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!

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Sunday, 28 April 2013

Am I really that different? (My Weekend stuff)

Saturday - Out in the garden by 07.30hrs; the weather could best be described as changeable - my day was all about getting my gear ready for the Loch Awe trip. Emily was to play a major part in my plans, she and Harry staying overnight. Unless you are actually a fisher-person, the amount of paraphernalia that accompanies an extended session has to be seen to be believed. We've had to hire a "Transit-type" van to ensure that we can get it all in. In 1982, three of us travelled up to The Isle of Bute in an Austin Allegro - how?
Knowing that I'd be going nowhere else I had my camera close at hand to ensure I'd be able to grab a few shots if any opportunity present itself. The stated plan is to try to capture images of 300 species (of animal - not plants!) within my garden in 2013. I am completely at ease with a situation where my id skills fail and that my sighting is no more than an insight into the natural world. A name doesn't aid enjoyment, however, it is always pleasing if an id can be clinched, that is an undeniable truth.
So where is this going? Well, over the weekend, I have taken images of at least 12 species; the majority  being solitary bees, which are busily feeding around the garden.  A spider, in the moth trap, and several hoverflies have all been "grilled" as part of my 300 species project.

"Tegenaria sp." - a very big spider in the moth trap. What would be gained by killing it for id purposes?
I am well aware of the amazing facility provided by the internet - id heaven if it floats your boat - but my simple approach is more than catered for by the superb WWW Garden Safari. com. Sadly, even at this base entry level, the complications of id leads to the required "genitalia details" to be ascertained in order for specific status to be proven. I don't know how you read this? To me it requires a dead specimen to be dissected, just so another box can be ticked. If you are employed as an entomologist - assigned to crop protection or some other worthy pursuit, then the killing of an insect has to be an accepted part of the process. If, however, this same treatment is purely to allow a "saddo" to tick another box, on a list of other sad boxes - purely to show the rest of the "saddos" how great a naturalist they are then this really is a F*cked up world! We recoil at the thought of shooting rare birds, purely to ascertain their id - we call for the "full force of the statutes" to anyone who steals a bird's egg, yet still accept that killing insects, for the purpose of box ticking is OK?
 
Ashy Mining-bee (Andrena cineraria) - a species previously un-recorded on Thanet. (BWARS website 2013)
Photographed in the garden today - 28.04.2013 
Well, not this bloke! I won't kill anything without a reason. Ants in my kitchen - I put down insecticide. A rat in my aviary - I will shoot it. This has nothing to do with league tables, this is about protecting what is mine. I have first hand experience of the Victorian values that still persist within the entomological circles. I lent Gadget a moth trap, in 2003, and on his fist night he took the 2nd Asiatic Nictioline for the UK. Great photos, no specimen - record rejected!


What possible reason can be given for rejecting one of these two specimens?
Oh yeah! - One is pinned within a collection, the other was released back from whence it came.
I will continue to look and enjoy, without any of the pseudo, crass, it's important shite! The local natural history societies do a fantastic job, yet are "pissing in the wind" if they think that they can shape the future.
Common Carder Bee - Bombus pascorum - in the garden today

Surely I can't be the only person, on this planet, who feels that competition has no role in natural history enjoyment. The simple pleasure to be had from looking is enough for a very simple soul - please let me be part of the "silent majority" and not a freak?

Friday, 26 April 2013

Better to be lucky, than good?

Fridays are "bin days" along Vine Close - so I was dutifully placing our recycling bin on the drive when the gulls started creating. Yesterday was glorious; this morning is anything but! Grey skies and light rain, so what could be causing the stir? Looking to the east, I could see the gulls chasing a long winged, dark bird; a harrier perhaps? Rushing back indoors I grabbed the camera - having to remove the extension tubes in the process and rapidly made my way back outside - the commotion still going on, but now further away and towards St. Lukes. I rattled off a quick series of shots - 1/500th sec, ISO 400, more in hope than expectation.


Always going further away, I'm happy enough with my results.  Certainly happier than the
accompanying Herring Gull, who seems to have the right hump!

Although they aren't great, my results allow me to confidently id the culprit as a Long-eared Owl, only the second record for my patch, so quite an event. If I hadn't been putting out the bin I would have missed it - just goes to show how luck can play a role in such things!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

One week and counting!

In seven more days, we are headed back up to Loch Awe - we being Benno, Simon and me (The Wrafties!) plus Tom and Phil (The Bradbury's) - a finer bunch it would be difficult to find. Although each of us harbours a dreamt of capture; there is a genuine delight in seeing someone else succeed amongst the group. This is probably why we're able to spend a week in each others company without the slightest hint of a niggle.

L to R - Simon, Alan "I don't drink!" Gray (the land owner), Benno and Tom
An oft repeated scene from our 2011 Loch Awe trip
I don't think we've ever been better prepared, tackle and tactics wise, for a trip like this. My earliest sojourns were a farcical nonsense - I had no more idea of catching Scottish pike than I did of splitting the atom. Chuck and chance would be a flattering description of my angling skills; but not today. We are armed with bait boats and fish finders - the very best terminal tackle that is available and baits to match. Benno and Tom have a cunning plan to secure some Loch Awe caught live baits (seeing is believing!) and there are some flavour/colour combinations which are new to the water (no-one else has got them, I'm 100% certain of this!) and should give us an edge. Just four and a bit more shifts at work -then off-ski!

1524 - Emmelina monodactyla
Moths are still relatively scarce, but there were two new additions to the year list, amidst the regular dross, with the capture of a single Emmelina monodactyla (a plume moth) and three Double-striped Pug.


1862 - Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata)
The weather, this morning, was glorious yet no signs of raptor migration on this side of Thanet. I would, therefore, assume that, for me, it has finished for Spring 2013. Of course there will be odd stragglers, but the big movements are all but over. I will be interested to see how much longer the regularly watched sites of Pegwell Bay and Margate Cemetery report raptor sightings, there is absolutely no doubt that the main migration route is well to the west of Newland's Farm.



Wednesday, 24 April 2013

HT7T. - Herring Gull results

I got a reply from Paul Roper (The North Thames Gull Group) a few days back, concerning my sighting of the C-R Herring Gull I'd photographed at North Foreland. Nothing particularly earth shattering about the movements of this individual but, to me at least, it demonstrated the positive use of digital photography in the recording of these marked birds. The bird was ringed at Pitsea landfill site on 19.03.2011 - aged as a EURING Code 5 - 2nd cy. My sighting is the third report since that date, the other two both from the same site in France, a landfill tip just south of St Omer. What I find most interesting is that each of these sightings has an accompanying photograph - the ring details clearly visible.

The NTGG Map that accompanies all reported sightings of their colour ringed birds.
Visit their website to see just how much work is involved in running such a project - this is one of the very best.





Blaringhem, Nord, FRANCE - 29.11.2012

Blaringhem, Nord, FRANCE - 06.02.2013

  

My photo from 15.04.2013 - just look at the change in plumage and bill colour since February.

 

Nothing much else to report - Tuesday night produced a catch of 13 moths - 7 Hebrew Character, 3 Early Grey, 2 Common Quaker and 1 Clouded Drab. Conditions look very much better tonight - so let's see what the morning brings?





Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Snippets

Only two moths in the trap, this morning, a Common Quaker and a rather smart-looking Clouded Drab (2188 - Orthosia incerta); which I duly got a few shots of. I am trying to get as many species of non-plant images from my garden as possible. I feel sure, that with the moth trap running, 300+ shouldn't be out of the question during 2013. I am certain of just one thing - I won't be able to id all species recorded. Won't cause me loss of sleep, I'm used to it - not knowing what I'm looking at, yet still able to enjoy the encounter.


So with this mission in mind, I grabbed a shot of a Goldfinch on our sunflower feeder - through the glass of the kitchen door; they are not regular garden visitors.


My final offering is, sadly, not from my garden but, instead, from the cycle track by Joss Bay. This shot of a Wren being a rather pleasing image, yet I couldn't find a way of including it in my post from Sunday morning.

Monday, 22 April 2013

It's a start.

The first time I've bothered to run the moth trap, in 2013, has resulted in an a very predictable catch. There were ten moths on the egg boxes - 7 Early Grey (2243 - Xylocampa areola), 2 Hebrew Character (2190 - Orthosia gothica) & 1 Common Quaker (2187 - Orthosia cerasi).


Certainly nothing to get excited about, but encouraging enough given the ridiculous weather we experienced earlier in the year.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Most enjoyable

With nothing more than lunch at The Coach & Horses, on the Deal Road, just beyond Worth - being our plan for today; Bev and I did very little. Bev was pottering with her "summer" wardrobe and I went across for a short stroll around the North Foreland area. The session was made better by the encounters with Simon Mount (and George), Rae Boulden and Dave - all of them out enjoying the sunshine, despite the lack of birds. There was a Common Whitethroat singing at the start of the cycle track by Elmwood Avenue and a Blackcap doing the same thing by Kingsgate Castle. Odd flyover Yellow Wagtail and a couple of Sparrowhawks being about the best of the rest. Simon, Rae and I decided that given the conditions, raptor watching would be the most likely activity on such a day and we went our separate ways. I got back to the car, by the North Foreland pumping station, just in time to watch a female Marsh Harrier spiralling high overhead before setting off in a NE direction out to sea.
Female Marsh Harrier high over North Foreland
A Dotted Bee-fly (Bombylius discolor) was photographed by Elmwood Avenue, the first time I've seen one on Thanet - although that doesn't mean anything.



I was back home just before 09.40hrs, standing in the back garden, coffee and toast to hand, awaiting events. It didn't take long; at 10.15hrs the first three, of seven, Common Buzzards passed over Vine Close. Today all the birds were headed north, the local gulls seemingly unconcerned by lone migrants, the only reaction was when the three appeared together. My first House Martin zipped past, as I was watching a Carrion Crow harassing a Sparrowhawk. Two Siskins dropped into the buddlieas, very briefly and a Swallow was seen skimming over the field beyond our garden hedge.



After a very pleasant lunch, Bev and I  called in at Dad's - he's gradually getting a routine back into his life. We stayed for a while before returning home. I cut the grass and set about dusting down the Milton Mk VII 125w MV moth trap. I started mothing in the summer of 1994 and like many others, have had seasons of varying fortunes as the years pass. The law of diminishing returns very much a part of garden moth trapping.


I am not particularly hopeful for tonight, however, I am on late shift for the next five days, so will have plenty of time to check the contents should conditions prove suitable. I will not be running it seven nights a week, just out of habit, I will pick and choose my days as I see fit.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Ooooh! - it's off the post! (A Black Kite moment!)

Just for once the weather forecast was spot-on! The conditions perfect for some raptor movement on this side of Thanet. Although I had Emily for company, until 10.30hrs, the conditions failed to produce the "hoped for" result. A single Common Buzzard, just before 09.45hrs, being the best I could muster - even the local Herring Gulls failing to get excited about the appearance. It came in low, from the west, before spiralling up into the sky and drifting off south towards Pegwell.
Common Buzzard No.1 - obvious primary (1?) moult at the carpal bend; symmetrical feather loss
not being a hindrance to migration for these magnificent birds of prey. Slight abrasion to the tail
 producing a "notched" profile.

Emily was safely delivered back to Debbie, by 10.45hrs, and I returned to my vigil. Conditions had deteriorated somewhat, the NE wind had picked up and more clouds were scurrying across the blue skies. It wasn't long, however, before a group of three more raptors came into view. The lowest bird followed a very similar path to the first, the other two were at a much greater altitude and rapidly moved off to the north.
Buzzard No,2 - a tatty tail, but the wings are feather perfect. It is amazing just how much
detail is able to be recorded against a blue sky.
Camera to hand, I spent a while getting some images of the lower bird before turning my attentions to the two others - FU*K!!!!!! The second bird had a forked tail - binoculars quickly deployed. Two Common Buzzards - phew! I still need Black Kite for the garden list; I've been very fortunate to have seen three in Kent. My first was at St. Margaret's, with Tony Greenland, the second at Pegwell Bay with Phil Milton and Craig Sammells, the third at Grove Ferry in the company of Gadget.
Would you want to make the call? A Black Kite if you are really desperate.

The height was not helped by the fact that the birds were against some thick clouds, from my position, thus detail is very poor. I took just four images before these two departed fast to the north.
I didn't have a problem with the lack of photos - the id isn't up for discussion. If this bird had been "tail-gating" a group of Red Kites?


The two Common Buzzards, high over Vine Close, the second bird showing the "forked" tail
that we associate with "kite sp." Luckily my image shows the pale breast band and
primary pattern that rules out any possibility of Black Kite (Drat!)

 
My day wasn't finished - there were loads of insects around the garden and I managed to grab a couple of shots of an "Andrena sp." as it rested on the decking!





Thursday, 18 April 2013

A De Bradliegh afternoon

I was going to post this stuff yesterday but, I got side tracked and, ended up going to The Racing Greyhound for a meal instead! Bev and I went down to Dover yesterday afternoon, so that she could have a wander around the De Bradliegh Warf shopping complex and I could take a look in at Channel Angling. Great plan, but found to be sadly wanting due to half day closing on Wednesdays! Not that it made too much difference, I had my camera and binoculars in the boot as "back-up".
The shoal contained upwards of 200 individuals, the biggest being 5lbs+ - in my estimation.
They are certainly a nice distraction from the shopping!

So with Bev perusing the delights of the designer outlets, I took a stroll around the harbour - well the marina and The Prince of Wale's Pier. The sun was shining, through a hazy cloud, and it was very pleasant just being outside. There was a large shoal of Thick-lipped Grey Mullet (Chelon labrosus) in the shallow dock, right outside the De Bradliegh entrance door, so I stopped for while to watch them as they fed in the gin clear water. My attempts with the camera providing me with some distorted images due to the ripple on the surface.

I constantly scanned the local Herring Gulls, looking for C-R's, before I ventured out onto the pier for a short stroll. There were seven Great Crested Grebes feeding out in the basin, two of which ventured very close to the pier. I grabbed several shots, although when the birds were almost underneath me  the images are not particularly pleasing, some do justice to the wonderful plumage. A Rock Pipit and a couple of Sandwich Terns added to my enjoyment before it was time to collect Bev and pick up the tab!



My walk across to Pyson's Road, this morning at 05.35hrs, was made in the growing light of the early dawn, allowing me to discover a group of 5 (decked) Wheatear and an unknown number of Yellow Wagtails that were "tseeep-ing" away out on the fields/or overhead? There were a pair of Grey Partridge, in the vicinity of The Old Rose Garden" the female of which has an injured wing and is unable to fly. Will she survive to breed?  There is a vicious SW wind blowing this afternoon, knocking over our dustbins and rattling the windows yet, out of the breeze, the sun has some warmth and insects are very conspicuous - Spring has finally sprung!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

My brain doesn't have the capacity to understand

The news of the bomb attacks, along the run in to the finishing line, at The Boston Marathon, was flashed up on my BT Yahoo homepage at around 21.40hrs, yesterday evening rapidly followed by fragmented reports and video footage quickly assembled for a "newsflash" by Sky news. Horrific scenes of unbelievable carnage in a peace-time setting. I went to bed with my head full of questions - just as it was when I walked across to work in the semi-darkness of the Thanet dawn.
The daily scandal rags were full of half-cocked stories, none of which could agree on a death toll, let alone a motive! Many of my colleagues have fancy i-phones, and the unfolding story was followed during the shift - I don't think many could find an explanation for such an outrage - even within their, collective, extreme cynicism. My afternoon was taken up with my grand-daughter - Emily being the best distraction from reality - her world rules whilst I am in her company; long may it continue!
We arrived back home to the stories of FBI leads and Obama quotes - no-one has any idea as to a motive for this "cowardly" attack.
In 2000, 2001 & 2002; I was very fortunate be be able to take part in The London Marathon - as a Unilever employee I had a guaranteed place (Flora were the sponsor). All I remember about the day is of incredible crowd support and an individual sense of achievement. I am in no doubt that all the money in the world couldn't buy that feeling of completing the marathon. It is nothing to do with winning - it is all about you and your individual battle. I have incredible memories about my three marathon adventures - I caused quite a stir on Unilever T/V. Company t/v was all the rage at the time and one of my managers had suggested that the (hapless) girl doing the interviews should intercept me as I entered The Sports Cafe - Haymarket, where our corporate post-event celebrations were taking place.
I cannot recall the complete conversation, but do know that it went along these lines!

"Hi Dylan, how does it feel having completed The London Marathon?"

"F**king wonderful - that crowd is amazing, I couldn't have stopped if I wanted to" - "What a day and what a fantastic advert for Flora/ Unilever; the company should be really proud of their association with such a global event!" (I knew that this sort of jive was what they were after)

Q. "Did you run in fancy dress?"

A. "Yeah; I looked like an athlete!"

Q. "Are you going in for a massage and a warm down?"

A. "Are you completely mad? Do you think I've done a lap of London for a glass of orange juice? There's free piss up them stairs and I'm getting 26miles worth - nice talking with you"

I proudly ran (shuffled) around the 2002 London Marathon course wearing this vest.
Like the medals that are dished out on the finish line - this is a treasured memento of a fantastic event.
There is no way that ordinary people should allow extremists to stop such events from continuing. 

These are my memories of the greatest mass participation event in the UK; the Boston version being no less worthy. As a competitor, I have a great deal of empathy with those who have just undergone this arduous challenge only to have their day ruined/overshadowed by the act of a (group) terrorist.
Why make this attack on the "fun runners"? The elite athletes had finish and it was the "ordinary guys" who were completing their own personal challenges that fell victim to this crime, and those decent folk who were hanging on to support them. The sums of money that are raised for various charities is in the "scrillions" - all by ordinary folk facing up to this fantastic challenge. To become embroiled in some crazy, politically motivated, attack is way beyond my comprehension.
During my three efforts, I managed to raise over £2,000 for pre-school groups, a youth club and the Margate Pilgrim's Hospice. Is the loss of funding what this malcontent group is hoping for, with this action? God only knows - but please don't allow these maniacs stop these global celebrations from being a stage where an ordinary guy can partake in an extraordinary event.

Monday, 15 April 2013

North Foreland afternoon

Quite an enjoyable morning at work, strange as it may seem to some, working with a young guy who has just been called back - he's a temp who had worked with me in the run up to Christmas. He tells of a harsh world, out there on the dole, there is just no work around Thanet. I would like to think that FSIS can continue to grow their digital ink business and create a future for Shane and others like him.


The wonders of digital technology - the ring code is readable from a photo!
I had absolutely no chance using my binoculars - the bird was over 50m away.
Bev finished work and arrived home around 15.00hrs - telling me she "fancied a trip to Westward Cross!" I saw the possibilities of a "Brownie Points bonus" and some birding - so offered to drive her over there and then continue across to North Foreland for a Wheatear hunt. Worked like a charm; "I'll ring you when I'm leaving Joss Bay" being my final words as I dropped her off in the car park. I then had the luxury of a couple of hours to wander the cliff-top and search for my, thus far, elusive quarry.
I parked the sleek Italian roadster by the Pumping Station and immediately started my session by scanning the gull flock that was roosting out on the ploughed field behind me. A smart adult Lesser Black-back and a C-R 3rd/4th summer Herring Gull being the best I could muster. I had no chance of the ring code, using my binoculars, so grabbed a few shots with the EOS 400d in the hope that digital technology might get a result - it has! The ring is a North Thames Gull Group orange/black code HT7T - not one that I can recall seeing previously. As with all my C-R sightings, I will post the results as soon as Paul Roper and his team are able to respond to my report.

Not such a poor result, considering the blustery, dull, conditions.
The numbers of Small Tortoiseshells is rather encouraging, at a local level.
I hadn't finished walking around the perimeter of the pumping station when I saw my first 2013 Wheatear - its' white rump flashing as it flew, low, across the ploughed field. There was another, and another etc, etc .. until I had at least six birds in view at various points around the field. However, with the sun hidden behind some rather ominous clouds and the birds showing absolutely no signs of cooperating with my photographic attempts, I mad my way up the cycle path towards Kingsgate Castle and The Captain Digby beyond. At least three Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were seen along the edge of North Foreland golf course and there were odd Chiffchaffs calling from the thickest areas of vegetaion. The first, of many , Swallow was noted as it sounded the alarm at a passing Sparrowhawk and I enjoyed some time watching the antics of the local Fulmars as they patrolled the cliff-top. Out at sea there were a few Gannets moving slowly north, but little else to bother with. I slowly made my way back towards the car, finding a group of nine Wheatears (the same birds?) feeding around the beach huts in the Joss Bay car park. Flighty as before, I did manage to grab a few shots, as the sun broke from behind a thick bank of clouds. The result is rather pleasing - if I do say so myself.

I would have much preferred a spanking male!
Still, as a first sighting/photo goes - I'll settle for this


The rondezvous plans worked a treat; so everyone's a winner? Back home in time to get our evening meal prepared - well happy! All that's require to do now is contact NTGG with my latest sighting - something I'll do after we've eaten.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

It doesn't make a Spring - but it certainly helps!

I saw my first Swallow of 2013 today, as I walked home from work (Saturday overtime - now that speaks volumes about the FSIS business during these tough times). It was flying over the school playing field, adjacent to the traditional nest site in the Newland's Farm barn. I realise that it was only one, but the sighting lifted my spirits and gave new hope for the coming year. There are still Redwings and Fieldfares around the area, in large numbers and Woodpigeons are still very evident on the cauliflower stubble - all signs that winter has yet to release its' grip.
Not an image taken today - just a photo to remind myself what they look like; a Swallow
A female Grey Wagtail became trapped inside our solvent dispensing hut, on Friday afternoon, attracting the attention of several members of staff before it was released. Another very scarce bird around Thanet, even in winter, our records are generally flyover migrants during the autumn and spring. With Waxwings still being recorded in the county, it looks like Kent is set to have an unusual year. When the bulk of our summer visitors do arrive, there could be some spectacular counts from around the various coastal watch-points, let's hope that the success of FSIS and the lure of that holiday spending money doesn't distract my attention! The weather looks to be improving from now on - I might yet record a Newland's Farm Wheatear before I depart for Scotland.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Canterbury & Thanet PAC - A night with Ken Crow

I will have trouble explaining just how glad I am that I made the effort to attend last night's PAC gathering. I had never met Ken Crow until then, although I knew of him via the Jim Gibbinson "masterpiece" - Modern Specimen Hunting (Beekay Publishing 1983) and through conversation with several of the Bough Beech Syndicate members.
I do hope that Jim Gibbinson won't be offended? I took this image from his book.
I had taken a camera with me but had used an un-formatted SD card - so bloody useless.
Ken's talk was about "Running a Successful Pike Fishery" - something that he's done for over twenty years. A quietly spoken man, he takes immense pride in his achievements at turning Bough Beech Reservoir from a trout water into a coarse fishery, yet maintaining the numbers and quality of the Pike. He runs the water as a dictator - it's either his way or the highway; your choice if you wish to fish at his water. His passion for the welfare of the fish stocks within his custody is immediately apparent - his rules concerning every aspect of fish capture, bite indication and handling are designed with the health of "his" fish taking priority over any requirement of the angler.
He used two quotes to explain some of his thinking. Firstly he used a Jim Gibbinson phrase "Pike don't get wise, they get dead!" A fact that he supported with a series of anecdotes and photos, explaining that the actions of a few idiots can seriously affect the pike stock of any fishery. He, as I, still seeing 20lbs+ pike as rare animals and in need of very careful treatment. He even went as far as to state that 90 seconds was the maximum time that a pike should be out of the water - so photography doesn't feature particularly highly in his list of angling priorities. His second quote, therefore, reflected this and was attributed to our very own John Roberts (who was unable to attend due to becoming a Grand-parent again). "What a shame that we have so little time to admire them"

Ken's training in fishery management and other aspects of water matters allowed him to give quite an in depth explanation of the trials and tribulations of the day to day running of a successful fishery. He had strongly held opinions on the effects of temperature on the feeding patterns of pike and the problems caused by climate change on the waters of southern England and their continued ability to sustain healthy pike stocks. He touched upon the problem of Cormorant predation, not feeling that the pike were particularly at risk, but instead seeing these birds were in direct competition for the same food source; certainly something I'd not previously considered.

This is a 1962 copy of the 2nd Edition - the very first version appeared in 1953

The evening sped by and was enjoyed by all those present (I think?). I was given a very pleasant surprise by Brian (a member from Romney) who had remembered that I'd been after a copy of Still-Water Angling by Richard Walker. He'd found one in a bookshop, somewhere, and brought it along. How thoughtful, how kind - many thanks mate. It is the book where the "luck" element of big fish capture is finally dispelled; the single most import angling book since Izaak Walton's "The Compleat Angler" 1653. Exactly 300 years later this classic work was to set the bench mark for all future angling writers. It will be my bedtime reading for the next few weeks, I'm sure.

Dick Walker might be the founder of the modern "big fish" scene, it was however,
Izaak Walton that set the seeds of angling way back in 1653.
This window, to his memory, is in Winchester Cathedral.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Beautiful Noise

I awoke early this morning to the sound of a male Blackbird, in full flow, singing from the T/V aerial - so much more melodic than the raucous calls of "Johnathan" (my tame Herring Gull) and his mates. Looking out, into the back garden, was to reveal a drab scene; thick, damp, fog meant that I couldn't see the back hedgerow - visibility was less than 20m! A Greenfinch "wheezed" somewhere within the buddlieas and a Song Thrush could be heard singing in the distance. The birds sensing that the approach of Spring is ever closer. I walked to our local shop, just after 08.30hrs - Collared Doves were announcing their territorial claims from all directions, Great Tit, Dunnock, Wren and Robin  demanding attention from their various song posts. Best of all was a singing male Mistle Thrush, a scarce Thanet bird these days, belting out his melancholy lament from the mature trees along West Dumpton Lane - superb!
In just three weeks we (Benno, Tom, Sye, Phil and I) head back to Loch Awe for our 3rd Scottish sojourn. I have still got loads of bits to get sorted out, but am now really getting in the groove - I have a plan for this trip; a single bite is all it will take! The final Canterbury & Thanet PAC regional meeting takes place tonight, before we take our summer break, I still don't know if I'll be able to make it - such is the workload at Fujifilm SIS at present.
So with nothing better to do I am going to post a series of images, from previous Springs and other places, where the sun shone brightly and the birds sang loudly; as Niel Diamond once sang - what a "Beautiful Noise".
Garden Warbler at Stodmarsh NNR - might not be much to look at but what a voice.
The structure of its magnificent song is, to my ears, like running water.

Moustached Warbler - June 2007 Mallorca

Nightingale - Pefkohorri, NE Greece.
Why are they so shy in the woodland habitats of the UK?
In Greece they are garden birds; completely at home on the power cables where they
can belt out their incredibly powerful song - wonderful noise!

Ruppell's Warbler - Icmeler, Turkey (May 2010)

Sardinian Warbler - Pefkohorri, NE Greece (May 2009)

Serin - Mallorca June 2007
So much excitement - its jingle, jangle mix of notes delivered at express pace.
A sunshine sound that conjours memories of The Mediterranean.



Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Tring times - more nostalgia whilst I await Spring!

Like so many others, I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the continued cold conditions. I no longer have the need, or enthusiasm, to leave the comfort of my warm bed to head off in search of non-existent spring migrants - I'll leave that to the keener members of a younger generation. It's not that I don't want to get out; I just don't want to suffer for my art. So with the promise of warmer weather being imminent, I once again find myself looking at old photos - recalling memories of some mad times.

June Tench fishing along Cyanide Strait  (Wilstone)- an original "Brolly Camp" set-up.
Early in the 1980's  - probably 1983 -  this photo shows the level
of creature comforts (those bedchairs were hopeless - I've still got it!) and tackle sophistication.
They are Les Bamford converted Optonics on a Kodak-made dam-stand. ABU Cardinal 44X reels and
custom built Tring Tench Special rods -made by Ian Crawley of Leslie's of Luton (St. Alban's branch)
The reservoirs of the Tring complex have played a major part in my enjoyment and discovery of the natural wonders of the UK. I still regularly visit the Herts Bird Club website in order to see what's been recorded around my "adopted" home county - the sighting from Wilstone, Startop's End, Marsworth and Tringford being particularly of interest. I would like to think that I'll cast a line again, in these fantastic reservoirs - my brother Simon lives within 10 minutes of Wilstone; so it's not beyond possibility.


A modified set-up, with a new "light weight" bivvy and weighted "swinger - type" bite indicators attached to the
base of the Optonic bite alarms. Don't think that the carping fraternity came up with this method of
bite indication - at this stage they were still using monkey climbers on needles - this was 1986!
A cracking Wilstone Tench of 7lbs+ The farm and horse paddocks beyond are where a Red-footed Falcon took up
temporary residence and was the first experience I had of  "twitching" - the Herts faithful present, en mass, to pay
their respects to that particular avian visitor.
A brace of 7lbs+ female tench taken using very mobile tactics in  the summer of 1990
At 7lbs 6oz, this male Tench was the "Tring record" for a short while.


 

It wasn't all about the Tench, as spectacular as they were at the time, these reservoirs also held specimen fish of other species. Although I took a few Bream, Roach and Rudd from the complex, it is the Pike fishing that really sticks in my memory. Eddie Turner, Bill Hancock and Vic Gibson were doing their thing on Startops as "our gang" were tackling the vastness of Wilstone - happy days!

Simon with a low double from Wilstone - in the background is his "two-toned" Ford Capri - those were the days!

 
A Wilstone 19lbs 2oz pike - taken from the famous "Wilstone Pier"
Look at the bedchair - a vast improvement; it now has "Preston Innovation" adjustable legs!

 


Benno (aged 6) displays a brace of pike taken from Startop's End.
The ET Pike-tubes still very serviceable nearly 25 years later.


 


A Startop's End pike of 13lbs 11oz - January 1990




 



The final double (15lbs 2oz) from Tring - taken on a livebait in Marsworth Res. - this photo is on the Startop's End side of the causeway - Marsworth being some 10m to the left, as you look at the image!
December 1992 - I now look forward to adding further to my tally of "Tring doubles" - Benno and Simon as keen as I.