessary to appeal for younger members to put themselves forward for election to the administrative council, to be held on 21st November. The average age of those serving on "the committee" was too high for comfort. Anyone who has served on such a body knows what that feels like, and how depressing it is to be the junior member at 63.

As for the merger (le regroupement), that of the Betz-le-Chateau club and its membership had gone according to plan, so there would be continuity for the fishermen (and it is almost  exclusively men who fish here).

On the other hand, the dissolution of AAPMMA "la Gaule Pressignoise" - the Grand Pressigny fishing club - had not yet been achieved, the outstanding balance of funds had not been handed over, and the fishing tenancies for the sector were lacking. Should a grant to AAPMMA La Truite de L'Aigronne from the Indre-et-Loire federation FDP37 enable a release of trout on that species' nursery grounds, they could only release the young fish where they hold fishing tenancies.

FDP37 wanted to move towards a merger from the beginning. Despite lacking the prerequisites, "certain fishermen" of the former AAPMMA la Gaule Pressignoise want to form a separate club (or re-form the old club). They still have the fishing tenancies and the money, but they aren't an officially recognised body. Only an AAPMMA can issue fishing permits, with or without an official stamp for trout. You can only fish on the Aigronne if you have a permit, even on private land. Standoff.

Or as they say in the playground, "Fight! Fight!"

Normally, 100kg of young rainbow trout (not a native species) would be released into the Aigronne from the bridge by Moulin de Favier or in the Aigronne just behind our meadow, the furthest extent of their remit, in two batches about six weeks apart. Further up the Aigronne and the Remillon, in the communes of Charnizay, le Petit Pressigny, La Celle Guénand, 300 kilos of brown trout and 90 kilos of rainbow will be released, and on the Brignon, i.e. Betz le Château, Ferrière Larçon, Paulmy, Neuilly le Brignon, 50kgs of brown trout and 110kgs of rainbow. This adds up to rather more than three quarters of a tonne of alevins.

Electric fishing - sampling the Aigronne's population

The released fish are sterilised females. These grow quickly and look well, but they do nothing for the long-term population except to bamboozle the native males into attempting to breed with them in preference to the less attractive native females. The future of the Aigronne is a Category 1 trout-fishing river without breeding trout, and no amount of knocking down of barrages or regrading the river bottom will bring them back.

It is interesting to compare the attitude of the fishermen towards the native brown trout with the hunters' approach to the declining population of pheasants.The Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (ONCFS) have attacked the issue scientifically with careful study, planning and testing of results.

A sample taken from FDP37's website
The fishermen, with the LEMA law behind them, appear to want to knock down sluice gates to permit migratory fish to pass, and for the brown trout, do what they have always done: pour money into the water in the shape of little wiggling fish.

Posted by Pauline

Sunday 8 February 2015

Some funny looking pheasants

We have numerous gamebirds in the valley, Partridge, both Grey (perdix perdix) perdrix grise  and Redlegged (alectoris rufa) perdrix rouge,and Common Pheasant (phasianus colchicus) faisan de colchide. In summer we hear Quail calling from the field just across the road and from our meadow, often heard but seldom seen. Last year was a particularly good year for them.

The population of these species has regularly been augmented by the release of cage-reared birds (d'élévage). Such introductions have contributed to the variations in colour to be seen in the pheasant population.

Here's Jeremy - last year's king of the hill

And here's the new kid in town

At the end of January a most unusual individual visited us - a female pheasant, as could be seen by comparison with the other females with her.
She is almost black - actually a very dark blue-green - with a blue tail and silver primaries. She seemed rather more shy than her companions, who crowded down to the area under the feeders in gaggles. There were ten female pheasants feeding together at one point. She only just came within the distance my Fuji SL1000 can manage and nowhere near the feeders.

Hold your head up, gel. That's a bit better.

We identified her as a melanistic Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus mut. tenebrosus), as much from the company she keeps as from the colour. She is a mutant, or a throwback to an ancestral hybrid. We have not seen her again.

Struggling for a closeup

Meanwhile on 5th February, this male individual was spotted in a garden in Pont de Ruan and recorded for posterity on Faune Touraine.

Copyright Jean-Claude Domenger, avec nos remerciements à Philippe Diard, Faune Touraine

This individual was logged as a green pheasant (phasianus versicolor), faisan versicolor, a Japanese species and as such a collection escapee, but in our opinion he's more likely to be a melanistic common pheasant too, or a hybrid. His back and rump are blue when they should be olive-grey, and he lacks the beautifully patterned feathers draped around his shoulders like a stole.

Interesting that they should both turn up within the same week.

Ours is most definitely not a female Green Pheasant as they look almost exactly like a female common pheasant. Green and Common pheasants can interbreed and have escaped from aviaries, so he may be a throwback to an ancestral Green.
UPDATE: these melanistic common pheasants are known in the North of England as Blue Pheasants, and in Norfolk, confusingly, as Green Pheasants.

And this is a beautiful Green pheasant from Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium,
 Creative Commons's Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license
Melanistic birds like these are often used by gamekeepers as markers, because they are so visible. Groups of female pheasants stay together outside the breeding season (in other words inside the hunting season) and if he can see the black one, he knows where his birds are.

The statistics for these releases is astonishing: according to a study in 2008 on behalf of the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (ONCFS) a total of ten million are released annually across France. Despite the releases, the ONCFS found that the number of pheasants in France is decreasing.

The ONCFS studies highlighted the patently obvious: that the ability of cage-bred pheasants to adapt to life in the field is poor and becoming poorer.
In order to provide that volume, breeders have a very small gene pool to dip into. The birds are in-bred. Not intellectually gifted to start with, pheasants are getting increasingly stupid. I can vouch for that: I once had to brake to a standstill on a road in North Yorkshire that was blocked by escaped young pheasants milling around unable to decide what to do. They are dismissed by French shooters as 'faisans de tir', and by anglophone hunters as "no fun to shoot any more". I will leave to the imagination the sort of hunter that shoots them.

The ONCFS has put in place a plan that will develop a stock of pheasants by natural population growth.

This includes
  • a three year moratorium on the shooting of naturally - reared pheasants
  • a ban in certain places on the release of pheasants
  • released birds to wear wing-rings or "ponchos" indicating that they may be hunted. 
  • certain communes have a "plan de chasse faisan". These apply different combinations of the three different actions above. Our commune is not one of them, so release and shooting go on as normal here.
A local bird wearing a yellow "poncho" turned up three years ago at Braye-sous-Faye.
Colin & Elizabeth blogged about it here.
Pheasant with a poncho, plus pheasant-wrangler's thumb.
From Ducatillon sales brochure, according to whom this is a female.
According to anyone else, this is a male.
Not just the birds then.

Every release, be it a spring release of young adults or a summer release of juveniles, is to be followed up with a population study to see how it pans out.

You can find the website of the Fédération de la Chasse de L'Indre-et-Loire here, and their page on pheasants here.