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, that was until Covid-19 intervened!. 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!


Tuesday, 3 August 2021

It had my name on it?

The alarm went off at 03.10 hrs, Bev questioning my sanity, as I slipped out of bed. "Tight lines" being her well rehearsed parting shot. Everything was already loaded in the van, just my camera bag needed before I departed into the darkness. Despite the dry forecast, it was drizzling and I was expecting to get wet as I hadn't packed any waterproof gear. Happily, as it turned out, the rain ceased by the time I arrived at my parking spot, so I managed to push the barrow across to my chosen swim without any issues. For some reason I'd chucked my chest waders onto the barrow, with the intention of clearing a few reed stems and the odd lily leaf, I guess? I was at the drain by 04.35 hrs, my baited hook in position within twenty minutes. It was a typical flatland's dawn with the sun appearing in a gap in the clouds which masked the horizon away across the English Channel.

I've already mentioned that I'm using worms as bait, in the hope of catching my target fish, but still wasn't best pleased when the bite alarm sounded and I found myself attached to yet another eel! I'd only been fishing for twenty minutes and had to sort out this snotty mess. I got it back in the water, no photos, wondering why I'd bothered getting up at silly o'clock. Another baited rig back in position, I was serenaded by three, possibly four, Greenshanks flying above the marsh but, if I'm honest, even the birds were all very predictable. It was 06.05 hrs when everything changed. The alarm screamed as the bobbin smashed against the rod and I found myself battling a fish which had no intention of visiting the bank. Fortunately, as I have alluded to in my previous posts, my gear is set up for just these scenarios and the 50 lbs b.s. braided mainline scythed through many lily stems as my unseen adversary careered along the drain. Eventually we reached stale-mate, the fish was weeded about 30 m away and, despite walking along the bank to get a different angle, nothing was moving. Swirls on the surface indicated that the fish was still attached so, opening the bale arm of the reel, I left the rod and ran back to my swim in order to get the waders on. What a bloody fiasco? Eventually I returned to the rod, waders on and landing net in hand. I waded straight into the drain, finding myself up to my chest within two steps from the reeds. I wound down and quickly established that the fish was still attached at which point it powered out of the weedy snag and dived headlong into another lily pad. This time, however, I was better positioned to counter the ruse. With the Duncan Kay bent to the handle, the fish came grudgingly towards my landing net, but it wasn't ever going to be simple. Oh no, the net was resting on lily leaves and the fish swam straight underneath it! Bollocks!!!! Next time, and due to weed on the line now covering the fish's head, I finally managed to draw my prize over the net chord. 

What a fish, what a huge adrenaline buzz. My prize being a stunning "wild" Common Carp weighing in at 22 lbs 3 oz. An absolute breeze block, of a character, with all the magnificence of true flatland royalty. Mahogany bronze, complete with real attitude and stunning surroundings, it is occasions like these when I realize exactly why the 03.10 hrs alarm call is worth the effort. I'd packed up by 08.15 hrs, with the self takes done, I was indoors before 09.45 hrs. Buzzing? You'd better believe it.

Friday, 30 July 2021

To my shame

 Being fortunate to live in a wonderful neighbourhood, in the quiet backwater of Dumpton, which is part of Ramsgate on the Isle of Thanet, I am truly grateful. The sea is just over a mile away, as the crow flies, and should I wish to embark upon a low carbon birding project places like North Foreland/Foreness Point, Ramsgate Harbour, Pegwell Bay, Reculver Marshes and the superb Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry NNR are all within an hour's walking/cycling distance. I'm living the dream compared to those, far less fortunate folk, who find themselves in land-locked towns and cities of the Shires and Midlands, for instance. Now, two General Elections ago, I am ashamed to admit that on that fateful date I placed my "X" beside the UKIP candidate - one Nigel Farage. It seemed like the best option at that time - what a major error of judgement on my part. A few years back, Bev and I had a massive redevelopment of our bungalow, using a builder called Kevin Andrews and his team. They're from Margate and came highly recommended by neighbours who'd also had some work done by these guys. 

The Margate Lifeboat in action off of North Foreland
I nicked the image from Google - do hope no-one gets upset?

Kevin said six weeks, but planning regulations and umpteen other unseen issues meant it was closer to nine months from start to finish so, unsurprisingly, we became quite friendly. Turned out that Kevin and his mate Andy were members of the Margate RNLI Lifeboat crew. Kevin was actually the coxswain, and several times during the building project they had to down tools in order to attend some maritime incident off of our coastline. These guys are volunteers, putting their own lives at risk in order to assist others. When I saw, and listened to, what Farage had to say about these brave individuals acting as a "taxi service" for illegal migrants I was speechless. This racist bigot had conned me into voting for him, riding high on the failure of Theresa May and, clown prince, Corbyn to convince the electorate that they were worthy of support. I cringe at the bile that comes out of his mouth - he has no grasp of what we, as "British Citizens" hold dear. He appeals to the low life, far right, extreme of a culture which thrives on diversity and prides itself on being a fair and open democracy. Or at least we used to?

Sorry for this heavy shit, I seem to be on a bit of a moaning mission at present. Out in the garden, again, early this morning in order to save the hanging baskets from a battering by "Storm Evert". I haven't spent all summer nurturing these plants to have them destroyed by a summer storm. Once I'd done the necessary, I grabbed the bins and scanned the skies for swifts. I don't think there will be many more sightings in 2021 from the garden, so was pleased to record eight in little more than an hour. What put the cherry on the cake was the sighting of a lone House Martin battling south, into the increasing wind, thus adding another species to the BWKm0 2021 list

No. 64 - House Martin

I was really pleased with this sighting because, on Tuesday, I'm sure I completely screwed up when another single hirundine passed over the garden but I just couldn't clinch the id despite my "gut feeling" Hopefully, some time in the not to distant future, I'll get down off of my soap box and revert to posts about not catching fish from the East Kent marshes?

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Schoolboy error

 After posting my offering, of yesterday, I felt a bit uneasy. I'd read it through to Bev, in the hope that she would pick up on anything too offensive or outrageous. She thought it was okay and I pressed the publish button still unsure if it was the right thing to do? My issue was with the obvious fact that I'm no longer actively involved in birding, at any level beyond that of casual observer. Should I offer an opinion? My blog, do what I like, so sod it! I packed the van with a bit of kit and headed off out onto the flatlands for an afternoon/evening session with the rod. Because it's over a mile and a half between my parking space and where I'm actually fishing, I took the minimum required, using the barrow to avoid excessive wear and tear on my arthritic joints. 

I'm after a specific fish but, because of the chance of catching a sizeable carp is an ever present possibility the kit is biased towards strength, not finesse. The huge ammounts of vegetation, both on and below the surface, have already cost me several good fish. It was a beautiful afternoon, although a 40 mph SW wind ensured I kept a long-sleeved shirt on even in the blazing sunshine. Bait in position, alarm on and the indicator resting on my line there was nothing better to occupy my time than scanning the marsh with my binoculars to see what was about. It didn't take more than a quick glance to realise that there was a significant movement of Sand Martins and Swifts taking place across the area. Next thing I know there are two adult Mediterranean Gulls steadily moving south almost directly overhead. What didn't I take with me? You got it - my long lens. Beautiful light and all I can do is sit and stare. I rang Bev to check if we'd had a parcel delivered, we had, and I told her of my predicament. She just laughed, which was very sympathetic I thought. Call over, I picked up my binos again and straight away an adult male Peregrine came into focus as it passed within 50m of my swim then, just to take the piss, a superb adult Raven flew low over the drain. My views through the optics making it seem as if I could have reached out and stroked it! And so it continued all the time there was daylight. A tatty looking adult female Marsh Harrier hunted the field directly behind me, a Hobby chased dragonflies further along the drain. There was a second Raven, scores of Lapwings, a distant Little Egret, six more Mediterranean Gulls (4 ads, a 2nd summer & a juv) and my very conservative estimates of 520 Sand Martin and 60 Swifts don't really do justice to the sheer spectacle of the passage I witnessed as pulse after pulse of these migrants passed me by. I've been playing around with various bait options, recently, and have settled on worms for the time being. At 19.30 hrs my alarm sounded, which in itself is a minor miracle, and the indicator rose towards the rod. My strike met with firm resistance but any joy was quickly replaced by a heavy sigh as an eel rolled on the surface of the drain. It weighed little more than 2 lbs, so a quick record photo and back it went leaving my net and sweater covered in pungent snotty slime - oh joy! The only other sighting worthy of merit was that of my first, Kent, Brown Hawker of 2021. I saw one in Tim's back garden last week up in Hertfordshire.

That's about it really, nothing much else to report beyond a few garden observations. Still a few swifts around, 17 yesterday and 14 today, although some will be breeding birds from the colony in St. Luke's Church? House Sparrow numbers are starting to build with flocks of fifty plus birds being seen around the gardens. Goldfinches have had a good breeding season, with many juveniles visiting the feeding station which has also attracted a few Chaffinches and Greenfinches which is always nice.

Whilst looking at some hoverflies, on the hanging baskets, I spotted the first Gatekeeper of the year sun bathing on one of our buddleias. Casual observer - yeah that's what I am.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Higher ground

 I'll get this started with another huge thank-you to Gavin Haig, over at NQS, for the inspiration for my own post. Click here to see what was catalyst for this offering and please read the comments which resulted from this, superb, thought provoking, piece. I'm guilty, as the next man, when it comes to finding fault with the behaviour of others. It doesn't matter if it's the "agricultural methodology" of some pike anglers or the lack of etiquette by morons (I refuse to call them anglers) fishing for spawning carp out on the drains. So I make no claim to being any type of a saint. What I can say is that my opinions are based upon personal experience, not those enforced upon me by a third party. Rapidly approaching sixty-six years on this planet I feel I've earned the right to offer a reasoned opinion upon subjects which have been part and parcel of my journey. Engineering, mountaineering, space exploration and plumbing - all way off of my radar. Birds, fish and associated natural history, are part of my very soul, the reason why I still wake up in the morning.  

So where's this going? I live in a democracy where freedom of speech is a given. That I can be in breech of the law should I incite racial, religious or sexual intolerance is understandable but, having an opinion is still legitimate. That my opinion doesn't always concur with that of others is also perfectly acceptable, it's all about choice. You have to believe how lucky I feel to have never embarked upon any Twitter, Facebook, Instagram journeys, I'd have been chewing fence posts and spitting feathers, probably banned, because of my own intolerance of certain subjects which would have me fuming. Fortunately age, as opposed to wisdom, steered me clear of these situations and my only forays within social media are via "Blogger" and an email account. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with questioning how we, as individuals, negatively impact the environment in which we live. The concept of offering sound, science based, evidence to support any opinions is always preferable to that of "I think". "Low Carbon Birding" has created a massive ripple amongst the birdwatching community with certain individuals taking it upon themselves to pass judgement upon those who fail to comply with their personal viewpoint. It is one thing to change your own habits/behaviour in order to conform to a set of standards which you feel to be the right way to progress. Setting yourself up as high priest is way off the mark if you really want to change the behaviour of others. I have written, previously, about how the most influential people I've ever crossed paths have an ability to inspire. Sue Llewelyn, my English teacher at Halsey School, Hemel Hempstead didn't harp on about spelling and grammatical correctness but, instead concentrated on the joy of the written word and the ability to express yourself via the medium of pen on paper. I'm sure that those basic skills of spelling and grammar were covered, but they were integrated into the whole concept of the much bigger picture. Going into that classroom wasn't a chore, it was fun, an absolute privilege to be part of. In the late 1990's (I'm sure?) I attended a Herts Bird Club event at which Roy Dennis took centre stage. Although I don't agree with some of the projects that his foundation have instigated, being in his presence as he reels off his patter is very special. His enthusiasm for the subject is infectious, I left with a wonderful sense of positivity about the future of the natural world because of this one guys visionary outlook.  

Contrast those experiences with the whinging that Gavin highlighted in his post. If humanity are to save the planet, as we know it, then surely first and foremost, we need to enthuse the next generations to get involved with our natural world, not castigate them for embarking upon a journey which might not be "needed". As an individual I was less than impressed by the antics of one spoilt brat, swanning around on a "solar powered" super yacht, telling the world leaders what they were doing wrong. The carbon footprint of the evolving technologies required to eventually develop the manufacturing capability to produce such a vessel would far outweigh that of the global birding community - period. That, at the age of seventeen, Greta doesn't have the experience to know shit from dirty pudding is my slant on this PR stunt. If, however, she has inspired others of her age to take a serious look at how their behaviour is impacting upon the climate and environment then it's mission accomplished. It really doesn't matter a jot what I think. 

I've enjoyed a lifetime of involvement with the outdoors and the creatures which share my space. Garden birds and fishing in The River Gade were my entry points, but what an adventure they started. My move to Kent was pivotal in many other aspects of wildlife watching coming onto my radar. I'm particularly indebted to the guys at Sandwich Bay Obs who introduced me to the joy of moth trapping. I now look at anything which crosses my path with a more appreciative mind-set. I well remember my reaction when Mark Telfer introduce the Pan Listing League to the blogging community. I was horrified that our natural world had become little more than a spread sheet exercise. I'd completely missed the point and now see it as a tool for any individual to push the boundaries of their own knowledge. Over the years I've looked at many creatures which, before PSL, I would have simply ignored. 

So if behavioural change is required, in order to achieve this, education must take president over, narrow minded, moaning by folk who've had their slice of the cake but now wish to deny others their chance to share the experience. Endless ranting on Twitter, etc, won't inspire anyone to change, wouldn't work for me, of that I'm certain. In fact know that I, for one, would have the perfect response if it came my way - F*CK OFF you sad little, attention seeking, no-one! Haven't spent forty odd years working in factories to now be worried by the opinions of self-righteous bullies. Reasoned debate is one thing, do as you're told just doesn't cut the mustard!

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Little things

It was in the summer of 1994 that, due to the requirement for Benno to undertake a school holiday project, I first ran a moth trap in our garden. I'd been living in Kent for less than a year yet, because of time spent with the incredible characters in the original "H" block, that was Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, moths had quickly come into my conciousness. Andy Johnson was probably the keenest of the bunch but, if we needed assistance with an id, the late/great Tony Harman was always in the wings waiting to help us wannabes. So with that as my starting point and Benno needing to return to school (St. Faith's at Ash - which my parents founded) with a project of his choice completed, the garden moths were a gimme? There certainly wasn't a teacher involved who could question the accuracy of anything Benno reported. Indeed, over that holiday period the highlight for us was our first Poplar Hawkmoth, however Tony Harman came round, as he often did for a social, and discovered a Red-necked Footman in one of the pots stored in the fridge awaiting id. Big news back then! Benno's account of the excitement of finding that first garden hawk-moth was well recieved and his primitive artwork only added to the genuine feel for his involvement with the whole project. 

A Least Carpet (Idaea rusticata) on my study window frame!
A moth which Andy Johnson had gone to great lengths to explain how
restricted was it's distribution in SE England, thus how lucky we were to catch one.

That first season was an incredible period of discovery and a very steep learning curve was embarked upon. That Benno lost interest as gramar school impacted upon his social life and interests, I was left to continue the amazing journey alone, certainly from a garden perspective. Bev and I have run the trap on and off right up to 2016 then sort of lost interest. So why am I prattling on about such things? Firstly, the grand-children finished school today and I'm hoping that moth trapping might inspire them to look at nature rather than be scared of it (parental influence, their Dad is a piss poor excuse of an example where spiders and bumble-bees are involved) Secondly, with retirement, I need to have a reason to get out of bed in the mornings. Emptying a moth trap is certainly one that I've enjoyed previously and showing the odd specimen to the neighbours has always been fun. I'm now in the market for a new trap. Not too sure if I'll get an atinic or an MV, but a trap will be acquired very shortly - any thoughts on the subject would be most gratefully recieved. 

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

It ain't 'arf hot!

 With the 149th "Open" Golf Championship taking place at Royal St. George's GC, Sandwich, this past week, traveling on and off Thanet has been a bit chaotic with all the restrictions in place to ensure the golfing fraternity have easy access to their premier showpiece. As I'm writing - Collin Morikawa has just won the Claret Jug and I can but imagine the euphoria that accompanies his sporting achievement - fair play! So why has it taken me this long to produce a post? 

Black-headed Gulls are not a regular July sighting 
from the garden. It was a massive hatch of
flying ants which resulted in several moulting adults 
joining the massed ranks of Herring Gulls reaping the harvest.

Well, if I'm brutally honest, I've been lazy. Simply can't be arsed but, not because I've nothing to blog about, just the crazy heat has left me absolutely drained. Plenty opportunities have presented themselves enabling me to observe some nice stuff from the confines of the garden, whilst Bev and I topped up the tan just in case Kefalonia becomes a  possibility later in the year? Then, whilst Collin clapped hold of "The Claret Jug" Bev was notified of her winning "Flea-bay" bid and a, pink, recon, dressing table needed to be collected from Cockfosters - whoopee f*cking doo!!! 

This female Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) was egg laying in my neighbour, Barbara's,
pond on Sunday morning. The first garden record of this superb insect.

Monday morning, just after 10.00 hrs, we're on our way in the van to pick up this desirable piece of (junk) bedroom furniture. However, there was no way I was driving all that way and not continuing a further twenty minutes to visit my brother Tim and his family. A phone call later and Sye, my youngest brother, was also part of this inpromtu gathering and the "light ale" was flowing before the barbecue got fired up and any plans for driving home were consigned to the back shelf until the following morning (today!) It's bloody great that, now retired, we're able to do this sort of stuff and to put the tin hat on proceedings I caught my first fish since 16th June. I landed three, very small, chub from The River Bulbourne, which flows through Tim's garden, the heaviest no bigger than a couple of pounds but it didn't matter, I'd caught a fish and my new scoring system has registered it's first entry.

Never going to be up to the standard of David, over at Birds of the Heath, but
certainly a vast improvement on my previous efforts.

Now the sun has set and the moon is clearly visible in the southern skies, I decided to have a play around with a 600 mm lens that my nephew, Josh, gave me. It wasn't suited to his Youtube stuff, not that I've ever seen it. The results are very pleasing and, with a little practice, can only get better?

Oh yeah - BWKm0 No. 63 - Sand Martin (45-ish North on Saturday - crazy as it's at least 40 more than I've recorded here in 20 years!)

Monday, 12 July 2021

Ric strikes again

What follows are some thoughts about a possible method for gauging the relative success of an angling season/campaign? 

Based upon an idea originally put forward by The Daily Mirror to encourage angling clubs to report their members “big fish” captures in the 1950’s. It was Ric Francis who, in a recent email exchange, really made me aware of the potential of this system to measure your own angling achievements at an individual level. Because it is such a very personal tool; there is no requirement for judgement, by third parties, for a capture to be awarded whatever score the individual feels appropriate. As anglers we all have our own definitions of what is a “big” fish, generally based upon the venues in our local vicinity. Obviously, someone who is on the circuit, chasing specimens wherever they may be found, is going to have a very different outlook on the relative “value” of a capture compared to that of a local club stalwart, yet it really doesn’t matter. As it is purely a measure of personal achievement, there is no element of competition involved. However, if two, or more, like-minded souls wished to create a playing field on which they could compete, there is nothing to prevent this occurring so long as all parties agree on the scoring system at the start.

What I am proposing to do is use a very similar system to the one which Ric had outlined in our original email exchange, however, with one slight tweak. The most obvious difference between when Ric had been using his versions, and today, is the loss of the traditional close season. It remains my intention to use 16th June as the start date for any version I might employ, but  will now have an end date of 15th June the following year instead of 14th March as he was legally bound by. One very interesting spin off from this concept is the likelihood of encouraging me to target various species during the year rather than embarking on lengthy single species projects. As none of this is set in stone, any results only impacting upon my own angling, I can’t see what harm there is in giving it a go? 

So my points system will be as follows:-

5 points for each new species, whatever the size.

3 points for a specimen - my definition not that of % of UK record weight

2 points for a “good” fish

1 point for a lesser fish, although it must be of a size above the minimum I decree worthy of merit.

The tweak involves the score of 10 points for any new PB taken during a year although, as I can only have one PB, if I subsequently better a weight with another capture, those bonus points will be transferred and not doubled up!

As I haven’t landed a single fish since 16th June 2021, I’m very happy to get this idea up and running as of now. I have still to construct a weight table for the various species that are likely to be encountered on my travels. One thing is for sure, I will continue to weigh any carp or pike which I feel might break the 10 lbs barrier. As I’ve kept records of every “double” I’ve ever captured there’s no way I’m stopping now. If I can be bothered to stick a hook in them, surely they deserve the respect of being weighed, not guesstimated?

In 2012 this Chub would have scored 10 points

Might only warrant a single point - this caper doesn't factor in enjoyment.

The species which I feel will be involved in this experimental season are Carp (only one species not Mirror, Common, Leather, Koi etc) Tench, Bream, Perch, Roach, Eel & Pike. Chub and Barbel are also possibilities, later in the year, but haven’t featured in my angling since 2014.