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!


Monday 29 February 2016

Lost treasure

A couple of years ago, give or take a few months, my grand-daughter Emily, destroyed my laptop and external hard drive when she inadvertently spilled my beer onto the keyboard. I've had several IT guys give their considered verdicts, and attempts at recovering my lost data, but zilch - I feared that I'd lost the lot! Now I'm sure that there are many who already know where this is going - but being such a technological dullard, the salvation isn't as obvious as it would be to someone with a brain cell between their ears? It is true that, for the time being, I have lost many of my document files (including many that were written as an initial attempt to write "that book") - but my photos were saved from this savage attack by the beauty of Picasa Web Albums - a Google facility which I knew nothing about until very recently.

Firecrest at Westcliff

The Oare Marshes KWT Res - Long-billed Dowitcher
Here, unknown to me, are all my images from the "Non-conformist" efforts and also a huge amount of material that I gathered whilst just keeping a personal diary. I am now, therefore, enjoying my time by looking through the huge number of images, reliving some good times, thanks to a piece of wizardry that I have absolutely no idea about.

A bird that doesn't appear on my Kent (or UK) list - I quite simply couldn't truly accept
the credentials of a very common captive duck - as nice as it was!

My Alpine Swift - discovered flying above North Foreland Gold Course and "twitched"
by many of the county faithful plus others from further afield.
We don't suppress everything on Thanet
I've used a few images today, but rest assured that there will be many more "blasts from my past" as I cobble together future posts to keep up this ramshackle blog!

Sunday 28 February 2016

Getting back to basics!

The Herring Gull colony, utilising the roof-tops of the various factory/business units of Pyson's Road Ind. Est, is already gearing up for the coming breeding season. Raucous aerial displays and territorial disputes are a daily occurrence as pair bonds are re-established and prospective nest sites secured. The first returning Lesser Black-back was seen on Friday, there are about a dozen pairs present during the season. For the vast majority, of those who work in this industrial hub, the birds are little more than a noisy, messy, nuisance. However, to one, long haired, member of the FSIS digital team, they are a source of great amusement, interest and learning. Not only do I enjoy watching them, as they go about their daily routines, but they also provide an incredible early warning service as Spring raptor migration gets under way. The noisy spiralling flocks being a dead give away to the approach of a Common Buzzard, Red Kite or Marsh Harrier. Being alert to this behaviour has resulted in many a sighting which would have otherwise been missed?

The massive upsurge in Red Kite sightings, around Thanet, is a direct consequence of the
spectacular success of the various reintroduction projects around the UK.
They are now an expected annual feature on my Newland's Farm list - sightings being
 assisted by the local Herring Gulls, their incredible eyesight and spectacular reactions
 when a large migrating bird of prey passes over my patch.
When we moved, to Thanet, I already knew of the ability of gulls to forewarn of the approach of an over-flying bird of prey but unable to capitalise on this because I didn't understand the mechanics of their actions. It's only since discovering a pattern to this behaviour that I've managed to utilise the early warning system to maximum effect. By spending time watching the Pyson's Road birds I have gained a better insight into this particular aspect of gull etiquette; once the alarm has been sounded, the first reaction of the flock is to fly directly away from the source, at low level, before noisily forming the typical kettle of protest and spiralling up into the sky. Therefore, by seeing the direction which the gulls have departed, I know in what general area I need to scan the skies for the imminent arrival of a migrating bird of prey (or Grey Heron?) Obviously, it is not 100% reliable, as with all things involving wild creatures there will be exceptions, but it ain't a bad starting point and is far better than simply scanning the sky in frustration, rather than expectation?

One of the very last "Kent twitches" I attended. October 2008.
Strange thing is that I was probably the only birder present who was aware of the
huge amount of pike activity in the immediate area around West Hythe Dam?
The parallels between birding and angling, as I've experienced, are all too obvious - my journeys in both disciplines following very similar routes, due in part to my obsessive character, not until I've collected the numbers will any real learning begin? It was only after I stopped twitching that I really started to look at birds and, similarly, only after my list of PB's was to stand me in good stead with my peers that angling has reverted to an enjoyable pastime. One where it is now me against the fish, using techniques and watercraft that were gifted to me, but regularly ignored, during my early years. In the past, my venues were selected because they had the potential to provide me with another statistic - I was doing the "circuit" for want of a better description. The other tool in my armoury, during that period, was time - and I used it by the bucket load. Whatever I lacked in ability could be easily disguised by my long stay tactics - even a clown will get lucky, and so I did!

All the tell-tale signs of another extended period of living like a tramp! (March 1993)
My return to angling has been a fantastic chance to put things back into the sport. I am able to share sessions with Benno and Luke (and sometimes my brother Simon) during such times we are able to exchange ideas about many topics. However, unlike my early years doing the rounds, I spend much of my time alone; short session angling where I now have the chance to study fish behaviour and watch for signs without distractions or, self imposed, pressure to succeed. I cannot deny that my objective still remains to capture "big fish", but size is not the only consideration. Having been there and done it, I am now at a pleasant stage in my life where I can please myself.  So, just as I am now able to gain great satisfaction watching the Herring Gulls of Pyson's Road, I can also derive pleasure from a small jack, taken from a local drain, because I have relegated (not totally removed) the importance of numbers in my outdoor hobbies. I still harbour ambitions, set myself challenges, but they are purely for personal reasons, to provide me with a focus and, as such, failure is no longer a problem, just an incentive to push myself harder.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Back out on the marsh

It's been two weeks since I ventured out with the rods; I just haven't felt enthused and there's other stuff going on in the background which is a distraction. However, a window of opportunity has presented itself and I am getting the kit sorted (Saturday) in preparation for a short session after "Anguilla anguilla" Water temperatures might still be a little low, after the recent cold snap but, if I don't go I won't find out!

I have a couple of little tweaks which might assist my efforts? I'm going to use sardine sections for the first time (I know eels like them because of the number of false bites when pike fishing!) and I've upped my hook size because I'm no longer using the hair-rig. The weather forecast is predicting overcast and mild (11C) conditions overnight, perhaps I should run the moth trap instead? I'm going to the swim as a one off, there has been no pre-baiting, so I will have to make the most of whatever happens as a result of a few freebies around each hook bait. I'm feeling reasonably confident, not always a good thing, but glad that I am going back eel fishing. The real crunch will come in the two weeks from March 1st when I have to get a result in order to complete my challenge - all the drains have an Environment  Agency "traditional" close season imposed upon them.

It looks even more moody, than reality, because of the use of flash lighting!
Well that's what I had written prior to leaving the bungalow on Saturday - that session was not without incident. I had three bites, two pike - one bumped, the other biting me off - and an absolute screaming eel take which I missed by a mile. Small eel; big hook? I couldn't get back to the swim until Monday, the last chance before the mild spell ends and we return to seasonal conditions - it will be -1C overnight on Tuesday/Wednesday.

Still more "tweaking" ideas spinning around in my head although, knowing I would get back, I had introduced some freebies prior to leaving on Saturday night. My two main bait choices have been Bluey and Sprats, both providing fish during the campaign. However, my endless search for answers has lead me to explore Sardine sections and now I'm looking at prawns. I know Perch love them, I think we (although not I) even had a few Cats, from Claydon, on the King Prawn, and obviously Carp will have a munch if the conditions are right?  Eels have eaten everything else I've tried, surely prawns would be acceptable? So trying them would be like buying a ticket in the Lottery - anything could happen?

I called in at Dad's on my way across to the swim, yet was still fishing by 16.45 hrs and within 40 minutes I experienced a very twitchy, slow take on the prawns which didn't develop into a proper bite - Benno suggesting perch as the culprit? I only had until 20.00 hrs due to work commitments, so was very glad when, at 19.25 hrs, the alarm sounded a screaming take on the prawns which resulted in my second February eel gracing the landing net. Not big, between 1.08 & 2 lbs, but a success all the same. Another bite, just five minutes later, to the sardine section proved to be an aborted take and that was it for another session.

I'm just glad that it wasn't a better fish - eels are an absolute nightmare to present to the camera;
even more so when you are attempting self takes
With the forecast predicting further frosty nights and daytime temps not exceeding 7C - there is little point continuing to visit the drains. All I hope is that I get a window of opportunity in the first two weeks of March - this eel project has captured my imagination more than I'd thought possible for a bloody nuisance species. I'm itching to get out with the Mk IV and start my carp challenge, but one thing at a time - I'll get one job finished before starting the next! Loads of stuff to do, around the garden, in preparation for new fencing - I don't envisage getting too much free time in the next two weeks.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Murder in the suburbs

It was getting on for 16.00 hrs, yesterday afternoon, and I was preparing to load the car with my gear for another session out on the marsh. Standing in the kitchen, talking with Bev, I spotted a commotion going on down by my aviary as a large female Sparrowhawk was dispatching a hapless victim. She then proceeded to devour her prize, perched on my flight - much to the amusement of my Canary and the total panic of the Java Sparrow flock. I quickly grabbed my camera and fitted my 1.4x  converter to the 500mm lens and took a series of images through the window. ISO 1600 with 1/320th sec exposure - seems to have done the trick?

Saturday 20 February 2016

Is it just me?

My previous post has caused a bit of a "hike" in my blogger stats - it would, therefore, appear a subject worthy of further exploration. Steve Gale has already warned me that he has intent to utilise my material for his own ends. We'll meet in court, or the pub outside, should the brigand continue with his outrageous plans?
I suppose it was, in reality, a three pronged thread of thoughts? My post alluded to the collecting of old books, birds and their present status v's that of an age gone by and the unrealistic expectations of some individuals who are perfectly happy to welcome the new, without any acceptance of the factors behind the occurrence? So I suppose it is only right that I start with the books - that motley assemblage which passes as my reference collection. Although I do have a substantial number of angling publications dating back to 1916, it is my bird books which offer the greatest interest and diversity of subject matter and writing styles. My oldest books are a fourteen volume set of Lloyd's Natural History, published in 1896, leather bound, there are four volumes dedicated to British Birds and within these pages are contained some brilliant descriptive writing of a style that has now been long abandoned. Some birds have undergone name changes, others have now been removed from the "British List" - e.g. Eagle Owl. They remain a most treasured possession.

Lloyd's Natural History - 1896
Then there are my books of birding tales, the adventures and discoveries of a generation of pioneers who went off in search of exotic species in the far corners of the globe. The majority of these were published between the two world wars and are testament to the true "eccentric" character of the obsessed. Again, the standard of writing is wonderful; refreshingly honest and open, drawing the reader into a world of wonder and excitement as the stories unfold.

Looking a little worse for wear, these type of books are frequently
discovered in charity shops where they can be purchased for a
few pounds, at most!
Finally there are books which are of no logical use, but I simply can't bear to part with  - those books which, by simply opening a page, are able to transport me back to a time in my life when, as a wide-eyed child, my own journey of discovery was at its' beginning. Derek and Richie both made comment yesterday about these titles - yes, as I mentioned, it must be an age thing?

The memories of childhood are contained within the battered covers of these iconic books.
How could I possibly throw them away?
I don't think that I have much more to say about population dynamics of the UK's bird life. Winners and losers, all due in some way to the actions of mankind. It doesn't matter if it is our farming methods, our industrial processes, the urbanisation of our countryside or the choice of plants we place in our gardens - each and every thing we do, as a population, impacts on the other life forms around us. It is most obviously seen in our birds, because most of us are aware of them, but you can be sure that many other creatures will also be similarly affected by these changes.

So to the "Tree Hugging Bunny Cuddlers!" - Save the Whale, Save the pond, Don't build here, but don't knock down that bridge - you what? Cake and eat it! Climate change is happening, speeded by the global populous and their industrial pollution, but it's not a new concept - we can see the effects of the last "Ice Age" on the landscape of Britain - huge glacier scalloped valleys in the mountain regions of our countryside. I don't suppose there were too many moaning when that finished? Flora and fauna will adapt to whatever conditions provide. Colonisation will be based upon suitability of habitat and climate. If things change then there will be winners and losers, just as we are witnessing at present. Preserving habitat won't ensure continued occupation of the entire ecosystem, because climate might make it unsuited to the requirements of some species. Some will be lost, thus providing a niche for new ones to move in. Hence the joyous proclamation of "Another new species for the UK list" as a moth gets pinned and handed into the National Collection. It is an increasingly regular occurrence, as can be seen in the moth traps across southern England. Species which were regarded as "megas" are now colonists - this happening within a decade, such is the ability of insects to exploit new opportunities. Birds are capable of the same transitions, but over a much longer time scale. I am not condoning the situation, I am just offering my opinions as a realist. Of course we need to attempt to manage our countryside to the benefit of our native wildlife. Leaving it alone is not an answer; the landscape looks like it does because of the actions of man and the only way to preserve it is our continued intervention and management. However, even with all the best will in the world, the creatures benefiting from the endeavours might not be those for which they were intended?

To finish on a brighter note - this is an illustration from Vol 3 of
Lloyd's Natural History British Birds.
GREENLAND FALCON now I wouldn't mind seeing one of them!

Friday 19 February 2016

Rarity and perception

As we're all doing it - this is my first slant on the hoarding of old books (aka my library!) and the part they play in my continued enjoyment of natural history. It has got to be an age thing? Let's remember that during my lifetime the status of Collared Doves (first recorded UK breeding record in 1956 - North Norfolk) has changed from "BB rarity" to a top 20 RSPB Garden Bird List species. I remember twitching a Little Egret (Pegwell Bay - Sept 1993!) for my early Kent list - modern birders/twitchers will wonder what all the fuss is about?

In these modern times, it appears that many of those species which I could take for granted,in my formative years, have been severely affected by climate/habitat change and, as a result, have become very scarce or localised?  Once this happens, by the very nature of definition, these species have become rare. I can personally use Song Thrush, Grey Partridge, Tree Sparrow and Turtle Dove as examples of birds whose status has changed dramatically for the worse during my lifetime. But what about the reverse side of this demographic - what about the winners? Cetti's Warbler, Little Egret, Common Buzzard, Raven, Red Kite and "sinensis" Cormorant - all species that are reaping the benefits of whatever these changes are providing.

Spot the common denominator? Rare birds by any chance!
No sign of Collared Dove in any of these tomes - Serin and Cattle Egret; you'd better believe it!
My library contains all the usual suspects, the Poyser Monographs, BWP - all nine volumes and the "concise" edition. I've a 1963 edition of "The Handbook" - still the best id guide for us simpletons.
One other factor, about these old books, is that the authors have the ability to use the written word to enhance the reading experience. Some of the text is superb, conveying mystery and excitement, whilst attempting to assist the reader in their own efforts.

Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola) - a major rarity?
I've found two (the same one twice?) since moving to Thanet.
Suppression rules!  Bottom line is they're not rare!
If you want to see Fan-tailed Warbler - go to Mallorca - easy and cheap!
This species will be as common as Collared Doves in the next 60 years - and no-one wanted to know
when the last one of them visited my feeding station.
Our natural world is undergoing a massive shift in direct correlation to the influence of modern life choices of mankind. I can't say that I agree with the situation, but as a beneficiary of many of these advances -  cheap food, travel and foreign holidays - I'd be a hypocrite, in the extreme, to find fault.

Cypress Tip Moth (Argyresthia cupressella) - first discovered in the UK
in 1997 - trapped in my garden MV in 2015.
Insects are able to provide a fantastic barometer to what's happening in our eco-system. We can continue to gripe about what's no longer here or, enjoy what is? It doesn't matter whether it's moths, birds, fish or mammals, the whole dynamic of population distribution is being influenced by the actions of humanity. I have yet to see anyone blogging about the negative aspect of a "first for UK" discovery - we can't have it both ways! If there is a niche for a coloniser then it has been vacated, by a previous tenant, for what ever reason?
It's a very individual perspective - you either seek the positives or align with"Non-stop Whinging" where everything is a downer? From where I sit - the world ain't such a bad place  - warts and all!

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Feeding station fun

I am struggling to stay enthused about anything, at present. I'll get over it and things will sort themselves out, I'm sure. It has got more to do with things beyond my control, than anything else, and I find myself a little bemused by the whole situation. Just to compound the whole scene, my laptop took a dive and I have been struggling to get rid of some rather unpleasant, and completely unwanted, apps which suddenly appeared on my control panel.

There are a couple of pairs of Great Tits visiting the feeding station - this male has even started singing!
To keep my spirits in some form of order, I've kept the camera by the back door and have been playing around with settings and converters to see what I can achieve through the double-glazed panel. Some of the images haven't been too bad?


Just for Richie Francis - we still have good numbers of House Sparrows
visiting the garden. Quite often there are fifty plus on and around the
feeding station - it gets rather hectic, and expensive!

Sunday 14 February 2016

Enjoyment without boundaries

I have been out birding along the coastal strip for the past two mornings. Nothing much, just ticking a few boxes as required for my own 2016 year listing effort. Just to let you see how serious this is, today I added Shelduck, Red-throated Diver and Gannet, plus a couple of other bits; birds which would have been out of the way before 09.00hrs on Jan 1st if I was, anything like committed to the project. If I don't make the effort to visit the coast, these species are highly unlikely to occur along the Royal Military Canal or the drains, thus I need be proactive! My total still hasn't reached 90 species yet, so I must try harder? Not a bit of it - I am happy to continue on the journey through 2016 without pressure to achieve anything within my birding other than to savour the various opportunities to look at, rather than ignore, those species which cross my pathway. Living and fishing in/around East Kent means that I am very lucky, purely because of the geographic position - we experience more than our fair share of avian highs during a calendar year.

Adult Whooper Swan at Naccolt, Kent (2005?)
As this list is for no other purpose than to allow me to keep tabs on my own progress, I will include all species seen (in a wild state) wherever I am. County, National and International borders mean nothing to birds and, therefore, are also irrelevant to my own efforts. I just wish to discover how many species I encounter during the year, wherever I travel. My guess would be around 220 - I'll be very interested to see what the actual figure is? The only birding data which I still maintain relates to my Newland's "patch" and I consistently record 85+ species during the year - 117 being the best total in 2005!(I was still very keen back then!)

Black-winged Stilt - Mallorca 2007
Because angling has now, once again, become my primary purpose for being outdoors, I make no secret of the desire to set myself goals then attempt to achieve them within that discipline. It is a competition between myself and the fish, and not a challenge to the rest of humanity! Some time in the next few weeks I will dust down the 125w MV and begin my garden mothing for the year - it will be as focussed or relaxed as the whim takes me, moths are not high on my list of priorities - but I cannot deny the pleasure they provide when shared with my grand-children. Likewise with butterflies, I will see what I see but doubt, very much, if I make any efforts to deliberately seek them out - one possible exception being when we return to Kefalonia in the autumn?

Hoopoe - Gran Canaria Jan 2004 (we were on our honeymoon!)
Bumble-bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers, crickets, bugs and all manner of other creepy crawlies will, no doubt, provide interest during the seasons - but there is no plan. I have made a promise to myself that I will attempt to find a plant which I find interesting, have never looked at previously (cheers Steve!) and write a blog about it, with accompanying photos. To be perfectly honest I'm quite taken with the idea; I must need medical help? I have still to capture a March eel and have already stated my desire to land four carp over 20lbs (one on the MK IV would be perfect) - anything else will just happen as time passes. I'm not an angler, nor a birder or pan-lister, I am me and the natural world is my playground - not my prison. I have recently been viewing some Youtube stuff, looking for ideas for other projects, and came across some old Frank Zappa offerings. I'm not a fan, but Steve Vai did play with his band, so there is a link. I saw his son, Dweezil, doing some stuff and was made aware of this magnificent quote. "Your mind is like a parachute - it only works when it's open!"
I hope to continue on my voyage with this thought prominent in my conscience - it's an absolute belter! The accompanying photos are purely for effect - random images of no particular consequence beyond the obvious pleasure that is seeing the birds involved.

Adult male Rock Sparrow - Halkadiki Greece (2009?)

Thursday 11 February 2016

In another time

There was a time, at the start of the millennium, when birding was my total focus. When Bev and I first met, I was still a rabid county twitcher, off after each and every Kent tick that I became aware of. It was a period of great fun and camaraderie, with many other guys chasing that milestone figure of 300 species within the county boundaries (well not exactly - because birds seen from Kent, flying up/down The Channel or The Thames/Medway Estuaries were also legitimate, although technically not within the county, which ceases at the mean high water mark!) So that was my gig, at that time, but the law of diminishing returns, I clocked up 348 with relative ease, and the lack of fulfilment; I was learning very little about the birds I was seeing. I packed it in and focussed my efforts on finding my own stuff and developing my skills as a birder. In no way is this a unique situation, I would think that for, the vast majority of, "ex-twitchers" this will be a journey to which they can readily relate? Living on Thanet meant that one group of birds, in particular, were to become central to my desire to push the limits of my own knowledge and experience (sound familiar?). Gulls!; yet they are a despised group in the opinions of the vast majority of Thanet residents. Our local Herring Gulls have become notorious for their bin ransacking and territorial aggression during the breeding season - many a time has a BBQ been abandoned due to the intimidation of a pair of roof nesting gulls. They do not tend to endear themselves with this type of behaviour.

Ramsgate Harbour and North Foreland were to provide the majority of my early opportunities, as I strove to learn about the nuances of age group plumages and taxonomic splits. These initial attempts were cringe-worthy as I fumbled through the mind-boggling assault course of immature gull id. Armed, as were all others, with Peter Grant's master-class, quickly added to by the purchase of The Helm Guide by Olsen & Larsson, I sallied forth. One of the undeniable facts about looking at gulls is the more you see the less, you quickly realise, you know! They are a fantastic conundrum which has developed into a cult-like subject for many of the modern devotees - good luck with taking it to the next level.

1st winter Caspian Gull - Ramsgate Main Beach

1st winter Yellow-legged Gull - Ramsgate Harbour
My own time around the Thanet coastline was a period of huge learning and enjoyment as I chipped away at the edges of this complex puzzle. It was due to these efforts that I became fascinated by the spin-off learning to be had from reading C-R's (colour rings). Our Great Black-backs came from Norway, Black-headeds from Sweden and Finland, Lesser Black-backs from Suffolk, Herring Gulls from Belgium, East Sussex and a land-fill site(s) in Essex - fantastic stuff that was all new to me.
Cameras played as important a role as telescopes and binoculars - they could provide study material for use back indoors and were far more reliable than any attempt at field sketches/notes that I had the ability to make.

1st winter Glaucous Gull - Foreness Point
I didn't discover much, that wasn't already well established knowledge with Kent Ornithological circles. What I did, however, was I found it for myself. The pinnacle of my gull watching came with the discovery of an "L. a. ommissus" (adult winter) loafing on the pontoons within the outer harbour. My images being the first ever secured in Kent? The race has since become known as the Marsh Gull - I'm unsure of the present taxonomic status, but it may well prove to be an armchair tick sometime in the future?

An adult winter Marsh Gull (L. a. ommissus) in Ramsgate Harbour
Dull yellow legs and the primary pattern of a Great Black-back (conveniently standing directly behind!)
I continue to get great enjoyment by scanning through the local gulls, especially those following the plough around Newland's Farm. I also derive much pleasure from my holiday encounters, those opportunities to study an unfamiliar race or species, in their home habitat - always something to be gleaned from the most insignificant encounter.

Adult Audouin's Gull - the best looking gull in Europe? Menorca/Mallorca?

2nd summer Yellow-legged Gull - Halkadiki Greece
I had been going to write about my library, but Steve beat me to it, so this will have to do I'm afraid.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Ambience - the power of light and shade

It looks like another week spent thinking as I, once again, earn my crust in the packing area of digital. Fortunately I am on a manual filling bay opposite a very pleasant, young, (in relative terms) lady; Ann, with whom I'm able to conduct reasonable dialogue. Football, modern music, factory gossip and porn sites don't feature at any point during our day. I also had a conversation with my daughter, Sarah-Jayne, about my recent blogging and the part that Mum still plays in my life. She agreed that Mum, thus her Nan, still featured heavily in her thoughts, at times, so the experience is not unique to me.

Whilst I was out on the marsh, over the weekend, I also had reason to think back to post by Steve Gale - "Big Skies". I was struck by the scale of my surroundings and the moods that they could induce purely because of the nature of the weather conditions and the associated light levels. I managed to get a photo which I felt might capture the "feel" but it has to be Scotland where this phenomena is best experienced?

Sunday 7 February 2016

As sharp as a dishwasher?

Sometimes I astonish myself with just how thick I really am, no - not a bit silly, completely stupid! Over the past two weekends I have had five eel bites, landing just one fish. I have spent incredible amounts of time thinking about my rigs and the presentation of my baits. I've explored all sorts of excuses for my short comings and then yesterday evening, having just missed another chance, I had my "eureka" moment!
Here we go - this will blow you away! Fish my bait directly on the hook, not on a hair! Such has been my stubborn insistence to use a braided hook link, in conjunction with a hair-rigged bait, that I have consistently overlooked the glaringly obvious. The eels are picking up my baits without ever getting the hooks in their mouths, my attempts at striking the bites simply pulls the hair out of the bait. Yep, couldn't make it up - I am one dumb arse! I'm back out again this afternoon; let's see if putting a bait directly on the hook improves things? (Can't see the wood for the trees seems to fit very well in this situation) Standing there, last night, the wind howling across the marsh - I found myself thinking about Mum, which lead me to other thoughts. Why was I out there, pushing myself, when it would have been far easier to be tucked up warm and cosy indoors?  If you've not read it - Jonathan Livingstone Seagull might help provide an insight into my own views on life. It's a powerful tale for anyone seeking answers - if you've a spare 45 minutes then Neil Diamond's soundtrack might set you on the right road? https://youtu.be/8jbIizyoLdI I suggest that, if you are a birder, reading the book will be far more advantageous than watching the film - how many species did they use to tell the tale?

This one's for Leon!(We met in Kefalonia) In 1973 Mum introduced me to the story of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.
A superb narrative, the book written by Richard Bach, an aviator and member of The God Squad.
 I didn't sign up then and haven't now, but find myself drawn by something more meaningful than atheism.
The soundtrack album, by Neil Diamond, is a work of genius - there's some powerful lyrics in there.
"Dear Father we dream, we dream, while we may"
Only two rods tonight, the swim I want doesn't allow room for three without potential of disaster in the form of eel knitting, as a hooked fish picks up one of the other lines during the fight. Back to my short session approach, I will be at the drain by 16.00 hrs and off by 20.00 hrs (especially as the forecast predicts heavy rain and 60mph gales). Temperatures are down, slightly, from yesterday yet it is still very mild for the time of year.

I love this blogging lark, I can go anywhere I like - I'm now back home with another part of my challenge out of the way. I've just spent a couple of hours getting soaking wet and blown to bits; enjoying every minute. The words of Neil Diamond have been rattling around inside my head since I revisited the album yesterday evening. Why was I out eel fishing in February? Because I can and that's my driving influence - because I can! How often is it easier to find an excuse to put off, or prevent, an event taking place? I've done it many times myself but now realise the importance of making the effort whilst I still have the ability and health! Mum knew that us boys were never going to join her devout and stoic belief, but she sure pointed us in the right direction for living life to the maximum, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

A February eel - because I can; thanks Mum!
My February eel came at 18.20 hrs to a Sprat head section, fished directly on the hook. Who'd have thought it?

Saturday 6 February 2016

An extended session - "The hype v's the reality!"

I am writing the first part of this post after finishing my Friday shift at 20.00 hrs. Work is done and now it's play-time! This morning, before going to the Garden of Remembrance, with Dad, I had dropped Bev off in Herne Bay so that she could travel up to Newcastle with her parents and brother to visit Christine - Bev's auntie! From Herne Bay I had a drive out onto The Levels in order to deposit some pre-bait in a couple of swims. With the aid of a catapult I got 3 kilos of particle mix into the various spots, plus a few hook bait samples (freebies!) in preparation for a full day out on Saturday. I made no effort to introduce any eel bait, I can do that during the session - with a plan to fish another swim on Sunday afternoon/evening. The weather forecast is horrendous - severe gales for most of the day, but remaining extremely mild; I can't expect miracles in February! I'm going to start with two rods for carp and a "sleeper" pike fishing just along the drain. Some time around mid-afternoon, unless events dictate otherwise, it will be one rod carp fishing and two out for eels! My intention is to fish through to about 19.30 hrs - I'll see how things pan out? In an ideal world I will get action from all three species which I am targeting, what will the reality of the situation be? My camera is already packed, fully charged, awaiting the outcome. The Sunday session will, very much, be governed by the results of Saturday.

11 lbs 10 oz - the same fish as I had taken at 12.02. I took another set of hooks out of it, so there are
others now fishing the drain! 
Well now I'm back home looking rather windswept, but not very interesting! It was bloody hard going; despite my best efforts and generous pre-baiting, I failed to register any action on the carp gear. My "snide on the side" however, did the business with two doubles gracing the net - 11 lbs 10 oz & 10 lbs 6 oz, most welcome. I made a complete hash of my first chance of a February eel; there is still much I have to learn about my bait presentation. All being well I will be back tomorrow evening to get the job done. Really enjoyed my time outside, I added Peregrine to the year list and had some very intimate views of a Little Grebe quietly fishing in the opposite marginal weeds. Fourteen hours is a long time, on the bank, when you're used to doing short four hour stints - I'll sleep well tonight, that's for sure!

A nicely marked, chunky, little pike which registered 10 lbs 6 oz on the Avons.
The picture is crap, being a self take effort, I've managed to crop some of it's tail. One nice thing is that it
is a new fish for me, from this drain.

Friday 5 February 2016


I've just been to St. Nicholas Church, in Ash, with Dad to place a flower in the Garden of Remembrance. Three years ago, today, Mum passed away and there aren't many days when I don't find myself thinking about her at one point or another.

Mad really - you don't know what you've got until it's gone!

Thursday 4 February 2016

There's a frog on the drive!

Bev's just got home from her regular Thursday night "Ladies Dart League" socialising and announced, on opening the front door, "There's a frog on the drive!"
I grabbed the camera and went outside where, sure enough, a frog was hopping about. A quick burst of camera shots and then back inside. It's incredibly mild this evening - 11C - and frogs remain a relatively common species on Thanet. Still a nice, unexpected, encounter, all the same.