Who am I?

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!


Saturday 26 July 2014

Urban myths, mountains and molehills

I have heard, on numerous occasions, from those good folk with whom I work; the dramatic effects of the appearance of a hornet, at a BBQ or similar event, and the chaotic scenes that follow as "every man for himself" panic ensues. The general story is of a loud buzzing, followed by "it was massive!" - my reply doesn't usually go down too well. "It wasn't a hornet, it was a hoverfly - Volucella zonaria" Hornets, on Thanet, are as rare as hen's teeth - I've seen one in fourteen years, and I've been looking.
It would seem that the general reaction to the sighting of a large black and yellow striped insect is to immediately start flailing arms and shouting nonsense - hardly conducive composure for the positive identification of any living creature? So why have I made mention of this today? Well, there have been up to six individual V. zonaria feeding on the buddlieas and, this morning, I decided to grab some images.

Volucella zonaria, a beast of a hoverfly - aka The Thanet Hornet!
The weather was superb, bright sunshine, a slight northerly breeze and clear blue skies; simply good to be outdoors weather. I recorded my first Migrant Hawker (dragonfly) of the year along with being privvy to a spectacular display by two, juvenile and an adult, peregrines high over Newland's Farm. Swallows were moving north, in dribs and drabs and there was plenty of butterfly activity to keep me amused - some pristine Painted Ladies being the highlight.

My first Migrant Hawker, of 2014, perched in the garden buddliea
The second part of this rambling drivel concerns the disquiet in the tranquil world of local birding; to be more specific, the state of the reserve at Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry. It is a designated NNR (National Nature Reserve) and is, therefore, funded by the, tax paying, members of the UK populous. Natural England are the custodians - any employee being a "civil servant" in this respect, so open to criticism by the public if there is a perception of failure?
Looking at some of my fellow blogland inhabitants postings - all is not well in the "jewel of the Kent countryside". Oh no; much vocal, and blogland, criticism of the general state of the reseve. Poor Becky Plunkett (the reserve manager) and her staff, have taken some fierce flack for the lack of viewing facilities offered by the site. By all means feel free to call me thick, but is not the purpose of a nature reserve to provide habitat in which nature can thrive? In this case we are talking about the inhabitants of reedbeds - Bitterns, Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits and, dare I say, Spotted Crakes? There will, of course, be a whole ecosystem full of supporting plants, invertebrates, amphibians, mammals, etc. which all benefit from the conditions provided by this habitat. What it ain't is a zoo! The very conditions which provide optimum environments for the natural history does not automatically mean that it will be a good place to see them!
However, as it is an area which is payed for by the public, surely there must be some compromise? I've read Becky's rather defencive comment on "Chiddy's" blog - such a shame that things have been allowed to degenerate to this level? I was at that very first meeting, in The Reedbed Hide, when Becky outlined her vision and urged caution over time scale due to financial constraints - I can't see that she hasn't been honest, or the reserve fallen into disrepair.
May 2004 - looking from the ramp towards Stodmarsh. No reed shields, no Harrison's Drove Hide and still masses
of open water amidst the newly emerged reedbeds.
What is of paramount importance is the fact that this area remains managed for the wildlife of East Kent? Thus, if for no other reason than to provide the continuing support, surely the tax paying public should be able to enjoy a reasonable chance of encountering the inhabitants of the reserve as they walk the various footpaths between the vast expanses of maturing reedbeds.

24th September 2003 - A Pectoral Sandpiper  (it's in front of the Pochard!) on the main pool  - as viewed from the ramp
When I first visited Grove, it was a series of fields where turf was cultivated - Natural England (previously known as English Nature) have done a fantastic job in developing this facility for the benefit of many rare breeding birds. Wouldn't it be better if everyone could enter into constructive debate rather than this latest episode of  "muck throwing" - that's me being polite!


  1. Nicely put we all have are views on the place

    1. Mark, I have nothing but admiration for the passion you hold for this fantastic nature reserve. It took hold of my imagination, around 1989, when mum and dad purchased the school, in Ash, and the subsequent events that have shaped my life. I didn't thinkthat anywhere could match Wilstone Res. for impact - Stodmarsh NNR, in the late 1980's was to be a revalation to me. I love this reserve, have enjoyed many special sightings and discoveries, in the intervening years. That the Grove section doesn't allow "perfect photo opportunities" might say more about the modern birder than it does about the state of the facillity? Just a thought - Becky can only do as much as her budget will allow!
      Bump into you during the Autumn and we can have a proper chat - Dyl