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!


Saturday, 4 April 2020

#BWKm0 - a glorious morning

It was just after 06.00 hrs that I was stood in the back garden, the first coffee of the day resting on the table, whilst bins, scope and camera were being readied. Bev was incredulous as I got out of bed "What are you doing? It's bloody six o'clock!" Well, because leaving home wasn't an option, as the latest Government briefing had announced, then the laid back challenge had to be the only other option? It was a chilly dawn but getting up early was not to be a wasted effort. As the day drew on, so the temperatures rose and wall to wall sunshine enveloped Thanet - happy days! I managed to add another six species to the list, although the White-tailed Eagle wasn't one of them. Maybe tomorrow; as David Bowie once said. I'll list the additions in the order they appeared.

36 - Redwing - 8 (5 & 3) west early doors
37 - Greenfinch - a single bird calling from an adjacent garden constitutes my first Dumpton record of 2020. What a sorry state of affairs for a once common garden visitor.
38 - Skylark - one singing, briefly, over the winter wheat beyond our garden hedge
39 - Wheatear - a female flew south along the gardens. Fabulous binocular views, yet no time for the camera.
40 - Mistle Thrush - a singing male has probably been present since the start of this project yet wind strength and direction have meant I'd not been able to hear it until today?
41 - Great Black-backed Gull - four north (3 ads & 1 2nd c/y)

It proved to be a very good to be alive sort of day as various species put in an appearance around the garden and surrounding area. I pointed the camera at a variety of subjects with varying degrees of success, but it was the Common Buzzards that stole the show. Five over the garden in little more than forty minutes mid morning - brilliant!

Friday, 3 April 2020

#BWKm0 - another one bites the dust

I feel incredibly privileged to work for an organisation which takes employee care so seriously. With all the other chaos caused by our current situation, financial uncertainty won't help combat the everyday pressures of this pandemic. That the UK Government have stepped up to the plate is highly commendable, even Jeremy Corbyn couldn't have seen, in his wildest dreams, any of those measures coming?  As an employee of Fujifilm SIS, our business falls under the umbrella of the European Fuji network and our Japanese parent company has been very quick to offer clarity to the guys and gals who make up their global workforce. There are many restrictions on what an individual can, and cannot, post on social media about the Fujifilm business. However, in this instance I don't see me getting an employee discussion, or worse, for singing their praises. Basically the message coming out of Japan is that we're all part of the Fuji family and the Company will look after us through these crazy times. Extraordinarily comforting!!!!!!!!!
Right that's enough arse licking! What's been happening in Dumpton this fine Friday afternoon?
For the second day running, a pair of Common Buzzards have been engaged in sky dancing displays, which includes the vocal accompaniment, over the main compound of Newlands Farm. Surely they can't be serious about occupying such an urban territory?

Black Vulture - possibly the most impressive raptor that patrols the skies of Europe?
The adrenaline rush caused by a garden White-tailed Eagle will be no less thrilling!

News of the White-tailed Eagle being present over Ramsgate (Newington), yesterday, came via a comment posted on Thursday's offering by none other than Mr Pegwell Bay himself - Phil Milton Esq. Since reading the original, then the subsequently updated, post of Stewart Sexton about his own "Eagle" experience I have been acutely aware of how close this wandering individual has come to Dumpton airspace and my likely reaction! Given the weather forecast for the coming weekend I'm feeling confident that something extraordinary could happen. An eagle, well that would be nice, but I'd quite happily settle for a White Stork or a Crane. Steve Gale has shown us what is achievable if we're prepared to listen for avian activity during the hours of darkness, yet others in our midst, have taken the other option and gone down the trail of "Noc-Mig" sound recording and examining the results next morning. Being an old fart, obviously one method does it for me and the other doesn't. But that is no reason for those who use this technology to stop, just one opinion in a melting pot of many others.
A pair of Jays in the garden hedge, very briefly, before flying off towards the main farm compound were a long awaited addition and complete my "corvid" quota.
35 - Jay - a pair in the garden, briefly, before flying off towards Newlands Farm

Thursday, 2 April 2020

#BWKm0 - stagnant

I did think about posting something yesterday but it just felt wrong - what with the date and all? Garden birding has been dire, if you ignore the trickle of Common Buzzards passing through the Dumpton air space. No more additions since that Cormorant episode, although working early shifts hasn't been particularly helpful to my cause? Obviously I've given the ritual standing out in the garden, after dark, a bit of attention yet, alas, to no avail - I remain confident that things will change, it's all a matter of time!

This pandemic has impacted upon all of us, no-one has been spared? One thing that has really been driven home is how bloody pathetic our politicians are. Every day we are able to see live up-dates/press conferences by our political elite, brilliantly outclassed by the real heroes in dealing with this unprecedented situation. Experts, medical and/or scientific, who are able to directly answer the questions posed without the requirement of adherence to party lines or typical bumbling avoidance of the central issues. Is Boris really suffering from Covid -19 or have Conservative Central Office told him to lay low, due to his inept displays when cornered by the media in these situations - he's like a broken record!

Getting home early this afternoon it was quickly obvious that things were happening around the garden. A Chiffchaff and singing Goldfinch were quickly followed by another Common Buzzard causing pandemonium amongst the local Herring Gulls then a female Sparrowhawk (top photo) flew west, towards the farm compound. It was crazy, something just had to happen. Collared Doves, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Starlings, Dunnocks, House Sparrows (60+), a Robin and three Blackbirds were all over/around the feeding station and then it happened! Some movement in the shadow of our Budlehia caused me to raise the bins - and there it was a Song Thrush! This is Dumpton garden gold dust, gone before I had a chance to grab the camera, I didn't give a toss. What a result? It's been tough going just recently, with little return for much effort. I probably screwed up a Siskin, which called once yet passed over unseen. Yes I could have added it, but wouldn't have felt comfortable with the record. After all, this is supposed to be "laid back" birding - if I was that desperate for garden ticks, surely I'd have seen Song Thrush already?
34 - Song Thrush

I saw this as I walked up to our local shop yesterday - says all that needs to be said

Monday, 30 March 2020

#BWKm0 - Getting my arse severely kicked?

4 hrs 32 minutes for my first ever London Marathon (2000) - not so sad for a guy already on the wrong side of 45? Says who? - says me and that's the only opinion that matters in this situation. Age does this to an individual as wear and tear takes it's toll on the skeletal fabric which holds the biomass together. However, the upside of getting old is something which no amount of training, nor education, can substitute or bypass, it's called experience! This single factor is exactly why the greatest brains are housed inside the skulls of folk who have seen the sun rise over many a decade, not just finished wiping the snot from their first bout of flu.
Bev and I moved into our tiny dwelling nearly twenty years ago and since that moment, I have been recording the avian and mothing highlights with a degree of kleptomanic obsession that only like-minded souls will be able to align with. Straight away I've aliented a section of the visitors to this blog, purely because they are not of my generation and will very unlikely be in the position of ever owning their own property (if they live in the UK!) Both moths and birds have gone by the way as my angling exploits have, once again, come to the fore, but I can't deny the joy that both these hobbies have provided me as life has wandered it's erratic course.
Apparently we're eleven days into this garden bird watching gig and I'm miles off the pace. There are gardens in London already boasting lists in excess of fifty species whilst I'm stuck on thirty-three (sorry Darren - that's a factory joke!). How can this be so? I live on the Isle of Thanet, a garden list of 111 species (a patch list from the adjoining farmland is 207 species - although there is a lot more habitat variation and space). My reference to the London Marathon is not without reason, this "lockdown" birding caper will be just that. Those guys who've sprinted into the higher echelons have now got very little to look forward to, so will very likely burn out before the real gig gets started?
Twenty years of looking out from the garden has me optimistic for the future and will, surely, see me close the gap on these early pace setters?

I wonder how many gardens have Purple Heron on the list? Mine does!
I was sat in my van, social distancing during my meal break today, when I spotted a small bunch of thrushes (Redwings at a guess) moving north over the adjacent factory units. With only thirty three on the list my chances of seeing something new are far greater than if I'd already recorded every species on the county records for March! We're in this for the long haul, so we'd better get used to it!

Sunday, 29 March 2020

#BWKm0 Important - certainly not?

I've not cast a line for several weeks and, if things remain as they are, can't see me being able to do so for many more to come. My syndicate  renewal fees are due to be payed at the start of April, yet I wonder if it the money could be better used as I'll not be able to get out all the while this pandemic dominates our daily lives. Decisions, decisions! To be honest I'll probably pay my membership, but what if I was self-employed or laid off? £250 might keep food on the table for a few weeks, rather than spent on a ticket that can't be used. I suppose it's for each of us to base our decisions on our individual circumstances.
I was rather drawn to a post, it doesn't matter by whom, which questioned the Noc-mig technology being used by some "competitors" in our laid back garden challenge. My initial reaction was that I was fully behind any such records being null & void. However, after a day to ponder on such trivia, I've altered my stance somewhat.
Technology has drastically changed so many aspects of our everyday lives. Mobile phones and digital imagery are two areas which we now take for granted as are, indeed, the various social media platforms by which we are freely able to communicate our slant on the world. If it were not so Steve Gale wouldn't have been able to garner so much support for our little project in such a short space of time? As an individual, I am wholly reliant upon electronic bite alarms whenever I go fishing, especially if I'm tucked up akip in my bivvy. And what about mothing, surely an un-attended light trap, being emptied next morning is much akin to letting some fandango gadget record the sounds in the night sky whilst you are sound asleep. I think the bottom line is that we must be able to allow each to their own.
There is no prize, no highly esteemed kudos, associated with the garden bird watch challenge. Who will be the winner, well we all will? We've come together in order to find a positive distraction from the reality of self isolation imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic which we simply can't ignore. I liken my involvement to running (?) my first ever London Marathon (2000) which was an incredible experience to be part of. When I crossed that finish line, in a time of 4 hrs 32 minutes, no one could take that feeling of elation/achievement away from me. Of course I hadn't won it, didn't matter a toss, it was the taking part and completion which made it such a personal triumph.
So there you have it - my very personal overview of what we've got ourselves involved in. Please feel free to hold alternative opinions, it won't be the first time someone has disagreed with me.

So what's been happening around Dumpton? Not too much being the very simple answer. Two female Blackbirds appeared on the lawn and, I would assume, were new arrivals?  A phone conversation with my youngest brother, Simon, who lives in the delightful Buckinghamshire village of Aston Clinton, was quite amusing. He has recently undergone heart surgery and is in a period of twelve weeks confined to barracks. I'd previously told him about the garden challenge and he reported that he was currently on eighteen species. He said that Raven was a good bird for him and that he'd also recorded a single Cormorant headed towards the Tring Reservoir complex, no doubt. "Bloody hell! I still haven't seen one yet" We exchanged the usual pleasantries as we said our good-byes and I returned to the task of clearing the debris from our patio area. Huge numbers of Wood Pigeons remain  around the newly planted fields to the north of Vine Close and provide quite a spectacle when disturbed by passing dog walkers, joggers or cyclists.
Chores completed, I made the effort to dig my trusty Kowa TSN 823 (30 x eye piece) out of retirement and attach it to my Manfrotto tripod which has been part of the fishing kit due to my requirement of self take images. So there I was, stood outside, scope, bins and camera at the ready. Very impressive, almost like I know what I'm doing when I spot three Cormorants flying in from the East. No time to check the camera settings, I fired off a short series of images and have to be grateful for the photo shop technology which has enabled me to rescue one of the pitiful efforts.

33 - Cormorant - Did make me smile when I rang Simon to tell him about this latest addition to the list.

Friday, 27 March 2020

#BWKm0 - week 1 gone

It doesn't seem possible that seven days have elapsed since the start of this "laid back" garden birding challenge. Looking at Steve Gale's latest offering (click here) it would seem that our ranks are growing daily as the reality of the current situation starts to impact on all of our lives. I'm really enjoying this base level birding and am trying to use the situation to actually watch individual birds, as they go about their daily routines, rather than simply identify the species and on to the next one. The way this pandemic seems to be panning out, I don't think that time will be an issue - we're going to have loads of it at our disposal. With Bev's mum being so vulnerable and frail, our need for social distancing is a key factor in protecting her from this deadly menace. This weekend will see us both staying within the bungalow footprint, the only interaction will be with the carers who visit, four times a day, to assist with her cleanliness and medical requirements.
I've got loads to do around the garden, mainly tidying up the patio area and cutting back some of the Budlehia branches which are cloaking the aviary. If nothing else it will keep me out of mischief whilst allowing me to remain outdoors without any nagging guilt that I should be doing something more useful? The forecast isn't too sparkling, NE winds, gusting 45 mph, with light rain on Sunday. Who knows what might be seen during this unsettled period? It can't be too long before I start to pick up on some vis-mig, the conditions next week look like they have potential, although I'm on early shifts and will, therefore, only get the afternoons, into darkness?
Just one more addition to my list today, as a pair of Goldfinches dropped down onto a sunflower heart feeder for a few minutes just before mid-day. I rattled off a few token shots, but always distant, on the furthest feeder, my image is a very heavy crop from the original.

32 - Goldfinch - a pair at the feeding station for a few minutes

Thursday, 26 March 2020

#BWKm0 - bread & butter birding

Another pleasant, pre-work, session out in the garden ever hopeful of the next addition for the "laid back" garden challenge list. As it turned out I did actually manage another two species, so should be happy with that, I suppose? Although the sun shone brightly from a relatively clear sky, the brisk NE wind certainly had a chill to it and, a female Sparrowhawk excepted, no raptor movement was forthcoming as a result. Chaffinches continue to move eastwards in dribs and drabs, yet it was the regular garden visitors which provided the bulk of the entertainment today. The camera is never far away whilst I'm outside so, after topping up the meal worm tray, I thought I'd sit quietly in the shadow of our sawn-off "Christmas Tree" and see what turned up.

30 - Linnet - Four birds passed along the hedge line several times during the morning, prospecting for nesting territories at a guess. They are a relatively common breeding species around the Newlands Farm area, so very much expected around the garden at this time of year.

I have to admit that I was getting a little bored by mid-morning and the chilly wind was taking its' toll. I retired to the study, confident that my day was over and Linnet my only addition. Then it happened. Completely out of the blue a Fieldfare landed in the tiny Hawthorn bushlet just beyond the garden boundary. This is the first 2020 record of this species from our bungalow - why today? I fired off a couple of token shots through the double glazing before opening the back door and securing a few more for the record. Wow - I don't remember ever getting so excited by a thrush, I was buzzing!
31 - Fieldfare - Nice! Very nice!!

I've just seen Steve's latest update on our "Lockdown" birding gig and the accompanying images of some of the competitors garden spaces. I also saw a post from Stewart Sexton depicting the abject squalor of life on the Northumberland  coast, horrific! No wonder he's in self isolation since 2006. Quite how my little piece of Thanet can hope to compare to the majestic scenery which Stewart overlooks puts this whole caper into perspective. Make the most of what you've got, stay positive and enjoy whatever comes your way. 
So to attempt to portray the minuscule footprint from which I'm conducting this exercise I took a few images to show the very ordinary space which I call home.