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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Sunday, 31 December 2017

Scores on the doors

The final day of 2017; time to reflect on the past twelve months and the direction my life has taken. Success and failure, alike, they contributed to get me to where I am today. So who's to decide good or bad? Well, obviously, it can only be me because I set the targets, and expectations, of what I seek.
My angling never really got close to where I wanted to go with either my perch, and more importantly, that carp I so desire. Outside influences did, once again, impact on my ability to spend as much time, during the peak period, in pursuit of my prize as I planned. Nothing I could do about it, but I am hopeful that we've turned the corner and 2018 will allow me to focus efforts towards delivering on that promise to my father?

Not too much to ask? - Two sixty year old, split cane rods, and now a thirty pound carp - please!
Birding was a non-starter, in all honesty, my year total just passing the 200 mark and included species seen on Tenerife and Kefalonia! I didn't see my first Stonechat until November and only saw one Wheatear over the entire year! It took a major effort, started on 26th November, for me to discover a way to make birds play a role in my outdoor time again. Since actively making that effort to record the species I encounter whilst out with the rods, I've racked up a list of 68 species in just over five weeks and refound that missing spark!

Canary Island Chiffchaff

Berthelot's Pipit - I needed both of these species to assist my year list pass 200
Other natural history has been on the periphery of my radar, especially the butterflies and dragon/damselflies which have crossed my path. The use of macro photography has enhanced these experiences, although I remain blissfully ignorant of the identification of many of those I've seen abroad. It's important that I enjoy, not name, those creatures I am fortunate to encounter. And on that note, I am old enough to make my own decisions about what I can, and can't, include on any list that I choose to maintain or compile. So to all those waiting on the stroke of midnight to armchair tick some species, whilst erasing others - pinch yourselves, wake up and get a life! Only competitive sport needs rules, natural history is a journey to be explored and enjoyed, not an Excel spreadsheet, box ticking, exercise!






It just remains for me to thank everyone who has helped make the blog such a lively and enjoyable project for me. To all visitors and contributors, alike, I thank you for your support and wish you a peaceful and safe 2018 - all the best - Dylan

Saturday, 30 December 2017

In mudded water

The weather has been all over the place for the entire holiday period, never the same two days on the spin. Down in this little corner, of East Kent, we've had sub-zero night times, gale force winds, torrential rain, blue skies and today, day time temperature of 13 C. Little wonder that I struggled to get a bite this afternoon/evening, pike fishing out on the levels.


Plenty of surface water on the fields as I made my way to the chosen drain and I knew, even before I arrived, that the water would have far more colour than is normal. I was well prepared, my bag contained some sardines and mackerel - both, naturally, very oily baits, plus I had fish oils, syringe & needle, dyes and buoyancy aids (Fox 22mm Bait Poppers) at my disposal. I arrived just after noon and had two baits out by 13.20 hrs, both heavily laced with fish oils (Pilchard & Lamprey) and "popped-up".


If I've learned anything about pike fishing in flood conditions, then scent has far more importance than anything visual. By popping the baits up, it simply ensures that they are more easily located and the fish oils work that much more effectively by being above the drain floor. Any current will have a greater influence on the dispersion of those added attractors, introduced via the syringe! As this was to be my final session of 2017, I worked hard at my bait presentation and was eventually rewarded with a small jack, on the sardine, and lost another fish barely five minutes later. Show over, despite staying for a further two hours.

The "apex predator" in UK freshwater ecosystems, those eyes were not evolved for
sneaking about the dark, dirty, waters of a flooded drain.
Next session planned for New Year's Morning, I'll be out at silly o'clock, to see if I can start 2018 as I finished 2017? Catching a pike!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Moving forward - 2018

It's nearly seventeen months since my father passed away and still the estate accounts have yet to be settled so we can, finally, draw a line under this particular episode in our family history. The family's solicitor, is confident that I will be able to sign the relevant paperwork, early in the new year and the bulk of our inheritance can be distributed between myself and two brothers in accordance to my parents wishes. What a bloody palaver, all in case the Inland Revenue are cheated of a couple of pence in death duties? Shame they are unable to apply this same level of diligence to the tax returns of Amazon, Starbucks and E-bay?
I'd been thinking of retirement, in the knowledge that Bev and I will be comfortable, although not rich, as a result of the hard work of my parents. But why retire? Spending money while I could still be earning? Conversations with several people have led me to conclude that all the time my health remains good and I am enjoying myself, then stick with it. Every penny earned is my own; with no mortgage, our only out goings are those associated with daily existence, food, utilities and council tax, etc. In the background is the unknown value of my Unilever pension package which is something I will be investigating early in 2018. "Everything, as we say at Fuji, in the garden is rosy!"
So what am I hoping for in 2018 and beyond ? Health and happiness is a well worn cliche yet I still hanker after just such simple goals as my life moves forward. I'm going to replace the Mazda 5 MPV with a van, purely because it is a more practical vehicle for transporting smelly fishing tackle. Some alterations to the bungalow are also on the horizon, but exact details are still to be finalized. I have to admit that I'm in a very nice place, at present, where I am now head of the Wrathall clan and able to repay the faith that my parents had in me by passing on those values, that I've been taught, to the grand children. Am I up to the task? I can only answer by saying, if I fall short, it won't be through lack of trying. The eldest son, of the eldest son, I have now to shoulder the responsibility that comes with that position.
The christian teachings, that are the very basis of my parents being, are not shared by my brothers and I, but are not discounted because we're opposed to the faith, just never brought into the whole "God Squad" fairy tale. To have witnessed the peace with which Mum and Dad departed this world has to be testament to the power of faith - I'm still searching and haven't found what I'm looking for - as yet! Realistically (and this is cold logic) I have another twenty years ahead of me in which I am able to preach/teach the virtues by which my life has been governed - hopefully my wisdom will fall upon fertile ears and the family values be entrenched at the roots of our next generations - moving on through the eons of time and space!

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Harbour star

I'm unsure of the exact date that Simon Mount discovered the first winter Iceland Gull, in Ramsgate Harbour, but feel it must have been present for over a month now? I had noticed that it had been reported recently, on the KOS website as being present, but as a juvenile?? Surely if records are to be taken seriously, then they should be accurate, or is that just me being a twat? If it doesn't matter, then records don't matter and exactly why I have no role to play in the whole pantomime that is amateur natural history recording. Just an opinion - don't lose any sleep over it!
With the sun shining brightly, from a cloudless sky, and temperatures barely above freezing, there was no great desire to get out with the rods. I waited until well after noon before deciding that a wander down to the harbour might be a worthwhile effort. Bev tucked up comfortably, in front of an open fire, I headed out into the chill to see what I could find in the couple of hours I had available. Binoculars to hand and the long lens kit slung over my shoulder I had a lovely stroll along the coastal path down into Ramsgate and the harbour basin beyond.





The bird was still present and performing superbly for a steady stream of admirers. For the majority of the time I was watching; it was the closest gull and looks very likely to be a candidate for a January 1st tick for all the Kent Listers involved in that New Year's Day ritual. I'm off fishing early that morning, but might just make a detour to grab that insurance tick, on my way home? Nothing much else worthy of note. A few Fulmars are already back on their nesting ledges, below Winterstoke Steps, and a couple of Curlew flew towards Pegwell as I walked home. Turnstones, Great Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gulls were present in decent numbers around the harbour, but it was a lone Redshank which stood out as a surprise, as it fed quietly behind the Maritime Museum. I can think of worse ways of wasting a couple of hours!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Greatest Showman

After a pleasant morning spent watching Benno catch a jack, from the Royal Military, Boxing Day evening was spent with Bev at The Vue cinema at Westwood Cross. We'd gone out to the pub on Christmas Eve (my idea) and this was what Bev wanted in return. Bev doesn't do pubs, I don't do cinemas, don't watch that much t/v, but  made a promise and found myself wonderfully entertained by this musical extravaganza, which owed as much to the special effects as the actors, singers and dancers involved. Historically incorrect, from start to finish, it is a story inspired by the life of Barnum, not a bio-pic, it doesn't stop the film from being enjoyable. Hugh Jackman (P T Barnum) delivered a line which hit right at the very heart of who I am. "You never made a difference by being the same as everyone else!"


I came home very happy that I'd gone along with Bev's suggestion and had to admit that seeing a film, in a modern cinema, is an experience for the senses that I found bloody amazing. Sound and vision being pushed to new limits by ever advancing technology.

In between fishing and going to the cinema I had found myself engaged in a rather strange exchange of opinions with a total stranger, via the comments facility on Derek Faulkner's Letters from Sheppey  blog. I think that he and Derek have a bit of previous and I just missed the point? Not sure?
Was there an attempt at irony or sarcasm involved with the original comment? Only the author could know the answer to that question. I have since made an effort to discover more about the Yorkshire Pudding and wow, what an original, popular and prolific blogger. I don't suppose we'll ever meet, or even have need to exchange comments, but it does reinforce the importance of being an individual and remaining true to yourself, as taught to me by my father and summed up wonderfully by Hugh Jackman - "You never made a difference by being the same as everyone else"

Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all you wish for yourselves - have a great day where ever you are and whatever you're doing.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Some morning

I couldn't face the ravages of the R. Stour eels for a second day, so went across to the levels for a short morning session on a small drain. Christmas Eve and I'm under strict instructions to be home by 11.00 hrs! I only took two rods, the split cane Mk IV's, and was fishing by 06.45 hrs. It remains unseasonably mild, the car display reading 8C as I parked and had risen to 10C when I left. The westerly breeze was more boisterous than of late, but not a problem. I had plenty of layers to prevent myself from getting cold. It was less than forty minutes before the sardine rod was away and I did battle with the largest pike I've taken on the "cane". 13 lbs, on the button, and my tenth double of the season. I was well pleased. Less than twenty-five minutes later, the same rod is away again, this time a jack of 5 or 6 lbs graces the landing net. Happy days!


I was sure that I'd get another chance, but had to wait until 09.45 hrs before the sardine rod was, once again, in action but the fish came adrift after a few seconds - hey ho! If I'd had been asked, before leaving, which bait I would bet on, then it would have been mackerel without fail. Didn't get a sniff today; just demonstrating how little I know. I arrived back home, almost on time, and was straight away involved in cleaning up the bungalow in preparation for the "big day". Looking out of the kitchen window I spotted a Green Woodpecker on the garden fence. Quickly alerting Bev to this first for the "in the garden list", I grabbed the camera from my study and managed to record a few record images, through the double glazing, of this smart visitor.


Absolutely no thoughts of fishing/birding tomorrow, it's all about the grand-children and family for the entire day. Benno and I are out Boxing Day morning for few hours of piking social, although we haven't decided where we're headed as yet? I should like to end the post by wishing everyone, who has visited this blog over the year, a splendid festive season and offer my sincere thanks for your support. It makes an old man very happy! Take care and stay safe - Dylan


Saturday, 23 December 2017

Candy from a baby - catching winter eels!

Been down to the tidal Stour for another session (06.45 - 10.00 hrs) after pike, but this time I had alternative ploy. I put one rod out for pike and the other for eels, just to dispel any niggling doubts that the smashed sardines might be due to chub. Couldn't catch a pike - eels a piece of cake! 23rd December after the coldest snap of the year and the slimy bastards were ravenous. I landed two (1 lb 14 oz & 1 lb 5 oz) and missed several other chances. Both fish fell to small sardine sections, although it didn't prevent a 6 oz mackerel tail from being regularly savaged by these bloody pests.


How I wish it had been snowing! 1 lb 14 oz (top) and 1 lb 5 oz (below - no kidding?)
Fantastic morning for birds, especially birds of prey, yet the cormorant spectacle was mind blowing. I estimated 3,000+  moving east between 07.50 and 08.15, with further stragglers, including a flock of 70+, headed in the same direction right up till 08.50 hrs. The main flight path was well to the south of where I was fishing and I have doubts as to whether they passed over Worth Marshes on their way out to sea? So did they get into Sandwich Bay air space? Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard all put in an appearance today alongside the regular species that are associated with this river.
As I walked off the river I passed a gentleman who inquired "Did you catch the fisherman's lunch?" My, rather off the cuff, reply went "No, I couldn't catch a cold, but I can still catch eels!" Poor guy probably walked away thinking he'd had close encounter with some care in the community case.

Friday, 22 December 2017

2017 (part two)

July

A month dominated by House Sparrows and the incredible numbers using the garden feeding station. A high percentage of juveniles suggested a successful local breeding season and I regularly witnessed in excess of sixty individuals on, and around, the garden and am confident that well over one hundred birds were present on many occasions. It was like being back in Hertfordshire when I was a child in the 1960's and House Sparrow flocks were commonplace around the autumn stubble fields.


Carp fishing was a struggle, although I did manage a beautiful little wild mirror, from a tiny drain, which I was very pleased about. My regular camera, a Canon EOS 400d, finally gave up the ghost and was replaced by an even older model, a 350d, but I also started to use a Fuji Finepix bridge camera for most of my fishing and insect images with some pleasing results as I got used to this new toy.



I think that the highlight of the whole month was Bryn catching a gudgeon! A species which I haven't seen for many a long year, but one that was at the very beginning of my own discovery of the joy of angling.


August

The first anniversary of my father's passing wasn't made any easier when Bev's parents came to stay  with us after her mum had been discharged from hospital. The stress caused by aging parents must be pay back for all the grief you caused them as a child? Four adults in our bungalow didn't work very well and, despite social services making a token appearance, nothing was going to change if we couldn't get them back to their own place. A process which was to take eight weeks! I was the lucky one, I could go to work, Bev had to be on call 24/7.

Taken on a floating crust! My biggest Ide must remain an unknown weight due to my own stupidity
Unsurprisingly, fishing was consigned to the back seat, although I did manage to grab a few sessions at the club fisheries when Bev was out doing her daughterly bit. I actually caught my largest Ide, but had no scales with me, thus it means zilch other than a nice fish. It was whilst I was down there that I recorded the first Willow Emerald, damselfly, for the area; so every cloud?


September


A logistical nightmare, we were extremely fortunate that Bev's brother, Gary, was able to help with caring for his parents whilst Bev and I flew off to Kefalonia to join, once again, The Saoulas Massive in Lourdas (Lourdata in Greek). Probably the most un-explainable quirk of fate that has ever happened in my life! Quite how this group of people happened to turn up in the same place, at the same time (Sept 2015), and find themselves friends, is truly remarkable. The fact that the bonds are so strong as to keep us going back, for more, suggests something much deeper is involved than sunshine holiday blinkers. We all have our own space and time, yet it is the unity that makes the holidays what they are - bloody amazing!

Group photo - spot the late arrivers! Sadly Steve & Sue were elsewhere, probably eating?
I have enjoyed the solitude of my early morning walks, the simple pleasure of a poolside breakfast with Bev, the group ambiance of an evening meal at a local restaurant and the full-on party spirit of an evening in Sammy's Music Bar - and so much more. This year was the first time that Bev and I saw other places around this magnificent island, absolutely spectacular. To share these memories with such special friends is beyond any words I am able to write - so I'll use some photos instead!

Leon and Pauline celebrating their 20th Wedding Aniversary

Carrie-Anne and" Harvey" - why did she marry him? (It will become clear later, the bloody scoundrel!)




Too many Mythos!
October

Start of the traditional pike season, although the weather wasn't particularly conducive to such activity in my opinion. We'd had some change in our own circumstances, as Bev's parents had been allowed to return home, with the blessing, and under the watchful eye, of Kent Social Services. The local carp puddle continued to dominate my angling effort as I sought to extract a decent perch from the larger venue. I managed a two pounder, but nothing more, although I have to admit that I enjoyed myself during the sessions I spent at the club fisheries.

Unable to do the perch justice - it just scraped 2 lbs
An after dark session was to provide a welcome bonus of a 5 lbs 2 oz tench; the largest specimen I've landed in twenty-four years. I was made up! Just a few days later, and I'm back down for another morning session. It wasn't happening for me, so I packed up and was headed back to the car when I stumbled upon a small Grass Snake. To good an opportunity to pass by, I grabbed the snake and managed to obtain some nice portraits as it wriggled in my grasp.


A 5 lbs 2 oz male tench from the local club fishery. It's been a long time since a tench got me so excited!

November

Pike fishing starts in earnest and, very quickly, it becomes clear that my tactics are on the right track. Out on the marsh I am catching regularly, with low doubles being frequent visitors to the landing net. It all got a little topsy-turvy as I'd actually started out the month intending to target the eels. First bite and, after a spirited battle, I got bitten off by a decent pike and everything was turned on its' head. I then deliberate set my stall to catch pike after dark and what a result. I can't make any conclusions, based upon my results, thus far, yet feel that there is an awful lot of good learning opportunity within this concept. I ended the month with twenty-six pike and two eels for my troubles - I was smashing it!


House Sparrows continued to frequent the garden feeding station in numbers that are exceptional, since we moved here in November 2000. Is this a local phenomenon or an indication of a change of fortune for the species within the UK?

House Sparrow central - feeding station action 
December

We're only three weeks in, so I'm not too sure if I should be writing a summary? It's not been too bad. I've managed my first pike from the River Stour and "semi - twitched" an Iceland Gull, in Ramsgate Harbour plus I've stumbled upon Great White Egret five times, what's going on?



To put the cherry on the cake, a social in The King's Arms - Otterton, Devon, provided the cement with which all these bricks are held together. The Saoulas Massive Christmas bash - unreal, except it actually happened!

Terrence is mesmerized by the festive bauble

"Harvey" trying it on with my good lady - why did you say yes Carrie-Anne?

Pissed were we?

Far to young to be subjected to this type of behavior!
I'm not sure who was more wasted? The camera man or Steve?
Happy days!
So I will leave it here, with little over than a week to go. Sure; of course something spectacular could happen but, then again, it probably won't! I have to finish by saying that 2017 has been special, not because of the natural history or the angling but, instead, the people who have shared my journey through this period. Obviously they include those who are featured in this review, but equally important are my cyber buddies Steve Gale, Gavin Haig, Richie Francis, Derek Faulkner and so many more. Thanks for the friendship and support - "it's been emotional"

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

2017 (part one)

Here we are again, the clock ticking relentlessly towards the end of another year. And as is tradition(?), in blogland, a summary of the events of 2017 an expected post during this festive period. If I were to concentrate on my angling achievements, then the highlights wouldn't make a particularly interesting read. Fortunately, my life involves so much more than fishing and, as a result, 2017 hasn't been a complete waste of time? One aspect that I find most intriguing, looking back at my blog offerings, is the role that birds have played, during the year, despite my lack of conscious enthusiasm.
I will do my best to summarize the stand-out events of the year in chronological order.

January

I had few plans for the start of the New Year, whilst it remained dull and dreary. My angling just fumbled along the same old routine. Pike sessions on the marsh or a trip to the Royal Military, neither venue producing anything other than jacks and the occasional low double - all very predictable. It was the regular presence of an adult male Sparrowhawk, attracted by the activity associated with the garden feeding station and aviary, that provided a chance at prolonged views of this very smart individual, which was to really kick-start the year.

A brace of low doubles from the East Kent drains

Garden Sparrowhawk
A couple of walks along the coast down into Ramsgate Harbour provided some nice sightings to get the 2017 year list off to a relatively decent start. Guillemot and Black Redstart  being the obvious highlights. My eldest grand-son, Bryn, had also shown interest in going fishing with his Uncle Ben - we had a new recruit to the gang, although he didn't have the clothing to face the elements, nor the concentration to stick with it for much over an hour!

Bryn with a nice "hybrid" at Sandwich Coarse Fishery

Ramsgate Harbour Black Redstart


February

Much angling time was spent at two, local, club waters; Benno, Luke and I, having joined early in month, fishing for the perch that were rumoured to be present. Great fun, although none of us caught anything close to weights which we'd heard mentioned. The larger of the two venues held an amazing stock of fish, some of which I'd (no pun intended) never previously encountered.



Fan-tailed, fancy, carp-like things, Ide and anemic perch - the larger club fishery had them all 
Although not a classic irruption year, there were Waxwings to be found around the Thanet area and I struck lucky when I discovered a small group, that hung around near Cliffsend, which I was able to show to Emily and Harry.


March

Very much of a muchness, the month provided very little of note on any level. I did fire up the 125w MV moth trap for the first time this year, catching the same moth species which I have caught every March since 1995 - not particularly exciting. A very confiding male Rose-ringed Parakeet started using the feeding station, thus allowing some very intimate photos, and the first butterflies of the year were on the wing by the third week - Small Tortoiseshells, so a nice upturn in their fortunes?



Any angling was very ordinary, with "scamp" carp (of various parentage/origins) dominating proceedings with their willingness to eat any bait I cast out. I'm still unsure if I was victim of a scam, or a genuine error. The result of the transaction (£225) is that I now own a "pair" of 1959 "Earls Court Boat Show, B. James & Son, Richard Walker Mk IV split cane carp rods, although only one is genuine!  In summary, less said, about March, the better!

April

The start of Spring and my first realistic attempts at catching that carp I'd promised my father, using the split cane Mk IV's.  I had also made a commitment to Freshwater Informer, a freebie angling mag that is circulated around the tackle shops of Kent and Sussex, to write about Bryn's angling development. The first offering was published in the April edition and was well received, much to my relief.


St. George's Day - I'm on my own on The Royal Military Canal and was to experience the very best that angling can provide; the whole reason why anyone bothers going fishing. I landed a magnificent carp of 23 lbs 5 oz which tested my ancient tackle and, equally antique, angling skills to the very limit. Nowhere close to the target I seek, it still provided that something which left me a gibbering numbty!


May

What could possibly follow that fish? Birds and bugs obviously, because there were very few fish gracing my landing net during the month! Bryn continued to expand his angling experiences, under the watchful guidance of Uncle Ben. It was good to be alive, but I lacked focus - once again a demonstration of the gift of hind sight!

Club venue scamping, just the situation for Bryn to hone his angling skills. Plenty of action and
some decent carp. Well they're decent enough when you're only nine years old!
A drive across to the hallo'ed waters, that are Seaton Gravel Pits, in the hope of photographing hobbies plus a chance of a few other additions to my flagging year list was everything I wished. Met some nice people, also out enjoying the scenery, and got my pictures.


Back home, the Red Valerian was in full bloom and attracting a steady flow of visitors whilst the feeding station played host to a good number of Goldfinches.




June

A very strange month during which I allowed myself to get distracted by the lure of Wels Catfish, plus Bev and I headed off to Tenerife for a, much needed, holiday. Quite what I was thinking when agreeing to join Benno for an overnighter at a small commercial fishery, in the Weald of Kent, I have no idea. It certainly wasn't going to assist my chances of a split cane thirty all the time I was using 2.75 lbs t/c, 13 footers and big pit 70 reels!

Benno caught quite a few of these magnificent fish - all I managed was a manky little carp!
Tenerife was OK, but nothing better, and I enjoyed my time wandering around the arid hillsides looking at this and that. However; we both agreed that adequate as it was, the holiday vibe wasn't there - perhaps we're getting too old for noisy night life and "Brits behaving badly" A week was plenty long enough and we won't be going back. The verdict being "glad we made the effort, but not for us thank-you!"



Southern Tenerife Lizard (Gallotia galloti galloti) male & female

African Blue Tit

Berthelot's Pipit

So there you have it. A summary of the first half of a very dis-jointed year. Part two won't be too far behind, although I still have a couple more shifts before time is my own. Christmas Eve at the very latest - I promise!