Who am I?

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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!

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Friday, 20 January 2017

A Newlands armchair tick - get a life!

Blogland is awash with the news that the BOU (British Ornithological Union) has now decided to adopt the IOC (don't know or care) taxonomic species listings in an attempt at standardizing/unification. The Globalization of birding, exactly what science, not UK birders, want. World domination is the next stop? Those white coated lab rats will now be singing from the same hymn sheet - hip. hip, hooray! The implications for me are absolutely zilch - I care not a jot for any authority when it relates to"official recording" of our natural world. In my opinion, and only my opinion, it belittles everything I hold dear - the wonder, mystery and enjoyment of the creatures which co-habit the world in which I live. Humanity doesn't need to put a label on everything, yet seems hell bent on doing so. I recognize the requirement to understand our environment and the eco-systems which deliver the life supporting conditions under which Earth has evolved to where we're at now. It's a truly magical concept, way beyond our ancestors, so that's why they invented God! They didn't have DNA analysis - we now have. Evolution is, by definition, a never ending process, so what makes a race today might well constitute a species tomorrow?
How does any of this stuff manifest itself, as important in, our daily lives, the real world? We've just seen Donald Duck Trump sworn in as the President of the United States of America, humanity doesn't have much left to offer mother Earth, so what we do by way of maintaining data integrity will go to the wall as mankind continues to hit the self destruct button. Cheer up you long-haired twat! It's only birding - a game. Remember this, because it is very important, bird-watching is a recreational pastime, not a sport. The requirement for rules are null and void if watching birds is what you choose to do. If, however, competition is what you seek - (fuck off and play football) -  join in with the adrenaline junkies and take up twitching or, seek a more sedate route provided by the patch watch challenge scenario. None of this is important beyond personal satisfaction and fulfillment - every individual has that right to choose whatever course they like through life. If turning a simple hobby into a competition is where you derive maximum reward, away you go, along with many kindred spirits.

One of my patch highlights - this individual tagged along with the farmyard flock
for several weeks in early 2004

It could easily be that I'm the only one in the gang? I'm the odd man out, because I don't get it? It's not a situation that causes me any anguish - I'm very much my own man and happy in my own company. If this latest BOU decision is to be taken seriously, then Newlands Farm will have Taiga and Tundra Bean Geese on the list! My problem with all this highbrow nonsense is they already are!
My lists - I'll include whatever I like, I don't require a judge and jury (or a twat in a lab coat) to confirm that I enjoy watching birds!

I'd flushed a "Taiga" Bean Goose at Newlands as I walked to work in January 2008. It flew from
some stubble down towards St. Luke's, where Gadget was also to enjoy some time with this very
desirable patch denizen.


Birding purity!

There are a few species of bird which, although not particularly rare, are capable of lifting your spirits and making a day out just that little more special. The advent of the "Patch Watch Challenge" has seen interest in local patch birding rise to the fore. It still involves twitching mentality, numbers and league tables, but is conducted under very different circumstances. Personally, I'm not about to make a major "U - turn" and join in with this folly but have to admit, I am very much in favour of promoting the ideals of bird-watching from this angle, especially if it can be aimed at the kids?

Red - breasted Merganser in Ramsgate Harbour - the one I found, whilst pike fishing,  on The RMC
caused quite a stir amongst the local birders
So what brought me to this juncture? I've been working alone, on a manual packing bay, filling 1 litre bottles with a white ink that is worth more than gold! Plenty of time to allow my mind to wander, without compromising the quality of our operation - just in case the guvnor reads this? Once again I am keeping a year list, as I have done since the 1980's. but I'm no longer an avid lister. The birds I record will be those that cross my path, not some that I have diverted to because of third party information. It stands to reason, therefore, that my list will be a little sparse! However, just as nature has no concept of international boundaries, neither do my lists - I record what I see; wherever I see it!

Jack Snipe - a gimme on any serious "twitcher's" year list. To find one for yourself, on your local patch?
A moment to be treasured - very special.
There have been a great many occasions, when I have discovered a gem, whilst simply out walking; there have been a few more that have appeared whilst I've been sat behind the rods. The beauty of patch watching is the ability to escalate the status of any species to "rare" purely because local appearances being applied. Common birds, therefore, can become incredibly desirable when found under these circumstances. My own version is to take this mentality a step further. I simply remove the local boundaries and enjoy every birding experience that comes my way. No pagers, no social media, I see what I see - the rest? Who give's a f*ck? This has to be birding purity in its' most basic format. You see what you see whilst going about a daily routine.

This female Black Redstart was a right result along the cliff-top path at Foreness Point

I've experienced the thrills that full-on twitching are capable of providing, so there's no point in my pretending otherwise and assuming some higher moral ground. Purity birding, getting right back to the very basics of what got me started is now what ensures I am able to derive every ounce of pleasure, from whatever birding encounter I experience, in these latter years.

Red-throated Diver in Ramsgate Harbour


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Perception

Perception is an incredibly difficult thing because it is, by definition, an individual's concept of any given situation? "You only ever get one chance at a first impression" is something which Fujifilm SIS has been keen to flag up in order to ensure the company presents itself, in the best possible light, to any prospective customers. I am, however, a very firm believer in "Don't judge a book by the cover!" Possibly not in the same context as my employer's stance, but very important to my way of thinking - looking beyond the facade?
Work is something I do which allows me to chase my dreams. I don't mean a career ladder, it's all about pound notes in the bank. I go to work in order to enjoy my time when I'm not there - a very simple equation; earn enough to live, as opposed to survive! If the desire is to accrue more than enough then, in my opinion, it means you've lost the plot - money has become your master; a God, no longer a tool? The greed culture has drawn you in and now you're a slave to the mighty dollar? This is just an observation from a personal stand point; my perception. I have a many friends who are incredibly wealthy (as is one of my brothers - the one that doesn't go fishing!). I feel no jealousy about the situation - they've never caught a twenty pound pike, or watched their son do the same, seen a Golden Oriole, heard the dawn chorus in an East Kent woodland or spent time sitting quietly watching badgers emerging from their sett at dusk - probably never wanted to? Each to their own! Yet it is my ability to derive pleasure from the very things I see and experience which combine to make my life rich in these other aspects that no amount of money could ever replace, or purchase!
One of my most precious memories, besides the birth of my children and grand-children, and possibly best achievement, has to be finishing my first London Marathon in April 2000 (I've completed three). The feeling of elation, as I crossed the finishing line is unlike anything else I've ever experienced. Of course I didn't win it, that lap of honour would have killed me! No, four hours - thirty two minutes it took me, and I loved every second. The crowds were amazing, the vibe surreal and camaraderie unlike anything I have ever known. I have no idea what it feels like to win the lottery, but I do know that it won't be better than finishing your first marathon. I didn't win it, yet I felt like I had, such was the sense of achievement at crossing that line - I wasn't racing, I could hardly be described as a "runner" yet my self set goal had been accomplished and, as such, my perception was one of glorious success - I hadn't failed to complete my task, I hadn't let down the charities which I had been representing - man that felt good.
Once again, the spark for this post came via Steve Gale's blog. However it was not the post, but a comment, which drew my attention. A guy (?) using the pseudonym  Birdvillan had offered an observation about the futility of "twitching" before going on to suggest time would be better spent getting involved in conservation based activities. The use of the word "worthy" is really what grabbed my attention. What gives any individual the right to decree what is worthy, thus imply that something else is not? Think about it for a moment; because we are all, each and everyone of us who are capable of thought, guilty of this! We use our own, self serving, values to pass judgement upon the ways others choose to find their own version of happiness/enjoyment. We can't help it, this whole perception thing is a basic design fault that comes with being human. I delight in this facet of humanity - it is the very basis of being an individual and, without it, the world would be a much less interesting place. Sermon over - work tomorrow; I need the money!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

As fun evolves(and a stupendous twist)

My previous post was a direct response to a superb piece by Steve Gale on his North Downs & Beyond blog click here That I am inspired by someone I've never met, yet think of as a mate, is a positive aspect of these cyber times. I am sat here, in my study, watching gulls passing, en route to their Ramsgate Harbour/Pegwell Bay roost sites, hurried along by a very raw NW gale. Temperatures are hovering just above freezing, yet that wind chill is a killer. From the comfort of my desk, it is very pleasant to watch these birds going about their daily routine, yet I'm bloody sure it wouldn't be as enjoyable if I were on the harbour wall? My ability to use cyber space to share my adventures, and opinions, with an unknown audience is also something from which I derive immense pleasure. That Sue Llewellyn, my "O" Level English teacher, has no idea of how grateful I am for the flagrant enthusiasm she exuded, during my school years, is a little sad. I would love to be able to repay her faith by demonstrating just how important I consider the art of the written word is to me in 2017.
The light is fading fast now. Wood Pigeons and corvids are piling into Ramsgate Cemetery to roost in the many mature trees that are contained within the walls. The skies are leaden, the wind remains "brisk" - with the odd flurry of snow; it's not going out weather, that's for sure! Or, more's the point, I am no longer enthused to endure such hardships, in the name of enjoyment and that's slightly different? During my first period of obsessional big fish chasing, I am sure that such a day would have been seen as a challenge, in itself. Facing up to the elements whilst pursuing chub or pike would have been confirmation of my commitment and a demonstration, to my peers, as to just how seriously I took myself as a speccy hunter. Latterly, I suppose that my birding credentials would have been enhanced by the fact that I'd spent time sea-watching or surveying the Stodmarsh reed beds whilst awaiting the evening harrier roost, under these very same conditions. One thing is certain, if I wasn't enjoying myself, I wouldn't have been there!


All of this just reinforces the role that the aging process has upon an individual and their perception of what is important. From that angle, I am far from unique? I have mellowed, considerably, since my crazy youth and now experience enjoyment as a different emotion or, at least, a different concept? Long gone are the days when self aggrandizement was the key driver. "when will I be famous?" During my early angling, I was, briefly - although infamous might be a better description, given the antics we got up to and the publicity we received - David Hall (RIP) had more than his monies worth out of us! "Snide Rumours & Dirty Lies" was a feature in Coarse Fishing magazine - I'd be mentioned in it more often than not, during the mid - 80's. I have to admit that we played to the crowds and deserved most of the flak we received - not too many would play drinking games with us, nor fancy a pop at Cuddles or The Michalik's - The Savay Looney Rota were just kids, playing at it, couldn't cope with Tennant's Extra! Havoc, anarchy and fun are my lasting memories of this period and yet I cringe at some of the situations I got myself into; looking back. However, as anglers we couldn't have been that bad, we caught loads of big fish and that's probably what caused most of the friction. How could such a bunch of clowns (drunks) be so successful?

Tim Boag with the landing net - yours truly drawing yet another Claydon
catfish towards the bank. Happy days, fantastic memories - fun times! Sept '89?
Work was key! - we worked hard and tirelessly, in order to pursue our targets. No getting away from the fact that we'd be pissed for the majority of our waking hours - we still managed to remain focused on our goals and regularly landed fish which were the envy of others. We went fishing for FUN - I have no other way to express my feelings about that period of my life.
Of course this is no recommended template for anyone to follow. I would certainly have words of caution with Benno should he ever seek to chase his dreams with the irresponsibility I'd demonstrated during his early childhood. Obviously he would be perfectly within his right to challenge any advice offered - every individual needs to be free to follow their dreams in whatever manner they see fit; no matter what I, or others, think about the situation.
I've been incredibly fortunate to have been mentored by so many talented individuals, over the years, be they anglers, birders or moth-ers (the late Tony Harman was an inspirational & world class tutor)
I have to state that this is where luck has played a major part in my passage through life. To have been born, when I was, is a happy accident. I had the freedom to wander the countryside with catapult, air-gun, fishing rod; on foot or on a bicycle, it was a given. My angling has seen me come into contact with some of the most successful specimen hunters of the period and the advice I've been given has allowed me to hone my skills under their expert guidance. Similarly my birding, in Kent, has provided some of the most exciting adventures I've experienced. To have been able to exchange opinions and information with many of the counties "top birders" ensured that my own efforts were superbly rewarding in whatever guise, be it twitching, field birding or patch watching!

Uncle Ben, aged 9, with a Claydon "snotter!"
And so to where I'm at today. That I can now go fishing in the company of my son and grand-son is about as pleasurable as it can get. To watch Benno taking responsibility and assisting Bryn to get the maximum enjoyment from time on the bank is a great source of personal pride. My son has grown into a decent young man and is now using skills learnt from me, and that merry gang of mis-fits, to consistently catch decent fish for himself as well as his nephew. This situation is now a source of great enjoyment, as opposed to fun, as it is no longer about me and my successes - although I have no intention of quitting the adrenaline trips provided by a hooked "big fish". Being part of a "bigger picture" is something usually associated with work situations, but I am now happy to play a bit part role. For sure, I will continue to seek pleasure from any success I experience, yet it no longer dominates my priorities. I will gain as much satisfaction from the achievements of my son, and grand-son, as my own captures as the years pass - I'm getting old and mellow - a period of melancholy thoughtfulness?


But what of today? The news that a test tube exercise has failed to deliver a correct result. Total vindication of the birders (not twitchers) of the Dungeness Stejneger's Stonechat debacle. Dave Walker had expressed his serious doubts from the offset, I'm sure that Ray Turley is looking down with a wry smile. None of the original observers had ever made a claim beyond an aberrant Stonechat. Quite what Dr Collinson was hoping to achieve - beyond that of being a complete cu*t, is up for discussion. Compensation for the huge amounts of money spent in pursuit of this hoax? It's very much a blame culture we now live in - I wouldn't be too surprised if a legal claim doesn't arise against the news providers as well as the original laboratory worker who fucked it up! Birdguides dropped the "putative" as soon as Collinson made his proclamation - we're in uncharted territory here?

Fan-tailed Warbler - Menorca
The birding communities obsession with rarity is where my whole blogging started. I'd found a Fan-tailed Warbler along the banks of The Stour, just outside Sandwich. I said nothing. Subsequently it relocated to Pegwell Bay and the shit hit the fan. Utter chaos as "twitchers" sought to tick their boxes!
The bird hung around, unbeknownst to many, for the entire winter and was displaying over the Sampher (within the SBBOT recording area) during the following April (Phil and Francis reporting it, at Pegwell, on one date?). I then expressed my doubts about a Hume's Warbler, in Ramsgate Cemetery, January 2013 - I got ruined by self-righteous twitchers - one of whom couldn't tell a cormorant from a shag! Again, unkown to the vast majority, this bird remained in the vicinity (less than 800 m from my bungalow) for the next three months. It proved to be, as I had felt, a male Yellow - browed Warbler, unless they share the same songs and calls with their close cousins? If this is true, the text books and sound recordings need amending! (Or perhaps I should have shot it?)

A  Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio wrafterii 
Identity confirmed by a snot sample analysed in Superdrug - a first for the WP!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Why do we do it?

The new year is just over a week old and already many, well intended, resolutions have fallen by the wayside as life (time) trundles on regardless. One of the greatest benefits of living in the free world is the ability to make choices. As an individual I am empowered to cast my vote in elections and referendums; where I put my cross is a decision that I am allowed to make - there are no penalties should I choose a different box from you! This past Christmas holiday was brought into stark focus by a comment from a guy I work with. We were in the changing room, at shift changeover, and as he bid me farewell on his final day of the year. His parting shot was "It's a bloody lot of fuss for just another roast dinner!" Bordering on genius - he summed up everything I feel about this over-hyped festival of consumerism. Of course I enjoyed my time away from work, Bev and I actually saw in the New year for the first time in ages, but I am loathe to change simply due to the ticking of a clock. The life choices I've made, those that have gotten me to where I am presently, can't have been too bad, so why bother tweaking them on New Year's Day? I don't need a doctor to tell me I drink too much, I'm a grown man, well able to make up my own mind about this and myriad other subjects (although Bev sometimes chucks her two-penneth in for good measure)
And yet, still, we all view the start of the new year as a fresh dawn, the beginning of the rest of our lives? I have made, very public, my plans to seek three new PB's during 2017, others have also set their stalls out in a blaze of blogging enthusiasm. But do any of us really mean it? Are we really that committed to major life changes or long term plans, especially as the majority of blogs I visit, regularly, are written by folk of a very similar vintage to myself. Plans, strategies, pie charts and standard deviations all play a role in my working environment, the real world, the one in which I am free to make choices, is a totally different concept. That I, and the vast majority of the bloggers I am enthused by, use the limitless and under-explored wonders of the natural world to find escape from the mundane, is why so many of our resolutions are folly. Nature refuses to conform with our expectations, it acts independently, a slave to the vagueries of climate and constant environmental change.
I think it would have been much easier, and far closer to the truth, if we all stated that what we really want is to continue to derive pleasure (however gained) from the simple experience of being outdoors and interacting with nature.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Well Bryn enjoyed himself

We had a nice morning at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, although my contribution was zilch. A superb Short-eared Owl on a roadside fence post, beside Manston Airport, was a real bonus on my drive across to the fishery. We had the place to ourselves and Kevin (the fishery manager) had told Benno, a couple of weeks ago, that he was OK to go drop-shotting if no-one else was using the water. Luke, Ben and Bryn got down to business and took a few small perch, before Bryn got his new PB in the shape of a superb fish of 1 lb 10 oz.


A new PB for Bryn - 1 lb 10 oz
I now realize why I don't do float fishing. The glare from the water's surface giving me a piercing headache as I struggled to remain focused on the tiny red dome of my float. I was also made very aware that prawns were a bad choice of hook baits - I only had three chances, all morning, missing each and every one of them. Just to rub salt into the wound, Bryn then came to fish next to me - using maggots on a whip, and proceeded to demonstrate how it should be done. He had a really nice roach/hybrid followed by another decent perch (although I'd left by this time!) - he's learning quickly and is full of enthusiasm. It's a delight to watch him develop his angling skills and see the excitement any hooked fish generates.


Saturday, 7 January 2017

It's been hard going

A week into 2017 and I'm struggling. I've not had a bite and have seen very few birds, yet work has been frantic. Four days of late shifts, to begin the year, so at least I avoided the, 04.50 hrs, alarm on Tuesday morning - that dreaded first day back! Hopefully, Benno, Luke, Bryn and I will be perch fishing, at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, over the weekend - I am sure that this venue has some potential. although a three might prove a tough challenge? Two's are relatively numerous, so a good venue to tweak a few rigs and play around with bait presentation in the hope of taking the lessons to a fishery with bigger specimens.
I'm going with "prawns" as hook bait (Benno & Luke prefer lob-worms and/or drop-shotting) and also planning to use a float for the first time since 1980! I have a, three piece, Diawa Amorphous Whisker 13' match rod which will be fitted with an ABU Cardinal 44X reel and float set-up whilst using a small cage feeder, on a Tring Tench rod, an electronic alarm and light weight indicator for my second presentation. Impossible to concentrate on two floats? Watching one, for a prolonged period, will be enough of a challenge knowing how easily I get distracted by bank side wildlife.

One of these scurrying about on the opposite bank could easily distract me from a float!
There are some excellent Youtube offerings relating to tackle and tactics for Perch and Chub, if you choose to peruse the internet? Some are very professional, others much more off the cuff and lacking the slick presentation of Nash, Fox or Korda. I am not bothered by the quality of production if an idea or decent fish is the focus of the offering - it is a great medium for anglers to share their experiences and opinions. Mark Erdwin (please click the link) is one such video blogger who uses this facility to demonstrate how enjoyable angling can be - he does his thing, his way. Can't think why I would associate myself with such behavior?
However, there is a trend which I am really concerned by. Carp angling has a massive influence within current thinking, celebrity carp anglers are setting a terrible example, to my way of thinking. Why bother sticking a hook in a fish, if you can't be bothered to weigh it? Now I accept that this statistic is purely man-made and egotistical, however, guesstimation has no place in speccy hunting. It's a mid-twenty, a thirty?  Some of these demonstrations being nothing short of embarrassing - the fish being nowhere close to the claimed weight. Then a carp angler catches a pike and everything goes pear shaped? Benno and Bryn were on the RMC when they were told about a pike of 63 lbs "it's the new record - you know?" taken from the canal. If only anglers realized how rare wild twenty pound pike are. I'd have loved to have that guy tell me of a record pike. "Do I have C**T written on my forehead?" I fully accept that weight plays no part in the enjoyment of any angling situation. However, if you wish to engage in meaningful conversation, knowing the weight of the specimens which have graced your landing net, is very beneficial, if you have no desire to make a twat of yourself? I am very fortunate to be able to include Richie Francis within the circles of my contacts - we fished together, at Wilstone, during the early 80's. He was anal, in his quest for accurate recording of the fish he caught. If Rich said it went 2 lbs 15 oz (Roach) then it went 2 lbs 15 oz - never going to be a three!


Modern carp angling has decreed that if it looks like a thirty - then it is one. How big was Benno's first twenty (there's a clue there!)