Who am I?

My photo
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!


Saturday, 27 May 2017

Garden gold

We've got Emily staying with us, overnight, so I've had to tidy up my study/tackle room in order to use the sofa bed which resides there. As I was about my task I saw a group of five Goldfinches drop down into the top of our garden Christmas tree. I grabbed the camera and went out the front door, so as not to disturb them, and crept down the drive and peered through the trellis at the feeding station. Two birds were already on the sunflower heart feeder, the other three still perched in the lower branches of the tree. I rattled off a few shots, just because I could. They are lovely little birds and always welcome around the garden.

How can you fail to like birds like these around your garden?

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Really looking forward to this

In mid-May I changed from weekly to monthly pay - no big deal but, as I also received my annual profit share bonus, all of a sudden there was a lot of money in the account. I knew it was coming and had booked a week off well in advance. However, because Bev and I had no idea as to the actual amount, we'd not looked at any holiday scenario seriously. All of a sudden we knew exactly what we had to play with and Bev was straight on the case. Hence we're off to Tenerife for a short break and I'm surprisingly excited by the prospect. Bev's never been there, I visited the island in the early 1980's, but not since. It will be a nice change of scenery, if nothing else?

Southern Grey Shrike - Gran Canaria Jan 2004
We had our honeymoon on Gran Canaria, in January 2004 (bloody hell - time flies!) and I was still full on birding at that stage. I remember being fascinated by the subtle differences in the Chiffchaffs, Blue Tits, Kestrels and Yellow-legged Gulls (I wasn't aware of the "atlantis"  sub-group at that time?)
The other thing I recall was the numerous "rare" moths I encountered - yet another manifestation of my complete ignorance of such concepts. They were only rare because I was limited to UK (Kent) records - elsewhere on the planet they were as common as muck!

It's true that I no longer "digi-scope", my camera kit is hardly cutting edge despite the monumental advances in digital photographic technology which has occurred during the intervening years. My gear is functional and, more importantly, robust, thus well suited to the treatment I dish out. I still carry my 8 x 42 Bausch & Lomb "Elite" bins which, although rather tatty, remain superb optics. So, for one week only, I am hoping to rediscover some of the magic that new experiences are able to bring to birding. I'm even more drawn by the challenge of capturing images that are significantly better than those which I took in 2004 with a Nikon Cool pix 775 through a Kowa TSN 823?

African Blue Tit (?)

A bird with which I'd love to spend some more time - Spectacled Warbler
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since 2004 - I still would like to think that there is something more to add to my appreciation of the natural world, beyond sun, sea and copious amounts of "light ale"

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

On a lighter note

I'd just popped out to get a loaf of bread from our local shop and flushed a Painted Lady, butterfly, from the Red Valerian that grows along our driveway. Task completed, toast made, I was able to spend a bit of time with my camera kit grabbing some images of this smart little insect. It's the first one I've seen in the garden this year, although there were several along the track from Preston churchyard, to Deerson, last week end.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Liars for a living

The desire to be one should prevent any individual from ever becoming one - an observation by Billy Connolly ref: politicians. On 18th April 2017, Theresa May announced her decision to call a snap General Election in order to strengthen her hand whilst dealing with the "Brexit mandate" negotiations following the triggering of Article 50. Seemed pretty straight forward from where I sit - Jeremy Corbyn is hell-bent on leading The Labour Party into oblivion, UKIP  in melt-down and the Liberals a total joke - she had pulled off a masterstroke? A win at a canter - easy peasy!
But no! Let's forget the Brexit deal and introduce some other policies which will assist our cause and make our party so popular as to be un-assailable. The Conservative Party has scored the greatest "own goal" in the history of politics (during my life-time) with their ill considered social care manifesto policy. Let's think about this for a nano-second? We want to win a general election, what should we do to make ourselves as popular as possible? Yeah, I know, let's threaten to impose a stealth tax on the entire generation of home owners who fell for the "right to own their own home" gag of Maggie Thatcher. Fucking genius - NOT! All those hard working, Tory supporting, ordinary people. Paid into the system for their entire lives, now being targeted as a problem because we are getting old and will need looking after in our latter years. Maybe if the money we've contributed to the system had been better managed, then the problem wouldn't be there? The Conservative Party has never, and will never, be about the working man - but then again, none of the alternative options are any better. They will say exactly what you want to hear in the run up to an election. Once ensconced in their comfy chair, nothing they promised will be of any consequence, they've made it to self-serving utopia.
In the aftermath of the shameful, cowardly, terrorist attack in Manchester, I have seen politicians, of all persuasions, singing from a single hymn sheet. The problem of social care isn't going to disappear because Theresa has had a change of mind  about the detail. If our politicians are able to unite in times of crisis, then it might be possible for the same unity when dealing with problems which will affect us all. If it's a good idea, why does it matter which party thought of it? It's still a good idea. On June 8th I want to vote for a strong and stable government not a "smoke & mirrors"circus act!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Hobby time

I have spent four hours wandering around in the Stour Valley and, particularly, the ridiculously over priced and over hyped, Wingham Coarse Fishery - a syndicate for people with more money than sense? Everyone away from angling knows these waters as Seaton Gravel Pits, situated just outside the village of Whickambreaux, thus nowhere near Wingham, in the valley of the Little Stour.
Plenty of bivvy dwelling hopefuls surrounding the main lake and a couple of hardcore carpers on the carp lake, funnily enough.

If ever I fail to derive pleasure from watching sights like these, it's time to throw in the towel!
I was down there on the look out for year ticks and wasn't to be disappointed. There were a dozen, or so, Hobbies hawking over the North Lake, out of bounds to the anglers, and two Nightingales were belting out their magnificent song from lakeside thickets. I was really enjoying the simple activity of birding. Common Buzzards are now a gimme in East Kent, doesn't stop them being great fun when viewed through my optics. I did a massive circuit, starting at Hearts Delight, via Seaton GP's, on to Preston Marshes, Preston Church - looking for Spotted Flycatcher; nothing doing and then back to my car. Corn Bunting made it onto the list and I enjoyed some time with a pair of Yellow Wagtails as they bathed in a puddle.

Looking rather bedraggled after emerging from a puddle
As I was already in the area, I took the opportunity to have a quick walk around Grove Ferry. Sand Martins were numerous and also a year tick, so a result of sorts. A couple of male Cuckoos were calling from around the reed beds and I witnessed a spectacular food pass by a pair of Marsh Harriers. The brisk westerly breeze kept many of the small reed bed species out of sight. Odd Reed Warblers flicked across the paths and Cetti's belted out their raucous song from hidden perches within the hawthorn and willow scrub. The only Turtle Dove, I came across, was purring away in the paddock, right beside the Grove Ferry entrance track. Great fun and rather rewarding with five new species added to my pathetic year list.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Red sky learning

Bev's hurt her back and, needing to care for Harry on Tuesday, I took an emergency day off - a major plus point of working for Fujifilm - no problem, no guilt trip mentality involved. You need the day off - have it! So grand-dad spent the majority of his day entertaining his grand-son. We went to two parks/playgrounds, stroked the horses, watched the pigs, smelt the flowers and wandered through Rod & Rex's collection of WW2 stuff - Spitfires, tanks and assorted military hardware - it's a pretty weird place, but we enjoyed it. Just to put the cherry on the cake, we then popped into The Coach & Horses, for a well deserved chocolate ice-cream, a pint of the finest Stella Artois, and a check up on the dress code for Mike & Penny's 25th anniversary bash? Tough life being a grand-dad.
Back to the bungalow by mid-afternoon, we sorted out a bite to eat and some You-tube entertainment before Debbie (Bev's daughter) came to collect her youngest.
A quick check with Bev - ensuring everything was OK and I'm off out down to the local club water. Could I catch a carp in two and a half hours? The answer was yes, but I struggled for it, missing four good chances before eventually setting the hook into the lip of a lively little scamp common. There was a very positive lesson to be had from my time at the fishery, however, I spent the vast majority of my time watching these small carp and their reaction to my floating freebies and hook baits. I was fishing in a small secluded bay in the NE corner of the venue. What wind there had been had died away and the surface remained glassy calm, allowing me a great insight into the behavior of these feeding  fish. It was a real eye-opener to see the violent reaction when coming across any bread. Fish would physically bolt away from the bait, even when it was free floating. In open water; attaching a hook and line ensured total failure, despite the fish being happy to feed from the surface on other offerings. The only situation where these fish felt confident to accept bread was in the margins and/or snags. My only success came by utilizing an old trick from a by-gone era. I cast my free-lined cube of crust under an overhanging willow, ensuring the line had passed over a thin branch, en route. This allowed me to tighten down, ensuring no line was in/on the water, thus present a bait without any obvious signs of a hook being involved.

I stayed until dusk, the fish activity increasing as the light fell away. Much to my surprise, many of the fish involved were Ide, not the carp for which I'd introduced the floating cat biscuit freebies. It was a fabulous evening, a Turtle Dove purred from adjacent farmland, a Cuckoo perched atop many of the fishery high-spots, calling constantly. There were numerous Reed Warblers, a male Reed Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler in the immediate vicinity. I enjoyed the session immensely, despite the lack of fish to the net. The sun set was a magnificent affair - all reds, gold and shades of yellows in a deep blue surround; my camera failing to capture the splendour of the moment - sadly!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sandwich Sunday social

With deadline pressure growing, Benno, Bryn & I met up on the bank side of Victory Lake, at the Sandwich Coarse Fishery complex, for a last gasp attempt of getting some more material together for next month's offering. I manned the camera whilst Ben provided coaching for the youngest member of our angling gang. It was a really nice touch when Luke turned up to join in with the session. Although he had started off using a quiver-tip set-up, the wind was making the job of spotting bites a little tricky, so we swapped over to a whip to hand and float fished maggot. This proved to be the turning point and Bryn then succeeded in catching a string of small roach and rudd - one a chuck, so very pleasing. I got my photos, Bryn caught his fish and learned a few more lessons about the hobby which might provide a lifetime of enjoyment?

Bryn with the whip to hand, Benno & Luke look on. It was a cracking afternoon session at Sandwich Coarse Fishery
Only small "silvers" but when they are coming "one a chuck", very enjoyable
Luke will testify to the thrill that a hooked fish can provide. He is the only one of us who has a thirty to his name, yet it was a 13 lbs 4 oz common which left him an adrenaline induced mess late on Saturday evening. It's not my story, so I won't tell it, but it is great to know that such things occur and I am amidst kindred spirits.

A very wet, but happy, Luke with a 13 lbs 4 oz common