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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Friday, 30 August 2013

So little happening around Newland's?

I read, with some envy, the reports of other sites around the Kent countryside and the birds that are being seen. Newland's, by contrast, has been virtually migrant free. It hasn't changed since the awful spring - The Old Rose Garden hasn't even hosted a pair of Whitethroats! Swallows failed to breed at the barn, for the first time in 13 years - locally migrants have been conspicuous by their absence. It seems that the autumn is set to follow the same course. A wander around the fields, this morning, revealed a lone Wheatear, a flyover Yellow Wagtail and a handfull of Swallows, moving purposefully into the light SW breeze. A Willow Warbler flitted around the Elder bush, at the end of our back garden - Whinchats, Wrynecks and who knows what else, giving the area a very wide berth.

Juvenile Wheatear on the Ellington Girl's School fence



Willow Warbler in the garden Elder bush

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Trying to make sense of it all

I am at a loss as to what to do next - ref. R. Stour barbel. Two sessions this week have produced nothing more than eels. OK: I'm fishing blind, in a swim which has produced two thirteen pounders, so what do I expect? And there's the problem! I don't know what I expect. I know what I'd like but, is it realistic? Is it achievable? Tom took his first R.Stour barbel yesterday, it weighed in at 8lbs 9oz - so another new fish for us.
I have been scouring the Internet for clues, on how to avoid eels, and hints which might provide a spark of an idea. My previous experiences are of very limited use - eels were never an issue on the Royalty or the R. Lea. The pieces of this puzzle are slowly falling into place, however, I feel that it will be a while yet, before I (we) can claim to have made any significant progress. If barbel liked 18mm halibut pellets, that much, the eels wouldn't get a look in - well that's my slant on it. We are still searching for a robust, yet attractive, hook bait (the Million Dollar quest?)
Dicranopalpus ramosus - A very common creature - yet the first time I'd seen it?
Away from the fishing, there has been an increase in avian activity around Newland's Farm. Four Whinchat were flitting about the winter wheat (which is awaiting harvest - due to the heavy rain) and Willow Warbler activity is very noticeable around the gardens of Vine Close. A Hedgehog was feeding on some scraps, on the patio, a very pleasing record and a resting harvestman (Dicranopalpus ramosus) was discovered on the conservatory wall - quite a spectacular critter with the forked palps! I've rotated the image through 90 degrees before you start wondering what sort of consevatory we have?

Monday, 26 August 2013

Woodchurch away day - The Rare Breeds Centre

Once again it's "hats off" to the BBC weather forecast - our day out was rescheduled purely on the advice of the 5-day forecast - it came up trumps! We arrived at Woodchurch just after 10.30hrs and enjoyed unbroken sunshine through until 16.45hrs; when we left to come home.


Yet another great family day out - enjoyed in the company of Ron & Denise (Bev's mum & dad), Debbie (Bev's daughter), Emily, Harry and us! Loads to see and do at the venue, the only gripe was about the numbers of wasps! (not me or Emily) which made having a picnic rather hazardous - Debbie got stung.
 
American Kestrel - a very tidy little bird and the first time I've ever seen this species
The rare (old) breeds of farm animals were displayed to the best ability of the venue and the "feely-touchie" sections were fantastic opportunities for kids to experience animals up close. I watched, in awe, as a young blind girl stroked a long-haired guinea-pig - her expression was priceless. Emily ran riot - no surprises there then. We looked at sheep and cows, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks, ferrets, pigs, more horses, alpacas, butterflies, snakes, lizzards, spiders, giant snails and owls - just too much for a two year old to take in?
 

This hybrid falcon put on a superb display; often flying between the members of the crowd!
We watched falconry displays, pig racing and took a ride on a tractor drawn trailer - an excellent way to spend this Bank Holiday Monday. For me it was the display of the birds of prey; a guy called Colin Boardman does a fantastic job of flying/displaying and explaining the role of predatory birds in terms that visitors can identify with.
 
European Eagle Owl - on its' way! (A very heavy crop for those photo dudes out there)
I didn't take many photos - Emily took up most of my energy - but I get a lucky break when, after the falconry display was over, Colin took a European Eagle Owl into the arena for a bit of practise. I didn't get close as I had no wish to interfere with the training process, however, I did manage to grab a few shots that are rather pleasing.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Barbel id - it's all about the detail

I'd been chatting with a couple of guys, at work, about my two barbel from the R.Stour - which led to the question "are they the same fish?" A no brainer, in my world, but a very valid query from an outside perspective. The id of individual fish is all about the detail. With pike, it is aided by the obvious patternation of their dappled flanks, as for barbel? Well it is about the obvious flaws in the scale pattern and other spawning marks, so very similar to the subtle differences between Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler wing formulae and leg colour? Attention to detail; don't look for the similarities - it's all about the differences.
It doesn't require the skills of Sherlock Holmes to spot the split in the pectoral fin and damage to the lower left barbule.
The small group of missing scales, just behind the pectoral fin, are the clincher?
My first thirteen pounder had some marks that make it impossible for the two specimens to be the same fish as the second one. Once a fish looses a scale, or damages a fin/tail, these scars remain for the rest of their lives; they certainly can't repair in a few days!


Ignore the odd bits of pond weed, this is clearly a different fish - both the pectoral fin and lower barbule being
intact  - with no scale loss.
I've spent a lot of time researching the details of barbel movements along the R. Severn, looking at the results of tagging programmes and the comments of anglers fishing the river. Whilst I am in no position to make any comment upon the barbel behaviour in the context of the R.Stour, at present, I find it quite interesting that I'm able to draw many similarities with my experiences of these initial captures.
I don't feel that my success qualifies me to make any conclusions (I've only taken four fish in 10 weeks!) - although I am continually seeking to learn from my sessions and experiences.
 

It's been some week!

I am in no doubt that I will ever experience angling success like I've had, this week, again in my lifetime. Two 13lbs+ barbel from the R. Stour is the stuff of dreams - it would be a great result from the R. Thames! So to catch two fish of this class from a river that is classified as difficult (by the Barbel Guys Ltd. - Aston Clinton branch) is a fantastic achievement. However, the fish are just the icing on the cake - it has been a great week all round.
On Thursday Jane (Bev's best mate) and I went to Dover Castle. To my shame, this is the first time I've been there!!! My initial reaction was to think that £17 was a bit steep - no way. Having spent five hours without coming close to seeing all that there is on offer, being guided by people who are 100% into the English Heritage gig, thus very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and witnessing the power of interaction (The Great Tower) between the actors and the kids; I was completely blown away, £17 well spent therefore. The Operation Dynamo (Dunkirk evacuation) and The Underground Hospital tours were worth the money on their own - Jane and I were like kids in a sweetshop; where did we look next? (Why didn't I take a camera?)

Oak Bush Cricket - photographed on my un-hooking mat (Bev didn't want it in the house?)
Still plenty of insect activity around the buddlieas, plus a few decent moths and an un-invited bedroom visitor! Bev discovered an Oak Bush Cricket on the ceiling. I was summons to remove it before she would go to bed - I potted it up and photographed it the next morning. Two Tree Lichen Beauty and a Gold Spot brightened up the egg boxes, of the moth trap, on Wednesday morning; I am running the trap very intermittently at present. There was a Hummingbird Hawk-moth feeding on the buddlieas on Tuesday evening; Bev, Jane and I sitting out in the late afternoon sunshine when it put in a very brief appearance. Why have migrant moths been so scarce when Kent has been host to so many migrant butterflies?
 
A decade ago this would have been a "mega"
These days - a gimme on a Thanet garden year list

A Gold Spot - a classy resident species which is always welcome. I think it is just about annual in the garden?
It's certainly not regular.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Barbel daze - again!

Benno and I had been looking at the weather forecasts, since Saturday, and come to the conclusion that, if they were correct, Wednesday would be favourite! Usually any planning based on the efforts of the BBC website is best left to the last minute yet, this time, they got it spot on! We would get down to the river for 18.30hrs and fish through till 23.00hrs; wanting to test a new baiting regime that might help us reduce the eel activity?


I will never give the details of where, or how, we are fishing - we work far too hard to want competition from idle tossers who just want to ponce off of others, To this end, all of our photos are taken with the most obscure back-drops; if anyone knows what swim we are in, then they know the R.Stour intimately and will already be aware of the fish in the vicinity. Tonight was to prove that we are heading in the right direction, we both took a fish. Benno's a rather modest specimen of 7lbs 14oz, mine a magnificent fish of 13lbs 14oz - so yet another new PB!
 

Two 13lbs+ barbel in five days! What is the river capable of producing? What are we fishing for?
This R. Stour project is turning into a crazy adventure - we simply have no idea as to the maximum size, or numbers, of the barbel that exist  within the shadowy depths. What I do know is that we are beginning to understand the fundamental requirements of the barbel in the R. Stour and, if we stick with it, one of us will see a fish of 15lbs+ before the pike season starts (How's that for confidence?)
 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Bent rods at Long Shaw

Benno, Gadget and I spent a very pleasant afternoon at Long Shaw Farm - scamping it up! Both Ben and Gadget managed to scrape a double; I couldn't catch a cold! My only visitor to the landing net being a rather spectacular-looking linear mirror of 7lbs! It was, however, just nice to be able to spend a while chatting and fishing without the pressure that we have created whilst pursuing the barbel of the R. Stour.
A lean linear mirror which put up a fine scrap on my Tring Tench Rod and a Matt Hayes "Limited Edition" Centre-pin
Long Shaw is a wonderful venue to learn the skills required to fish with a centre-pin - these wildie-type fish do their very best to test the angler, and his/her tackle, to the very limits. With chances coming regularly, the angler has every opportunity to develop the techniques required by these reels.
Finally - Phil Michalik! If you are reading this? The e-mail link you provided doesn't appear to be working. Would you please send your address again - it would be fantastic to catch up.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Barbel daze

It is after mid-night, and I have just got back from my latest session on the R. Stour. Benno and I sticking to our plan of fishing the river for barbel until November - when our attention will turn to Esox lucius, the Northern Pike!


My outing involved a bit of gardening, as my preferred swim was taken and I was forced to look elsewhere. With a little effort, and wet socks, I was able to create a swim which looked very promising, some 600m downstream from where I'd had my previous successes. The walkie talkies were in constant use as Benno and I talked tactics and tackle as the light levels fell away.
At around 22.30hrs my Optonic screamed into life, the Matt Hayes centre-pin spinning madly, as an unseen fish bolted away with my bait. It was an epic battle, Benno kept informed by frequent garbled messages on the walkie talkie, which resulted in my landing a barbel of 13lbs 5oz. What a fish!
I got very wet, as I needed to get into the river to net my prize, but it was worth the discomfort - yet another new PB.
 

Benno came down to witness the ritual weighing and press the shutter release on my camera - memories are made of these things. I tried to phone my brother Simon - no joy! Bev was contacted and given the glad tidings - completely beyond her comprehension! Benno rang Bunny; who was suitably impressed. What a fish, what a moment, what a memory - it's all a daze at present.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Simplicity?

Every now and again, I see a photo (usually posted on Birdguides) which ticks all the boxes; although I am at a loss to explain exactly why? What I do know is that I am generally in awe of the composition and subject. It isn't a result of advanced technology - just the vision/good fortune of the photographer to be in the right place at the right time. Looking at some images that I captured during a recent visit to Sandwich Bay, one sticks out from all the others. It is a simple portrait of a juvenile Kestrel, taken through some foliage, which just has that something special that the rest of the series lack!
A very pleasing image - taken from the coastal footpath besides Prince's GC
What was I doing out there?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Slowly gathering pace

I discovered three juvenile Wheatears, as I walked across to work, yesterday afternoon. They were feeding on a rough area close to the Old Rose Garden, a regular stopover in both Spring and Autumn. It won't be long before I find a Whinchat? There were three or four Willow Warblers flitting around the buddlieas, as I sorted out the recycling bin this morning. I grabbed the camera - only for one bird to immediately pop out into the open and pose on a dead branch of our flowering cherry. If only it was always that easy. A couple of Swifts drifted south, the first I've seen in nearly a month! Autumn migration is underway and things will only get better as the days shorten.
Juvenile Willow Warbler; posing nicely in the garden.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Kent's gone crazy!

Andy Lawson once said to me "exceptional weather can produce exceptional birds" - he was, of course, referring to some impending, unseasonal, storms heading towards Thanet from the North Sea. It would appear that this same adage can be used for insect occurrences also. At least seven Long-tailed Blue (butterflies) have been discovered along the Kingdown Leas - the first Kent records since 1957 apparently! Sandwich Bay Obs reported an Ant Lion - their first ever sighting and there have been at least three Swallowtails reported from around our coastline. Red-veined Darters and Lesser Emperor dragonflies have added to this years' tally of unusual insect records; all as a direct result of the ridiculous weather patterns we have experienced?
Long-tailed Blue - Corfu 2007
Insects are important indicators of the state of our environment, they are very quick to react to any given situation (good or bad)) and, as such, can help us understand the impact that climate change/habitat management is having on our world. With the current trend for all camera wielding birders - cum - panlisters to chase every new species with the rabid fervour of a "1980's twitcher" I find myself smiling contentedly (as only an old man can) and thinking how much better their time and money could be spent.
 
Swallowtail - Icmeler, Turkey. October 2011
Bev and I can spend a fortnight in Greece or Turkey (or umpteen other places) for less than £700 - all the insect photos you could wish, plus sunshine! OK; so the Long-tailed Blue doesn't get ticked in the UK box on an Excel spreadsheet - it still gets ticked! You spend your money and make your choices; it's certainly not my place to give advice of matters frugal. It just seems to me that the world is such an easy place to access why limit yourself to a geographical region which nature has no concept of?
 
Red-veined Darter - Corfu 2007


One we've lost - Black-veined White
Was it climate change or, as more likely, habitat loss?
Turkey 2011

Lang's Short-tailed Blue - my tip for the next "new" species on the UK  butterfly list
Turkey 2010

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Flower power

Our garden exists for one purpose and that is to provide sanctuary for the wildlife that is to be found around West Dumpton. Most of our plant choices have been made with insects in mind - moths being number one consideration! Not everyone's favourite group of insects; I happily accept that.
Today has been a wonderful testament to our vision, the garden has been "buzzing" with insect life. The major draw, at present, is the huge bank of flowering buddlieas that stretch the entire length of our northern boundary. I have been outside for the majority of the morning - hoping that a Hummingbird Hawk-moth might show up. It didn't happen.



Butterflies abound, I recorded Large, Small and Green-veined Whites, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Painted Lady and Red Admiral; all of which are to be expected. The Speckled Wood and Common Blue, however, are far less predictable in their appearances.
 



A splendid Migrant Hawker dragonfly rested for a while and several Ancistocerus sp. Mason Wasps were hunting around the dead flowers; all very sinister. A cracking morning to be outside, several Willow Warblers and a Blackcap were transient visitors with a couple of pulses of House Martins heading south overhead
 

Monday, 12 August 2013

Distractions

It's been 10 days since I caught my PB barbel and I have been back, twice since, to the same swim hoping to add to my tally. The outcome of these visits has been as predictable as they have been educational - I've been savaged by eels; a species which is in major decline (except in the Kentish Stour!)
Eels have a highly developed taste sensitivity, homing in on anything with a meat/fish flavour, with un-failing ability; so very annoying when fishing for other species. That eels remain numerous in the R. Stour is testament to the water quality, so something that we should be pleased about. That they are a nuisance when barbel fishing is also something that I will have to live with - we're fishing for a small population of barbel in a river full of eels. Benno and I are the engineers of our own downfall - we introduce fish meal pellets as part of our baiting plan. Eels are quick to react to this bounty - the result is angler frustration. Time for a major rethink - I have a week to come up with  "plan B"


In the garden there have been plenty of distractions, the moth trap providing some nice records. Dark Swordgrass and Small Ranunculus have been added to the year list whilst a rather smart looking Cloaked Minor caused a little head scratching (it is not the form that I am used to catching)
Bev and I saw a Clouded Yellow flying along Shirley Avenue, as we walked back from Gadget's place, yesterday, and an adult Hobby was hunting over Vine Close in the evening.
 
Speckled Bush-cricket - looking rather wet!
With the imminent arrival of Mrs Jane Moran (HRH?) the window boxes have been given the once over and hanging baskets now adorn the wall beside our front door - a Speckled Bush-cricket looked decidedly dishevelled as I finished watering the newly planted fuchsias.
 

The splendid hoverfly V. zonaria was discovered feeding on a buddliea; an insect which has been responsible for more Hornet sightings, on Thanet, than the real deal?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Hunting tigers

The annual National Moth Night (weekend?) is taking place 8th - 10th August 2013 - so we are in the middle of this celebration of all things mothy. The target species, for this years effort, are the spectacular "Tiger Moths", a family that has suffered very mixed fortunes over the past few years. The, once, familiar Garden Tiger has undergone a catastrophic decline in our region (my last garden capture was in 2008) whereas the Jersey Tiger has seen its' occurrences become more regular, with small populations becoming established across southern England.


Sadly, for me, there were no examples of either species but I didn't toil in vain. There were 3 Ruby Tigers in the trap, this morning, along with a nice selection of the common resident species which are to be expected in a Thanet garden. A Chocolate-tip was a nice addition to the year list and the presence of a Vestal is a sure sign that some insect migration is underway (only my third garden record in 12 years!)


Chocolate-tip - nicely picked out against the background of Emily's play house

Vestal
The main feature of last night's catch however, was the equivalent to moth trapping nightmares. Over 170 Silver Y's were contained within the Milton Mk VII; creating chaos as they refuse to settle for any length of time. Removing the perspex covers, clouds of these energetic little moths streamed from the egg boxes, taking who knows what else, with them. Geometers are particularly skittish in these conditions. It is a situation of my own making - my trap is placed besides our massed buddlieas; a group of six mature bushes which stretch for 50ft along our northern boundary. Silver Y's love the stuff, so it's no surprise that they form the bulk of my catches when conditions are favourable.
 

The Silver Y - a smart little moth which has the ability to cause chaos inside of any moth trap (whatever the design)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Thinking (Barbel) tackle and tactics - with so many distractions!

My world, since the events of Saturday night, has been in utter turmoil. Bev and I have decided that the craft room (the west wing of our abode) is in need of serious attention. The whole layout has been given a major rethink - with rather pleasing results, so far. This, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that Jane, Bev's best friend, is coming to stay with us for a week (Aug 19th onwards) - just coincidence I guess? (I couldn't give a toss - I caught an 11lbs 9oz barbel!)
I've put this image on the "Dragoncarp Direct" wall of fame - in the Ramsgate branch.
When will I be famous? Or am I just f**ked off with idiots posting photos of fish which aren't close
to the weights they report? I've been an angler for a long time.
I once heard this comment; " Are all anglers' liars or do all liars fish?" Some of the guys with photos on the wall
might do well to think on this for a while.
However, away from the upheaval, the barbel of the Kentish R. Stour dominate my waking hours - as I try to piece together the jig-saw that our experiences have provided. There are so many missing pieces, that I'm confident we'll require another full season before we can draw any meaningful conclusions. Of one thing I am sure; if we stick to our plan, a very "big" barbel will be taken by one of us (Tom, Luke, Benno, Simon, Bunny or myself) - the river is in such good condition. Of course I'd like it to be me, but with these guys in the mix - I will be equally happy if any one of them took it. We have no secrets and no jealousy - a perfect combination.
 
Digger Wasp sp. in the garden - enjoying the sunshine
The weather, on Thanet, has been spectacular recently. The rain has ensured that our buddlieas have come on, in leaps and bounds, and suddenly the garden is alive with insects. Butterflies and bumblebees dominate, yet I recorded my first 2013 Hummingbird Hawk-moth on Friday. Painted Ladies have arrived in big numbers (along with hoards of Silver Y's) plus good numbers of Peacock butterflies. It would seem that we are finally getting some balance back into the eco-system. Resident moth numbers are at a level which is to be expected - Privet Hawk-moths are having a bumper season!
 
Emily and a Privet Hawk-moth
My camera has been present - macro set-up - in the kitchen which ensures I'm able to grab it whenever there is something of note around the jungle, that we call our garden.


Painted Lady

Comma


Male Common Darter in the back garden
Not quite Marc Heath standards - plenty good enough for a blogger!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Dreams can become reality - if you persevere!

It's been a long time coming but, having just got home from the R. Stour, I have captured a barbel of 11lbs 9oz. A new PB and a fish that has been central to my waking hours since the start of the new season (June 16th). Benno and I had arranged a Saturday evening session during the week, so it was fantastic that Benno was on hand to grab a few shots of this "milestone" fish. We were fishing around half a mile apart, walkie talkies allowing us to keep in touch.


This fish came from the same swim as my first barbel, from the R. Stour, and put up a fantastic scrap on my 12' "Specialist Barbel" rods and ABU Cardinal 66X (12lbs b.s, line & size 10 Korda widegape hook). I have come up with a ruse to minimalize the eel interference - so far, so good. I still am using 18mm halibut pellets but fishing them over a bed of hemp and sweetcorn. Stroke of genius, or plain lucky? - only time will tell!
 
This old warrier is showing a few battle scars. The lower tail lobe is damaged and there is a fresh
sore on the flank, just above my left hand.
A magnificent fish, all the same, and one that I'm very happy to have captured.
This is a job half cooked! There are so many factors involved in getting to grips with these barbel that I would be kidding no-one, but myself, if I pretentended to have any answers. It is an ongoing project, Benno and I being very fortunate to have capture two very good specimens so early in our campaign? We have every intention of sticking with our plan until November, when pike fishing will, once again, take priority.
 
Benno, complete with chest waders, ensuring that my fish gets safely back into its watery home.