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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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Taking time to watch (it's a bit of a saga)

It's another grey day (Wednesday 29th Jan); pissing down with rain and I'm bored! So with these conditions set to prevail for the foreseeable future my mind goes off at tangents. I'm fed up with the un-answered perch problems, although I do hope to return for another session over the weekend. So what am I thinking?
Well here goes! I'm not sure how this will turn out? I spend a great deal of my time looking at the birdlife that exists around my Newland's Farm patch, even more attention is paid to those visitors to my garden feeding station, but what am I actually doing? The phrase goes "familiarity breeds contempt" and that it exactly where my local birding is at. Yes; I am looking, but what am I seeing? It's a Blue Tit, a Dunnock, a Robin, etc, etc.... Every now and again something will happen, a Robin attempting to feed from the sunflower dispenser, yet apart from those fleeting moments, I'm on auto pilot - simply going through the motions. This is equally applicable when I visit Stodmarsh NNR, for instance. A Marsh Harrier drifting over the adjacent reed bed is given a cursory glance, quickly id'd and then ignored. Bearded Tits "pinging" their way through the reed stems - again a simple scan through the bins, possibly a couple of lines in the note book. A Bittern might cause a momentary stir, any sighting is always a pleasure, but it quickly passes. The fact that I've made the effort to travel to such a wondrous place is indicative that I want to engage with the natural world, but what I do when I get there suggests that I've taken my eye off the ball.
The bird that set a president - the dark morph Eleonora's Falcon that
I found near Agios Gordios, Corfu - Sept 2004
It was back in 2004, when Bev and I first visited Corfu that I realized that there was a big difference between looking and watching. The bird that did it was a "dark phase" Eleonora's Falcon which, at that time, was a "lifer". Armed with my very primitive digi-scoping gear, my initial thoughts were to record the bird however, as time passed, I realised that this was an ideal opportunity to spend time learning the species. Getting familiar with the nuances of the behavior and mannerisms of flight patterns - something which I've been able to continue with further sessions on Mallorca, Menorca and Greece. I've seen many Eleonora's which might, initially, get mistaken for a Hobby, yet I've never seen a Hobby, in the UK, that came close to the grace and elegance of an Eleonora's!

Typical views of an Olive Tree Warbler
Four hours on a plane means that you can travel a long way; certainly far enough to be in habitat alien to that of the UK. Bev and I have made many such journeys, Greece and Turkey proving to be excellent destinations for our holiday requirements. The birds that are to be seen, in the eastern Mediterranean, are familiar enough to be within my comfort zone, plus those bonus species which are, at best, very rare visitors to the UK. It is the chance to spend time, looking and learning, these species which provides the "value" that these opportunities present. Olive Tree Warbler is a species which I am particularly fond - I discovered a breeding population within the Olive groves near Pefkohorri, NE Greece, and was able to spend a considerable amount of time with these birds over the course of two years (two fortnights - over three years!) Only by spending extended time with these birds was I able to build a picture of their habits, within a very small area, and discover stuff that the fieldguides don't have space to cover.

Males are happy to sing from exposed positions, although
they are usually in shadow.
I have become very fond of these "Hippolais" monsters - real attitude/personality. Males are capable of a magnificent repertoire of Great Reed Warbler-like utterings - yet with so much more resonance and variety.
They have a wonderful song flight, legs dangling, as they move around their territories - again nothing about this in Collins!


Males were quite happy to perch in the exposed branches of the burned pine trees, although they
preferred areas which were in shade. This might have been a direct consequence of the
devastating forest fires that had occurred a couple of years prior to our visit?

That "wing panel" wasn't as obvious as I expected
Obviously, holiday birding still requires me to look, bird id is about attention to detail and, as such, I have to ensure that my "gut feeling" has been backed up by fact. I don't go on foreign holidays in order to return with massive lists of birds that I've managed to "tick and run". I want to know that I've done everything, I possibly can, to ensure that I've learnt a new bird. If I am fortunate enough to encounter a "lifer" then I want to get an insight into what I'm looking at and what makes it different from those species which I'm familiar.
Male Rock Sparrow - Pefkohorri, NE Greece.
A "lifer" in 2010 - what a superb little bird. Full of character and another holiday challenge.

Adult Tawny Pipit - Menorca
Not a "lifer" but I still enjoyed getting to grips with a species that I'd only
ever seen in the UK twice previously.
It was directly responsible for my discovery of an adult, May 2011, in Kent
Always learning! - haven't I heard that somewhere before?
Of course, there are many holiday encounters which are with birds that I'm very familiar, that is only to be expected when I've been fortunate enough to have traveled widely around the Mediterranean, and beyond, and survived the lunacy of a mis-spent youth! 58 years means that an aweful lot of Stella Artois has passed under this bridge! Looking at the natural world is a fantastic way to waste a few minutes - watching it is the best way to waste a life time?
Male Masked Shrike - Pefkohorri, NE Greece.
ID was never an issue - the time spent in the company of a territorial pair was extremely educational.

A Hoopoe - enjoy!

No good simply watching this bird - I had to look!
Eight pale fringed primaries, pale legs!
A Marsh Warbler - no shit! It was singing its' head off!
But not in a habitat that I'd have associated the species with. All good learning.

So there you have it! I'm not sure that I've managed to convey all the thoughts that were going through my head when I started this post, 24 hours ago! I will finish with one last observation, and one that might be as contentious as my views on the "Ramsgate Warbler". Has anyone else noted the the tail shape (a slight bulge) of Pallid Swift when flying with their tail fork closed?



Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Sifting through the debris

Sherlock Holmes, I ain't - more like Inspector Clouseau; a bungling, bumbling, fool - as I make my way along the highways and by-ways of life's journey. My desire to engage with the natural world is limited, only, by the inability of my brain to store the infinite amount of information that my experiences have the capability of producing.
I have spent a while researching that Nomada sp. which I photographed in our garden in May 2013. I had commented that it might be the first record for Thanet; it might just be so? I have managed to nail it down to one, of two very similar species. Nomada flava or N. panzeri - just one one Thanet record, pre-1980, of the latter!
Nomada flava/panzeri (?) - only one Thanet record ever!
So what difference does this sighting make? If I hadn't been in the garden then nothing
would have changed - so pretend I wasn't there!
No big deal, the dynamics of insect population trends being something that is little understood and has more to do with habitat, climate and lack of interest than genuine rarity! Which leads me nicely to birding. A hobby that is driven by an insatiable quest for rarity - a facet that has removed ornithology from the equation. Ornithology - the scientific study of birds. Birding = listing (at whatever level). Twitching = the extreme of the hobby. How many miles can I travel in a year to see birds that I'm unable to find/id for myself?
Don't throw your dummy out of the pram - I'm as guilty as everyone else. I contribute nothing to the bigger picture. None of my sightings are reported to the "higher echelons" for formal inclusion in any format; my sightings are a purely selfish indulgence (apart from my C-R records).
Small Red-eyed Damselflies - East Kent.  June 2012

Giant Sabre Wasp - Dumpton June 2012
I am unable to get enthused to join in with a system that is completely alien to my own outlook - rarity is a statistical definition of a something that has no concept of geographic boundaries, within a natural history context. "Throwing stones in glass houses" now there's a thought - "What goes round - will come around!"
Black Slip Wasp - Dumpton June 2012

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Tough going

My quest for a 3 lbs+ perch is really starting to get to me. I have a venue, that Benno has already taken a 2 lbs 11 oz specimen from, which has all the ingredients for a decent project/challenge. Being a commercial carp fishery, the perch which reside within the complex are a relatively un-tapped resource. Basically, what we discover for ourselves is the best info we have. The reports from other "match" and/or "pleasure" anglers of a 3 lbs perch here, there and everywhere have to be taken in context - very few of these fish have visited a set of scales (as individuals). Guesstimation is a fact of life where angling is concerned. Didn't have scales, nor a camera - a very familiar tale when in conversation with a captor of such a specimen.
I got tucked in, under my brolly, in a very nice swim.
As a commercial fishery these custom built wooden platforms are just the ticket - if you use a rod-pod!
I don't - so had to position my rod-rests in the water and the soft verge beside the decking.
It doesn't take much for the fable to become fact - commercial fisheries thrive on such legends! It is easy to become cynical, in such circumstances, yet there is "no smoke without fire". The whisper that Ben & I had heard wasn't without some substance. Benno has already demonstrated that 2 lbs+ perch are in two, of the six, ponds/lakes of the complex; it is now down to me (as I'm the only one on a mission!) to put together the pieces of the puzzle, posed by this particular fishy conundrum.
I have chosen to tackle a water of approximately two acres (The "specimen lake"). How many perch? I don't think anyone has a clue. The story goes that they were stocked at over 4 lbs! Do any of these original fish remain and, more importantly, is the environment able to sustain that weight? The two perch that Benno landed were in excellent health and condition, so I have no reason to doubt the quality of the environment, but is it capable of producing a perch of 4 lbs naturally?
My "swing arm" bite indicators are set to their lightest loading and positioned to allow
the maximum lift before the line tightens against the reel.
Perch are extremely intolerant of resistance - as well as being very light sensitive!
I was back again, today (14.00 - 17.30 hrs), fishing two rods over a baited area - not a sniff! It is only by enduring these blank sessions that I will build up a picture of the fishery and the productive areas. My major problem is with access to swims. It's a day ticket venue and, as such, I am no more, or less, privileged than any other angler. I pay my money and fish whatever swim(s) are available. Turning up at 14.00hrs! I can't be surprised that some of my favoured swims have been taken. This is where working shifts has its' benefits. I should be able to get down, during the week, when most other guys are at work.
Bait presentation and bite indication are all worthy aspects of my challenge but, as yet, not worth the day ticket money; I can't locate the perch! However, I remain upbeat about my prospects, this isn't another Kentish Stour barbel hunt - I am convinced that I have the experience and ability to see a successful end to this chapter in my angling escapades.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Another glorious blank!

You'd have thought that I might have got used to not catching anything; given my recent run of form yet, the reality is far from it! I am frustrated by my own short-comings and complete lack of answers. The pike of the RMC are a project that will continue, as and when the conditions improve, the perch of the local day-ticket venue, however, have now taken centre stage and dominate my angling thoughts.
These fish are a completely unknown population existing, as they do, within a commercial carp fishery. They have no serious pressure and we have very little information on which to draw. Benno has certainly done his homework and, therefore, reaped the rewards. I had another session on Thursday afternoon (13.00 - 17.30 hrs) which has provided more questions than answers - although I do feel that there is progress being made. I fished in a very similar fashion to Ben, even down to the same swim! I didn't loose feed maggots; I have to draw a line somewhere. Our usual bait choice of lob worms and prawns is fairly standard fare, amongst perch anglers, and the other items of tackle are also in line with like-minded specialist anglers. Soft, through action, rods and light lines (3 - 6lbs b.s.) being typical - allied with size 10 - 12 hooks, float fished or legered, the choice is for the individual. Float fishing is so much more sensitive, yet requires 100% concentration, if done properly - I haven't got the attention span to do the method justice. I am, therefore, a devotee of the bottom rig methods. When used, in conjunction with electronic bite alarms, these tactics are the perfect solution for any angler who, also, wishes to enjoy the natural history and the surroundings in which the hobby is practised.
My gear for the session. Back - Bruce & Walker "custom" Tring Tench Rod with ABU Cardinal 44X reel
Front - Duncan Kay 1lbs 10oz T/C rod with an ABU Cardinal 55. (A sleeper rod chucked out for a carp)
Now I am quite sure that there many non-anglers (and some ultra purists within) who frown upon the use of such wizardry in the gentle art. However, I will remind them that it was Dick Walker, himself, who devised such things. The original concept being a wire lever attached to a bank-stick. The lever closing a GPO contact switch as the fish took line from the reel. Thus, via a very simple circuit, the bite was indicated by an audible alarm. The first commercially available alarm being the "Heron" system. Simon and I both had these plastic contraptions, which were quickly replaced by the Delareed Ltd, Ramsgate. "Optonic". A revolutionary concept, using a roller/propeller to break a light beam which in turn produced a series of "bleeps" from the speaker, thus indicating the speed by which the line was being taken, so unlike the mono-tone of the Heron system. This was all prior to 1980 - bite alarm technology has come a long way since then - in line with most other electronic devices over the same period. Micro circuits, new digital systems and magnetic switches have been used to produce alarms that have the sensitivity to detect a fish sneezing near your bait!
As the sun begins to sink, in the west, "witching hour" approaches.
Perch love the low light levels of dawn and dusk.

I'm no "tackle tart", if anything I'm quite the reverse - an inverted snob. I take great satisfaction from fishing with mis-matched rods and reels. Impressive as the regimented pods, complete with three identical rod/reel combos look, this stuff is purely designed to make a statement to other anglers and is no indicator of ability!
My motley assemblage has been built up over the years and consists of odd rods and reels which have come my way. I have purchased just two rods (1.75 lbs TC Specialist Barbel - twin tipped) and two Matt Hayes "Limited Edition" centre-pin reels since my return to the hobby; all of my other gear is from the era prior to 1993. All this said, I will not scrimp on my terminal tackle. The technological advances over this same period have not been restricted to bite alarms! Hook manufacture is now a science, with the Japanese capable of manufacturing these vital items to incredibly high standards. Similarly, line technology has evolved some superb new materials that have high breaking strains, abrasion resistance, low diameter and ultra reliability as standard. After all, it is the bit in the water that is of importance - what the fish can detect is vital for any angler's success and directly responsible for failure. Bait presentation has to be only second, in importance to location, in any specialist angling situation. So back to my efforts on Thursday! I waited until 17.00 hrs for that bite - missed it on the strike. I have absolutely no idea why or how? It was a classic slow lift -unmissable!!!
Simon with an absolute beauty. 3lbs 6oz of hard fighting perch.
It is a fish of this calibre that I seek from my new challenge. They really are magnificent.
I had to content myself with some fabulous views of a hunting Common Buzzard, three Little Egrets and a Kingfisher, whizzing about the fishery, while my session elapsed. It is a superb venue and one where sooner, or later, my perch PB will be bettered. Until then I keep trying, but with the realization that, even on small waters, results are a direct consequence of effort. "Effort equals success" - the motto of Steven Whitby, an incredibly talented carp angler from Cambridgeshire.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Let's get this stuff a reality check!

I couldn't catch cold, or so it would seem? I can't remember the last time I hooked a decent fish. The ridiculous fall, out as a consequence of my opinions of the "Ramsgate Warbler" and school teachers, has caused more than a little soul searching. So what does it all mean? JACK SHIT!!! -THAT'S ALL.
I learnt, this morning, that a guy, with whom I work, recently married and father of twin girls, has been diagnosed with testicular cancer - proper important stuff. Thankfully, the diagnosis has been made early and, the prospects of a full recovery are extremely good - here's praying.
I cannot pretend that Catfishing didn't dominate my waking hours.
There is a massive learning curve from the 1980's to my life today
I can't claim to be anything other than a passionate observer - but I am a realist (I think!)
That I have the audacity to think differently to the masses - who'd have imagined a 58 year-old tosser could be so out of step? It seems that the general consensus is that the "bird" (cos that's all it is) in Ramsgate Cemetery is a Hume's - whoopee doo! Dylan's "fucked up again" Who cares? The fact that I am not a member of any Ornithological Society/Bird Club should be enough - yet no! My opinions still have the power to attract 3,000+ members of Birdforum to log on to this blog - to see what? That an individual doesn't go with the flow? BIG NEWS - NOT! I sit on no rarity committees, and have no power of decision/influence.
A nomadic bee sp. - in our garden
Possibly the first record for Thanet? Who knows, or cares?
Is it important - no, I don't think so either.
I couldn't id this "Nomada sp." when it turned up in my garden - strange how it didn't cause the interest that the "Ramsgate Warbler" manifested. Could it be (no pun intended) that the birding community give this particular group the same relevance as the rest of humanity bestows upon birding. No one gives a monkeys - it's a bee/fly/wasp - where's the spray?
Birding, angling, pan-listing, cycling, jogging, rambling; I could keep going - yes, of course they provide massive enjoyment to those of us who are involved - but are they important?? I have my doubts when viewed from the bigger picture - I'm not saying that we shouldn't get involved; just that there might be a need for a reality slap every now and again. Testicular cancer is enough for me.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

More learning at a new venue

Benno, Luke and I were back at the "local day ticket fishery" bright and early. We were unable to return to the swims we'd fished the previous Sunday, so decided to fish another of the lakes within the complex.
Quite what I was doing is open for debate - I blanked in spectacular style. Luke took a few fish, but it was Ben that showed us the way to do it. He landed two perch over 2lbs (2.08 & 2.11) plus a nice bonus carp, of 15lbs, which took a liking to a lob-worm fished on 6lbs b.s. line. It had a proper tear up and was a spectacular looking specimen, in wonderful condition.
A beautiful perch of 2lbs 11oz
It was another very enjoyable session and one which has helped us with our understanding of the perch within the fishery. I've only ever landed three perch over two pounds, in my life! Ben has had three in the last eight days!! I remain confident, however, that my time will come.
A fantastic carp; in superb condition - a nice advert for the fishery

Friday, 17 January 2014

Time for a change of plan?

Since November 2011; my insistence on pike fishing "unfashionable waters" has provided me with many challenges, and undoubted highs, as I've sought to unravel the mysteries of each chosen venue. Lessons, learnt during my lunatic past, have provided a basis for my (and Benno's) successes with some wonderful fish being landed. What I couldn't have been prepared for, however much I can recall from the past, is the effect of the present weather patterns and the resultant floodwater conditions, that have rendered un-fishable many of the venues that I have targeted this winter. My 2013/14 pike fishing has been a dire catalogue of blanks and "jacks" - only one double gracing my landing net, thus far!
23lbs 14oz - Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City, Herts.
Almost thirty years ago!
Way back then this was a very good carp, and my fourth over 20lbs from the "Cracker Factory".
Today it wouldn't make the fishery report pages of the weeklies!

I could revert to piking some of the large still waters, of which there are many within an hours' drive, or (as we did last weekend) seek a new challenge? On 7th February 1984 I captured a carp of 23lbs 14oz - it remains my PB. Quite simply, I've not spent any time chasing carp away from the "wildies" of Long Shaw Farm. A new PB carp is well within my grasp at many of our local fisheries; small still waters that remain relatively unaffected by the current floodwater. Maybe, just maybe? The fish I seek are of a size as to be of no interest to the "carp boys" who are seeking specimens in excess of 40lbs - how times have changed. A fish of 26lbs+ would fit the bill nicely; I might just see what I can do.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Top Ten

In order to clear my mind of the nonsense caused by my opinions of a bird, and my auditory health, I have chosen to revisit the template, as laid out by Mr Gale. A top ten - this time it is the ten most significant fish that I've landed since returning to the hobby. Benno and I are already in advanced stages of planning for our weekend pike fishing - a return to the RMC and a search for that elusive "big girl" who must now be at peak weight, prior to spawning?
I have chosen these fish because of their importance at the time of capture - therefore they aren't just a list of the heaviest fish. You will see that I have opted for the traditional "chart run down" and start with number 10.

10.) - Carp (Italian strain) Stream Valley Fishery, East Sussex - 10th June 2012
A chunky fish of 17lbs+ which took a liking to a prawn, fished under a float,
on 6lbs b.s. line, my Match Aerial centre-pin and a Tring Tench rod. All good fun.
9.) Pike - Loch Awe, Scotland - May 2013

31 years, almost to the day, after I'd taken my first Scottish pike. At 16lbs 5oz this is the heaviest
pike I've taken from the magnificent fisheries north of the border.
8.) Pike - Royal Military Canal, Kent - March 2013

19lbs 4oz of RMC pike. This is one of six, very large, fish that Benno and I were fortunate enough to encounter
during a very productive period at this venue
7.) Pike - North Stream, Worth Marshes, Kent - February 2012
19lbs 5oz - a fish that I feared was dead. The third, and final, time of capture - the finale to a
very enjoyable learning experience.
6.) Perch - Stream Valley Fishery, East Sussex - June 2012
My new PB perch - 2lbs 10oz, a species that wasn't available to many anglers during the 1970's - 90's.
Happily, they have made a recovery and now there is every chance of me bettering this fish within a short while?
5.) Chub - R. Stour, nr Canterbury, Kent
5lbs 2oz  -  a milestone fish, yet nowhere close to the biggest chub that I've seen in the river.
A PB that is easily beatable, given a sustained effort.
4.) Barbel - R. Stour, nr Canterbury, Kent - July 2013
7lbs 14oz - my first Kentish Stour barbel.
3.) Barbel - R. Severn, Gloucestershire - June 2013
Probably less than 4lbs? My first barbel since September 1985 - magic!
2.) Barbel - R. Stour, nr Canterbury - August 2013
A barbel beyond my wildest dreams - 13lbs 14oz! My second fish over 13lbs in five days - crazy times!
1.) Pike - Royal Military Canal, Kent - February 2013
Taken just a few days after the death of my mum - 20lbs 9oz. A fish that I'd targeted since returning to the hobby.
All the money in the world couldn't replace that moment when I slid the landing net under my prize.
Mum was looking down and smiling - of that I'm sure.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Is the image more important than the subject?

Being a majority of one is something that I've gotten used to - it seems that no amount of fancy packaging can get me away from the "Non-conformist" tag that I chose for my original blog. It isn't too much of a surprise - I'm still that same guy, unable to accept what I'm told without a desire to prove it to myself.
Being slagged off is a situation which comes with the territory - it's like being at work. Any bloke, of 58, who wears beads, bangles and ethnic, wooden, jewellery is setting themselves up for a hiding.
Similarly, within the ridiculously unimportant concept of birding, I find myself at odds with the mainstream. My blog statistics have gone off the radar as members of Birdforum have joined the party - maybe I should have done this earlier?

I travel along life's pathway with a very simple brief - enjoy the natural world in which I live. I have opinions on many subjects that are for the ballot box, not a silly blog, so steer well clear of religion, immigration and ethnic intolerance.
When I look at any bird I want to be able to identify for myself; I don't think that this is a particularly radical concept. To this end, I will not accept the verdict of any one else. If I'm looking at a Herring Gull? Then I'm well within a comfort zone; the Yellow Wagtail conundrum I ain't buying into that simplistic "Chanel Wagtail" gig!
I possess no great wisdom, nor am I a particularly talented birder, yet I do have the ability to look and see for myself. My perspective being if you can't be true to yourself - then you're a fool! How many individuals have made efforts to get an image of the "Ramsgate Warbler" - big lenses = excellent photos. My question is how many of them attempted to id the bird, or were they happy to accept the consensus and snap away regardless? A symptom of modern birding - BOOM!
The images that accompany this post are of very familiar species - but are they?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

By way of a change

I simply couldn't face yet another session on the RMC. The recent run of ridiculous wind and rain has played havoc with the levels and clarity of this, and many other, fishery. Benno and I had spoken during the week about a change of scenery; we'd heard a whisper of some decent perch being caught at a local day-ticket venue. Gadget and I went down (with Emily) on Saturday, to check it out and all three of us were back at first light, this morning.
The first, and best, fish of the day - 2lbs 4oz of stripey perfection.
The weather forecast couldn't have been further from the truth if they'd predicted a "polar vortex". Instead of the promised cloud we experienced wonderful sunshine and very light winds - so not ideal for the pursuit of large perch. We gave it a shot and Benno had a decent catch of seven fish to 2lbs 4oz, I managed just a single fish of little more than a pound, whilst Gadget struggled for a bite!
Lesser Redpoll
I managed to add five more species to my year list; they being Lesser Redpoll, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail and Reed Bunting - the birding was of a much better quality than the angling. A heavy, overnight, frost probably didn't aid our cause but, by the time we'd packed up there were enough clues to suggest that we might just get a decent specimen if we put a little effort into the project.

A smart little male
As always, I played around with the camera whilst I awaited a bite - these two Lesser Redpolls perched in the alders directly behind my swim. They provided a nice series of images as they posed in the bright morning sunlight


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Those that can - do! Those that can't - teach!

It would seem that the "Ramsgate Warbler" has caused a few ripples of discontent amidst the local birding fraternity? I am not party to, or particularly bothered by, the content of the opinions voiced in this particular forum. I do, however, find it incredible that so many school teachers are drawn to birding. The hierarchy of so many Ornithological Societies are made up of teachers (or ex/retired school teachers) guys who are unable to be told anything. Not particularly surprising as they have spent their entire professional careers telling kids what to do/learn - so being told something is completely alien to their world.
The desire to see a Hume's Leaf Warbler is obviously more important than identifying one? Take a look at the latest article on the Birdguides webzine (http://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=4162) - a Cattle Egret (not) that had been present on Sheppey since Oct 2013. Just because it is reported by the various info dissemination centres doesn't mean that the id is beyond doubt. Quite how many birders ticked Cattle Egret, based upon the info provided by RBA ?
The beauty of being an individual is that I'm able to play the game according to my own rules- judge, jury and executioner. Absolutely nothing, I have experienced since 2nd Jan 2014, has changed my opinion that the bird in Ramsgate Cemetery is anything other than a Yellow-browed Warbler. There are others, some of whom I have the utmost respect, who are convinced that this bird is a Hume's. I ain't going to war over something so ridiculous as the perceived interpretation of a call. If I grow older, and wiser, and discover that Hume's Leaf Warblers are capable of a perfect mimic of Yellow-browed, during a late autumn/winter moult period, then I will be perfectly happy to adapt my opinions.
Until then, however, I will stand by my post - Yellow - browed in Ramsgate Cemetery.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Game over?

Back to the cemetery for another hour, or so, just to attempt to get to grips with the true id of the "Ramsgate Warbler". Luckily, I heard the bird call on several occasions - usually quite distant, but one bout of four repeated calls allowed me a quick glimpse through my binoculars before it flitted off behind the Chapel.
I have to conclude that the bird is definitely a Yellow-browed Warbler. The structure and quality of the piercing call being one that I know well from many autumn encounters with this species.
Fortunately, Phil B turned up and has managed to get a video sound recording of the bird calling this morning - using his i-phone. He is taking it down to Dungeness, in the next couple of days, to let Dave Walker have a listen; so as to compare it with the Hume's that is present around the Trapping Area. To me it's a no-brainer. That the call is able to carry for well over 100m in windy conditions speaks for itself - it is not a subdued, disyllabic, "du-weet" or anything close!
I agree, whole-heartedly, with the consensus that this is a very drab individual and shows many characteristics associated with Hume's - just the call let's it down.  So Yellow-browed for me - 100%!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The "Ramsgate Warbler" - game on!

I had an inkling that something was afoot when I saw that "Birdguides" had a question mark besides a Kent sighting of Hume's Leaf Warbler - Ramsgate! Surely not; the Yellow - browed in Ramsgate Cemetery? Oh yes indeedy!! It would appear that there is a theory that this drab-looking individual is a Hume's.
I must confess, here and now, that I've only ever seen three Hume's (two in Kent) and, as such, my experience is rather limited. What little I can add to the debate being of dubious credentials, therefore. What I am able to recall from my previous sightings is that the call (very infrequently heard) was a distinct disyllabic, yet soft, du -weet. apparently there are a couple of other calls with which I'm not acquainted, however, neither are of a strident, Coal Tit-like "Tsu--weet", quality.
As soon as I'd got home, this afternoon, I checked "Birdguides" to learn that the "Ramsgate Warbler" (as it has now been christened) was still present so, after feeding my birds and sorting out a couple of bits, I headed off to the cemetery to attempt to hear it calling before it went to roost. I managed a Goldcrest, two Firecrest and a Chiffchaff before Phil Bereat appeared and we exchanged views on this latest development.
We are both of the opinion that this bird is "probably" a Yellow-browed Warbler yet are unable to 100% confident. I have done a fair bit of research and have come to the conclusion that a December/January individual is unlikely to be id'd on plumage alone (Advanced Bird ID Guide -and I quote - of Yellow-browed  "When worn, in late winter, greyish with fainter supercillium and wing bars, colour nearly as in fresher adult Hume's at same time of year") (Collin's Bird Guide 2nd Ed - In worn Spring plumage virtually inseparable)
So there you have it! Vocalisations are crucial to the correct id of either species. I didn't hear anything this evening, although Phil did catch a distant call. What do I make of all of this? Unless I have, all of a sudden, developed a hearing impediment; then I cannot understand what all the fuss is about. This individual, whilst I was watching and photographing it, called with the typical, high pitched, "tsu-weet" that has the power to stop you in your tracks. It has a resonance and quality that, once learned, is difficult to forget.
If this bird does turn out to be a Hume's then I'd better have another look at the Yellow-broweds from King George VI Park - they used the same calls! (I got crap photos of them also)







I have included the entire series of images (severely cropped) that I took on 2nd January 2014. Check out the pale legs and obvious pale lower mandible. Don't the tertials look dark-centred? Sorry I don't carry sound recording gear - although I'm sure modern i-phones would be able to get a recording?
It is certainly a very interesting individual, and one that might offer a huge amount of education to us mere mortals. I still can't help feeling that we were so much happier when birding was a simple hobby..