For just over ten years now I have lived on the river with my partner. This is not something I’ve ever planned. I met him, fell in love and soon after moved on board. When we first met he had a beautiful 70 foot nearly 100 year old narrowboat. It was wonderful and he’d fitted it out great, but we soon found out that it just wasn’t big enough. So when the opportunity to by a dutch barge became available, we jumped at the chance. 

Roll on 9 years and we have finally ‘finished’ and complete renovation and are loving enjoying life on board and I can finally swim at home!   All the work was done by us apart from the wheelhouse exterior. The interior of that was however finely fitted out by my talent partner Glenn. It is now a beautiful bar / hide! We have 360 degree views of our surroundings.  

So I thought I’d tell you about some of the wildlife encounters we’ve seen from there.  

I’ve been struggling for inspiration to write a blog for ages now. But today after I got back from a swim my OH called for me… ‘Jules, it’s the seal’. ‘WHAT’ I replied!!? I couldn’t believe it. We’ve been waiting for weeks to see this new and unusual local celebrity. There he was, lounging around at the back on the boat. 

Actually in the pool which I sometimes swim in! We couldn’t believe our eyes. He was sooooooo big. A gorgeous Bull seal.  I managed to get a little footage of him. We thought he might be stuck (he looked a bit like how I feel after a big meal)!  

Interesting seal fact… They can hold their breath for up to two hours! I’d love to be able to do that! That’s some serious Wim Hof skills!! 

Hopefully he’ll be a regular visitor!   I much prefer him to the Eels. Although they are quite facinating in their own way.

Eels by the boat.

Another regular are the Kingfishers. I’m pretty sure we have a pair. Most days we can hear them whizzing around the island. Sometimes they land and we can observe them in more detail. 

Kingfisher viewed from the wheelhouse.

I was sitting in the wheelhouse having my lunch the other day and I’m sure I could hear a pair talking to each other. Such a joyful sound. It is March, so you never know. We could have some babys on the way!    

Kingfisher fact… The brilliant blue of the kingfisher’s back feathers are not the result of pigment, but the result of light striking specially modified layers of feather cells.      

We are lucky enough to be somewhere where we can observe wildlife up close. Every year we have breeding birds nesting here. One year we had ducks nesting in the flower bed on deck. It was quite a drop when they finally fledged the nest. They made it though!! They’re tougher than they look. Although the Pike do like to eat them!   

Other birds include the magnificent Heron. They are so Jurassic looking. The ones here have been very successful breeders and we now have a few youngsters flying around. I love to watch them.   

Heron fishing in the snow.

Most years we also have Swans and Geese nesting here. I have been lucky enough to have witnessed them through the process. Some years I have even watched them hatching. Some times they make it to the river. Some times they don’t. 

One year a Mink caught a Cygnet as they were leaving the nest for the first time. Thankfully the rest made it. I think three survived that year.   

We have a love hate relationship with the Geese here. Because it is such a small area and there are so many of them. They become very loud, also bickering with each other (sound familiar)!? 

There are Egyptian and Canadian Geese here, the Egyptians sit on the wheelhouse roof making a lot of noise. Trying to chase others away. The Canadians tend to stay on the island, although when the time comes they do try they’re best for a spot in my planters on the deck. Nice and warm and cosy up there, away from any preditors. We do try and discourage them. Otherwise we would never get any sleep!   

Once the nesting period is over, it all becomes and bit calmer and the cuteness comes. The river is dotted with tiny balls of fluff. All posing for photos and getting food from whoever and where ever they can.   

Mildred and her ducklings

It is a wonderful time of year. And always a sign of hope. Something we all need in these challenging times.   

I hope you manage to see some wildlife where ever you are. Of course I realise that I am very lucky to be surrounded by this wildlife. I just wanted to share it with you and hopefully bring you a little joy.   

Thank you for reading. Please do take a look at my Etsy shop and website shop for all the products I make which are inspired by my surroundings and life on and in the water. 

#TheThamesMermaid  

Here are few other sightings from here at the barge.  All photos taken by me.