The year of 2015 - it's been epic from my perspective. So much so that it's very difficult to know how to start? I could easily compartmentalise the experiences into fish, birds, moths, butterflies and other stuff - but it wouldn't do justice to the journey during the last twelve months. Bev and I are into our sixteenth year in our bungalow, we have five grand-children which were not a consideration when we first met. Life, and times, move on at ever increasing pace as we grow older?
I got off to a flier - a, scraper, double on the first day of the year! Whatever next? It was a month of high drama with the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo premises in Paris, taking centre stage. The subsequent reaction from the Parisian populous and the massed protest which followed, was awesome and spoke more about humanity than any religious or political leader could ever hope to do. I try to steer clear of politics and religion when blogging, but this atrocity was just too much to ignore. I said my bit and life, for me and mine, went on.
|A superb cartoon that says it all|
A chance conversation, at work, with a carp angler resulted in my gaining ownership of two, more, Mitchell 300's and a Heron bite alarm - classic tackle from an era that, a return to which, increasingly appeals and offers me a challenge.
It was a rather quiet month. Emily and I had an encounter with a 1st winter Glaucous Gull, which we discovered on the cricket pitch, at Goodnestone, on the 8th. It was probably the individual that subsequently relocated to Dover Harbour later in the month. Looking back, it would seem that the rest of my blogging revolved around theories and nostalgia - I wasn't getting out much, that's for sure!
A session on the Royal Military Canal did produce a nice pike for Luke - 18 lbs+ and about sums up my February.
A month when any reason was left behind in an all out attempt at being stupid! With my lack of success, pike fishing, I thought that a radical departure from tradition might be worthy of effort. Little did I realise how significant this decision was to prove. The final day of the 2014/15 season and I land a superb little carp from an East Kent drain - the adventure had started.
|I didn't realise at the time - this fish was probably the most influential capture of the year?|
Things started to "hot up" as the month progressed. I had a couple of over-nighters, at Sandwich, which resulted in a few carp visiting the bank. The Spring migration had taken hold and I recorded some decent birds around Newland's Farm.
|A Ring Ouzel in the Vine Close hedgerow - a bit of "Patch magic" and hugely enjoyable, but not really that unusual; from a|
Newland's perspective - they are annual visitors to my little part of Thanet
But April wasn't about much other than Loch Awe? After a wait of thirty-three years I finally land that Scottish "twenty". 26th April 2015 - I'm on the piss from 06.10 hrs - 24 lbs 10 oz of pure joy. That I caught it using a centre-pin just put the "icing on the cake" - it was an incredibly intense moment which I was able to share with Benno and Luke - very happy daze!
To be brutally honest, a bit of a nothing month. We played around at Long Shaw before discovering that we weren't welcome - jealous anglers and a duck loving owner. I can take my money elsewhere, so no big deal.
|Absolute joy - double hook up at Long Shaw Farm|
What a pity that attitudes exist which impact, so directly, on the enjoyment of others.
I started to run the moth trap with increasing regularity, resulting in some nice moths appearing on the blog - yet nothing out of the ordinary. My wood & Perspex, Robinson-like, contraption was brought out of retirement as the Milton Mk VII finally gave up the ghost. It was a nice distraction and gave me renewed enthusiasm for a hobby that I'd allowed to fade away.
As is usual during each and every Spring, there was a passage of migrant raptors in the skies above Thanet. It was never hectic around Newland's but I did get a few bits - Common Buzzards dominating the proceedings as expected.
A time of high expectation; the 16th being the start of the "Traditional" coarse fishing season. So, like I do, I manage to capture my heaviest carp - since 1984 - from a commercial fishery before the off. I did an all nighter at Sandwich, on the 10th, and had the great fortune to spend an extended period in conversation with a lady, named Janet, an encounter of Zen-like quality. The carp weighed in at 18.15 and was very welcome, although my thoughts were already focused on the coming river campaigns.
Mothing was becoming rather interesting, as I started to delve into the dark art of "Micros". There was a massive influx of Hummingbird Hawks and I had plenty of opportunity to play around with my camera gear - all good fun.
Any efforts at river carp and barbel were very half-hearted. I had the desire, yet lacked confidence and my results were to be expected - I blanked consistently. I needed, a kick up the arse, to find a project that fired my enthusiasm and imagination.
The month that changed my year! On the night of the 1st I ran the garden MV and amongst the regular species were three Red-necked Footmen! I'd only ever taken one previously and that was way back in the mid '90's when I lived in Ash.
This was the start of a prolonged period of migrant moth action in our little garden - my enthusiasm returned as the moths kept coming. Micro moths were also starting to assert their influence as I became drawn to this group of previously unexplored (by me) insects. It was action on all fronts as I also became fascinated by an angling challenge. That silly little carp, that I'd captured in March, proved to be the precursor of a sensational period of discovery.
I am very privileged to have access to several drains which criss-cross the East Kent marshes. Three in particular, have formed the basis for my entire season since that fateful evening of the 5th! I'd gone out onto the drains, because Benno & Luke had been on the river and told of big problems with upstream weed cutting. I went tench fishing as a result - my landing of an 18 lbs 2 oz Common Carp being an insane moment. I was on the phone, to Benno, when the bite occurred - it was totally mental how things panned out.
Just a few days later I was back again, this time, very, early morning as part of a pre-baiting campaign. I dropped in for a short, pre-work, session and ended up with a superb brace which comprised of a 12 lbs 6 oz fully scaled and a 20 lbs 10 oz common - the stuff of my dreams? My first twenty pound carp since Feb 1984! Was I happy? Delirious would be a better description - caught using a Duncan Kay and a Mitchell 300, only a centre-pin could have improved the experience further.
Things just kept on happening. I was at another of my drains when a European Beaver swam through my swim! I didn't manage a photo on that first encounter - the next time it swam past I was ready and waiting! Not the greatest image ever, but it does the job - a bloody Beaver in an East Kent drain.
I changed the Mitchell 300's for a couple of my Matt Hayes centre-pins, a 16 lbs 4 oz wildie being the best of the rest - it was some month!
It was moths all the way, as new species (for the year) were being encountered on a regular basis. My collection of images, of the "micro's" I was catching, continued to grow at a steady rate and their identification should give me something to do during the dark nights of Winter? The sheer numbers of migrant moths was superb, and yet it was a resident species which took all the plaudits. I caught my first Garden Tiger-moth since August 2009 and was made up. They used to be a very familiar species in the MV traps around East Kent - sadly, today, this is no longer the case and every sighting is one to be savoured.
A bizarre event occurred when Harry and I were out in the garden and a blue budgie landed on the garden fence - a patch tick? Just as likely, a natural occurrence, as the Margate Dusky Thrush intergrade - probably from the same aviary?
The month ended with a wonderful reunion - I was contacted by, then able to have a phone conversation with, one of the guys who I grew up with in Hemel Hempstead. Paul Elborn was the most successful pike angler in our little gang and we had a fantastic chat recalling those bygone times. I sincerely hope that we can get together when I next go up to visit my brothers?
A wonderful month of variety and extremes. The early days were to see a Newland's (and garden) tick in the form of a Pied Flycatcher plus a notable influx of Vestals (a migrant moth). The weather was good and my time well spent looking around the "patch"
The main focus was, however, Bev and my holiday to Kefalonia - our first trip abroad in three years and did we need it? That things turned out so spectacularly well is purely down to chance - next year we have removed that element by already booking our return - it really was that good! Lourdas, not the first resort name that springs to mind when planning a trip to the Greek Isles.
Our two week stay was enough to confirm the part that birding plays in my appreciation of being outdoors - I had a superb time, pushing my limits within this very specialised habitat. I returned home, humbled by the experience - no way am I as good as I thought I was!
The final week of the month and Chiffchaffs ruled! No possible chance to make accurate counts - birds moving through the garden at a steady pace. I remain confident that our two bird baths play a key role in this attraction.
|One of the best images I managed all year?|
A month of extremes. I learnt that Tony Harman had passed away, at the end of September, and it was a sad loss to both Benno and myself - he being an integral part of our early mothing attempts. I have difficulty remembering Tony without a smile on his face, or a beer in his hand, sometimes both - he was a huge character in a diminutive frame - my recollections will always be happy ones.
I embarked upon a project to catch an eel by design, rather than by accident, and achieved my goal relatively easily. Several sessions resulted in fish to 3 lbs 1 oz - my best. I caught on every occasion I went out. So a resounding success and it spurred me on to further my challenge which developed into a project to catch an eel, by design, in every month of the Winter (October - March!)
It was also the month which saw the final flight of XH558 - The Spirit of Great Britain; our last airworthy Vulcan Bomber. I was in position by Jentex, at Cliffsend, to grab one last photo before this iconic piece of our aviation heritage was consigned to become a museum exhibit - a shameful dereliction of duty by those empowered with such decisions.
The rest of the month was about Newland's Farm and the awesome spectacle of avian migration. Winter thrushes arrived, en mass, and there were a couple of large finch gatherings/movements yet, for me, the month will be remembered for the influx of Short-eared Owls - I recorded five in total, two of which, were decked, out in the cauliflowers. It was an exciting time to be out and about.
I started my pike fishing campaign for the 2015/16 season and managed to winkle out a couple of low doubles as reward. Tom Spence, from Hemel Hempstead, joined Benno and I for a morning out on the drains and caught his first Esox - so things were good.
Then it all went "tits up" - scum-bags from the extremist criminal movement (Islamic State) delivered another hammer blow to western democracy with a display of utter contempt for civilised culture. Paris again, the carnage of that single act of terrorism says everything anyone, with a brain cell between their ears, needs to know about this gang of wankers! Deluded, and extremely dangerous, clowns - masquerading, with their "Jihadist spiel", behind a book of rules (The Koran) that expresses the complete opposite to such taking of innocent lives. How will it, where will it, when will it, end? I fear for the generations to come - my grand-children will live through some troubled times before things get sorted out?
In my own little existence, the eel project continued with a positive outcome to my quest for a November fish. The weather remained unseasonably mild and was obviously a major factor in this result. Birds and moths played a very secondary role at this time.
On the evening of the 1st, I catch an eel, thus fulfilling the December section of this project. On the 4th I make it to my 60th birthday, much to the amazement of many who have travelled a similar route. The following day, at a family get together, I received a gift of such thoughtfulness that I was completely "blown away". A 1959 B. James & Son - Richard Walker Mk IV split cane fishing rod - a thing of beauty and history. Now in my custody, I seek to add to the story of this iconic angling artefact.
I managed to add Barn Owl to my ever growing Newland's list when I encountered one on my way to work, early one morning. So I'm now right up to date!
|The fireplace in the "East Wing" of Dumpton Manor - suitably attired for the festive period ahead|
|The indoor tree - Bev's handiwork.|
Take care, enjoy the holiday and keep safe - Dyl