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!


Friday 29 August 2014

Tempting fate

I am making this blog entry purely as a marker. For the first time, since Loch Awe in May, I have the chance to spend an extended period on the bank. Still got a few, work related, issues - regarding holidays, but I am going to get a couple of full nights, on the river before I have to make any big decisions as to what I can, and can't, do from Monday to Friday.

5th July 2013 - Benno with the barbel that set the project off.
11lbs 6oz of Kentish Stour "gold"
So far this season, my sessions on the river have been short (3 - 4 hours) affairs and my results are not as I'd have hoped. I do, however, believe that some progress has been made and am, now, beginning to understand the barbel just a little more clearly. If this is true, then I am confident that I will add to my tally before 05.00 hrs Monday. Am I at the "glass ceiling"? or am I just kidding myself? Am I as good an angler as I think I am?

17th August 2013 - a bloody monster of a barbel
13lbs 5oz of, undeserved, River Stour magic.
I watched a Youtube video by Shaun Harrison (we used to fish Claydon together in the mid-80's) - under the Free Spirit banner - Barbel Angling. He talked of taking 20 doubles from a river by the end of September - bloody hell! We've only had nine between four of us in two seasons!
I don't know the river to which Shaun refers; but it ain't the Kentish Stour!

Young Mr Bradbury with a 7lbs 10oz fish
31st August 2013 - this river owes Tom a "double"; if such a thing is possible?
As for a return to Tring - it remains a possibility, but I'm still not sure that my heart is really in it. Twenty double figure barbel, from a single river, in one season - that has certainly given me something to think about!
It won't happen in 2014/15 but it is a project for the future, should I fail to get side tracked by other species.

Monday 25 August 2014

Almost perfect?

The day started with me enjoying a coffee, whilst standing in the back garden soaking up the early morning rays. Two Willow Warblers were flitting about in the buddlieas and I had the camera to hand should a photo opportunity arise. The Java Sparrows in my aviary were very active yet, over the din I thought I heard the call of a Bee-eater. I strained my ears as I scanned the skies to the north (where I thought the call had come from) - heard the call another three times yet failed to see anything. I rushed indoors, telling Bev that I was going over to the farm to check the wires. If a Bee-eater was going to spend any time on my patch - I wanted to see it!
Juvenile Whinchat on the Scaffolder's Yard fence
Sadly my search was negative, although I did manage to record the first Wheatear and Whinchat of the autumn plus a Common Whitethroat and several more Willow Warblers. Did I really hear Bee-eater? I'll never know and the record is consigned to the "might have been" file.
I had plans to fish the Stour in the evening, so set about preparing some particle mix, a micro-moth flew from the grain as I poured it into the saucepan and I discovered another, although dead, in the bag. I've made no attempt at an id, as yet, but it looks quite interesting. (It's an Indian Meal Moth - Plodia interpunctella; a commonly found pest of stored seeds and other dried foodstuff!)

This sad little moth was inside a plastic bag full of mixed seeds 

However, in between times, Bev and I went across to Herne Bay to pick up Ron and Denise (Bev's parents) before setting off towards Hythe, Folkestone, St. Margaret's at Cliff and back to Herne Bay, some six hours later! A decent lunch in The Duke of York, Dover - and that's about all there is to say.
On the river just after 19.00 hrs - swim baited up with said particle mix within 30 minutes. Conditions looked good and my mood was confident. As it got dark I got "wiped out" by weed three times between 21.05 & 21.40 hrs - never a good thing having to recast in the dark - but it all worked out nicely. At 22.05 hrs the bite alarm burst into life as the reel span (my Match Aerial - whoopee!) and the rod lunged violently as an unseen fish bolted off with my bait.

A very stocky individual - it gave me the best fight I've so far enjoyed with the barbel of this
wonderful river

It was an interesting fight, the fish weeding itself after a minute or so. As a result I had to resort to brute strength - 12lbs b.s. Diawa Sensor and a 1.75 lbs t/c rod subjected to extreme pressure in order to get the fish moving again. It all ended happily, some minutes later, as I pushed the net under my second Barbel of 2014 - this one weighing a very pleasing 11 lbs 4 oz - a rather short, stocky, individual - happy daze!

Monday 18 August 2014

Honey Buzzard is as Reed Warbler?

Despite my, much publicised (cheers Steve!), opposition to the disrespectful trend to turn the enjoyment of natural history into a sport - complete with rules and league tables - I have also (as pointed out by Bill Dykes) been compiling lists as I've meandered along the highways of my life. The very basic difference is that I keep them purely for personal reference - under no circumstances do I use, or wish them to be used by others, as a measure of my ability, or status, within a specific field. This is true of all aspects of my outdoor pursuits - angling, birding, mothing or any other group that has taken my interest, in our natural world, to another level.
Migrating female Honey Buzzard, over our garden, 5th August 2012
It is moments like this that elevate "patch watching" to an experience unlike any other.
I've seen 1,000's of Honey Buzzards during my life - none can compare to this one!
Since Bev and I moved to our bungalow in West Dumpton, November 2000, I have been keeping records of the wildlife that I've encountered (whilst stood) within the boundaries of our property. 30m x 9m - my little piece of England. Birds, moths, butterflies and bumble-bees have provided the bulk of my records - because they are what I am happiest with. There have been a few mammals, dragonflies and other stuff, but birds have been the central core of my interest. My first Mediterranean Gull was a major event - they're annual and, as such, although they are always a welcome sight, are no longer unexpected. A Rock Pipit is a completely different encounter. Craig Sammells recorded the first one, from my garden and I missed it! - it took three more years before I got it back and I've only another single record since then. Tree Sparrow was a scarce, but annually recorded, species a decade ago - I've not seen one since 2009.
A Reed Warbler in our garden buddliea. Not a species normally associated with euphoria?
When it was a first record for the garden - you'd better believe that I got very animated!
Getting lists down to this intimate level ensures that personal involvement, and local status, is the very essence of the encounters. None of this "Red Data Book" stuff, attempting to create an impression of added skill involved (it will be a direct consequence of restricted habitat in the vast majority of cases) - it is real, alive and dynamic, and happening where I live. (Not a demonstration of my garden's better than yours!)
I maintain loads of lists - I have the ability to go back to 1974 and look at the weight, bait, the venue, date and weather for all my tench captures. Pike, over 10 lbs' have a database to themselves going back to 1981, as do Carp and Wels Catfish - lists, yes I keep 'em and they are of huge value - but only at this personal level. Measuring yourself against others is (in my opinion) an exercise in pointlessness. In angling we use the term "glass ceiling" - it is the point you can reach when your skills can be no further developed; you can cast a line, tie the correct knots, know your baits, can read a water and have a knowledge of your chosen quarry and venue; after this level of competence has been attained it is the availability of time on the bank that dictates the successes you are able to accrue.The competent anglers with the most time will, therefore, catch the most fish and this will apply in a similar fashion with any individuals involved in "twitching" or multi-taxa appreciation.
Yellow-necked Mouse (I think?) foraging under the garden feeding station - 23.06.2014
The biggest question that any individual will need to ask of themselves is "Have I reached that "glass ceiling" or am I using time to compensate for a lack of skills?" Time bandits - we all know who they are - carp fishing is full of them! All show, no go - ready made anglers straight off the shelf! Of course they catch fish, but not as many as the anglers who have learnt their skills and know when, where and how to apply them. You certainly see it at "twitches" - shiny gear, constant reference to the pager and "is that it?" with a bemused look on their chops! As the only multi-taxa enthusiast, that I've ever met, also happens to be a complete freak - with encyclopedic memory retention and self-found lists of mammoth proportions - I am unable to offer a description of what a  PSL"tourist" would be like?

What difference, to anyone else, does it make that I released this striking geometer
without being able to id it?
Does it really matter, how we, as individuals, choose to demonstrate/pursue our enjoyment of the natural world? Of course not; when all said and done it should be each to their own. (and that, by the way, also includes me!) Having an opinion doesn't mean that there is a right or wrong way of doing this stuff - it is simply a manifestation of an individual mind-set and nothing more. If it appears on this blog, then it is very unimportant indeed - as is the guy who wrote it!

Better late than never? That insect which had me so confused when I first set eyes upon it
in East Blean Woods (02.07.2014)
A hoverfly which goes by the name of Chrysotoxum bicinctum
A very pleasing result, but in no way has it improved the enjoyment of the original encounter!

Thursday 14 August 2014

Garden bits

Just a quickie! A few bits around the garden, this morning, and the sighting of a Swift - over Booker's car park; yesterday.
They have been conspicuous by their absence, so far this autumn, so three individuals,
today, was a nice surprise.
Butterflies continue to visit our garden, although the buddlieas are well past their best. Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper and Small White predominate - Holly Blue occasional. My camera gear is always set-up, awaiting usage, by the kitchen door. It was a calling Willow Warbler that drew my attention, yet the presence of a Hummingbird Hawk-moth (the first garden sighting in over a month!) which made my day. Feeding on the honeysuckle that hides our shed - the image was recorded using my 170 - 500mm Sigma lens - so not the best option, but the only one available at the time!

A spectacular insect
Some crazy stuff going on down at the river - I will up-date much later in the year. Nuff sed!

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Haven't we learnt anything?

At the risk of completely alienating myself from the rest of humanity I will make this post. It was going to be a "comment" on Steve Gale's blog; ref his post- To collect or not to collect?  http://northdownsandbeyond.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/to-collect-or-not-to-collect
But, as you will discover, it sort of developed an identity of its' own and went rambling off into the distance.

I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about this reply; so it's not an off the cuff response. The whole concept of Pan Listing League Tables has caused me problems ever since Mr Telfer proposed the idea in 2011. Any form of competition will, unfortunately, attract those who are, by definition, competitive and, therefore, the concept of winning is more important than taking part. Cheats, fraudsters, corner cutters! It doesn't matter whether it is the Olympic Games or a local Golfing Society - competition will bring out the worst in people. In birding parlance they are called "stringers", I have no idea what the Pan Listing equivalent would be? My question is "Are the wonders of the natural world really so trivial  that they are measurable by numbers?"
One of the leading lights in this field has stated that he just wants to become a better naturalist - so is it killing things, and being able to use an id key, that makes you better? Or is it being higher up the league? Or is one dependant on the other? Technology has advanced an awful long way since the Victorian era, yet the world of the entomologist is stuck in a time warp! Bill Dykes was fortunate to capture the 2nd Euchromius cambridgei (a moth) for the UK. Digital photography was able to confirm the id - the record's a good'n? Oh no - 26th June 2014 and Mr Dykes is adding yet another, pathetic, pinned specimen to a collection. What the fucking hell for? Everyone agrees that the id was correct; it is not a difficult species to confirm. If there was any problems, a simple scale sample (easily obtained using a small paint brush) should allow a DNA analysis to be undertaken, the id confirmed and the moth flies free!
The first and second UK records of Asiatic Nycteoline. Well yes and no!
One was captured and is now a pinned specimen, the other was
in one of my traps, in Gadget's garden. It was photographed, extensively,
before being released. The record rejected due to the a lack of a specimen.
I'm happy with my id and my conscience is clear about our actions.
From where I am sitting, involvement in Pan Listing is simply an excuse to ignore the reality of technological progress. Because this new phenomenon is encouraging participants to explore unfamiliar territory, many specimens are taken which, to a specialist, would be bread and butter. Don't worry about the fact that your phone has a better camera than either David Bailey or  Eric Hosking used to earn their livings;  ignore the fact that we can get a DNA match from museum specimens, let's remain entrenched in the 19th century when collecting was the only option, and stick to our guns! If you really desire to become a better naturalist, then surely you should be attempting to promote the use of every technological advance that has been made in the fields of imagery and DNA analysis, to move our skill base to a higher level so that we have the ability to make confident identifications of living specimens and not remain in an era that has had its' day.
If, as Steve suggests, Pan Listing, for him, is a way of providing an excuse to get outdoors, get involved in the personal challenge of expanding your knowledge of our wildlife - that's wonderful, a splendid concept; individuals pushing themselves beyond the limits of their comfort zone and discovering new families/groups as they delve deeper into what is out there.

How would a 1st UK record of Mallow Skipper stand up within our present system?
Would a series of digital images be sufficient to get an acceptance, or will only the corpse suffice?

Scrap the league tables then people, who don't know Mute Swan from Canada Goose, will only be lying to themselves. Absolutely nothing wrong with like-minded souls going on organised field trips, sharing knowledge and experiences. It's what our natural history is all about - it's there to be enjoyed, not turned into game where statistics are used to demonstrate ability and the "token specimen" is an approved method of involvement. Or, how's this for an idea? What if the league table was only for species which were reliably id'd by non-lethal means?  How quickly would you develop into a better all round naturalist as you strive to push the limits of our current knowledge as you, in turn, increase your own? Pan Listing would then become an arena where studying the subject was as important as the "tick in the box" which might arise from the encounter. Sadly at present, all I read, out there in blogland, is a series of exploits in which boxes are ticked at such an alarming rate that there is absolutely no way that any detailed study of the life form could have been undertaken - except under a microscope! (So they are ex-life forms!)

A "continental" Swallowtail Butterfly
I feel sure that the vast majority of those interested, in our natural world, would object
if it were captured as "a token specimen" because it occurred in a UK garden.
At what point do we draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable?

As with all my posts - the opinions that I have are just that - mine! I don't expect everyone to agree with me but, if you want a war - go to Iraq. If my writing offends - don't bother reading it, a very simple option and much preferable to wasting your emotions over something so unimportant! Might I finish with thanks to Steve Gale for yet another entertaining exchange of views - my blog stats are up there with the "Ramsgate Warbler saga" as a result.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Gadget - a quick update

I've just been over to QEQM Hospital where I was able to spend a few minutes with Gadget. He's doing fine and there is a possibility that he'll be allowed home by the weekend. He has expressed his gratitude to everybody who has visited or sent messages of sympathy - he will get around to replying personally when he has the opportunity. Until then, he is simply grateful for the dedication and professionalism of the staff of the hospital and is looking forward to getting the all clear.

Monday 11 August 2014

Go back or move on?

In three weeks time there is a slim chance that I might be able to spend a few days (and nights) fishing on Wilstone Res. - part of the Tring complex. It is the venue which is at the very core of my being; I learnt so much about the disciplines of "big fish angling" and some of the rudimentary skills of birding whilst on its' banks. The whole of theTring Reservoirs complex hold a very special place in my development as an angler, observer and, indeed, me as an individual; Wilstone being the major factor - a venue where many dreams became reality!

The famous Wilstone Pier swim - Pike fishing in the early 1990's
With this as the background; is there anything to be gained in my return to these magnificent fisheries? My memories are blurred by the passing of time - my last session was on Startops End in March 1993. Can I blot out the past and enjoy today? Or, are my previous experiences of such intensity that it would be impossible to return without a feeling of dread? These fantastic fisheries aren't what they were in "My Day!"
There is no Alan Wilson to make the early morning brew, Bernard Double has long since left the post of head bailiff and those characters, who made up my past, have been replaced by a generation of "different specialist anglers" I have no doubts about their desires and ambitions - but will it sit easily within my own reasoning for a return session. Nostalgia might be best left as that - stuff which has happened; thus cannot be changed but, also, it cannot be relived. I am fighting a very strange battle in my head - go back or forwards?

Three Tench for over 22 lbs! (July 1990 ?) - not an uncommon occurrence
The Tench fishing, during this era, was un-matched by any other UK venue.
I was there from the very early days, I joined the Tring Syndicate in 1981, just after Tony Chester
took his record fish. Is it possible for me to go back without being disappointed?
It might just be that I know that the venue no longer has the aura of mystery that it once had. On the other hand, I might just have moved on and my enjoyment of small venue challenges have taken centre stage in my efforts. I'm slightly at a loss to know why I have no desire to revisit Claydon or Tiddenfoot, places which contributed massively in my formative years as an angler yet, in the same instance, derive immense pleasure from the Loch Awe experiences - despite an 18 year gap, although this might easily be explained by the fact that I never had much success on my early Scottish trips, therefore Loch Awe held no such stigma as Wilstone does. A venue which I fished with absolute confidence and self-belief.

Another fantastic Tench from Wilstone.
I still have three weeks in which to make a decision; all of this is dependant upon two unknowns - weather and work. I have not been given the time off, just yet, due to the holiday roster being fully booked. My supervisors have said they'll be able to let me go if the workload is not too demanding (whatever measure that is?) - so I am somewhat in limbo, with my mind playing games with my emotions. Can I? Can't I? - Back to my roots or forward along the never ending pathway? If these are my biggest problems then life must be good.

Gadget had a comfortable night, on Saturday, with a scan being done on Sunday morning. As Bev and I were away for the day, no news from friends or relatives, must be seen as a positive. I will keep posting news on his recovery as, and when, I get it.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Silly stuff and "a bolt from the blue!"

For ever the clown. Emily playing in a puddle - the "Pooh stick" bridge
visible on the right hand horizon.
Emily and I spent a couple of hours, out on the marsh along the Little Stour, this morning - looking at birds and bugs before getting down to the serious business of splashing in puddles and playing "Pooh sticks". Being a grand-parent means that I can do these things without any guilt or embarrassment - it's part of my job!

Female Banded Demoiselle

A Thick-headed Fly  (possibly Conops flavipes?)

The Golden-rod Spider - Misumena vatia
Quite what this master of disguise was doing on the tyre of my Mazda 5 MPV - who knows?

The barbel quest has taken a backward step - I'm sure that I'm doing all the right things, but in all the wrong places. Fish location is fundamental, and I'm struggling. Benno had a bit of a result, during the week, when he landed a Bream of 6lbs 10oz - his PB! I had two sessions; the first, a total blank, and, the second, resulting in a sodding eel. If barbel had been present I am certain that my approach would have delivered the result I seek. I need a bigger drawing board, coz that's where it seems I need to go back to? Due to work and other commitments (as you will shortly see!) I won't be back to the R. Stour until next Saturday, at the earliest. Probably not a bad move to take a time out and recharge my enthusiasm.

A 6 lbs 10 oz Bream from the River Stour - it looks bigger!
Bev and I are taking Dad back to Hemel Hempstead, tomorrow, so that we can all attend the 80th birthday celebration for my Auntie Gladys. Dad's staying for a few days; we've got to be back for work on Monday - not that it's a problem. We'll get to spend a few hours with friends and family, recalling memories from the, collective, long forgotten, past.

Computer photo-shop wizardry
This is what Gadget was seeing when the left side of his body shut down - "Cosmic Man!"
So; back to the events of today. I had returned home, with Emily, via a stop off at Dad's place. We'd not been back long when Bev took a phone call - on our land line. "Dyl! - you'd better get in here" What the f*ck? Another salesman needs sorting out!  I walked into the living room to hear the news that Gadget has been taken into QEQM Hospital with a suspected stroke! I got there as quickly as I was able - making my way to the ward. His step-son, Steve, was at his side and Gadget was conscious. After I'd called him all the attention-seeking twats under the sun we had a chat. It seems that he had felt unwell, at home, around mid-morning and had rung 999, due to the fact that he couldn't stand up and the whole of his left side was numb! The swift response of all the agencies involved ensured that he has received the best possible treatment and is very likely to make a full, and speedy, recovery. I don't want to hear any shit about the NHS - those folk who work at the sharp end are 100%  committed to their chosen careers and deliver a service which defies the efforts of meddling mis-management at various levels within the system. If Gadget had been with BUPA he'd have received little different treatment - although, it is true that, the ward menu might have been slightly more lavish? For anyone who doesn't know him - Gadget was the technological brains behind WWW.Planetthanet.org - a visionary project, when we launched it in the mid 2000's. He's my mate and I will post up-dates on his progress as his rehabilitation commences. At the moment all the signs are very positive (except he might have to give up drinking!!!)

Monday 4 August 2014

No worries - be happy!

I didn't think, nor intend, my last post to be any more than an observation based, purely, on the thoughts of Mr. Gale - ref: Pan-listing and the dilution of skill in order to chase a number.
I never have, and never will, see that competition has any role in the enjoyment of the natural wonders of this world. It's only my opinion; so I'm perfectly happy to accept that there will be individuals who see these things very differently, not an issue. As for "sharpening my claws and going for the jugular!" - a little bit too dramatic from where I'm sitting (great for the blog stats though - so cheers Steve!)
A juvenile Wren on our bird bath - one, of a brood, which was raised in an adjacent garden
My own slant might not be mainstream but, it is, none the less, worthy of my time and efforts as I seek enjoyment (and increased knowledge) from my encounters. An expert I'll never be - Rod Hutchinson once described such a being as this "X = the unknown quantity; spurt is a drip under pressure!" Genius - for those who don't know, Rod is a carp angling legend! So where is this post going?
Juvenile Willow Warbler - one, of two, that were flitting around the buddlieas

The weekend started, on Friday, with another fishless session on the R.Stour. No big deal, I know what went wrong and have many options open to me - I came home frustrated but not beaten! Bev and I had Harry stay overnight, on Saturday, and our schedule was very much fitted around our grandson.
The local pair - failed again?
Loads of stuff in, and around the garden, to keep me interested and a Sunday morning stroll around Newland's was rather enjoyable - why there are so many dragon and damselflies, when there is no open water, is a puzzle, but I'll continue to find pleasure in the encounters rather than dwell on the logistics. I'd hoped for an early Whinchat or Wheatear (there have been a few around the coast) but had to make do with a couple of juvenile Yellow Wagtails. I finished on a rather negative note - the local Swallows appear to have failed for the second year running; the adult pair were on the wires, by the farmyard, yet no sign of any youngsters - not good!

It is true that I enjoy/appreciate much of what is to be found in the countryside, plants not quite up to the mark - as yet! I have been very fortunate to have seen (been shown) many remarkable creatures as I've progressed along lifes' highway. The need to display my prowess, via a league table, is something which I find obscene and, thus, why I find the whole concept of "Pan-listing league tables" so repulsive.
Not a major issue - just don't ask me to join in; I've been multi-taxa interested since my eyes were opened to the natural world - if this is a problem then it's all yours!

Saturday 2 August 2014

Hind sight - not an optional extra (sadly!)

As individuals, we follow life's pathway as time passes us by, nothing we do, or say, can change that which has already happened! Having regrets is a human emotion which, in reality, is completely wasted - nothing can change what's in the past. The beauty of experience is that we can use it to shape our futures - lessons learnt ensuring that those mistakes(?)/errors of judgement won't recur - so a very positive aspect of the ageing process.
There is a mood, in blogland, akin to regret - Pan-listing! The Renaissance of the "all  round naturalist" or a mythical smoke screen to disguise the fact that participants are slaughtering our wildlife in order to climb a meaningless ladder - a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet of sad, box ticking, worthlessness!
There never has been a generation of all-rounders (within this current context) - yes, there were plenty of historical figures who could turn their hand to bird, fish, insect and plant id - they were called countrymen, equally at home with rod, or gun, as with a net - collectors to a man!

Pale-phase adult Booted Eagle - what a shame that Dick Forsman wasn't
asked to adjudicate on the "Hope Point" bird instead of that Irish twat!
(No offence aimed at the inhabitants of the Emerald Isle)
They didn't use Latin - which is why most of the common UK insects and plants have a non-scientific name - rarity was a concept of habitat, not global populous! To claim that Pan-listing is a return to those halcyon days is pure fantasy -The Rev. Gilbert White was a "patch watcher" - The Natural History of Selbourne being his legacy of such a lifetime of devotion. Can't recall the use of microscopic genitalia examination being part of his armoury?

For everything Dick Walker did (1950 - 70) to promote the hobby of "specialist angling" -
he never captured a 6lbs+ tench. A statistic which is inconceivable in 2014 yet, every angler,
who achieves this feat, is forever indebted to the visionary  foresight of this angling legend.
I have no problem with anyone who wishes to push their boundaries of knowledge to the very limits - it's your life, do with it as you choose! The only word of caution, that I'm able to offer, is that there has never been, and never will be, a master of all aspects of this crazy world. We are in awe of Forsman, Shirihia, Skinner, Goater, Dick Walker et al, guys who have dedicated their lives to the study of a specific group of living creatures - proper specialists, not playing at it, they've taken our knowledge to another level, purely because they have no desire to dilute their skills by spreading their efforts across to wide a sphere.
My views on this subject got me into trouble in Feb 2011 - let's hope that "I told you so!" won't result in another backlash - although it will be good for the blog stats!