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!


Saturday, 10 September 2022

Convolvulus overload

 For more than twenty-eight years I've dabbled in the "after dark art" of mothing. At times it was quite serious but, just recently, it is little more than a dalliance with these creatures of the night. My camera driven efforts, of yesterday, did nothing other than spur me on to better things. I'd spent a wonderful afternoon down at Pegwell Bay NNR, in the company of Gideon, yet the focus of my attention was upon the nicotiana plants on my patio.  It wasn't properly dark (19.50 hrs) when the first Convolvulus Hawk-moth turned up at the nicotiana planters. By 22.00 hrs there had been in excess of a dozen individuals visiting these fragrant offerings. How many will end up in the MV? Very few being my experience, thus far. There was only one last night - number sixteen! To be totally honest I couldn't care less. Now I've got my new camera to play with I'd rather take a photo than pot one up. 

The EOS 70d - I'm loving it!

Friday, 9 September 2022

Some observations.

With no fish, let alone Esox lucius, to blog about any content will have to revolve around my observations for the time being. In the quest to improve upon my woeful camera skills Youtube has been scoured for offerings which might provide me with a few tips on how to make the most of my newly acquired EOS 70d. Some of the advanced techniques, I watched, are way beyond my comprehension, being such a techno-dullard, yet there have been several times when the information provided has made sense and I feel better equipped moving forward. Professional wildlife photographers/Youtubers set a very high bar. As I'm, at best, an average blogger my own efforts need to be nothing better than able to embellish the written content I produce. One other outcome from this research effort was the discovery of a consensus opinion, amongst Canon users, that Canon branded spare camera batteries were a complete rip-off. Perfectly suitable alternative power packs are available at less than 20% cost of a "genuine" spare. I had a peruse of Amazon and purchased a twin pack, with charger, for under £30! 

As appears to be the case for many fellow bloggers, as well as myself, moths continue to take centre stage in our wildlife encounters. The reports of migrant species which were once considered rare visitors but now appear to be numerous and widespread just adding further evidence to the impact climate change is having on the ecosystems which human activity, alone, has caused. Garden moth trapping is very much akin to local patch birding. Both activities allowing individual species to take on a status based upon this very limited catchment area, opposed to a general overview, be that at county or national level.

So, for what it's worth, here is my recent experience with Convolvulus Hawk-moths. The 2022, garden, total now stands at an incredible fifteen individuals potted, whilst three others have fallen foul of the garden Hedgehogs. However, this is just the "tip of the iceberg" so to speak. I've blogged previously about the gardening exploits that I'm now embarked upon and, particularly, the desire to grow nicotiana plants which will be at peak flowering during the autumn period. Well, unbelievably, it's working out better than I dared hope. Sitting at my desk, looking westward from my study window/doorway (a highly pretentious description of my man-cave extension) With the garden illuminated by the 125w MV moth trap; I'm able to watch the activity around the two patio planters without getting off my arse! Not long after sunset these huge insects start to appear around the planters and it is not unusual to have several individuals present. Yesterday evening I decided to have a go at establishing just how many moths were involved and decided to use my butterfly net to catch those feeding on the nicotiana. Within an hour I had four potted in the fridge before the heavens opened and I called it a day. This didn't stop more moths coming to the plants, just I had no desire to get soaked. 

Not bothered with the net this evening preferring, instead, to employ the new camera. It's not yet 22.00 hrs and already I've seen Convolvulus Hawk-moths on thirteen occasions. Obviously this doesn't equate to thirteen different individuals but it certainly demonstrates the allure of nicotiana fragrance over the ultraviolet light produced by a 125w MV bulb.

Absolutely blown away by the new camera. We're off to Kefalonia next week and I'm confident that the images I manage to record will be far superior to anything I've captured on previous visits. My nephew and his girlfriend are house-sitting whilst we're away. They're saving for a deposit on their first house and this means that they'll get a seaside break without the cost of accommodation. A wim - win situation all round!

Thursday, 8 September 2022

A sad day

 I'd been following the football, on Radio 5, when the news came through that Buckingham Palace had announced the passing of HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Absolutely gutted, she being a shining beacon of honesty, decency, and commitment to public office which our current political elite are so woefully inadequate. 

Sleep well, your majesty, you served our nation, and the commonwealth, with dignity and respect. RIP.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

So much to learn

If you wish to be an author there is absolutely no requirement to purchase an expensive pen to achieve that goal. A Bic ballpoint would be perfectly adequate as it is the individual, not the tools, which are key to good written content. Therefore, in very similar fashion, good photography is not about the camera kit but, instead, the talent and vision of the person pressing the shutter release. All that said I have to admit that my recent purchase, of an EOS 70d, has certainly given me an edge over the previous kit I owned. The lenses remain the same, just the camera body has changed, so am now realising how limiting that aging technology within the EOS 350 & 400 d's had been upon the picture quality I've been able to record. I went for an afternoon stroll around Pegwell Bay NNR and had ample opportunity to play around with my new toy. Absolutely blown away by the difference in image sharpness and quality. Best of all I managed another self-found year tick in the form of a Whinchat (No. 159)

Still not potted a Convolvulus Hawk-moth, in September, yet am seeing them nectaring on the Nicotiana plants most evenings. A Hoary Footman, yesterday, provided another addition to the garden list whilst common migrant species are regular visitors to the egg  trays. Still no rainfall, worthy of mention, around Dumpton although other parts of Thanet have certainly experienced heavy downfalls. Our lawn remains the colour of a bleached corn field so provision of water, for the avian and mammalian garden visitors, is paramount whilst this situation remains. The BBC website is predicting a significant change in the weather, over the next few days, so hopefully the garden will get some moisture and the Hedgehogs a choice of worms, slugs or snails in their diet due to rainfall?

As Kefalonia beckons, the camera lessons are a useful part of my prep and, have to admit, that my expectations have certainly risen a notch, or two, because of the images I've managed to capture.

Sunday, 4 September 2022

New toys

In no way do I wish to appear boastful about my personal circumstances when, currently, so many other folk are really struggling to make ends meet. The insane situation our politicians have conspired to create is one that beggars belief. Genuine poverty amongst sections of the population of the seventh (?) richest nation on the planet! Lloyd George made his "A fit country for heroes" speech, days after Great Britain had signed the Armistice of Compiegne on 11th November 1918. What needs to be remembered is that the vast majority of those heroes, to which he alluded, were ordinary working class lads who'd survived arenas of horrific brutality that, today, we couldn't start to imagine. In 2022, working class families are perceived as a burden by the elite classes. Those smug fat cats who have never done a day's hard graft, in their lives, yet went to the right schools! So sorry for this heavy shit, but my family's military links are so embedded that, although I was never brave enough to enlist, the piss-poor standard of our leaders has me wondering why future generations would be moved to put their lives on the line for a country run these, self-serving, out of touch, contemptuous, goons?

To get back on track. New toys are always good fun, especially when they are a whim rather than a necessity! My first is something I'd seen on a Carpology offering (Youtube) where Curly (Joe Wooltorton) was singing the praises of a Nash Pinpoint Hook Doctor device. I couldn't give a toss about keeping "Ronnie Rigs" razor sharp, the potential offered by the device is why I contacted Camo to get me one. Aware that Drennan and Partridge no longer manufacture "doubles"  I need to make the most of those hooks I still have in my possession.  Not a cheap item, by any means, but I'm very impressed by this gadget and the opportunity to prolong the useability of my vintage Pike hooks it provides. My second toy is an up-grade for my Canon camera kit. I've been using EOS 350d & 400d models for well over a decade. The 10.1 million pixel sensors have served me well for, both, my blogging efforts and the occasional magazine stuff. I spent considerable time perusing the internet, looking for an up-grade, without wishing to break the bank. All my research led me to Park Cameras, Burgess Hill, West Sussex. Their website was a shining beacon in a chaotic mire of advertising hype. That they also claimed to offer expert advice for those seeking assistance, it was a no-brainer for Bev & I to jump in the van and embark on a road trip. Absolutely no way did I need to purchase a "new" camera, a used item would suffice and I'd already chalked in an EOS 750d, although not dismissing the EOS 200d as recommended by expert reviewers on Youtube. It was a very educational experience chatting with the young guy behind the counter. I told him what I was looking for and why I would be grateful for any advice he was able to offer. It was an interesting chat and I left the premises with a Canon EOS 70d rather than one of the, two, models I'd expected. I've only had a day to play around with this latest acquisition but, have to say, it's like comparing a Vauxhall Viva to a Lamborghini.

The picture quality offered by a 20.2 million pixel sensor, assisted by some very clever camera software, is way beyond anything I've previously managed. With Kefalonia beckoning, I hope to have gained a slight insight into the potential of this camera before heading off on holiday. I've been playing around in the garden with it set on auto and am suitably impressed.

Still rather quiet on the birding front, although the year's fourth garden Pied Flycatcher was a very pleasant, if fleeting, visitor last Thursday. My first Wheatear of the Autumn was equally skittish as I took a wander around Newlands Farm, earlier today. So, once again, it is moths which have provided the bulk of my wildlife fix. August provided nine Convolvulus Hawk-moths for the 125 MV, with another two falling victim to the garden Hedgehogs. I've not yet taken one in September, although, as I type, there is one nectaring on the Nicotiana right outside my study doorway.

Certainly an increase in the numbers of Silver Y's, of late, yet it was the capture of three Beet Moths (2nd Sept) that really stands out. I wouldn't have the first idea about such a moth if it were not for the recent posts by my fellow blogger, Gavin Haig. Not seen any other Kent reports, but that isn't particularly an issue, these moths might well be regularly encountered by other county moth-ers? All I know is that it was a new species for me.

Really looking forward to putting the EOS 70d through its' paces, as the Kefalonia gig gets ever closer. The only way is up? Bat detector and a fishing rod are to be included in the luggage - who knows where that will lead?

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

The Military Missions

I'm currently in the process of writing another article for Martin Mumby's "Catch Cult" magazine and whilst looking through the various diary and blog material, which I've amassed over the years, had an idea that there might be a blogging opportunity as well? Due to the fact that, currently, my angling content is non-existent; a trip down "Memory Lane" might well have a place? At the very least, supply a smidgen of fish related nostalgia in my, of late, moth dominated offerings. So we have to start somewhere and it was a "twitch" that saw my first visit to this historic waterway. A Green Heron, which turned up at West Hythe Dam in October of 2008, was the reason I made the journey. I would imagine I was the only "twitcher" who also noted the incredible amount of pike activity at the site? I would return soon after because an adult Night Heron spent some time in exactly the same location! Again I noticed fish activity although, at the time, hadn't picked up a rod since 1993!

I find it incredible that almost eleven and a half years have now passed since I returned to angling, where does time go? That the digital age allows me to record the events in such a fashion that I can access memories with the simple click of a button, on the keyboard of my laptop, is mad. This post will be very photo heavy because I'd like to keep the bulk of my article content for just that purpose. So here we go. Benno and I spent a very productive winter (2012/13) Pike fishing the Seabrook section of the canal, our best fish weighing in around sixteen pounds if memory serves me correctly (can't be arsed to look it up) but had decided to change focus as that season drew towards a close. It was just six days after my Mum passed away that I landed the first "twenty" since returning to angling. A truly memorable event at so many levels.

Over the following few weeks Benno and I went on to land another four "nineteens" and an eighteen fifteen, truly exceptional Pike fishing for a canal. It wasn't until the 2016 season, however, that anything significant was to next occur. Benno had moved into a property in Sandgate and, as such, was in pole position to embark upon a pre-baiting program. Carp were the target and Benno quickly reaped the rewards of his efforts with a magnificent twenty-four pound Common. 

I'd been gifted a 1959 "Dick Walker" Mk IV split cane B. James & Son rod for my sixtieth birthday and it was the canal which provided my first "split cane" twenty a couple of weeks after Benno's  success - happy days! These canal Carp are much sought after. There are a select group of, hugely talented, Carp anglers who ply their trade along the banks of the RMC and it is not my intention to spoil their fun because of unnecessary detail. All I will say is that they go carping, not camping and it was one of them who generously gave Ben the info which was to prove so valuable as the campaign evolved. I returned to the section the next year, around the same period, and was blessed by the Carp Gods in the shape of a stunning 23 lbs 5 oz fish which, again, came on the split canes.

It had become a bit of a ritual, a couple of weeks before Christmas, to travel across the county border so we could enjoy a social session at Iden Lock, East Sussex. I haven't fared too well on these occasions but Luke and Benno have both taken Pike in excess of twenty pounds along with some very nice back up fish. Sadly, as with so many other aspects of modern life, things have changed and the section is no longer available for day ticket anglers. We might have lost access, but the memories of good times will always remain.

Gigger's Green and Aldergate Lane have long been associated with Pike fishing along the RMC and, indeed, have provided me with some very enjoyable memories of decent sessions, be that a single specimen or a number of lesser fish. The one downside to these areas is the number of other anglers who are also aware of the potential on offer and, therefore, are effectively competing for the same fish. Obviously, as a Pike angler of a certain vintage, I am able to draw upon a wealth of experience to ensure my bait choices and presentation will give me some type of an edge. However, Pike are pretty dumb fish and can get caught by the most agricultural of methods, on occasion, and this single factor is why I try to avoid the crowds whenever possible.

December 3rd 2020, the day before my sixty-fifth birthday, and I have to use up my holiday entitlement or lose it. With work off the scale, in the run up to the Christmas break, I would spend the whole day on the bank. Using Google maps, I'd chosen an area, way off the beaten track, and was to be rewarded with a superb brace that session. Pike weighing 22 lbs 6 oz & 19 lbs 5 oz graced my landing net and were the best early birthday present I could have wished for. Sadly my self-take efforts didn't do justice to these magnificent fish, but the seeds had been sown for future Pike adventures along this wonderful waterway.

Nothing I now say, or do, will alter the fact that I retired in a manner which was not of my choosing. My time at Fujifilm had been an absolute blast, yet is forever tainted by those final weeks of ill-feeling and stress. With unlimited time now in my armoury, angling projects had a flexibility which I'd never experienced previously. The run up to October 2021 allowed me to formulate a plan and set targets for what I hoped to achieve over the coming five and a half months. That I absolutely smashed it, is an understatement, but the whole experience was about so much more than catching Pike. The people I met, the wildlife encounters and the stunning scenery all combined to provide a campaign, the likes of which, I can never hope to repeat. My recollections of these events are the mainstay of my article, so won't be recalled here. I'll share a few more images just to set the scene.

The Royal Military Canal is a National Treasure and of such historical significance that it remains a draw for visitors from around the world. That I've been able to sample just a snippet of the ambience it creates has been a privilege. I am so lucky to have experienced the venue, it's changing moods as the seasons unfold, and the joyous camaraderie it creates amongst the regular visitors, as well as the superb angling it has to offer. I've been truly blessed. If my writing inspires others to give it a go, then it will have been worth the effort. That Shepway Council and the various land owners, along the waterway, offer very restricted access, away from the main towns, is definitely an increasing issue. However, it is not insurmountable and if you want it bad enough,  effort will equal rewards.

I'm still not feeling it for the Stour Barbel project, at present, the water conditions being a massive issue. With the looming break in Kefalonia to look forward to, it might well be October before I return to the bankside. Already there are ideas floating around as to what I'd like to achieve over the course of the next Pike season. I won't be too ambitious, as who knows what's around the corner? First things first - we desperately need some substantial rainfall.

Sunday, 28 August 2022

Pegwell again

So birding it is whilst the river fishing prospects remain, drought affected, and my enthusiasm is completely absent. Two more trips down to Pegwell Bay NNR have resulted in three additions to my self-found year list tally. Little Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and Little Tern taking my total to a very modest 158, although perfectly understandable given the complete lack of effort I've put into this project, thus far, in 2022.

Green Sandpiper - one of three yesterday

Moulting adult Greenshank

Yesterday I only took my bins and camera kit, today I added the scope to the luggage to lug around, but it proved to be a very good decision as I watched the incoming tide in the company of a certain Francis Solly - Thanet's finest? So much to enjoy, as I wandered the coastal path and various trails which criss-cross this superb reserve. The garden has also provided some very nice encounters which have included the third Pied Flycatcher of the autumn and some decent Common Buzzard movements when the conditions have been suitable.

The Common Seals, which haul out on the banks of The Stour estuary provide a fabulous spectacle, when viewed from the Stonelees watch point, yet must be off the scale when aboard one of the many boats which ply their "nature watching" trade from Ramsgate Harbour and Sandwich Quay. As intrusive as these craft appear, the seals don't seem remotely bothered by the situation. 

The heat haze prevented a sharper image - Common Seals hauled out beside The Stour.
Ramsgate Port providing the skyline features.

The garden mothing continues to provide much entertainment. Now up to six Convolvulus Hawks (plus another which fell foul of the garden Hedgehogs), so far, but plenty of other species to add evidence of large scale migration taking place due to the current weather conditions. 


Scarce Bordered Straws

Marbled Yellow Pearl

One really strange capture is that of a Poplar Hawk-moth, only my third of the year and the first since early June. Second generation? I have absolutely no idea! Whilst chatting with Francis, this morning, I casually made mention of the numbers of Box-tree Moths I'm currently recording. Three figure counts, for the past couple of nights, he predicted that this would pale into insignificance next month. That'll be nice.

Until there is significant rainfall, my efforts to improve upon the "self-found" tally will take president in my outdoor activities. A bit of sea-watching could provide massive opportunity to add some very common species which have avoided my gaze, thus far, in 2022.