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, 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!

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Thursday, 26 May 2022

Does it really matter?

The seeds of this post have been knocking about, in the background, for some time now. Again the benefits of getting old will have played a major role in my current mind-set. Looking at birds is part of who I am, a fundamental piece of the journey I've chosen. That I also glean great enjoyment from angling, moth trapping and umpteen other experiences with wildlife, is of no importance within the much bigger picture. For me, however, my involvement with these activities ensures I derive pleasure from a very simple day to day existence. Today birding, just like angling, has to be done on my terms. To get to this juncture means that I've passed through those crazy OCD periods of both "twitching" and "circuit water" speccy chasing. 

I really do get the "county listing" thing; I've some incredible memories from that period (1993 - 99) when it was all that mattered in my silly little world. A divorce later and I'm now far more conscious of the negative side of this obsessive behaviour. Doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the experience but, with that wondrous gift of hindsight, might have done things a bit differently if I had my time again? Still, if I hadn't gone through that phase I wouldn't now be with Bev so, as they say, "every cloud ........"! 

Of late the guys and gals involved with Sandwich Bay Obs (SBBOT) have enjoyed a series of excellent sightings. For those individuals the enjoyment is unquestionable. Every success is well deserved by the foot soldiers, out in the field, doing the groundwork. This past month has seen Black-winged Stilt(s), Temminck's Stint, White-tailed Sea Eagle (IoW re-introduction scheme), Golden Oriole, Bee-eater, Caspian Tern, Kentish Plover and, then today, Eleonora's Falcon all within their recording boundaries. Me? I've not seen any of the birds involved. Not because they aren't worth looking at but, instead, as I didn't find them so am not too bothered. Age does that, if you so wish. With the exception of Sea Eagle, I've found all these species for myself; only Black-wing Stilt and Eleonora's Falcon not within the Kent county boundaries. 

The only time when birding now takes on the role of my main focus is when I'm on holiday. Thanks to the pandemic it's not been since September 2019 that binoculars and scope took president over the fishing gear. As the birds I look at have no concept of man-made boundaries, at this stage in my adventure, I'm happy to do the same. I really don't care where I encounter the species, being happy to enjoy the privilege of  looking without any form of pressure or competition. Sure it would be great to see one in Kent but, hey-ho, if it's Corfu or Kefalonia I'll savour the moment none the less. Fortunately, now retired, both of these wondrous Greek islands will be visited this year and my self-found year list will be all the longer for it! 

We all have the ability to set our own boundaries for whatever we hope to glean from our journey along life's path. That my choice isn't the same as someone else's doesn't matter a jot so long as it doesn't impact upon others. It's not about being right or wrong, it's about being me!

Saturday, 21 May 2022

The "WOW" factor

Every day, in the skies above Thanet, I see aircraft flying to and from Europe. That's all I do, see aircraft. Never once have I made an effort to identify the model or even the company who's colours adorn the plane! If I was so motivated, then the technology I use for birding, etc, would surely enable me to do so but, as I've absolutely zero interest, this situation will continue unchanged. I use the example in an attempt to differentiate between seeing something and actually looking at it. 

A garden first and, if my info is correct, a very good record for Thanet?
Grey Birch (Aethalura punctulata)
To obtain a positive id it was essential that I actually looked at the insect, not just saw a moth!

I started mothing way back in the Summer of 1994, purely by accident, and have been extremely fortunate, over the years, to have trapped some very rare/interesting specimens. At the very start, just as with my Kent birding adventure, rarity was a key factor. A Gem, Vestal, Bordered Straw or, if the Moth Gods were smiling, Convolvulus Hawkmoth, any of them would evoke immense reaction as I sorted through the egg boxes. However, with the passing of time, there is one resident species which has retained a very special place in my appreciation of the mothing experience. It was Andy Johnson, at Sandwich Bay Obs, who showed me my very first Gold Spot (Plusia festucae) right back at the start of my journey and it was that "wow" moment as I looked at the individual contained within the, cardboard & clear plastic, pot that were par for the course back then. 

They are not annual visitors to our Thanet garden so, this morning, I was overjoyed to clap eyes on an absolutely stunning example of the species. Thankfully the light levels and my, woeful, camera technique allowed me to obtain a reasonable image of this stunning creature. All I will say is "if this doesn't do it for you - then don't bother looking at moths!"

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Garden mothing - dalliance or distraction?

It would have been sometime in the late 1990's when, whilst at Dungeness Obs, Dave Walker handed me a pot, straight out of the fridge, in which was contained a Tree-lichen Beauty. At that time it was the second, or third, UK record and I treated the pot as if it were "Ming Dynasty" porcelain. I was running a MV trap in the garden but, have to admit, macros were all I worried about. Micro moths were a bloody nightmare and, pre WWW, id reference material was virtually non-existent. Around this same period, another very rare "micro" had been caught which, once again, Dave handed to me for inspection. He might as well have passed me an empty Mars bar wrapper - I couldn't give a toss! I recall Dave questioning "why" I bothered running a trap if I didn't record what I captured? Well; recording was then, and remains to this day, Dave's job! My involvement is about the enjoyment of looking and all I can say is that nothing has changed in the intervening period to alter my viewpoint.


Moths are, without any doubt, fascinating insects but they play a very small role in my involvement with the natural world. Of course I derive pleasure from my garden mothing but, knowing what I catch it is of zero importance to anyone else, harbour no desires to get involved within a bigger picture. I absolutely love sorting through the egg boxes, each morning, looking at the creatures that have been attracted by the light. I use my camera, with extension tubes, to record images of those insects with which I'm unfamiliar. If I don't manage to ascertain a positive id - so be it! As I have no need, or desire, to place a tick in a box of a "pan-listing" spreadsheet, any moth that is encountered will remain free to continue with life. Sticking pins through specimens can't be justified from my perspective. Obviously, there are plenty of other folk who view the world very differently and could offer, equally valid, arguments against "catch & release" angling, so each to their own seems the sensible option?






From where I now sit invertebrates, of whatever taxa, will continue to provide a superb side-show away from the angling and bird watching which is the bedrock of my natural history involvement. That I'm now finding myself enjoying keeping our garden looking good, and this includes maintaining a number of hanging baskets and planters, demonstrates the mellowing effects of the aging process. If, or when, my mobility starts to suffer, then moth id might become a major factor but, until then, I'm happy just to look and learn without any outside pressures.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Struggling

My blogging, of late, has been non-existent due to a complete lack of enthusiasm. Not too sure if it's a result of not having cast a line, in the past four weeks, or something else? My life is still very enjoyable, there's been plenty to look at in/around the garden and further afield. Just can't be arsed to write about it! What is rather worrying is the fact that many of my fellow bloggers, who orbit the same space in "Blogland", also appear to be suffering a similar lack of output. Maybe the platform has exhausted it's usefulness and it's now time to move on? I'm struggling to attract thirty visitors/day at present - surely the random nature of the internet would yield more attention if the platform had any worth?

Maybe I'm on a downer and there's a return to normal service just around the corner?  The only way I'll ever learn the outcome is to carry on carrying on! A couple of outstanding encounters have taken place in the recent past. First was when a female (type - it was green) Common Crossbill alighted, very briefly, in the top of our garden Buddleia. Long enough to grab the bins, yet off, calling loudly, over the bungalow before I could point the camera. A garden first, although I've recorded quite a few over Newlands during periods of "eruptive movements" which are so characteristic of the species. The other sighting is that of a Dewick's Plusia which turned up in the 125w MV moth trap on Saturday night. 

The first hawkmoths of the year have been trapped with both Lime & Eyed turning up on the egg boxes during the past week. My friendly Fox continues to visit the feeding station every night although, having chatted with a few other folk, I'm no longer attempting to encourage it to become hand fed. As much as it'd be great, the welfare of the individual might be compromised if it lost all fear of human contact. Still great to be able to spend time with such a magnificent wild animal whilst stood in my study doorway.


Sunday, 1 May 2022

As good as a rest

I've not picked up a rod in more than three weeks and can honestly say that it's not been a problem. Because there are so many other interests, in my life, boredom isn't ever an issue. Garden moths and the nocturnal visitors to our feeding stations continue to provide some excellent opportunities to enjoy the natural world without leaving the comfort of our personal space. A rather weird development, and it can be traced back to start of the pandemic, is my involvement in maintaining our garden. All of a sudden it's so much more than mowing the lawn. Hanging baskets, patio planters and seed trays in the conservatory all play a part in my daily routine - probably just as well I've retired?


My "self-found" year listing efforts continue at a very low key, although I have to admit to gleaning enthusiasm from the writings of several fellow "bloggers". Both Pegwell Bay and Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry NNR's have provided some superb birding, of late. My list now standing at a rather modest 134 species, yet there are so many glaring omissions which I should be able to find with a little effort. Yesterday I went in search of a "Thanet" Nightingale and, after a lot of leg work, managed to discover three singing males but will provide no further details! Today was all about the Grove Ferry/Stodmarsh NNR experience. I ended the morning with six additions to my tally plus a nice chat with, master photographer, Steve Ashton. 




Once the May Day Bank Holiday is out of the way I'm hoping to cast a line again. There's a few ideas spinning around in my head, but the next project won't get started until the new river season begins.


Thursday, 28 April 2022

Big up for Nash Tackle

I'll start by making it very clear that I've no ties with the Nash brand. The last time Kevin and I spoke was at a NASA Conference when he was still trading as "The Happy Hooker"! That's a lot of years back and Reading University seems to fit the bill? Towards the end of the RMC Pike campaign I experienced a major problem with my Siren R3 receiver unit. It ceased to give an audible alert, although the lights still indicated that the unit was connected to the alarms. I did all the usual crap, changing batteries, switching everything off and reconnecting the whole ensemble - nothing changed, the receiver had lost all audible functions, even the burglar alarm feature! Fortunately the alarms, themselves, continued to function perfectly and this fault had no major impact upon my angling. 

Knowing that I would have to start my quest for a repair at Camo's Carp Cabin, Ramsgate, purely because that's where I purchased said item, thus my contract was with Camo - not Nash? However, there was a major issue due to the fact that Camo had suffered a massive heart attack and wasn't running the shop. Luckily, Dave Haworth, had stepped in to keep the business running and it was his efforts which resulted in an incredible outcome. The receiver unit was out of warranty, as are the alarms, so I was expecting to incur some expenditure to repair the faulty item? Not a bit of it! Nash replaced the unit, with a brand new one, free of charge and I have to say, what a brilliant piece of PR. I emailed the Product Support Dept, thanking them, and received a nice reply from a guy, Kurt Pottle, saying he was pleased that it had been a successful outcome. 

I've heard some nightmare tales about Nash Tackle but, have to speak as I find, can say nothing negative about the situation I experienced. In the grand scheme of things it is a very insignificant event yet, for me, speaks volumes about the company who's founder started out making "carp sacks" from industrial nylon fabric!

Friday, 22 April 2022

Garden photography lessons

Common Buzzards continue to trickle, North, over the Newlands Farm area allowing me to enjoy the spectacle of raptor migration from the comfort of my back garden. The plumage variation is incredible and unmatched in any other species (maybe Common Pheasant apart?) that I'm familiar with. Now that I'm retired, it might be worth attempting to learn some basic digital camera skills, thus improving upon the poor quality of my record shots. Still, as photography is just a bi-product of my angling, those images which appear on this blog are perfectly suited for the purpose. The National Geographic magazine they ain't!



As darkness falls then it's all change. On goes the 125w MV moth trap plus the Hedgehog and Fox food is placed out in close proximity to my study doorway. Moths have been quite hard going, thus far into the year, but the Hedgehogs are back in good numbers and the "hand fed" Fox project is coming along nicely. Still not actually got the end result, yet the larger animal is extremely confident and will come within a couple of yards of where I'm standing - camera in hand! Not obtained "that shot", which I so desire, I'm certainly getting bloody close!