The little Bullhead

Dwelling on the bed of our swift-flowing rivers is one of our commonest and distinctive fish species, the Bullhead. While it’s certainly a diminutive fish, it has a relatively large chunky head that does give it a certain bullishness. Another common name for it is Miller’s Thumb, probably because they are digit-sized and typically inhabit the kind of energetic rivers that were for centuries strung with watermills.

European Bullhead (Cottus gobio)

I think Bullheads must be really common in Sheffield’s rivers. Many a time we’ve inadvertently caught one when using pond-dipping nets to collect invertebrates from the river bottom. They squirm weakly in our dank catch of insect larvae, crustaceans and grit, and look accusingly at us with upward facing eyes. If it’s so easy to catch one from a small patch of riverbed then surely they must be down there in their thousands?

Apparently Bullhead are good dads. Female fish visit males and deposit around 100 eggs which the soon-to-be fathers protect and care for until the resulting fry are free-swimming, a level of parental care found in only a handful of British’s freshwater fishes. Neither sex is very sociable, preferring a solitary existence, and establishing small territories that they defend and occupy for their entire lives; tiny underwater fiefdoms of cobble and stone.  

In the mornings and evenings Bullhead become more active to feed. They are omnivorous and eat a wide range of food including freshwater shrimp, midge larvae, fish fry, as well as plant matter. They wisely stay hidden away in the daytime, sheltering in gaps under rocks, to try avoid their many predators such as grey heron, kingfisher, otter and brown trout. I think it’s a sensible approach to being a small fish in a big river.

Grey Heron at Northenden Weir by David Dixon is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Bullhead need well oxygenated cleanish water and for a long time they were absent from Sheffield’s grossly polluted rivers. That they are now thriving in the River Don in Sheffield demonstrates how much water quality has improved. They are hard to spot, but if you look into the Don and see a boulder or cobble, or maybe even a brick, there’s a good chance there’s one of these charming fish secreted underneath, waiting out the day until it can safely emerge for its supper.

Don Catchment Rivers Trust wins International Safety Award

Don Catchment Rivers Trust is named the winner of the ‘Seize The Opportunity’ award, in the British Safety Council International Safety Awards 2022 for protecting its employees from the risk of injury and ill health through their work.

Don Catchment Rivers Trust is one of the very few to become a special overall award winner in the International Safety Awards 2022, in recognition of its commitment to keeping workers and workplaces healthy and safe during the 2021 calendar year.

Small scale, socially distanced work sessions brought volunteers back together safely. Here, staff and volunteers are constructing a ‘leaky dam’ for Natural Flood Management.

Now in their 64th year, the International Safety Awards recognise and celebrate organisations and individuals from around the world who have demonstrated to the satisfaction of the scheme’s independent judges their commitment to preventing workplace injuries and work-related ill health during the previous calendar year. The awards also recognise organisations and individuals that have shown commitment to wellbeing and mental health at work.

The ‘Seize The Opportunity’ Award is a new category that recognises organisations that have gone the extra mile to seize health, safety or wellbeing opportunities resulting from a crisis.

Rachel Walker, Operations Director at Don Catchment Rivers Trust said about winning the award:

“The pandemic restrictions were for us, and many organisations, a crisis. We had spent years encouraging people to volunteer, socialise and enjoy our rivers and then suddenly our whole ethos and purpose was disrupted. We could not do our jobs as we knew them. Instead of shutting down, we decided now was the time to put everything we had learnt about wellbeing and supporting volunteers into practice, and we did that with a sound basis in health and safety.

Once restrictions started to ease, walks and talks were a popular way to re-connect

“The Trust is enormously proud of how our staff and volunteers pulled together to support each other through an unprecedented time, and we are particularly pleased to win this award because it shows the power our rivers and natural heritage have for supporting wellbeing. We thank all our funders and supporters for working with us to enable the Trust to make a positive difference at such a terrible time.”

Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the British Safety Council, congratulated Don Catchment Rivers Trust on their success in being crowned overall winner of ‘Seize The Opportunity’ in the International Safety Awards 2022. “The British Safety Council commends Don Catchment Rivers Trust on their achievement. The award is in recognition of their commitment and efforts to keep their employees and workplaces free of injury and ill health.

Announcing the winners Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the British Safety Council said:

“My sincerest congratulations to all the individuals, teams and organisations that have won a prestigious International Safety Award. The winners have made substantial efforts to protect and enhance the health, safety, and wellbeing of everyone in their organisations. All the winners, as well as those who were shortlisted, have gone above and beyond in dedicating additional time, resources and commitment to ensuring their work, teams and workplaces remained healthy and safe during 2021.”

Goodbye Rivers, Hello Lava Flows

9 months ago I wrote a blog about finishing my Kickstart position and all the amazing experiences I had during that time. Now I write as I am about to leave DCRT and move onto the next chapter in my life.                             

Next week I am going on a big adventure to the USA to start my PhD in submarine lava flows. I applied for this position around the same time I transitioned into my new role as Project Assistant for the Trust. I never believed in a million years that I would actually make it.

As excited as I am about starting this new challenge, I am also sad that I will be leaving DCRT. My time with the trust has left me with memories that I will never forget. Over the course of the last year I have learnt so much, not only about river conservation, but I feel like I have also learned a lot about myself as a person.

I would like to say a massive thank you to all the volunteers who welcomed me with open arms to the team last April. Over the past nine months I’ve got to know all of you and love the conversations we have while we are out on our volunteer days, I have honestly learnt so much from you all.

I would also like to say a huge thank you to all the team at DCRT. I felt so nervous when I started at the Trust just over a year ago, but you all offered me a warm welcome and supported me every step of the way. You are honestly the best team that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

So once again, thank you to you all. I will make sure to keep in contact and I will be following all your hard work on social media. I look forward to seeing what amazing work the trust will do I the future!

Finn’s week of work experience at DCRT

In this blog, we hear from Finn Davies on his work experience with the DCRT team.

I wasn’t certain on what I wanted to do after sixth-form before coming to Don Catchment River Trust. Someone drew my attention to DCRT and I thought I would go and see if I could do my work experience there as I have always had an interest in nature. When I emailed them to see if they could have me they got back to me very quickly and were so welcoming from the get go!

Having completed the week, I am now certain what I want to do, I want to work in conservation inspiring the younger generation in caring for the environment. Over the week I was lucky enough to have a number of different experiences including going on school visits which involved teaching the kids about the river and doing practical work with them. I also got the chance to go to a local park and do some fish filming which was really interesting as it made me realise there is so much nature so close to everyone. I did a volunteer day which was great as it allowed me to meet new people and help my local community. Last but not least, I got to help out in a local project providing activities for children along the river using activity boards.

Not only did I have a great experience, this also allowed me to learn loads of new skills and was a great inspiration. I learnt how important teamwork is, not only inside the organisation but between organisations and the community itself. I also learnt about many different steps that people could take to protect the environment.

A massive thank you should go out to the DCRT team and I could not recommend their work experience highly enough.