The light is fading fast now. Wood Pigeons and corvids are piling into Ramsgate Cemetery to roost in the many mature trees that are contained within the walls. The skies are leaden, the wind remains "brisk" - with the odd flurry of snow; it's not going out weather, that's for sure! Or, more's the point, I am no longer enthused to endure such hardships, in the name of enjoyment and that's slightly different? During my first period of obsessional big fish chasing, I am sure that such a day would have been seen as a challenge, in itself. Facing up to the elements whilst pursuing chub or pike would have been confirmation of my commitment and a demonstration, to my peers, as to just how seriously I took myself as a speccy hunter. Latterly, I suppose that my birding credentials would have been enhanced by the fact that I'd spent time sea-watching or surveying the Stodmarsh reed beds whilst awaiting the evening harrier roost, under these very same conditions. One thing is certain, if I wasn't enjoying myself, I wouldn't have been there!
All of this just reinforces the role that the aging process has upon an individual and their perception of what is important. From that angle, I am far from unique? I have mellowed, considerably, since my crazy youth and now experience enjoyment as a different emotion or, at least, a different concept? Long gone are the days when self aggrandizement was the key driver. "when will I be famous?" During my early angling, I was, briefly - although infamous might be a better description, given the antics we got up to and the publicity we received - David Hall (RIP) had more than his monies worth out of us! "Snide Rumours & Dirty Lies" was a feature in Coarse Fishing magazine - I'd be mentioned in it more often than not, during the mid - 80's. I have to admit that we played to the crowds and deserved most of the flak we received - not too many would play drinking games with us, nor fancy a pop at Cuddles or The Michalik's - The Savay Looney Rota were just kids, playing at it, couldn't cope with Tennant's Extra! Havoc, anarchy and fun are my lasting memories of this period and yet I cringe at some of the situations I got myself into; looking back. However, as anglers we couldn't have been that bad, we caught loads of big fish and that's probably what caused most of the friction. How could such a bunch of clowns (drunks) be so successful?
|Tim Boag with the landing net - yours truly drawing yet another Claydon|
catfish towards the bank. Happy days, fantastic memories - fun times! Sept '89?
Of course this is no recommended template for anyone to follow. I would certainly have words of caution with Benno should he ever seek to chase his dreams with the irresponsibility I'd demonstrated during his early childhood. Obviously he would be perfectly within his right to challenge any advice offered - every individual needs to be free to follow their dreams in whatever manner they see fit; no matter what I, or others, think about the situation.
I've been incredibly fortunate to have been mentored by so many talented individuals, over the years, be they anglers, birders or moth-ers (the late Tony Harman was an inspirational & world class tutor)
I have to state that this is where luck has played a major part in my passage through life. To have been born, when I was, is a happy accident. I had the freedom to wander the countryside with catapult, air-gun, fishing rod; on foot or on a bicycle, it was a given. My angling has seen me come into contact with some of the most successful specimen hunters of the period and the advice I've been given has allowed me to hone my skills under their expert guidance. Similarly my birding, in Kent, has provided some of the most exciting adventures I've experienced. To have been able to exchange opinions and information with many of the counties "top birders" ensured that my own efforts were superbly rewarding in whatever guise, be it twitching, field birding or patch watching!
|Uncle Ben, aged 9, with a Claydon "snotter!"|
But what of today? The news that a test tube exercise has failed to deliver a correct result. Total vindication of the birders (not twitchers) of the Dungeness Stejneger's Stonechat debacle. Dave Walker had expressed his serious doubts from the offset, I'm sure that Ray Turley is looking down with a wry smile. None of the original observers had ever made a claim beyond an aberrant Stonechat. Quite what Dr Collinson was hoping to achieve - beyond that of being a complete cu*t, is up for discussion. Compensation for the huge amounts of money spent in pursuit of this hoax? It's very much a blame culture we now live in - I wouldn't be too surprised if a legal claim doesn't arise against the news providers as well as the original laboratory worker who fucked it up! Birdguides dropped the "putative" as soon as Collinson made his proclamation - we're in uncharted territory here?
|Fan-tailed Warbler - Menorca|
The bird hung around, unbeknownst to many, for the entire winter and was displaying over the Sampher (within the SBBOT recording area) during the following April (Phil and Francis reporting it, at Pegwell, on one date?). I then expressed my doubts about a Hume's Warbler, in Ramsgate Cemetery, January 2013 - I got ruined by self-righteous twitchers - one of whom couldn't tell a cormorant from a shag! Again, unkown to the vast majority, this bird remained in the vicinity (less than 800 m from my bungalow) for the next three months. It proved to be, as I had felt, a male Yellow - browed Warbler, unless they share the same songs and calls with their close cousins? If this is true, the text books and sound recordings need amending! (Or perhaps I should have shot it?)
|A Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio wrafterii |
Identity confirmed by a snot sample analysed in Superdrug - a first for the WP!