We received a good bit of news at the beginning of the week when Degsy's neighbour Paul announced that he had managed to get permission for us to do some ratting on a couple of local fishing pits he uses. He is used to night fishing and camping over and on each occasion he has seen large numbers of rats around the lakes and refuse area.
The chance of some exercise for the dogs, midweek, after work is always a bonus and a new venue with all its unknowns is always welcome.
We met up, got the dogs in the cars, together with a couple of air rifles, lamps and gloves and set off on the ten minute drive. We left the cars near the gate and walked the short distance up the lane, the sky was devoid of any cloud cover and a large moon lit the fields and ditches. We could see the trees outlining the area ahead of us and after a couple of minutes we arrived at the first lake. We decided to discard our cases there and pick them up on the way back, as we were getting our air rifles out Bill and Belle who were both leashed began to scent the ground nearby. Bill began to mark the edge of a blue plastic bin and I let him off the lead as Paul released Belle.
Both were very keen, Bill got into the bin and started to root, nose deep in trash. He suddenly leapt out of the bin as if expecting a rat to escape underneath him, he did a circuit of the bin before we decided to pick through the trash within. As we lifted some of the debris up out shot a large rat. We managed to keep a torch on it as it shot across towards a large felled tree trunk. Bill and Belle, both waiting for this action were on it simultaneously and within the blink of an eye they had dispatched our first rat. This certainly got the blood pumping and set the tone for the evenings outing.
Both dogs were off through the cover, in amongst the trees and ivy surrounding the area. It was obvious that there must have been a good number of rats about and within seconds both took off after something seen or heard by them. On occasion we caught glimpses of movement across our path but the still high vegetation was a hindrance to the dogs and allowed the rats to evade them.
We called to dogs over and started our walk around the smaller lake, by now the dogs had found the edge of the lake and were paying close attention to the fishing stages and the reed beds that ran along the edge. Within the first couple of fishing stands both dogs had started to mark noisily at the end of one of these masses of reeds. They were in and out of the water and crashing through the reeds they could get to without getting too wet. Every so often they would become still and silent, it was then we could hear the sound of movement and occasionally something taking to the water.
As the dogs got more worked up and further into this mass of reeds I spotted movement near my feet and got the torch down just in time to see the rear end of a rat half run and half swim under the small jetty I was stood on. Seconds later both dogs emerged from the reeds in pursuit of this scaly tail. Neither dog could get under the stage and we weren't able to flush the rat out so we moved on, with so much lake still to get round there seemed little point in remaining in one place for too long. We were proved right, as we passed the next large reed bed the dogs began to mark and took to the water again.
Having heard and seen the rats taking to the water we took up positions either side of the reeds and waited to see if anything would be flushed again. The dogs crashed through the growth growling and barking as they went, the occasional wet plop from the edges of the reeds suggested something may emerge. Seconds later a small head rose out of the water, followed by the back and tail of a large rat. This one had obviously had enough of the dogs noise and disturbance and began to swim across the surface of the lake away from us. With the torchlight on it both of us got our shots off and both struck home, one after the other. One dead rat we wouldn't be retrieving.
The dogs took to the nearby hedge for a spell as we walked along suggesting to us that rats had been moving to and from the lake and bush. We carried on our stroll along the edge with the dogs working the cover and exploring any runs or bins we came across. The water level was high, but during the summer months it can drop and when it does it reveals a vast number of holes around along its margins that are inhabited by furry rodents. We could hear the sound of rats in the water as well as the odd sighting, or fleeting glimpse of movement under our feet through the grass.
Occasionally the dogs would disturb a family of moor-hens or a couple of ducks, rudely awakened from their nesting place, that would flee across the water. Both Bill and Belle ended up swimming, either chasing fleeing rats or through falling through what looked like firm ground.
We passed a large skip that is usually crawling with rats, but someone had set light to its contents recently so their food source had been removed. The signs around the skip were numerous but neither dog found one nearby. The larger lake produced more chases, one of which took the dogs into a nearby ditch but the cover was still too high to give them a decent chance out in the open. We were crossing our fingers for the first big frost to help cut back some of the greenery and will be looking forward to a revisit with the dogs and guns again. Only two rats but many more glimpsed and although we had three torches I think that we really needed double that or a large wide beamed one. Perhaps I will put that on my Christmas list for this year!
soz about the poor pics but they were with my mobile....better than nothing...