Watching boaters, or to give it its proper name "Itching" is a growing pastime.
Should you wish to join in, here are a few tips on what to look for to get you started.
The Lesser Spotted Livaboard.
This is also now officially known as "The Traveller".
This creature is quite solitary and can normally be spotted by the enormous quantity of wood that it carries on its roof.
Its habitat can be easily identified by its spoor, this is usually in the form of a pile of chainsaw dust on the towpath. The size of the pile normally equates to the length of time the Traveller has spent there.
The Great Breasted Twit.
This is a very secretive creature that has the unusual habit of placing its spoor in a black sack and depositing it in the hedgerow.
Spotting one is very difficult indeed as you could pass within feet of a Great Twit and not even realise it is there.
Should you actually spot a Great Twit going about its business, report the sighting to British Waterways immediately and they can start the cull to remove it from the canals.
The Red Shanked Rooter.
The Red Shanked Rooter is a more social boater that can be found in groups of two to four, there could be more in the group but this depends on the availability of a water point.
Approaching a Rooter colony by boat it is fairly easy to spot. The water takes on a very oily appearance and has a distinctive aroma of Diesel.
From the land you can find them with no great difficulty by the continuous chatter between them. The chatter is normally from frame type generators planted firmly to the bank.
This chattering also seems to act as a deterrent to the Traveller and the Swallow Tailed Mar- Ina who will avoid them at all costs.
The Swallow Tailed Mar-Ina.
This is the most social of the boaters and can be found in large flocks filling specially designed habitats. The spoor of the Mar-Ina is varied in form but fairly easily identified.
Some examples are:
Boxes of earth with protruding flowers spread along the pontoon, Solar lighting, Garden Gnomes, Hose Reels and in extreme cases a Shed.
The Swallow Tailed Mar-Ina can be spotted out on the waterway but this is normally around holiday times and sunny weekends. It is not for long though as the need to rejoin the flock is pressing.
Another peculiarity is that although it is moored at either end there is also another tether to the land in the form of a blue lead.
The Mar-Ina seems to depend heavily on this blue lead which might go some way to explain its short duration on the waterway.
In your Itching you might just be lucky enough to witness the sight of a heavily wood laden Traveller slowly passing a Mar- Ina and gazing wistfully at that blue lead.