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!


Friday, 14 May 2021

It's a start

 It's been nearly five weeks since I retired and, despite my efforts, not one carp had visited my landing net during the intervening period. Under these circumstances self-doubt really kicks in and I've been questioning almost every aspect of my approach when, in reality, I needn't have been. All the syndicate members have been struggling. Those few fish, which have been caught, more a result of time than ability. No-one has been smashing it, so why should I be any different?

I've not been biteless during these sessions as a few bream have provided evidence of the effectiveness of my rigs, bite indication and bait choice. Now, whilst many of my fellow members treat these unwanted species with utter contempt; fish shaped vermin, they have provided a little encouragement for me to continue with my angling approach, confident in the tackle I use thus allowing me to concentrate other aspects involved.

6 lbs 2 oz - the biggest of three taken on this session

I've been playing around with rig mechanics and have started to favour the combi-rig set up over the "Ronnie" presentation that has been my go to choice for several seasons. My bait preference now being a wafter as opposed to a pop-up. I'll probably write a more detailed explanation, at a later date, because I certainly feel there's much scope for tweaking this presentation. Whilst I fully endorse the basic fact that high quality tackle should be used in order to maximize the effectiveness of your presentation, under no circumstances do I align myself with the carp clones who think brand labels are more important than functionality. "Tackle tarts" more easily caught than the carp they seek and, as such, subject to "carp tax" Exorbitant mark ups on items of kit which play absolutely no part in the ability of an angler to catch a fish. Entirely the choice of each individual how they spend their hard earned cash but, for me, I'll stick with NGT and Wychwood and be looked at with distain by the fashionistas. One item that I use has caused a ripple of interest amongst these "hard core" carpers. I'd seen that Korda were selling "Stow" indicators for £20+ each - What? I made my own for less than a quid and have been using them for the past couple of weeks.

Last night, just before 21.00 hrs, the Siren R3 signalled a bite as the "Stow" bobbing smashed up to the rod before falling from the line. I'm in, game on! A spirited tussle ensued, the Duncan Kay being perfect for the job, and after a few, very enjoyable, minutes I was able to draw my prize over the net chord. A cracking Mirror of 16 lbs 4 oz the result. A very pleasing way to start my campaign for this coming Summer.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Birding softens the blanks

Man; am I struggling with my angling attempts, at the moment, down on the syndicate venues? I can offer as many cliché' ridden excuses about unseasonal weather patterns and an inability to spend endless hours camping behind my baited rods. The bottom line is that I've not been good enough to solve the puzzle posed by these carp, as yet. Two roach, by design, and an accidental bream are the sum total of my returns for seven sessions spent thus far. Not that I'm about to start complaining, the venue is superb, nestling on  the northern edge of the Stour Valley flatlands with uninterrupted views across the surrounding marshes/farmland. However, what I feel is very important to highlight is the role that birds play whenever I'm outdoors, whatever the reason. If catching a carp was the sole purpose of my involvement with angling then, it stands to reason, that I'd be really pissed off with my results, thus far. Chuck in the Magenta 5 Bat Detector and tub of sweetcorn for the Wood Mice, then I'm having a good time simply by being there.

I showed Bev the sun-rise image I'd taken last week and explained how Steve Gale had opened my eyes to the concept of "big skies" with all that it entails. Until Steve's kick up the arse I'd obviously seen them just never looked properly - "never too old to learn"  I'd arranged to meet up with Gaz Ashby, on Wednesday afternoon, down at the syndicate to spend a few hours chilling out and chewing the fat about subjects many and varied. Torrential rain, however, ensured our plans were severely disrupted yet we still enjoyed the session and were able to watch for carp activity as the sun went down after the weather front had moved through. 

Four more species for the BWKm0 effort have been added recently

No. 56 - Common Whitethroat (28.04.2021) - male in sub-song

No. 57 - Swallow (04.05.2021) - two

No. 58 - Common Swift (06.05.2021) - one over west

No. 59 - Lesser Whitethroat (06.05.2021) - singing male

Quite how I've managed to get to May 6th without recording a Red Kite from the garden is a real mystery. With the weather remaining erratic, at best, who knows which species will make No. 60?

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Jabs, rapid test kits and a crazy twitch

 There are some things, at present, that are best kept vague, such are the pandemic restrictions still in force, despite the incredible success of the vaccine roll-out. With Bev and I both being well into our sixties, it follows that many of our friends are of a similar vintage. So with the security of a negative, rapid test, result and, at least one, needle in the arm, there were arrangements made to meet up with two very special people and spend a while enjoying each others company. 

So it came to pass that I found myself, around mid-day on Saturday, walking a footpath, which had superb views over the Upton Warren nature reserve. I'd said to my companion, "I reckon there's a twitch going on" as he parked the car opposite the entrance. There were just too many guys with bins and scopes wandering around the area for there not to be something going on? We took a leisurely walk along the footpath, spending quite some time scanning the small brook which runs alongside the footpath, finding a couple of Otter footprints in the soft marginal mud. Only carrying binoculars, we walked past several guys with tripod mounted scopes, peering out over the open water of the reserve. It wasn't until we'd reached the end of the path and decided to walk back that we stopped to have a chat with one of the scope carrying guys. It turned out that the Worcestershire birders were involved in a collective day list project and, far more to the point, the fact that a 2cy Bonaparte's Gull was present on site, a first for the county! No wonder there were so many scopes on display. It transpired that this guy, I have no idea who he was, cut his teeth around the Amwell area of Hertfordshire as I was doing the same at Tring. We spoke of the Tyddenfoot Short-toed Lark and how the fortunes of Ravens had changed in the "home counties" and beyond. 

My companion sent me this image, shared from Twitter, and I've cropped it quite heavily.
The original was posted by Pete & Marjo Lewis and remains their copyright.

I have to admit that it was a real struggle before I managed to secure binocular views which allowed me to confidently claim this rare gull. My companion, being a complete novice, was blown away by the situation and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. All I would like to add is that it was a most unexpected demonstration of generosity by a bunch of strangers, and a credit to those birders involved. Social distancing being observed, the happy/excited vibe was tangible as the bird flitted about along the far margin of the main pool. I've used an image which was sent to me, that I have no ownership/copyright, thus will give full details of the the source. If you know Pete & Marjo please pass on my thanks - it is a wonderful photo which helps cement the memory in the mental archives of an old git!

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Syndicate sun-rise

 I can't buy a bite, such is the situation with me and fish at present. Confident that things will change but, in the mean time, I'll have to tough it out. A dawn to dusk session, yesterday, was a proper waste of time, fish wise, yet I did manage five year ticks. Greenshank, Lesser Whitethroat, Cuckoo, Sand Martin and Mediterranean Gull all put in an appearance, plus a pair of Canada Geese (an East Kent rarity) decided to pitch down, briefly, before continuing their journey west along the Stour. It was a stunning dawn, which I photographed before attempting to cast a line. 

Should have looked at the images on the back of the camera then gone back home to bed?

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Casual birding

It's been a very enjoyable period, just recently, as I adjust to the freedom associated with retirement. Fishing, obviously, will play a huge part in this new chapter but I'm also rapidly rediscovering the thrill of wandering the Newlands patch again. The birds seen out on this very ordinary part of Thanet have provided massive highs over these past twenty-one years since Bev & I moved into our bungalow. I no longer take notes, nor keep records, as such. The birds, now, are purely for my own entertainment. That I am occasionally able to share a sighting with a passing dog walker or curious neighbour just adds to the pleasure of this very simple approach to my birding. 

Bev and I went out for a walk, yesterday, and as we crossed the "big field" en route home, stumbled across a bunch of birds on a newly ploughed field margin. Three Wheatear, a Skylark, five Pied and one White Wagtail, bloody brilliant! Even Bev, not remotely interested in birds, was able to grasp the concept of "White-arse" as the Wheatears flitted about and easily discerned the difference between the male Pied Wagtails and their pristine "White" cousin. I had a drive down to the syndicate fishery when we got home, intending to cast a floater or two. WRONG! It was packed and the wind, a very chilly Easterly, ensured that absolutely nothing showed. I had a stroll around, chatting with the various members ensconced in their bivvies, "nothing doing!" being the common theme. I had my bins round my neck and was happy to record the first Yellow Wagtail of 2021 even if the rods remained in the van.


Out on the farm early-ish this morning, I had that weird feeling of impending doom. It was quiet as I walked the first hedgerow, absolutely nothing, not even a Dunnock! I had intended to walk across to the "Old Rose Garden" but, for some reason, changed my mind and turned right instead. Immediately there were two female Wheatears bouncing about on the recently disturbed earth, then a Corn Bunting appeared. I'll keep going. I've absolutely no idea what made me look back but I'm very grateful that I did. Almost at the point where I turned right, not left, was a thrush! Surely not? The bins immediately pointed towards this apparition, a bloody male Ring Ouzel was decked right out in the open. I rattled off a few record shots knowing that a bunch of school kids were rapidly walking the same footpath I'd just left. The ouzel flushed at their approach, never to be seen again - oh the joy of local patch birding!

Ring Ouzel was a species which I'd already written off for this Spring, such have the conditions been, so a right result. It didn't end there because a few moments later the first "patch" Swallow of the year skimmed past me. Only four Buzzards today, but I did record a flock of twenty-one Black-headed Gulls flying East, so I really don't know what to make of this situation as there's no comparison with the same period in 2020. Roach fishing tomorrow, with a carp "snide on the side" rod just for good measure. That second jab knocked me sideways for a couple of days, hence the lack of blog posts, but it's all good now - onward and upward.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Newlands in the sunshine

 A superb day of unbroken sunshine made even better by the birds I was able to see from my garden and whilst wandering around the field margins of the farm. The remaining stubble was ploughed today and, as such, the local gulls were on hand to alert me to the Common Buzzards moving through our airspace. 

I went for a pre-cuppa stroll and was delighted to stumble upon a group of four Wheatears out on some newly ploughed earth. With the light in my favour, I spent quite a while with these splendid little birds, grabbing plenty of images as the opportunity allowed. I find myself in total agreement with Gavin Haig; it is impossible not to point a camera at these harbingers of spring, such is their charisma.

If the wheatears were a surprise, the flock of eighteen Corn Buntings was about as crazy as it gets. They're not annual here, so that number is off the scale and to top it all, one of the birds was singing. A patch breeding attempt would certainly be a very special record. Skylarks and Pied Wagtails made up the best of the rest, although I did record two Common Whitethroats whilst on my ramble. 

Back home by 08.30 hrs, I spent the vast majority of my time just sky watching, enjoying a procession of Common Buzzards, although not as hectic as the previous day.  I ended the day with a total of thirty-two birds, fourteen of which were singles. Having now spent quite a while watching the behaviour of these lone birds, I'm fairly confident that the majority are of local origin and coming to Newlands in order to feed on the freshly ploughed earth, much to the annoyance of the gulls. Migrants tend to occur in groups, although not always, and I had three groups of three, one of four and another of five which deliberately moved N - NW overhead. One of these birds was a superb "Scandinavian-type", pale phase, individual with heavy moult on it's right wing.

I was further rewarded for my effort when a Wheatear flew over the garden, at 10.00 hrs, thus another addition for the BWKm0 list.

No.55 - Wheatear

Just when I thought it couldn't get much better my phone rang and the surgery asked if I could attend for my second jab at 08.00 hrs tomorrow morning? Are you kidding? Another step closer to freedom - I'll be there bright and breezy.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Buzzard bonanza

 Days like these don't happen very often around Newlands, although I might not have been able to spend the time, in the past, just enjoying the spectacle. I had a walk around the fields, to the north of Vine Close, just before 08.00 hrs and a tractor was already at work, ploughing the big field. Obviously, the local Herring Gulls plus a few Lesser Black-backs from the Pyson's Rd colony, were in attendance and I did my best to locate something different but failed miserably. Six Corn Buntings were an unusual record and I had the first "patch" Whitethroat of the year singing in the adjacent hedgerow. Scattered high cloud and a brisk E/NE wind ensured it felt chilly and I was happy to return home for a cuppa. The first Common Buzzards appeared before 09.00 hrs yet, by 10.00 hrs, there were birds in view almost continually right through to 13.00 hrs when Bev and I went out for a drive. 

I'd recorded forty three birds, although duplication and local breeding birds cannot be discounted, before 13.00 hrs. There were still birds soaring over the farm at 16.50 hrs. What I find difficult to understand is the total lack of the pale, Scandinavian type, birds which were such a feature during the 2020 Spring migration period. Still tomorrow is another day and I see what else I can find whilst standing in the garden watching the world go by!