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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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Chiffchaff overload

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? This morning our garden is absolutely alive with Chiffchaffs, at least a dozen, possibly as many as twenty individuals feeding in the buddleias and using the bird bath (five together at one stage). With the sun shining brightly and nothing better to do, I sat outside, coffee to one side, camera to the other, and enjoyed the show.
I realise that these birds have featured heavily in my most recent posts but, when they're gone, they're gone, so I might as well enjoy the moment. I've mentioned, many times, that our garden wouldn't win any prizes at The Chelsea Flower Show, yet it provides a nice demonstration of the drawing power of an urban garden if a little thought is employed when choosing the plants. I am also aware that Thanet is geographically well positioned to intercept more than its' fair share of east coast migrants - they still wouldn't visit my garden if there was nothing for them!
The feeding station is maintained all year round and yet I think that the main factor, for the majority of migrant warblers, is the availability of water. We have two bird baths in the garden and, as such, provide a rather scarce commodity during periods of dry weather. A few other odds and sods included my first Redwing, of the autumn, calling in the moonlit sky as I walked home yesterday night and a Song Thrush north this morning along with a few Mipits and Wood Pigeons.




Fill your boots time! - an absolute pleasure to spend time watching these smart little warblers.
These will be my last Chiffchaff images of 2015 unless I discover something a little more interesting - a tristis perhaps? Pike season starts tomorrow, although I have an eel quest to pursue before I cast a line in pursuit of Esox lucius.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The demise of the blogsters?

This thought process was started by Stewart Sexton (Stewchat/From the Notebook - blog) who was threatening to remove some linked blogs from his sidebar due to extended periods of inactivity. Steve Gale (North Downs & Beyond blog) offered his views on the subject and added food for thought, from my own standpoint.
Only a fool would deny that maintaining a regularly up-dated blog is a chore. It requires time and effort and, if you are anything like honest to yourself, a degree of egotism. I can attempt to disguise it in many ways, but the underlying driver is "look everybody - this is what I've done today!" Obviously it is no more mandatory that people read, than it is you write, your stuff. It is a medium by which individuals are able to share experiences with others. Since the advent of blogs has come Facebook and Twitter - social media for the masses, txt speak and dumbing down, to deliver immediate gratification for all involved. Blogging has got left behind in this whirlwind of technological advancement. I think that it would be fair to suggest that bloggers are now a bunch of "mature" people who've been there, seen it and got the "T"shirt. We're old school and as such, victims of our own making. Those blogs that are no longer vibrant and alive are a result of self imposed restrictions and the subsequent lack of fresh material to blog about. The law of diminishing returns - if the whole purpose of a blog is to report garden moths/birds/plants, etc.. you quickly run out of things to write about, or run the risk of becoming very predictable.
So what do I suggest to avert the demise of a blog? Number one - don't restrict your subject matter to a specialist audience, look outside the box! Number two - don't worry about offending people, I do it all the time and no-one has died. The world is a massive place and there will always be someone that will have differing views. Number three - rejoice in the freedom of expression that comes with being a blogger in the UK. Obviously I'm not condoning anything which incites intolerance of religious, racial or sexual orientation, but we have laws defending our freedom of opinion - use them to express your own perspective on the world in which we live. (If Gavin Haig is reading this - get Not Quite Scilly back up and running, you've served your time!)

Female Chaffinch - just about to take flight from our "Christmas Tree"
So, just to keep a link with why I blog, some stuff from the garden, this morning. Plenty more Chiffchaffs frequenting the buddleias, three Swallows skimmed north and there was a definite increase in Chaffinch numbers around the area. It might not be much, but it's what's happening around Newland's today.


House Sparrows in the Buddleias


More Chiffchaffs

Monday, 28 September 2015

Blanker!

My recent outings with the rods have been a stunning demonstration of my consistency - I've not had a bite. The rods would be better used to support Runner Beans, for the amount of time they've remained inactive. A very pleasant afternoon at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, all the same, complete with the usual disrespectful banter aimed at my "vintage tackle ensemble".

My set-up yesterday - Bruce & Walker Mk IV on the left, a Duncan Kay on the right, both fitted with Mitchell 300's
perched on a Kevin Maddocks rod-pod, complete with Gardner Tackle rod rests.
Adult winter Med Gull, juv male Sparrowhawk and a Kingfisher did their bit to keep me amused and there were several flocks of Siskins feeding in the bankside Alders, I should have made an effort with the "big lens" but couldn't be arsed.
The moth trap was a little more interesting, this morning, with single Rush Veneer and Scarce Bordered Straw plus three Silver Y and my first Black Rustic of the autumn. Still quite a bit of activity around the garden, dominated by Chiffchaffs - up to a dozen, and three Blackcap which are feeding in the Elder and Buddleias, but also out in the maize. Vis mig has been rather ordinary; Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Goldfinches dominate, with the odd "alba" wagtail just to keep me on my toes. It's that time of year when I really don't know what to do next - birds, moths or fish?


Light and shade - the massive effect that shadows make on
perceived colour. Two of the Chiffchaffs that were present in
the garden today.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Back door birding

The overnight conditions were clear with an easterly airflow, so I wasn't overly surprised by the paucity of the moth numbers in the trap. Typical autumn fare included my first Feathered Ranunculus and Lunar Underwings of the year - only one Silver Y! It was while I was checking the contents that I became aware of a number of Chiffchaffs along the gardens, and probably out in the maize, there was even one individual singing. I went indoors to grab the camera gear and got back outside just in time to see/hear a Common Snipe fly over the bungalow - nice.
We've still got good numbers of House Sparrows around; the garden feeding station is probably the main reason? I could hear Long-tailed Tits calling and a quick burst of "pishing" resulted in five of these superb birds appearing in the buddleias, plus a couple of attendant Chiffchaffs, result. I remained outside for an hour, or so, recording several small groups of Siskin headed north, Linnets and Greenfinches moving south and a Kestrel loitering. Jays (local breeding birds?) are very active/conspicuous as they fly to and fro between Ramsgate Cemetery/Broadstairs Cricket Ground and the mature trees around Newland's Farm - collecting acorns at a guess?

Cracking little birds - Bunny calls them "flying spoons"
Hardly surprising - all barbel anglers have a screw lose!
Yesterday morning, as I was sorting out the bacon rolls, there was a Lesser Whitethroat fannying about in the buddleias. I managed to grab a few shots through the double glazed kitchen door which, under the circumstances, I am rather pleased with.


Perfectly usable as a record for the garden and, therefore, this blog.

 
Clear blue skies, a boisterous easterly - so what am I doing this afternoon? Going back to Sandwich Coarse Fishery for a "Sundowner" session. I called in for a chat with Kevin, yesterday afternoon, and got a session booked. The munga is ready, chick peas prepared, rods, reels and assorted kit await loading into the car. Will this be the session when the "Bruce & Walker" challenge is realised?
If it comes to pass, you can bet that I'll be writing all about it tomorrow!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

On my wanderings

That's the week over, almost like I'd never been away! I managed to get a short session in, out on The Levels, Thursday evening but, fish wise, it was very quiet - not a touch. Compensation came in the form of a juv/1st yr Night Heron; which did a nice fly past just as dusk was falling, croaking quietly to itself, en route to a feeding spot somewhere out in the mosaic of flooded fields and dykes. If anyone is interested - checking the area, east of Pluck's Gutter, either side of the river, could be worth a try?


Nothing much else happened, the garden has attracted a steady trickle of Chiffchaffs and Large White butterflies. I haven't bothered with the moth trap, but will rectify this tonight. The rest of my spare time has been spent sifting through the masses of photos from Kefalonia and attempting to get to grips with the finer points of Skipper id - some way to go yet!

Geranium Bronze

Small Copper - Kefalonia style

 
Sage Skipper

Southern White Admiral

Scarce Swallowtail

I had a fantastic time in this superb place; testing myself, as a birder, and deriving immense pleasure as a curious observer of the many other natural wonders that were on show. My complete lack of knowledge of all aspects of digital camera settings and techniques, ensured that much of the material I acquired is not a lot of good. However, even a technophobe will strike it lucky every now and again, I managed to get plenty of images that are of sufficient quality to accompany this random drivel.
The area that I explored was to the east of Lourdas, a mix of low key agriculture (big allotments for want of a better description), Olive scrub, mixed conifers and rough ground. Gradients were testing, being quite severe at times and the underfoot terrain was very uneven; not the sort of place for flip-flops or trainers.
Graphosoma semipunctatum - A Shield Bug

Some type of Robber Fly?
I discovered a lovely, secluded, farm track which meandered along a valley below the Villa Rossa Hotel. I probably spent more time here than anywhere else, encountering some wonderfully varied insects and quite a few decent birds. My enjoyment was probably enhanced by the simple fact that this was the first time I'd been able to wander around in this type of habitat for three years. We both needed a holiday - more so than new wardrobes! There are a number of birds which I associate with this type of holiday birding, three, in particular, providing the very essence of the Mediterranean experience. The call of Bee-eaters is more than enough to conjure up the scorching heat, blue skies and the aromatic scent of wild herbs. To watch large, migrating, flocks hunting over the adjacent countryside is an experience which will never fail to enthral - evocative sound, riotous colour and the superb grace of an aerial ballet, these birds have it all!

European Bee-eater, the very essence of a Mediterranean holiday
Then there's Hoopoe, that crazy crest and sickle-shaped bill, orange/pink upper body contrasting with the, zebra-like, black and white wings and tail. As exotic, as they are bizarre, I will never tire of raising my bins in their direction whenever the opportunity arises. The final species is Golden Oriole, an avian vision of such intense contrast that can only be fully appreciated under the illumination of the Mediterranean sun. I was able to see several during this latest outing, Wild Figs being the key. These magnificent birds feeding on the over-ripe fruit, yet almost invisible in the dappled light and shade of the foliage. Flight views being the norm, as they flushed and sped away over the Olives before dropping down into some dense foliage, never to be seen again.
 

A typical view of Hoopoe in Kefalonia - feeding in the shade of the
Olive scrub, blinding bright light as a backdrop.
Typical flight view of a rapidly departing Golden Oriole. Much nicer through my bins!
I'm probably boring the arse off most visitors, so will make this my final post on our holiday, although I do have a nice selection of bugs which might make it into cyber space, later in the year, as I explore the id of my garden micro moths?
 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Kefalonia - my adventure

Since our first holiday together, Menorca 2001, Bev and I have visited the Mediterranean many times. Our favoured destinations, away from the Balearics, have been Corfu and Halkidiki in Greece and Icmeler in Turkey. We have many fond memories of the people we have met and places we have visited. Kefalonia had a lot to live up to if it were to compete with any of our previous holiday experiences. As we had no idea as to where we would end up (that's what you get with accommodation on arrival) there was very little research I could do. I would just have to make the most of whatever the situation delivered which, in this instance, was a proper challenge. Not only was the local habitat arid and rugged, but the harsh light and dense foliage of the Olive scrub, meant that getting good views, let alone photos, of any of the birds I encountered, would be very difficult.

1st winter Woodchat Shrike, found on my first morning sojourn - I didn't see another for the entire holiday
My first morning out was to quickly demonstrate the severity of the birding exam I had set myself - I was more than a little rusty; of that I readily admit, but being confused by calling Cirl Bunting was a real shock to my confidence! I gave it my best shot for thirteen days, at the end of which I had amassed a list of just sixty-one species (plus a couple of dubious racial variations). I had, however, enjoyed every testing moment and now realise how important my birding is within the bigger picture. Not at any time, during our stay, did I want to be doing anything else than pushing my limited skills in this spectacular countryside, it was great fun!

There's a Wood Warbler in there - somewhere!
Taking decent photos in this habitat was a proper challenge, one which I failed more often than not
Thankfully; now that I have an even wider appreciation of the wonders of the natural world, butterflies, moths and many and various other "bugs" assisted in the task of making this trip one of the best holidays Bev and I have ever had. I've got masses of photos to go through and plenty of material for several more posts, if the local stuff/fishing doesn't get in the way?


A nymph of the mantis Empusa pennata - one of the weirdest creatures I've ever seen
The template for this trip was the same as for all our others - Bev lays by a pool all day, I go off exploring/doing my thing for three-four hours in the morning before meeting up for a bite to eat, laze around the pool for the afternoon, out for an evening meal before back to the bar for a couple of "light ales" and some music - same again tomorrow please! Not everyone's definition of a "good holiday" but, what matters is, it works for us!

Any thoughts on the id of this little scamp?
I caught loads of micros around the lights of our accommodation building.
Well, who doesn't go on holiday without taking a supply of moth pots?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Kefalonia - "The Advert"

Wow! We're now back to the reality slap of ordinary life after a fortnight in Greek paradise; Lourdas, Kefalonia - what a place. We don't need to dwell upon my pauper status and the fact that Bev booked us on an Olympic Holiday deal which entailed allocated accommodation on arrival. Two weeks for less than £500 for both of us - spending money and airport parking meant that the total cost was around £1200. It could have gone "tits up" - but not this time; we hit the jackpot.

The backdrop to our entire stay - those radio/telephone masts are on Mt. Enos - 200m higher than Ben Nevis!
Our accommodation was typical Olympic fare - adequate and clean, but no frills (what do you expect for that money?) However, just 200m down the road was a Thompsons Holiday venue which allowed everyone to come and enjoy the facilities. And boy did we have some fun doing so.


Saoulas Studios provided Bev and I with the best holiday either of us can remember, and we've had a few - although this was our first together in three years. The owner, Elani, her brother Dennis, her daughters Elanora and Stephany plus our fellow guests produced an ambience which was wondrous to be part of. We swam, we ate, we drank, we chatted and laughed, listened to music until the early hours. Not one moment of discord in the entire period. I promised that I would write about the venue, as my way of saying a big thank you to everyone who made such a massive contribution to our holiday. It was a privilege to be part of such a special place, if only for a short period - Mythos all round I think?
Elani - grafting as always

Dennis - doing his thing

Our "Last Supper" - the BBQ on Saturday night



Dennis and Pauline - such a lovely couple - in his 69 year old dreams!


DJ Sammy canvassing his audience for musical advice - he'll play anything
The photos are very personal and I'm sure that others would not, necessarily, gain the same pleasure as Bev and I - after all we all expect different things in life. If, however, great weather, stunning scenery and a laid back vibe are what you seek, Lourdas ain't a bad place to start looking! 

Bev - all tanned and relaxed, it really was a fantastic holiday!

Monday, 14 September 2015

In the land of the Bubbles!

Hi all, just a quickie - Bev and I are suffering UV overdose on the beautiful island of Kefalonia. Stunning scenery, stupendous weather and one awesome thunderstorm, so far. Birding is a struggle, so very unlike my time on Corfu, or mainland Greece or Turkey. Only one "lifer" thus far. I managed to get some nice views of an adult male Semi-collared Flycatcher.
Got loads of stuff to blog about, when we get home. A flock of 600-ish Honey Buzzards was something to behold. There are plenty of tricky juvenile warblers to keep me on my toes and then there's the other stuff. At least four new butterflies and some crazy bugs - thanks for keeping logging on. Dyl

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Do nothing - nothing changes!

Another stroll around Newland's was as about exciting as it had been yesterday. The four Whinchats were still present, way out in the big cauli field. A moment of excitement came with the discovery of an immaculate juv Lesser Whitethroat. Great views through my bins but, alas, gone before a photo could be obtained - hey ho!
The skies are leaden grey and the forecast doesn't bode well, short term. Moths have been very samey these passed few nights - Vestals excepted, two last night. So where's this going?

Even the sparrows have charisma where the sun shines!
ON HOLIDAY - If you can't change the people - change the people! (I got that from Grant McPherson; Jaguar Land Rover  - one very focussed dude!)

Friday, 4 September 2015

Newland's news and related stuff


I went for an early morning saunter around the farm, today, not particularly confident of discovering anything out of the ordinary. Just as well really - cos I didn't! I spent a while, yesterday evening, going through the archived posts and looking at what had been present during the previous two autumn periods. As everyone knows, no two years are the same but, 2015 has been a shocker. Not a single Wheatear, thus far into the return migration, and I only connected with Whinchat, four of them out in the caulis, for the first time this morning.

Fantastic views of Whinchat - NOT! As un co-operative as they could possibly be.
 

Here's one that I took earlier - 2012 in fact!
Cracking little birds.
There are two ways of looking at this, I think? I can despair at the continual degradation of the local habitat and bemoan the effects of modern monoculture farming practices and how they have impacted upon "my patch" or, being far more realistic, see it for what it is - a working farm with the requirement to produce food items at a profit. It is not a nature reserve; no part of my chosen area has any higher status than "public footpath!" The only birds that matter are the ones that I see, because if I don't find them, they can't be missed - there is no-one else looking! I remain convinced that it is geographical location, and not habitat, that has resulted in the fantastic array of species that I've been privileged to see/discover during the past fifteen years.

Juvvy Red-backed Shrike - this one photographed in Asparan (Turkey)
I've two patch records of this species, one an autumn juvenile, the other is
a spring adult male

Of course there are a great many more prolific UK "local patches" than Newland's; there are quite a few within Thanet, but that's not what it's about for me. My pleasure is derived because it is such an ordinary farm, doing its' bit to provide food for the nation, employment for the workforce and profit for the owners. I suppose it does help that I live on site, Vine Close sits along the eastern boundary, and have to walk across the fields on my way to, and from, work - which is beyond the western boundary; Pyson's Road. In line with all other patch watchers, sightings can take on a whole new dimension when placed in such an intimate and local context. I've seen more Red-backed Shrikes and Long-eared Owls (two of each) than Coal Tits (only one in 15 years!) It is this crazy ability to produce adrenaline rushes from the most ordinary of species which keeps me enthused, for ever hopeful of new discoveries.


If I didn't have such tight definitions, of my patch boundaries, Pied Flycatchers would be an annual
occurrence and the thrill of my garden discovery lessened because of this?
There is no coastline, no open water, yet I have Sandwich Tern and Fulmar, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Greylag, Taiga and Tundra Bean, Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Geese records. There have been Red-footed Falcon, Goshawk, Montagu's Harrier, Purple Heron, Lapland, Ortolan and Little Buntings, Dartford and Marsh Warbler - it goes on and on. Thanet is an exceptional place to watch birds, purely because of the geographical location. Concrete and cauliflowers hardly warrant SSSI status? Yet, even during this present stint of blogging, I've managed to add Great Grey Shrike, Osprey, Grasshopper & Garden Warbler and Pied Flycatcher (four out of five photographed) to my ever growing list. Don't get too excited, this is the condensed highlights of fifteen years worth of effort - so it isn't too often that I experience the thrill of the unexpected!


I found both of these Great Grey Shrikes - the top image being the individual I discovered on my
walk home from work - a patch tick!
The other bird was digi-scoped along the railway embankment at Reculver - means jack shit by comparison!
The boundary definitions are of my own making, I could, if I so wished, have included Ramsgate Cemetery and King George VI Park, therefore the coast at Winterstoke - but no! The farm does for me, it's probably less than two square miles (I don't have a clue as to how many hectares/acres that is?); I'm extremely comfortable within these limited spaces. It's mine and I love it - dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, school kids, warts and all!

This is what the maize field looked like in 2014 - potato stubble and home to the first successful breeding
Yellow Wagtails in five years
Not a particularly fair comparison shot? Two extremely different images due to the choice of lens!
The autumn 2015 view along our garden hedgerow.
I see what I find and have absolutely no idea as to what I've missed; so can't get gripped off! It is a wonderful place where I have the unrestricted freedom to please myself. I've got the moth trap in our garden and the fields, tracks and hedgerows beyond - what more could a passionate observer wish for?

How much longer before I manage to add Wryneck to my "patch list"?