Who am I?

My photo
An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to 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!


Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Dog walking and making plans

 My neighbour, Madeline, has had her second cataract operation and, as a consequence, I find myself taking "Mental Mylo" out for exercise twice a day for the next fortnight or so. No big deal, especially with the continuing situation of blasting NE winds across this part of Kent. Mylo is still just a puppy, in reality, and a bit boisterous if allowed. I keep a supply of "Bakers Meaty Meals" in my pocket so as to maintain the upper hand whenever we're out. Today I decided that we'd take a drive across to the flatlands where I'm planning to spend much of the summer in pursuit of some very special Carp. I've two drains in mind and have already contacted the relevant land owners in order to ensure access without upsetting anyone. The one visited this morning involved a lengthy walk and allowed me to let Mylo off the lead safe in the knowledge that there was no chance of other dog walkers being encountered. Mylo behaved really well, although did manage to jump into the drain on four occasions, thanks to the bankside damage caused by the totally unwanted (by the local farming community) Beavers. This blog is not a war zone, so if you have differing opinions about the reintroduction of Beavers all well and good - please don't waste your effort, or emotions, attempting to alter my personal viewpoint. 

I have to admit that I saw no signs of Carp, this morning, although the drain itself certainly hasn't seen much human activity judging by the luxuriant vegetation growing along the banksides. As the 16th June gets closer, so I will start a program of pre-baiting in the hope of increasing my chance of success come that opening night ritual. As is my preference, it will be particles all the way; a single rod with a centrepin just to add to the enjoyment. The freezer is already well stocked with pre-prepared offerings, and the study cupboards hold plenty of the dried ingredients awaiting their turn in the slow cooker. Flavours, colour dyes and taste enhancers are all assembled, awaiting the next batch required. 

It is my hope that all those Jan/Feb/March sessions, down on the "Carp Puddle" where I played around with rig mechanics and bait presentation will now pay dividends. I have a set-up, which includes the insane Gardner "RIGGA" CVR hook pattern, that I feel will give me the best chance of landing a new PB Carp. So okay it's not too much to beat, at 24 lbs 10 oz, but given the venues, and tackle choices, it would be an immensely satisfying outcome should I achieve this target. As with any angling situation out on the flatlands, watercraft is key. Close range and very intimate, the whole situation dictates that stealth is a fundamental aspect of any session. Nowhere, on the two chosen drains, will I require more than six sections (9 metres) of the Nash Bushwhacker baiting pole system to get my baited hooks in position. I'm presently looking at the options available to me for removing the requirement of the Carp Porter barrow. Short sessions with the bare minimum kit? I have just over two weeks to make a decision on what is, and isn't, essential.

The one to better? 24 lbs 10 oz - my current PB Carp

Sunday, 28 May 2023

A "patch" tick

 I'll get this started with some birdie stuff from yesterday. The 27th May and I finally see my first Common Swifts, of 2023, over the garden. I had seen them down at the Carp Puddle earlier in the week but, this is by far the latest date for the Newlands Farm area. It was a little after mid-day when a lone Herring Gull alerted me to the approach of a raptor, high and from the south. My first impression was it was a Red Kite, as it flew directly towards me, flat wings and using the tail as a rudder. As it came closer it became obvious that it wasn't a kite, but a Buzzard sp. Fortunately the camera was close to hand and I managed to secure an image that confirmed my suspicions. A Honey Buzzard and the first Spring record in twenty-three years of living here.

So I was back outside, early this morning, hoping to get a chance of a Common Swift photo, or two. Didn't happen. Instead, just after 09.00 hrs a Bee-eater called, unseen, several times as it passed to the south of where I was stood. It seems crazy that I've seen, and heard, thousands of these birds in the last couple of weeks, yet was still so excited by this "patch tick" as to go running indoors to tell Bev as soon as it had happened. Just before 10.00 hrs a male Marsh Harrier passed over the garden, deliberately moving high and eastward bound. Patch birding - you've got to love it!

Friday, 26 May 2023

Insane weather patterns

 I returned to the "Carp Puddle" for a short session, this morning, and managed just five fish in a couple of hours. The best one might have weighed six pounds had I bothered putting it through the ordeal of a spell in the sling! The erratic swirling breeze, with a very easterly bias, was such that I was forced to change swims in order to present my baits in the best fashion I could. Even after the move I still had to resort to using a small controller float (a tiny Nash "Bolt Machine") with an ABU Cardinal 55 instead of my preferred free-lining approach with a centrepin. I probably spent more time watching a Great Crested Grebe, than staring at the controller, such was the effect of the conditions. 

I've just read the latest update by SBBOT stating that a flurry of House Martins, today, was probably a direct consequence of this current run of NE winds? No shit Sherlock! (It's just an observation, not a criticism of the Obs.) Migrants were still piling through NE Greece during the first week we were out there. Common Whitethroats and Reed Warblers certainly ain't what I expect when wandering around the Pefkohori area, yet there they were in good numbers. I commented, at the time, about the big numbers of Bee-eaters moving north. This late Spring is not limited to the UK, it's a far bigger picture if seen from a different perspective to that of a parochial "tunnel visioned" position. Obviously these conditions will also have an impact on many other aspects of natural history observations. The garden mothing has been been dire, and that's probably looking on the bright side? 

Tortrix sp. (Flax ?)

Our first Toadflax Brocade of 2023

When things aren't going to plan it's very easy to moan about this and that, seeking to blame factors over which you have no control. With the BBC weather forecast predicting these easterly biased winds to continue into the start of June, I'm quite happy to leave to rods in the study and get out birding. Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Peregrine, Willow Warbler, Nuthatch and Little Owl are still missing from my 2023 self-found list. If casting a baited hook is such a waste of effort, then seeking alternative enjoyment will do nicely whilst I await a change in conditions. June 16th will be here soon enough and, with it, access to venues that offer alternative challenges which I'm very much looking forward to. 

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Sunshine scamping

 I'd driven down to the local club fishery yesterday, around mid-morning, to find the place absolutely rammed full. I didn't bother setting up a rod and after a quick lap jumped back in the van and returned home. A lesson learned and a mistake I won't be making again? "They won't beat me down there tomorrow" is what I told Bev when questioned why I was back so early. And so it was just after 06.00 hrs, this morning, that I loaded the van and returned to the "Carp Puddle" for another scamping session. On arrival, it was clear that only one other angler was on site and I was quickly able to get my kit into a swim which would allow me to present my floating baits at very close range. My tackle today consisted of a 1960's B. James & Son Dick Walker Mk IV Avon split cane rod, my Allcock's Match Aerial centrepin, 5 lbs b.s. line and a size 8 Nash Claw hook (I've run out of Korda "widegapes"). Freebies were the usual mix of very cheap Tesco dog and kitten biscuits with my hook bait being my, tried and tested, favoured wholemeal bread. It was like taking candy from a baby, and I would guess that somewhere around twenty Carp fell to my simple presentation during the three plus hours I was on site. Only one double today, but a really nice, chunky, fat, little Mirror of 14 lbs 9 oz.

It was a very pleasant session and one made even better by the chance meeting with a fellow club member, by the name of Rob. We spent quite a while exchanging views and found we had so much in common, especially pertaining to the enjoyment of being outdoors and a complete lack of desire to join the "Carpy Clique" which so dominates the C&DAA membership ranks.

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Observations and images

This will be my last post, relating to the holiday, but it's one I had been thinking about since I first spotted the genuine, although very subtle, differences in flight mannerisms between Common and Pallid Swifts. Quite how useful this could be when confronted by a lone swift sp. on some windswept headland in late autumn in the UK, I'm not too sure? Around the Pefkohori area I would estimate that Common Swifts outnumbered Pallids by 20 - 1. What I noted, once I'd got my eye in, was that the Common Swifts were far more rapid in their flight and the wing beats were rather flickered and stiff. By comparison the Pallids seemed to be far more leisurely and fluid in their flight. The Pallids I watched never ganged up in big, noisy, mobs whilst the Commons were perfectly happy to congregate in screaming hoards around their nest sites. Once I'd established this difference in flight patterns it became quite easy to pick out the odd Pallid from a group of Commons, without having to go through the plumage and structural nuances of the two species. I don't imagine, for a second, that this would hold much sway with a county recorder in the UK, but it's of no concern to me anyway. In Greece, with both species side by side, the difference in flight patterns is quite obvious.

As I lugged the camera kit with me on every outing into the Pefkohori countryside, I thought it might be a fitting end to the saga that I post some more of the images captured whilst on my wanderings. They won't win any awards, yet serve as a wonderful reminder that birds have no concept of man-made borders and are just as remarkable when seen on holiday as they would be if spotted in the UK.

Cirl Bunting - I've still not seen one in the UK. Do I care?

Levant Sparrowhawk

Tawny Pipit

So that's yer lot - until the next time!

Monday, 22 May 2023

Pefkohori May 2023

This holiday was Bev and mine's fifth visit to this Greek town. Our first was back in 2008 and every time we've visited has been during the month of May. This latest holiday was booked via Jet2 and was under £1k for the eleven days of our stay. Even with airport parking and fuel, the price remained around £1,200, so relatively cheap in the current financial climate?

We flew from Stanstead on a Jet2 Boeing 737 - 800

Our accommodation, at The Anna Maria complex, was perfectly fine and the venue's owners, Thomas & Maria, and their staff can't do enough to ensure your time there is a pleasant experience. Fortunately, Bev and I have a very simple formula for all our holiday destinations. Bev requires a pool, sunbed and a good book (or books), whilst I need somewhere to wander, away from the hustle and bustle, so as to sample the local wildlife. Pefkohori ticks all these boxes, and some, thus we're very happy to visit. Not too sure it would work for those who seek a little more excitement and energy in their breaks? We stayed on a Bed & Breakfast basis, but there are other options available. The food is fine, although not particularly varied from day to day. It's not The Hilton, you haven't paid Hilton prices, so why expect anything else?

Absolutely no way am I going to do a day by day report because those details have already appeared on the blog, as they happened. Instead, this post will detail the various habitats I visited during the period and, hopefully, provide an insight into what I encountered whilst on my wanderings. 

It's possible to watch these birds whilst laying on a sun-bed around the pool!

Pefkohori Marina

This site is approximately four miles, or so, away from the Anna Maria and takes just over an hour to walk to. Because of it''s coastal location, the walk is fairly straightforward without any significant gradient changes. Once through the main built-up area, the countryside is a mix of coniferous woodland, thick scrub and salt-marsh. The marina, itself, is where the local fishing boats are moored, plus some rather posh private vessels. It's provided some superb birding over the years I've been visiting and 2023 didn't disappoint with both the number, and variety, of species I was to encounter whilst in the vicinity.

Dark Spreadwing (Lestes macrostigma)

Pefkohori Sewage Farm

There can't be too many folk who go on holiday hoping to visit such an un-glamourous venue? Back in 2008 it used to host, both, Great Reed and Marsh Warblers but not now due to some very sad developments (which I will cover later in the post). All that said, the SF still provides habitat which is well worth visiting. This particular trip was to see me encounter a first for Greece and a "lifer" - what's not to like? My route there was as flat, or steep, as I chose (or messed up?). From the Anna Maria it is possible to walk through the town and take a track behind the Anna Hotel whilst remaining on the coastal plain. However, the most direct route is rather more arduous, via some very steep gradients.

Crap photo but, a lifer and self-found. Does it get any better?

Balkan Terrapins - common as muck 

The trails and tracks through woodland, scrub, olive groves and agricultural areas

It was these varied environments which provided the majority of my holiday birding/wildlife encounters. Any walk inland from the coastal plain involves some very arduous gradient challenges. No chance of going "off piste" due to the incredible density of the vegetation, so it's the tracks and trails used by the local farmers, shepherds and homeowners which provide access into this mosaic of habitats. My fitness was questioned, from day one, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I was found wanting early in the holiday. Being able to wander around in such superb surroundings ensured that my limits were pushed and I actually upped my game as a direct result. 

Glanville Fritillary - another "lifer" for me!

It was a fantastic holiday, in a superb location but, not wishing to "piss on the picnic" there is a very sad downside to this wondrous countryside. Fly-tipping! It's on an industrial scale and the further away from the tourist centres the more prevalent it becomes!

You won't see any mention of this in a holiday brochure.

I don't want this post to end on a downer so I'll finish with a photo which fulfilled all my wishes. A Little Bittern perched in a thicket above a small pool besides the marina.

We had a superb break. This area of Halkidiki, in NE Greece, offers some superb opportunities to enjoy wildlife encounters without any hype or preconceptions. It certainly works for me. If you have any questions, or queries, please feel free to post a comment and I will do my best to provide an answer.

Sunday, 21 May 2023

A little taster

Man, it's good to be home! As enjoyable as all our holidays are, once they're over it's an absolute ball's ache enduring the homeward journey. Transfer coaches, airport lounges, with the associated delays and screaming kids. Then, once in the UK airport, there's all the hassle of getting through immigration control, bagage recovery, transfer back to the APH carparking facilities before negotiating the bloody M25/M2 back to Thanet. Still, we're home now and I've got 1,400 photos to sort through in order to get a trip report together. As a little taster, plus the fact that because I was using Bev's I-pad to do the blog updates whilst on holiday, here are some photos to brighten up the lack lustre posts of the past eleven days!