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 29 October 2016

My pike angling adventure

I will apologize, in advance, for the number of recycled images used in this post. However, if I am to recount the role that pike have played in my development as an angler, then I have no other options! It now seems rather strange that the vast majority of publicity during that insane period, 1981-93, revolved around my successes with Tench (at Tring Res - Wilstone in particular), Catfish (the Leighton Buzzard & District AC venues) and the madcap behaviour of my associates - Snide Rumours & Dirty Lies! Apart from one, front page, headline, in The Angling Times (Oct '87) "Pike Trio top the ton!" - I don't think any of my pike fishing exploits got much exposure. I can only recall one other occasion, a 23 lbs 5 oz fish, from Lynch Hill, Oxfordshire, that was witnessed and photographed by Pete Stone & Bernard Cribbins, which made the papers. All other pike captures, and those of my mates, went unreported/publicised, our photos appearing periodically on the group board at NASA conferences or used for my illustrated lectures (if you believe that, you'll believe anything!) Pissed up, rambling, anecdotes of encounters with big fish and riotous behaviour, but accompanied with some fancy slides being far closer to the truth.

I was aware of the existence of Pike from very early on. They were a species which, at that time (late 60's - early 70's) had been vilified by the match anglers for declining weights in many of the major waterways. It wasn't until Zander took centre stage, starting in the Great Ouse catchment, that Pike became accepted as part of the natural eco-system within a healthy fishery. Pike, with their unblinking stare and massive jaws, armed with rows of razor sharp teeth, were the creatures of legend. Angling's version of dragons: freshwater sharks! I lapped it up, being still a very silly kid. When, on that fateful day, I did finally capture my first pike - all two pounds of it! - nothing I experienced detracted from the myth. I'd captured a monster. I was around fifteen years old and the seeds were set, Pike were a species to which I was drawn; they inhabited the local ponds, canal and rivers; so were there awaiting my attention. I made bloody hard work of it! I'd already caught 7 lbs Tench and 2 lbs Roach before I landed my first double figure Pike. Absolute madness, my first double (Dec 1981) was a "twenty" from the Kodak fishery at Water End, Herts; this Pike fishing lark was going to be a piece of cake!

In May 1982, along with Paul Elbourn and my brother Sye, we ventured off to The Isle of Bute, in search of the legendary "Esox lucius" of the Scottish lochs. We were as green as grass - naive would be a compliment. We ended up at Loch Ascog and the learning process kicked in; a week's holiday was to see us catch a lot of fish. I had my third, ever, double at 15 lbs 5 oz, which, sadly, succumbed as a result of my over zealous requirement for photos and poor un-hooking skills. It is now in a glass case on the wall of my study - a constant reminder of how not to do it! Pike fishing became very much a part of the annual cycle, winters on the local reservoirs and gravel pits, spring meant a week away in Scotland  - Loch Ascog, Erich, Lomond and Awe, they've all been graced by our presence over the years.

The one positive to come out of that Scottish pike fatality was I joined The Pike Angler's Club of Great Britain; the best thing I did and something which I wholeheartedly encourage any other angler, with aspirations to go pike fishing, to do. It was through this association that I learned the basic skills of bait presentation, rig mechanics, the safest way to handle the species and the most effective unhooking techniques which ensure a healthy fish is returned to the fishery from whence it came. My membership has long since lapsed, but I am in no doubt as to the debt of gratitude owed this organisation.

Between 1982 & 1993, a merry (read - lagered up!) band of brothers ventured far and wide in search of our quarry. Obviously the Tring Reservoir complex saw the bulk of our attention as it was on our doorstep, but The Fenland Drains of the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk border, Emberton Park in Northamptonshire and The Rivers Avon & Thames also provided us with some fantastic angling and opportunities to broaden our experience of these magnificent fish. Wherever we went, we caught pike, some of them very big pike, but despite these results I don't ever remember getting involved in any long term projects. We just turned up and went fishing, it was very simplistic, yet effective, approach. Between us we landed thousands of pike, hundreds of doubles, dozens of twenties and Paul Elbourn put the cherry on the top with a 38 lbs 10 oz specimen from Llandegfedd Res, the second year it opened for pike fishing (1987?) And that is how it was right up until that trip to Madeira and my encounters with the awesome Atlantic Blue Marlin! We'd pick a venue, turn up and catch pike - nothing more complicated than that.

The 23 lbs 5 oz pike from Lynch  Hill Fishery - witnessed by Pete Stone & Bernard Cribbins

"Cuddles" with our heaviest fish from the Sixteen Foot Drain

A Wilstone pike of 22 lbs plus

A Colney Heath upper double

Anarchy at Emberton - on the piss whilst playing an 18 lbs 10 oz pike

My best, so far, but still a long way short of Paul Elbourn's 38 lbs 10 oz fish
Angling, as I knew it, was all brought to an abrupt halt, post Madeira, in August 1993: things could never be the same again. It also coincided with the move, of my family, from Hertfordshire to Kent. Unilever, my then employer, footing the bill for this relocation as part of my job move and I started an eighteen year long sabbatical - birding! Fishing was but a distant memory; a phase that I'd passed through en route to the delights of bird watching and the discovery of moths, butterflies, dragonflies and, even, bumble-bees. My first marriage was a casualty of this obsession, birding in Kent was (still is?) superb and my desire to see everything was a major factor in the breakdown of the relationship! Let's not get all dewy eyed - shit happens, move on! Bev arrives in my life, she's aware of my obsessive birdwatching habit, but knew nothing of my angling background. July 15th 2010 and we're at a family gathering, celebrating Simon's 50th birthday. Benno's had a few and starts on about going back to Scotland for one last pike fishing trip! Bev will rue that day for the rest of her life? "Yeah, you should go for it, it'll be nice getting away with your son"

May, 2011, and we're back at Loch Awe, pike fishing. A week of adrenaline fueled (or it might possibly have been Stella Artois?) fun and my desire to get back fishing returned in an overwhelming wave of enthusiasm. Birding was becoming very samey, so a change was a good move for me. I once again had something exciting to do. Back in Kent, I was to discover the thrills of the commercial carp puddles, before I became, once again, bitten by the Pike angling bug. A small drain, out on the East Kent marshes, provided an angling challenge which re-ignited the flame within me. This time round, however, it was to be about angling fitting into my life, not my life fitting into fishing!

The realisation of Benno's idea - back up in Scotland doing our thing
It's been six years since I returned to the hobby (I'm reluctant to call it sport?) and I've enjoyed every minute. I have been able to share some amazing experiences with my son, brother and friends. We're still chasing those fabled monsters, which so inspired me in the 1970's, but are happily accepting the fact that big, wild, pike are a rare commodity and our chosen venues unlikely to produce fish of this stamp with any regularity. My personal slant is very biased towards enjoyment of the moment and the use of ancient tackle. Being there, just becoming part of the landscape, is worth more than any other aspect of the angling experience. The birds, bugs and assorted creatures which are encountered just add to the dimension into which my angling has now morphed. I can easily catch nothing, yet have a fantastic day on the bank. No pressure, just pleasure - I'm able to go pike fishing without the need to impress anyone, I now do it for me!

The pike that Scotland owed me. 33 years after my first visit and I
finally capture my "twenty"

If I manage a fish, or two, like this each season, I'll  be a very happy man.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Another day, another double!

A short session, this morning out on the marsh, resulted in another nice pike gracing my landing net. Weighing in at 11 lbs 14 oz, it was a pleasant result from the other area I'd passed on Monday. It fell to a small Rainbow Trout, flavoured with fish oils and dyed red. I also dropped a very small jack on 1/2 a Mackerel and had a screaming take from an eel with a liking for sardines. Back home in plenty of time to grab some dinner and a quick shower. Work is so much easier when you've had a result.

Worth getting out of bed at 05.00 hrs? - I think so!

Monday 24 October 2016

Three Duncan Kay's and a result

Sunday 23rd October 2016 - 20.20 hrs (Part one)

It's getting late on Sunday; can't possibly have a three post day - that's called Facebook and I'm a blogger? If everything goes to plan, then I'm off pike fishing in the morning. Rods (three Duncan Kay's) are geared up - two Mitchell 300's and an ABU Cardinal 66X fitted, bait is in the freezer bag (defrosting nicely?) and there are some pungent fish oil mixes awaiting their introduction, via a syringe, prior to my casting out. I've got around three hours, so'll be travelling very light and leap frogging the rods every twenty minutes in an attempt to cover as much water as possible. Bite indication, at this small drain, will be front-runners and monkeys on needles, as opposed to drop offs. I am no fan off the line clip in these intimate situations, although have no problem with the concept and their use in other circumstances.

Monday 24th October 2016

Back home after a very short session out on the marsh, I was actually fishing for just two hours! What a shame that all my plans aren't this successful. I had four bites, three pike landed. I'd got all three rods out by 06.45 hrs and had only to wait for 35 minutes before the middle one was away. A very small jack, around two pounds, came angrily to the net - so I'd avoided the dreaded blank. Just fifteen minutes later, the right hand rod rattled off and a very similar sized pike spat the bait after half a minute, or so, just as it was nearing the net. I then had a wait of forty-five minutes before the left hand rod signalled a bite, this time a different class of pike all together. A very spirited battle before a nice fish of 12 lbs 2 oz was netted, my first double of the winter. I was getting the camera gear ready, the fish resting in the sling, when the right hander was away again. This time, no mistakes and, a very angry 9 lbs 8 oz fish joined its' mate for a photo session.

A cracking brace from a short session out on the marsh
It was now 08. 40 hrs and time to get off home; it's half term and Bev and I have to help Debbie with the kids, as she started a new job today. If all goes well, I'll try a repeat performance later in the week, there is another section, of the same drain, that looked really good as I walked by on my way back to the car.

Sunday 23 October 2016

So much going on - October-fest!

For the second time, in a week, a two post day! Got to make the most of this spell of blogging proliferation whilst the material lasts. I got up relatively early, 07.15 hrs, for a Sunday, and spent much of the morning pottering around in the kitchen. Luckily we have a full length glass backdoor panel and I am able to conduct the breakfast rituals without missing any of the action on. and around, the feeding station. I kept my camera and bins close to hand as almost the first visitor of the morning was a smart male Chaffinch - a very good bird here!
I wasn't to be disappointed, the action was constant and the variety rather quirky, as befits this time of year. House Sparrows wouldn't cause a stir, generally, but to have 60+ in the garden was a nice demonstration of my feeding station's effect on the local population. I fed the Java Sparrows, early morning, and made the effort to throw the sweepings (waste seed) onto the lawn, thus further enhancing the attraction of the garden. My visit to the aviary coincided with the fledging of a new "Silver" - I didn't realize that there were any more broods on the go!

The seed had an almost instant effect; the massed ranks of House Sparrows descending onto the lawn to compete with the Collared Doves for this new source of sustenance. A flashing white rump and there, in the midst of the throng, was a Brambling - result! A pair of Rose - ringed Parakeets and some very strange behaviour from a Magpie kept me entertained for much of the morning. It never rains - it pours!

Saturday social

Well, I'm back home and what a great day's birding; just a shame that we'd gone to Sussex for a pike fishing trip! We all met up. on the bank, just after 06.00 hrs and that is after a 90 minute drive from Bucks (Simon), Herts (Bunny) and Kent (Benno, Luke & myself). What we found was a severe lack of water; the venue being some six, or seven, feet below normal levels and, as a result, a completely different challenge to the one we'd expected. Instead of the 12 to 15 feet, we'd hoped for, we were lucky to find 7 or 8, it was never going to be easy under these circumstances.

Luke with a bent rod, Simon doing the coaching bit and Benno waiting with the net!
As it turned out; Benno, Luke and Simon had a pike each - all jacks! Cliff and I blanked - "life's a bitch!", so unfair? It is a magnificent venue, set in some outstanding countryside, so it made sense, to me, to make the most of whatever else was on offer. I had all my camera gear with me and did my best to get some images to accompany this post.

Outrageously over-gunned! I could easily have gotten away with Duncan Kay's and centre-pins.
It was a great session, we had a laugh and talked through some ideas for future projects and venues. That we all enjoyed the day speaks volumes about the way we approach our angling, these days. No longer is it a result driven hobby - there is so much more to angling; all five of us now realize that catching big fish is only part of the experience.

As I mentioned, at the start, the birding was a nice distraction from the inaction on my gear. I managed to add Marsh Tit to my pathetic year list but there were plenty of other species around the venue. Chiffchaff, Green Sandpiper, Sparrowhawk, two Raven, upwards of a dozen Common Buzzards, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, large numbers of dastardly "Sinensis" Cormorants, Grey Heron and a smart little male Mandarin kept me entertained. It was exactly what we wanted - a nice Saturday Social!

Friday 21 October 2016

Forty-five years on - I'm still excited

We're off pike fishing on Saturday, I might have mentioned it? It was way back, in the early 1970's when I caught my first pike; a small jack (under 3 lbs) from Pixie's Mere, Bourne End, Hertfordshire. I still have vivid memories of the adrenaline moment when my "Fishing Gazette" bung plunged beneath the surface and of the steely-eyed monster which came thrashing to the bank as a result. Tackle and tactics may have changed dramatically over the intervening years, yet that raw excitement, when a back biter drops off or, a bite alarm sounds as, a monkey rises steadily up the needle, still remains. It's why I go pike angling; exactly for moments such as these. There have been many occurrences during my time on the bank and I have been blessed to have captured, or witness the capture of thousands of these magnificent fish.
Generally there is contempt once familiarity becomes established, yet, for me, pike have that ability to retain a certain aura, the unblinking stare and sheer perfection of design which befits such an awesome species. They are the evolutionary peak of freshwater, predatory, fish within Europe? Each and everyone of them demands respect, whatever the size - they certainly have mine. I have lost count of the times when a "jack" has done me up! Bloodied fingers are small price for such primeval encounters - pike have inhabited the earth far longer than mankind, respect!
I had half an idea that this post would develop into my journey through pike angling (well worthy of telling), but it's getting late and I have to be round at Benno's for 04.00 hrs tomorrow, so I'll leave it here. The Saturday social and further exploration of my pike angling journey might be high on the agenda when I return from darkest Sussex!

Tuesday 18 October 2016

An evening session

Just one of those spur of the moment decisions - last night I went out onto the marsh and fished for eels. Simon, Benno, Luke and I have a, pike fishing, social planned for Saturday; when we're headed off to an inland sea in some, God forsaken, place beyond the Kentish border. How can these two events have anything in common? They're as alike as chalk and cheese - but, being me, I thought it prudent to see if my "Big Pit 70's" were still serviceable? So mounted them on a couple of Dragoncarp "Fusion Expert" 2.5 lbs t/c, 12 footers and headed off into the evening sunshine for a quick session after Anguilla anguilla.  Jim Gibbinson being a guiding light in much of my approach to eel angling - "they're most active in the first two hours after dark!" I stayed until 20.30 hrs and actually caught one. I also got bitten off by a pike. It was, therefore, not a complete waste of effort. What did I learn about the reels? Nothing new, they are, at best, adequate. Those rods, however, are a complete joke; something I should have realized when I purchased three (brand new) for less than £28! They are atrocious, even Runner Beans would feel ashamed of growing up these shambolic poles. I would have to seriously consider whether I will allow Bryn to use them, such is the bizarre taper and resultant action of these items - they really are the worst fishing rods I've ever held. No surprise in reality - you get exactly what you pay for.

Total over-kill? The drain is less than 10m wide, so why use kit that was designed for
120m plus? Because I can - I suppose!
I purchased these rods when the Ramsgate branch of Dragoncarp held it's closing down sale and thought that they would be OK for the kids to use, because it wouldn't matter if they got damaged/broken. What hadn't crossed my mind is the fact that the rods are of such poor design that they might impact on the ability of my grandchildren to learn about the techniques of angling because they'd be hampered by the inadequacies of the equipment. There might be three on E bay, very shortly, I'd happily take a tenner for the lot! (That's ten cans of Tyskie - Polish Lager - in our local corner shop!)

Benno, Luke & me - our pike fishing social in 2014
The pike fishing social will be a whole different ball game. It's very true that we're headed into Sussex for a gathering of the clan, but we're doing so with every intent of giving it our best shot. The bait boats are fully serviced, batteries charged and the fish finders being very latest versions we're able to obtain. Simon loves this aspect of angling technology and has made his own custom templates to enable him to manufacture these fiberglass items completely to our specifications. The use of these bait boats allows us to fish our baits, accurately and safely, in areas way beyond our casting capabilities, hence the requirement for my owning those hideous "Big Pit 70's" reels - loaded with 300m, 50 lbs b.s. of Berkley Whiplash Crystal braid. When we're fishing at these extreme ranges, there is no place for mono, and its' inherent stretch, when attempting to set the hooks at such distances. Benno is on the case for our bait supply and Sye has a few ideas for bait presentations which he's developed since our last Scotland trip. It's a big fish venue, thus we are going to use tactics aimed at these particular pike. It's always been my logic - big baits = big fish! I have had cause to reappraise this stance, just recently, but still feel that the basic facts are big pike are lazy and will take advantage of minimal effort for maximum return. In basic terms - a big dead bait is more likely to be picked up by a big pike than a small one! Obviously there are no rules, but statistics would support the theory, although I can recall plenty of occasions when it is a complete farce and a silly jack has picked up a whole Mackerel which is nearly as long as the pike itself.

Sunday 16 October 2016

What goes round; comes round (a two post day!)

The majority of my Saturday had been spent, along with Simon, Benno and Sarah-Jayne, continuing to clear the crap (debris) from Dad's house. We did what was needed; there will be just one more session, required, to see the clearance completed and we are then able to put the house onto the market. A very sad day, but it has to be done in order for the family to move on. Scary thing is that I now find myself at the helm of the Good Ship Wraftie  - so God only knows where we'll end up?
Conversation yesterday was very diverse, but included some pike fishing plans and the introduction of my grandson, Bryn, to the joys of angling. This task being undertaken by Benno (his uncle) and would see a complete cycle achieved.

Benno at Loch Awe in 1990? He was around six years old and that is a
13ft 2.75 lbs t/c, fast taper, Bruce & Walker HMC carbon rod.

It was around 1988/9 that Benno first started his angling apprenticeship, around the shores of Loch Awe before progressing to the delights of The Grand Union Canal and Tring Reservoirs. How will Bryn find this hobby? It is Benno's challenge to enthuse his nephew - simple! They went to Sandwich Coarse Fishery, this afternoon, and Bryn did what was required. Using a whip to hand, he managed to get his first fish - a perch of around a pound - the seeds have been planted!

My grandson Bryn with a perch of around a pound.
An angler in the making? I have a feeling that it's in the genes!

The show goes on

There's a definite chill in the air, of late, as I take my pre-dawn wander across to work. The darkness is often enlivened by the piercing calls of Redwings, as they pass, unseen, high overhead or the sad lament of a Robin emanating from a garden hedge or factory compound. This annual occurence is the precursor to a period of birdless tedium around Newlands, so I have to make the best of it whilst it lasts. Yesterday was a beautiful morning with Fieldfares dominating the scene. There were several hundred out on the maize stubble, others were moving overhead in noisy flocks, whilst a few were happy to pose in the tops of the trees to the north and south of our garden.

What a difference this morning - horrible dark and damp, with a strong WSW wind. Not a Fieldfare to be seen! I made Bev her cuppa before heading out to do the circuit. Still very good numbers of Song Thrush and Redwing around the site; the fallow field still held small numbers of Linnets, Goldfinches and a handful of Brambling. Meadow Pipit numbers have risen significantly, probably 50+ around the stubble fields today along with 20, or so, Skylarks. The Scaffolder's Yard produced three Stonechat and a couple of Chiffchaff (of which there were many more around the main farm compound) A couple of Golden Plover flushed from the big field and the star of the morning was a Merlin which came flashing through, scattering finches and thrushes as it passed.

I feel a session with the rods is now much needed, chub, barbel, pike or eels? Decisions, decisions -  it's a tough life

Friday 14 October 2016

Garden bird(s)ing

There can be no getting away from the fact that this past week has been one of the highlights of my year. The annual migration cycles have always resulted in some kind of avian spectacular during each of the sixteen, calendar years, we've lived in our bungalow. There have been couple of occasions which would have been the stuff of dreams even at an East coast bird observatory! So, by comparison, the events of this week must be taken in context. They haven't been phenomenal, but are still an experience from which I am able to derive great pleasure. It's just another Autumn on the Isle of Thanet. Birding, under these circumstances, has nothing to do with habitat; we're just very fortunate to live on a promontory which juts out into the base of the North Sea, at the head of The English Channel. The first, or last, landfall before/after a sea crossing for many weary, avian, migrants. Concrete, cauliflowers and geographical Utopia!

Something's not right here?
I swapped shifts today, so finished at 13.00, instead of 20.00, hrs. We had to pick Emily and Harry up from school, but it still meant that I had a n hour, or so, in which to spend in the garden. Fieldfares have now arrived, en mass, and there is a flock of 50/60 Skylarks out on the maize stubble beyond the garden hedgerow. I have been using the aviary sweepings to feed the back lawn, in the hope of attracting some of the finches away from the fallow field. Numerous House Sparrows and Collared Doves are filling their crops but, as yet, the migrating hoards have avoided the feast, thus far. Standing at the back door was not without reward, however, as a steady trickle of Redwing and Fieldfare passed overhead plus a couple of Brambling and several Goldfinches came in to dine at the feeding station.

Two different male Brambling? - look at the pale marks around the eye
As dusk started to fall there was a massive amount of activity above the strip of un-cut maize. Huge, swirling, parties of Linnets, Goldfinches and Bramblings descended into the foliage seeking overnight refuge, just as the Swallows had done earlier in the year. A marauding Sparrowhawk caused a, fleeting, moment of panic before, the resumption of normality and, the birds were able to return to their roost.

ISO 1600 - 1/320th sec - no wonder the images are a little grainy?
Oh, yeah - they were taken through the glass of a double glazed back door!

Thursday 13 October 2016

Still buzzing and blogging

Out early this morning, attempting to get as much from this period as possible. Migration on this scale is a magnificent spectacle and something to be cherished, especially as it's taking place on and above the place I call home. It will only take the weather to change, or the stubble to be ploughed in, and that'll be my lot until next Spring.

So, this morning, I headed straight across to the fallow field where Linnets and Goldfinches dominated, huge numbers of birds present, yet no Chaffinch or Brambling? Still a few Meadow Pipits and also a small number of Chiffchaffs (half a dozen - ish) plus several Song Thrush and Redwings flushed from the deck as I wandered around. Best sighting was of a pair of Stonechat, the first here this year! Never approachable, I did my best with my aging camera kit and am happy enough with the results considering they're only used to support my blogging.

Never in the running for POTW - my images are perfectly adequate to support this rambling nonsense.
Nicely done Dyl - seamless! On to blogging and the recent upsurge in posts (by other blogsters) about why it is a diminishing format within social media. I can only offer my thoughts, from a very individual perspective, and will attempt to explain why I feel blogging is still relevant, how it enhances my experiences, keeps me looking, thinking about the life I lead and the people, places and wildlife encountered along the way.
Before I started "Of Esox" there'd been two previous blogging attempts which came to shuddering halts when I discovered that my posts had caused "ripples". It hadn't been deliberate, well OK it might have been, but to encounter such venom as a result of an opinion was too much. With the start of this third incarnation, I already had an idea of what I wanted and how I was going to do it. My expectations weren't high and the realization that it is not mandatory to read my posts was key to me getting on with my critics opinions, however different they were from my own.  The blog title was chosen to allow me as wider scope of subject matter as I felt fit. Observations can fit a whole gambit of definitions, in many differing fields of experience, thus I am well within the remit of this blog to post my opinions on any subject I like - they are my observations, be it about Jihadist terrorism, Brexit, birding, the flagrant abuse of wildlife legislation or my angling exploits; jobs a good'n!
I accept that there are times when my posts are little more than a few words and pictures of fish, there is no defining template to which I must adhere, therefore some of my more obscure ramblings have taken several days to complete, thus a result of very time consuming effort. Why do I do it? For me it's my attempt to share my world with others, it is my diary, my thoughts and my wishes as time passes. One of the benefits is that it keeps me thinking and using the gift of writing, which was so generously given me during my period at school. A gift that I didn't recognize at that time in my life, but am now extremely grateful for. The bottom line is that I write this blog for myself, if others see fit to look in, then it's a bonus. I'm not about changing opinions or challenging the world, I simply enjoy writing about the experiences I have as my life moves forwards, although I'm not adverse to looking back should the whim take me. How others perceive the role of a blog is entirely up to them - I'm happy with my choices and will continue until I come to the end of my enjoyment of life!

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Newlands is buzzing

It looked ideal conditions, early doors, for there to have been a few birds decked around the farm. My early morning coffee session, out in the garden, confirmed a substantial number of Song Thrushes were present and small groups of Redwing and Fieldfare were moving overhead. A lone Common Snipe flew through, adding to the spectacle and a party of Long-tailed Tits came flitting along the hedgerow. Time to grab the camera and head off to see what else I could locate.
Fortunately the sun started to break through the heavy clouds and I was able to add two Chiffchaff and a Reed Bunting quite shortly after leaving home. However, I wasn't prepared for the fantastic numbers of birds that were feeding out in a small area of fallow ground, just beyond the maize stubble. It was difficult to get anything like accurate counts but my best guess would be around 40 Brambling, 220 Goldfinch, 370 Linnet and 70 Chaffinch plus more Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Redwing, Song Thrush and Blackbird. It was a joy to be outside in their company. As is normal, my camera work was very lacking; but hope that it gives a feel for the morning's excitement.

Monday 10 October 2016

Enough! - what's been happening?

It's been fairly hectic since we returned from our holiday. We still haven't finished clearing Dad's house and there are other people to see and things to do. I got out with a single rod, on Thursday afternoon/evening for a quick session on The Stour. I found a nice group of chub, yet came away thinking I could have done more to avoid that inevitable blank. I will be back soon in order to rectify the situation.

The Autumn migration is in full swing and Newlands Farm has seen quite a nice variety of avian visitors. Good numbers of Chaffinches have been accompanied by Bramblings and Reed Buntings, feeding out on the maize stubble. Redwings have arrived in force along with a decent sprinkling of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. Three each of Fieldfare and Ring Ouzel have also been recorded and there are several large flocks of Starlings in the general vicinity. A hunting Common Buzzard was given a hostile reception by the local Crows and escorted, unceremoniously, off site. A few Meadow Pipits and the odd Swallow continue to add to the enjoyment, as I have my first coffee of the day, stood out in the back garden, a flurry of Goldfinches or Linnets keeping me on my toes as they hurry by. The Ivy around our decking is still attracting odd Red Admiral butterflies, but it's all down hill from here on in - Winter is on its' way!

Saturday 8 October 2016

Hardly a sport

I started my working life in August 1974 and have been in continuous employment ever since; I've been, therefore, very fortunate with my choice of employers! I started out as a Medical Research Technician (The Lister Institute, Dagger Lane, Elstree) but quickly discovered that my heart wasn't in it and factory work was my true vocation - I am in my element within the hustle and bustle of shop floor life. My first experiences were in the Distribution Southern Region Warehouse, of Kodak, before changing tack and joining the mighty Unilever empire, as a warehouse operative, with Brooke Bond, then later Batchelors (my move from Hertfordshire to Kent) and finally into the Fujifilm family at their Broadstairs factory. Forty-two years in which I have honed the skills required to survive the brutal wit and incessant banter of the factory environment. A thick skin and total lack of self importance is key to survival in these haunts.
Because of my hobby choices, and vocal opinions, have been subjected to a fair amount of flack. Moths, birding, butterflies and an open dislike of racial and religious intolerance, has placed me in the firing line on many occasions. Being big enough and ugly enough to look after myself, these detractors have met with sturdy opposition when brave/stupid enough to go head to head. It goes with the territory - factory floors are no place for the faint-hearted! Every now and again, an individual will appear in these arenas where they are completely unable to cope with this regime. Far too precious to be able to cope with a bit of flak, a comment about their hair style or chosen football team. If they were fish they'd get caught everyday - that simple to get a bite! In these circumstances I use the phrase "hardly sport - just like feeding bread to a swan!"
My post of yesterday fits into this category - it wasn't very sporting! I have made it very clear what I think about natural history being turned into sport, thus requiring a set of rules. I am adamant that I don't require another opinion before my sightings make it onto my lists, I certainly don't need to be called a liar by a bunch of elitists because my written description didn't meet their exacting requirements (as has happened!) Recording our wildlife sightings is an interesting, yet not mandatory or important, part of our time on this earth. That nonsense of yesterday is a demonstration (to myself) of why I need to steer clear of Facebook and Twitter - I'd be unable to contain myself when such subjects are aired.

Friday 7 October 2016

Some fun on Birdguides

There is an article, click here, by Dominic Mitchell, (check out the comments - I've been rather active)  on the Birdguides website summarizing the avian events of 2015, yet referring to the decreasing number of BB rarity description submissions. What could possibly be going on? This austere bastion of Victorian ethics, The British Birds Rarity Committee being bypassed by a new generation of Wi-Fi connected, instant access, disciples. How dare they?
Why should there be a need for a written description when I've got a camera? What possible gain could be had by mistakenly reporting a Calandra Lark - shit happens, no one dies! It would seem that that this same bunch of alienated goons are responsible for many of the reasons for why the average man has voted out of the EU - they simply have no grasp of reality in 2016? Oh, but it's important!! Get the fuck - it stops you from doing a man's job!

Wednesday 5 October 2016

A backwards step to move on

I have really struggled to remain enthusiastic about my carp angling project following the events of early September. I am extremely grateful for the input, from a local birder, alerting me to some fish which they had seen in an Ash Levels drain, but starting from scratch in October is a challenge too far when time is such a very precious commodity. I am happy to walk away and start afresh in April/May 2017 - a split cane "thirty" remains my target and I'm stubborn enough to see it through to a successful conclusion. 2016 has proven to be anything but smooth, thus far, events conspiring to derail my efforts at every opportunity. (God bless you Dad!)

Who could have foreseen the progression from commercials to the East Kent marshes?
I am saddened, and rather embarrassed, that things have turned out so badly. I feel like I've let myself down, yet know that if it were different (thirty years ago) the whole scenario would have panned out far less pleasantly. A wet fish is a wet fish ("no shit Sherlock!") and I've had more than my fair share, over the years, so many, in fact, as to negate any requirement, on my part, to engage in skulduggery or associated shenanigans! Yet this whole sorry episode leaves a bad taste and continues to play on my mind - why would anyone feel the need to behave like that? It's time to walk away and seek challenges in new arenas where I don't have to suffer the actions of fools.

A nice little chub from the Canterbury Stour - 3 lbs 10 oz
I have been in contact with Steve Middleton: ref a B James & Son, split cane, Mk IV Avon - it looks like the time has arrived and purchase of such an item is now high on the agenda. For what purpose this next investment? Well; there are chub in The Kentish Stour which dwarf my 5 lbs 2 oz PB so, of course, I'd like one of them and, also, I have unfinished business with those enigmatic barbel  - doubles being expected if I can get a bite! I have never caught a barbel outside of the June - September period previously. However, just as it worked out with those winter eels, I'm confident the barbel/chub of The Kentish Stour will provide a similar and. ultimately,  rewarding challenge over the next few months. Maybe, by getting away from the hype and stupidity of carp fishing (ref: modern carp anglers and their complete lack of watercraft and bank side etiquette?), I will regain that enthusiasm I had at the beginning of that particular project?

My first "thirteen" - Fred would have been pleased for me, I think.?
My first efforts, after these fish, proved to be test of stamina and bloody - mindedness, three years of effort - just seven barbel to my landing net (five doubles!) After a two year break I feel ready to grasp this nettle, once again, and test my angling skills as I attempt another campaign designed to outwit these magnificent creatures. It won't be easy, of that I'm sure. What I am hoping for is an angling challenge without barriers or politics - enjoyment has to be the defining reason for being on the river. Personalities, ego's and cliques - "get the f*ck!"
Sorry for the waffling, nonsensical, content, please excuse me - just thinking out loud, I suppose?

Monday 3 October 2016

Chrysolina herbacea

Whilst we were on Kefalonia I considered it to be a nice compliment when Pauline asked if she could accompany me on one of my walks. Leon and Bev were less than enthusiastic about the prospect of tackling the gradients of Mt. Ainos and, therefore, elected to remain around the pool! It's been my privilege to have had so many talented tutors, be it angling, birding or moths, assisting me in my own adventure of discovery, as I've wandered around the planet - it was now my opportunity to share experiences and pass on some of these basic skills to a new recruit in the hope of igniting a latent interest in our natural world.

We had a fantastic morning walking the zig-zagging tracks which climb the hillside above Lourdata (Lourdas in the Olympic brochure). Pauline was like a child in a sweet shop; everything we looked at was new to her and the innocent, yet genuine, enthusiasm was a wonderful reward for the small effort I put in. I've made mention, in the past, that the basic skill of a teacher is not academic but, instead, the ability to inspire and enthuse the pupil(s) toward their subject. I'd like to think that this is what I managed during the three hours we spent walking and talking on that splendid morning. One insect sits head and shoulders above all the other creatures we were to see that day. A small beetle, which goes by the name Chrysolina herbacea and, is an eye catching jewel in amongst the arid hillside vegetation. It was new for me and I hope Pauline picked up on my excitement as one was potted prior to getting some photos. Nearly sixty years of looking and I haven't scratched the surface; that's the very sobering reality. It doesn't matter how hard I try, there will always be something new to be discovered should I choose to look in a different place. As George Micheal once said "Turn a different corner and we never would have met!"