Who am I?

My photo
An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition, that was until Covid-19 intervened!. 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!

Followers

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Hot August Night

It was 1987 and I was a mad-keen chaser of specimen fish. Basically I didn't have the required skill to discover and exploit venues for myself, so I chased yesterday's news like some headless chicken (with fishing rods!). Late summer/early autumn meant Zander fishing and the only fisheries available to me were the Fenland Drains of the Norfolk/Cambridgeshire borders. A Kings Lynn AC ticket was the key to access many miles of these waters and I spent many happy days exploring the various spots, all the while yearning to catch a "double". In the late 80's a ten pounder was still a very big Zander, catch one over twelve and you rubbed shoulders with angling's elite! I was close, having landed a 9 lbs 8 oz specimen, from Three Holes, in October 1985  so was now on a mission to add those extra 8 oz to my PB. It was the Bank Holiday weekend and, with three nights available, I had time on my side. I set up camp on The Cut-off Chanel, just outside Eley, and had a superb Zed of 9 lbs 2 oz on the first night - things were looking good.


I then spent the next twenty-four hours without as much as an eel bite. With just one night remaining, Sunday into Monday (the Bank Holiday) I decided a new venue was needed and, as Three Holes had provided me with a PB, my decision wasn't a difficult one. I think that I'd been to The Cherry Tree, in Welney, having lunch and a couple of light ales, then grabbing a nap in the van before, later than planned, arriving at the Middle Level and getting sorted for the coming night. No bivvy, just a bedchair under a brolly, the rods were positioned to fish my baits close to the far marginal lily pads. Traps set, there was nothing more to do than wait! I flipped the top off a French dumpy and offered a toast to the angling gods. It was 03.15 hrs when the back-biter sounded as something had just taken my small bream live bait. Picking up the rod I was convinced that this was my moment. I set the hooks and found myself attached to a very determined and powerful fish. Knowing that it was my first "big" Zander, I played it as if it were a bar of gold, frightened stiff of loosing my prize. Up and down the drain it powered, as I hung on with grim determination, this fish was going in the net however long it took. The fish began to tire and  I felt that my moment was almost at hand when the fish surfaced and my world fell apart! It had a bloody pike's head on it! It was a decent fish and I stuck it in an ET Pike Tube, but felt absolutely gutted. Why me? Why a pike not a zander? Another French dumpy and I drifted off into a troubled snooze. When I awoke, the sky was clear and the sun just appearing over the adjacent flat lands. Down in the margin was the pike tube, pegged out, containing that imposter.

A much needed reality slap!
It was only when I saw the fish in the daylight that I realised what an utter tosser I was! An absolutely magnificent, scale and fin perfect, pike, of 17 lbs 1 oz had blessed me with its' presence and I had lost the plot. Not my first pike taken during the hours of darkness, but it was the one that produced the wake up call. One of the most important lessons of my angling journey and, now, a very fond memory.


Monday, 29 January 2018

Worth a wander

The Iceland Gull seems to have left the harbour, but Snow Buntings (two or three) are still being seen regularly on the western arm of the outer marina. With nothing better to do, I took a walk this morning and, after a bit of searching, had two birds scratching about on the footpath within a few yards of where I was  standing. Quite flighty, they were flushed by a jogger and departed in the direction of the Harbour Lights Cafe. Two Kingfishers and a Shag kept me amused as I scanned, in vain, for C-R gulls.


Making my way back, I stumbled upon a rather confiding Rock Pipit feeding along the seawall. So year tick number two for the morning. Well pleased with my efforts I returned home and got ready for my afternoon shift in better humour than a normal Monday!


Sunday, 28 January 2018

Birds that do it for me

This is the second (I somehow deleted the first draft?), shameless, effort at a post which is a plagiarism of some original thought by Steve Gale . Birds which make me happy to encounter, no matter how often I've seen them previously. Steve has ruled out rarity, because it can induce adrenaline, without optical delight. The birds that make me "fizz" are likely to be part of my annual cycle, yet not necessarily  UK regulars, such is my casual approach to "official" recording areas. I recognize the same man-made/political borders as the birds I look at. Our holidays around the Mediterranean, ensure I am able to get my fix of some fantastic species which, if their UK appearances were a factor, I would struggle to record.

Golden Oriole


My encounters with this species go right back to the early 1980's and time spent fishing for Zander on the Ten Mile Bank, just outside of Eley, in Cambridgeshire. I even found a nesting pair way back then! The Bryant & May poplar plantation, at Hilgay, was Golden Oriole central for every twitcher at that time. To know that I can expect to see these spectacular birds, during the course of a twelve month cycle, is a great comfort. Doesn't prevent every sighting being a "Wow" moment; they are forever birding royalty.

Hoopoe


A species which was a fancy image within the pages of my first "Collins" Field Guide. I saw my first on a family holiday, Tenerife 1978, and have seen them in many other holiday destinations, and even in Kent, since that original sighting. That spectacular crest, striking black and white wings and tail, which can morph into a stunning orange/pink vision just cannot be ignored, however many I see.

Wryneck


A bird that I worked really hard to see when I started out "twitching". I found it difficult to comprehend that it was a woodpecker, it behaving in such a skulking manner. It was Spain that allowed me to see another side to this cryptic plumaged bird. Brazenly feeding along field margins, perching on fence posts and generally showing off. I've been lucky to find a few in Kent over the years, but it remains a holiday bird for me.

Bee-eater


If a child painted a picture of a bird using the combination of colours involved in this magnificent species they'd be told to tone it down. The mix of bedazzling colour and enigmatic calls make this bird a must see on every trip around the Mediterranean.

Alpine Swift


A bird that reduced me to a gibbering wreck when I discovered one flying above North Foreland Golf Course on 29th March 2010. It was a long awaited Kent tick and a very enjoyable experience. Although I have plenty of previous encounters whilst travelling around the holiday destinations of the Med. To see the massed flocks assembling over Corfu town, as dusk falls, is spectacular and involves many thousands of birds. I've watched them hunting over Turkish hillsides, Greek farmland and Kefalonian mountains. Every time Bev and I board an aircraft, these fabulous birds are at the top of my wish list.


Friday, 26 January 2018

Don't go - can't know!

A Friday, early shift, means that I'm on my way home at 13.00 hrs. Today, Bev had plans to go across to see her parents in Herne Bay, so I decided to undertake a quick sortie to the larger club venue with carp, very much, the target. It was cold and rather overcast as I pulled up in the carpark, little after 15.00 hrs. Two Duncan Kay's, with Mitchell 300's, were fishing by 15.30hrs. I had only two and a half hours to play with, so imagine my delight when 30 minutes into the session the right hand alarm bursts into life and I find myself attached to a very spirited Common Carp.

I couldn't be arsed to carry the tri-pod, so another unhooking mat image. 10 lbs 14 oz - nice start to 2018
I estimated it took five minutes before the fish was ready for the landing net, it really was a feisty little chap, all 10 lbs 14 oz of it. Very pleased with the result, I remained in my swim for another ninety minutes, before admitting that I had been very fortunate and it was time to call it a day. Temps had fallen to 3C and frost was forming on the unhooking mat and weigh sling, the new moon visible in the clearing sky. First double of 2018, I learnt enough to ensure I'll be going back soon.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

"That Carp" - getting closer?

Whilst I was sat down at the club water, Saturday morning, huddled under the brolly to avoid the drenching rain, my thoughts were focused towards the coming months and the quest for "that" carp! Far more specifically, the delivering of my promise to Dad, a thirty on a split cane Mk IV. I will admit, here and now, that I've never seen a thirty (on the bank) so am taking a calculated gamble with my angling skills. How much harder can a thirty pull, over a twenty, cos I've caught quite a few of those during my angling adventure? Casting my mind back to those heady days at Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City, a battered, old warrior, mirror, of 19 lbs 11 oz (25th August 1985) stands out as the hardest fighting carp I have ever landed. 6 lbs b.s. Sylcast and a 1.75 t/c 12' Bruce & Walker HMC fast taper rod, Shimano 4000 GT reel. Why was I using 6 lbs line?

Great memories of very happy times. Stanborough Lake provided many such fish over the short period I fished there.
 This 19 lbs 11 oz Mirror, 25th August 1985, provided the sternest test of my angling skills, by any carp I've been
lucky enough to catch to date.

One of the trio of "twenties" I took, in consecutive casts, 9th November 1983

That little scamp, of Saturday, could hardly bend the split cane because I was fishing very light and, thus, couldn't use the rod to its' full potential. Stick a reel, loaded with 12 lbs mono, on one and I can allow the rod to do what it was designed - bend! The fighting curve of a split cane Mk IV is a joy to behold. That the rod is made from natural materials adds another dimension to the angling experience - it comes alive, allowing you to feel every twist and turn as the quarry attempts to avoid the landing net. Since December 2015, I've been very fortunate to have landed some wonderful carp, using the split canes. This project isn't about overcoming adversity. The rods are not a handicap but, more the heightened enjoyment of an angling experience. I am fully acquainted with modern carp angling methods and techniques, due to the wonders of the internet and the YouTube offerings of Nash, Korda, Fox, CC Moore and so many others. I would still love to reach my goal with a fish taken on particles but, if it's a pop-up, on a Ronnie rig, the joy will not be tainted. I have played around with many presentations, doing my bit to ensure the rig mechanics are understood and working to the best advantage I can manage, with my minimal experience of modern carp fishing. The desire to achieve my target is at the very core of my being - it's going to happen. My choice of venues needs a tweak, there are so many Kent fisheries where such carp swim that I need to broaden my horizon. However, I would love to fulfill my promise with a fish from the RMC or, even better, an East Kent drain. The resumption of the project will start very soon, I'm keeping a close eye on the long range weather forecasts and have much of my kit, bait included, ready and waiting.

June 2015 at Sandwich Coarse Fishery (a very well run commercial)
18 lbs 15 oz - so not even a "nineteen"
25th June 2016 - a magnificent "wild" Common Carp (19 lbs 4 oz) from an East Kent drain
Chick Peas and a split cane Mk IV - a perfect combination
How is it I seem to be such a gifted captor of nineteen pounders? Doesn't matter what species. Probably got far more to do with the fact that I take the time to weigh my captures rather than random, glib, guesstimations, which seem to be perfectly acceptable in 2018. When I land that carp, I will know, to the ounce, within the limitations of my technology, what the fish weighs. I see no point in expending this amount of effort, just to guess that I've achieved my ambition. 29 lbs 15 oz ain't a thirty, as magnificent a fish that it is. A thirty is the target and only when I've weighed such a carp, will this challenge finish.

I know what this fish weighs - but why let fact get in the way of fantasy? Welcome to carp angling 2018.








Saturday, 20 January 2018

Let's see where this goes?

"If you don't know where you're going any road can lead you there"  A wonderful lyric, by the late George Harrison, which describes, perfectly, my own adventures with natural history, and the great outdoors, which I have enjoyed during my life.  I often make very glib comments about plants, basically because I've never been interested. Doesn't mean that I won't ever look at, or point the camera in the direction of, one. Quite a few times, whilst wandering around on holiday, I have been drawn towards plants which are either unfamiliar (most are!), outrageously flamboyant or strikingly fragrant. I've never, yet, been enthused enough to seek further information or actively look for plants, but I cannot deny the fact that they enhance my time in the field. Similarly spiders, beetles, etc are always able to provide interest whenever encountered, yet haven't ignited the spark to pursue the study any further. Butterflies are a completely different ball game; they are an amazing group of insects which have captured my imagination and I will expend time trying to get an id on any encountered which are new to me. I can offer no logical explanation for why I'm enthused by certain aspects of nature but not others. I suppose it is a similar situation with my flirtation with "field sports" - I'm a passionate angler, yet never felt the need to buy a shotgun, foxhound or ferret. I have little problem with the hunting, shooting, fishing aspect of our countryside traditions. But I do have major concerns when blood lust and the quest for that extra dollar uses the smoke screen of traditional pursuits to disguise the industrial scale slaughter they provide for the filthy rich. Allied to this is the associated persecution of our native birds of prey, Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles and the like, thus systematic removal of our children's heritage by an industry that blatantly flaunts its' contempt as it rides roughshod over all legislation . Absolutely indefensible - end of! Bottom line? Money talks, big money talks very loudly; doesn't matter whether it's an incinerator in Beddington, an airport at Gatwick or a Grouse Moor in Northumberland? What they want, they get, because they can afford it - to hell with the environment and the anti's. As for the law? Money makes the law, our family solicitor commands £550/hour - how does the law work when this is normal practice? You and me can't afford to get involved in legal battles - thus money wins regardless of legality. Time to take a deep breath and move on!

I now know this to be an African Ringlet
Out early again, this morning, and a short session at the larger of our two club waters. I'd chosen to use rather generalist tactics in the hope of getting a bite, from anything. Bait was cubed Spam and prawns, perch were certainly in my thoughts but not specifically targeted.  Just as well, because when I arrived there was a layer of "cat ice" covering much of the fishery and I was rather restricted in my swim choices. With prolonged, heavy, rain forecast, I quickly set up my brolly and proceeded to get two baits into the ice free water. Nothing on the prawns, but two short pulls on Spam meant that I changed both rods to this bait and was eventually rewarded with a spirited little scamp Common Carp. I hadn't blanked, so was well pleased under the circumstances. A flyover red-head Goosander meant that I had another addition for the year list so, all in all, a very pleasant few hours despite the rain.

Quite a tussle on 4 lbs b.s. line and a size 10 hook - great fun in the cold and rain!
I packed up my soaking wet tackle and headed home. The first carp of 2018 in the bag and the start of another campaign. I'm having serious thoughts about rejoining the club, as pleasurable as it has been, because their venues don't hold the stamp of fish I seek. I'm glad I've made the effort but simply can't afford to waste my time chasing something which doesn't exist. I have several options open to me and will take my time to decide on which one offers the best chance of a successful conclusion to my quest. I know what I want but not yet the route, required, to get me there?


Thursday, 18 January 2018

Pushing the boundaries

I once heard it said "that you don't know your limits until you've passed them!" Having taken time to think about the sentiment I find myself in total agreement, the logic being both wise and profound. During my life I have been happy to "run with the pack" - my early years of specimen hunting were conducted in accordance with the form waters of the era. If big fish were being caught, I'd be there, or there abouts. Same can be said for birding and particularly my Kent listing. If something was going down - I was there, generally front of the queue! Both scenarios have provided many fond memories, of great times, associated with this type of group obsession. Indeed, much of the enjoyment came from a sense of belonging, being in the company of like-minded souls. I cannot, honestly, say anything against either form of involvement, my own experiences were a blast. So what's changed?
It shouldn't take the IQ of Einstein to arrive at the very obvious answer - ME! I suppose it is a normal consequence of getting old that I should no longer seek approval from my peers? Or is there another angle to this change of heart? Could it be that I 'm pushing myself to see what else is out there to be discovered/experienced beyond the accepted boundaries of being part of the crowd. A bit late, perhaps, but better late than never!
My angling still revolves around catching specimen sized fish but, and this is now very important, I have to do so in a manner that enhances the experience. It is no longer paramount that I catch the biggest, any decent fish will happily suffice if caught using the tackle and techniques with which I am most comfortable. I certainly have no intentions of returning to the lunacy of having to compete with other anglers as well as the fish we were targeting. I've been incredibly fortunate, during my life, to have caught some fantastic fish and, even today, my PB list is still very respectable in comparison to those of many modern anglers. So with that as my cushion, it becomes quite easy to go off at tangents with my angling projects. Night fishing for pike, catching eels in winter or chasing a 30 lbs carp in a canal, with a sixty year old stick - got to be done because I'm unaware of any other anglers having  done so in the past? This doesn't mean I'm unique, as surely, there will have been other guys, with similar outlooks, seeking ways of breaking from tradition whilst yearning fulfillment. What it does mean is that I'm no longer one of the gang. I'm labelled a loner, an outsider, a loser, a non-conformist (been there - got the "T-shirt"), by those who are comfortably ensconced within the ranks of these wonderful pastimes. Every individual is fully entitled to an opinion and, recognizing that, is one of the great benefits of the aging process. I have no requirement to get embroiled in debate, or justify my actions, with anyone. I will simply go where my heart takes me.
Likewise my birding has gone off on a very weird tangent. Looking back at the wonderful experiences I enjoyed, as an active member of the Kent birding scene, it seems inconceivable that I've lost enthusiasm for the hobby. When Bev and I first met, long before we were a couple, she only knew me as a birder (twitcher!). It was full on 24/7 Kent listing - fantastic, adrenaline inducing, total lunacy and, here's the crux, absolutely pointless in as much as it did nothing more than satisfy an ego!
Patch watching is a great antidote to twitching, it allows you to get excited about very common species because they take on a whole new dimension when the limited habitats of a small area are included in the equation. I knew something was very amiss when I stopped my regular Newland's Farm patrols. Gavin Haig uses the term "phasing" to explain the loss of enthusiasm; it seems to capture the vibe. Like my angling PB list, the birding lists that I have accrued would still be very enviable to the next generation. I don't require test tube swinging lab rats, or a committee of ex-school teachers (check out the CV's of your county bird club committee) to tell me what I have, and haven't, seen. I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions as to what is, or isn't, included on any list I wish to maintain. Once again I find myself on the outside - Oh the shame! To have refound a way to make birds a part of my outdoor time, has been an uplifting experience. Two woodcocks were the unlikely catalyst but, I have to admit, that watching that pair of Whooper Swans, flying over Iden Lock, had me grinning like an imbecile. Probably a good job I was alone?
I have to continue to live my life in accordance with the rules I use to govern my existence. Family will always be number one, in any situation, but my desire to stretch myself, beyond the comfortable, has a part to play as life moves on. Once that bloody carp has been caught, who knows where my next challenge will take me? One thing's for sure it won't involve following any crowd.







Monday, 15 January 2018

Simple pleasures

Already a fortnight into the new year and I'm happy to report that things are coming along nicely in my little world. The year list is already on 67 species, many very common birds still to be seen, but it does include a "twitched" Iceland Gull and a very jammy pair of Whooper Swans. I would hope that my new found enthusiasm will see a year total, well in excess, of 250 species, given that I've already got two holidays, Mallorca and Kefalonia, booked. There could still be a couple of fishing trips to Scotland and France, so who knows how I might fare?

Not the view I had of that overflying pair down at Iden Lock!
I'm not feeling great about the local pike fishing, although confident that I can catch fish, at will, in the local drains, The Stour remains a conundrum that I need to spend more time with. Present weather patterns have the river all over the place and I simply can't be arsed with all that eel aggro. Time for a change of tack? I might just have a little flirtation with some perch before, once again, setting my stall for "that carp" I so desire. I was down at the local club venue, yesterday afternoon/evening, and managed a couple of small perch for my effort. Good fun, but I feel like it's a fools mission, the perch that I seek simply do not exist in these club fisheries - despite the match anglers tales! Sandwich Coarse Fishery, a nice little commercial set-up, does hold the fish I desire and will probably be the venue of choice over the next few weeks.

Some proper collectors items on show here? But only if you know what you're looking at!
I've changed my reels from the Mitchell 300's to a pair of ABU Cardinal 44X's, which, although not contemporary with the split cane Mk IV's, are still nearly 50 years old! I paid 22s/6d (in 1970) for my first one, via a Littlewood's catalogue - at sixpence a week! They are still as solid as a rock and a joy to use. Most of my Tring tench were caught using these reels - never let me down. I'm not too sure if I would be happy using them after carp, but I do have the option to switch over to Cardinal 66X's, which are far more suited to the task, if I don't want to revert back to the Mitchells? I've got a bait cupboard full of pigeon tonic, chick peas, pork luncheon meat, Spam and curry sauce, a freezer stuffed with Mackerel, Sardines, Herrings and prawns. It doesn't matter in which direction my angling is headed, I'm already ahead of the game.

A B. James & Son 1959 Earls Court boat show edition, Dick Walker, Mk IV split cane carp rod,
 an 1970 ABU Cardinal 44X reel and a chunky little perch - 1 lb 2 oz

What else awaits in 2018? I'll cross those bridges when I get there.



Sunday, 14 January 2018

C-R Shag - update

I have just received an e-mail from Mark Newell with the details of the bird (Green/white LCJ) I'd discovered, and photographed, in Ramsgate Harbour on 6th January.



Dear Dylan
Many thanks for your report and sorry for the delay in replying, it appears to have been a busy period for shags dispersing judging by the number of emails.


Green/white LCJ was ringed (BTO 1492670) on the Isle of May, Fife (56° 10′ 48″ N, 2° 33′ 0″ W) on 12/06/17 as one of two chicks.  It was seen regularly on the isle until at least 21st October 2017 with no further reports until your sighting.


I always enjoy this type of correspondence as I feel that I've done something useful? The teams of ringers have done their bit and I'm now part of the story of this bird by reporting my sighting. Mark added further information about the dispersal of Shags from this project with this additional news.

Perhaps coincidentally we have received a number of reports of colour ringed shags to the south of their normal wintering area with a bird inland in Cambridgeshire and two birds in the Netherlands.  All have been first winter birds which does fit the general pattern.

Amazing what can be learned by the simple task of reporting c-r birds to their project coordinators. EURING provides the database for all European ringing schemes and, as such, is an invaluable resource. 

I'm off perch fishing now, so it might just be a two post day?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Favourites - revisited

Something incredibly humbling about all this blogging stuff. Out there in cyber space is the rambling jumble of thoughts that make up my archive of "Of Esox & Observations" posts; nearly nine hundred offerings on subjects many and varied. One of the most rewarding aspects of this activity is when what you write triggers others to pass comment on your work. Unless it's particularly odious and spiteful, I am happy to publish the thoughts of others, no matter how different to mine. All very healthy within a world of free speech. Every now and again something is posted which makes me realise just how mad this whole caper is - a comment about something I wrote three years ago, something I'd long forgotten I'd posted!


Such an event has happened today and I found myself delving back to a post of February 2015 in order to reacquaint myself with the writing, and photos, that had been the catalyst to the comment.
Wow, how much has changed in just three years? Favourite was written during the doldrums of some dreary weather and inspired by reading John Everard's Barbel chapter in "The Big Fish Scene". To re-visit the topic today has to have a very different slant. Is it possible to up-date the original, probably not? So here's my 2018 offering -warts "n" all! John's observation that "the favourite species was the one currently being pursued" is as relevant today as it was in 1979!

PIKE

Absolutely no way that I could claim anything less than this magnificent species to be number one on my angling agenda, however set? For more than forty years this apex predator has been part of why I go fishing. I can make no guess at how many of these superb creatures have graced my landing net, but it will be many thousands! Once upon a time big was beautiful, not so today, I just love the challenge and un-blinking stare of a pike on the bank. Man, I've been very lucky!



BARBEL

A bittersweet experience which I have to acknowledge as being successful despite, never once, feeling like I'd learned anything? For two seasons, on the Kentish Stour, these fish provided the most extreme test of my angling nous. I smashed my PB and caught some wondrous fish, yet can't derive the pleasure I should, because I don't know why I caught them ? To have experienced such trials has to place these fish right up there at the top of the pile! In the background is my apprenticeship under the guidance of Fred Crouch - surely I couldn't have been that unreceptive?  Did I really learn nothing whilst under Fred's guidance? I find it amazing that I have experienced such success without once feeling that I deserved it. I'm probably being hyper-critical, but barbel have such an important role, within my angling journey, that I feel I've let myself down somewhere along the line. I take great pleasure from the fact that Benno was part of this adventure and he also caught some magnificent fish. Maybe that was Fred's influence? It made me a very proud man to place the net under his PB barbel.

This is not Benno's PB - a Kentish Stour barbel all the same and, as such, very a special fish.

PERCH

What's to say? When I stopped speccy hunting, in 1993, fishing for perch was a waste of time. The UK population being decimated by some devastating disease and any perch, over a pound, being covered in sores and suffering extensive fin rot. To have the chance, not only to catch perch, but very big and healthy perch, is a revelation. I still await my first three - but I've witnessed a few and they are magnificent fish. At some time in the, not too distant, future I hope to spend a prolonged period targeting this species.



CATFISH (Wels)

In the year of "Our Lord" 2018, there are catfish in excess of 100 lbs swimming in the waters of UK fisheries. Not something I find particularly pleasing, but a fact of life in modern Britain. That I allowed myself to get swept up on a whim, by Luke and Benno, shows that these fish still have a place in my heart. I didn't catch one, but the boys did and I was there - special times!


EEL (Anguilla anguilla)

Never did I think that I would spend a moment, of my life, writing about the merits of eel fishing? Just goes to demonstrate never say never! That winter project of 2015/16 provided the challenge and, ultimate, reward which I have never previously experienced. Eels had (have) always been a pest. Learning of their "global demise" was trigger to that project and under-pinned the satisfaction at my successful conclusion. March 12th 2016 is a date which will remain etched in my soul - a job done!


TENCH

I'd be hard pressed to convince anyone that that this species played any part in my angling - yet the accidental capture of a single fish, whilst perch fishing, blew me away. Transported back in time to the banks of Wilstone Reservior; yet to see an ugly one!


CARP

How things have changed over three short years? The species which I hold totally responsible for the demise of freshwater angling, within the UK, but now find myself caught up in the most engrossing project. Was it the gift of a B James & Son Mk IV split cane Dick Walker carp rod, or the fact that I found that carp could be caught from wild venues away from the mainstream? Probably a combination of the two? I now find myself embarked on a mission to catch a thirty, using sixty year old sticks and I'm absolutely loving it. I've already caught more carp than I had when I spent  time in 1983/4 chasing the fish of Stanborough Lake, in Welwyn Garden City. Having the freedom to pursue my dreams at very intimate and un-fished venues, within the crowded SE is rewarding enough. When I finally achieve my target, and I will, carp will very firmly be established as my favourite species - for a short while.


To have been able to use my angling skills, as developed over a lifetime, to outwit such stunning creatures has been extremely fulfilling. That these same fish are magnificent to behold, like carved mahogany, ensures that I will never fail to be happy whenever I manage to put one on the bank. Having taken that amount of effort to catch, under no circumstances do these fish not deserve a visit to a weigh sling in order to be correctly recorded (for my own records!) Guesstimation has no part in my angling.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Harbour recollections

I'd been back down to Ramsgate Harbour, for a quick wander before lunch, on the look out for C-R gulls. Over the years, this site has been the most reliable place to encounter these bangle wearing individuals and I've found Norwegian ringed Great Black-backs, Finnish Black-heads,  Dutch Cormorants, Lesser Black-backs from Suffolk, as well as plenty of Herring Gulls from the North Thames Gull Group program plus others from the RSPCA Malydams wildlife rescue centre. I'm in no doubt that it's because Ramsgate remains a viable fishing port, which keeps the high turnover of birds visiting the facility purely due to feeding opportunities it offers. Unlike the venue I came to know when I first moved to Thanet in June 2000, Ramsgate Harbour is now a hugely busy complex due to the massive industrial development of the wind-farms out in The Thames Gateway,  plus the venue is also the base for the pilot boats which assist the safe passage of commercial shipping in and out of the Thames Estuary and London Docklands. Birds and people sharing a very busy environment has the effect that birds show a higher tolerance to human presence, thus tend to be more confiding than in usual situations - great for any camera/binocular wielding, ring reading, birder.

A Norwegian C-R Great Black-backed Gull
Over the past couple of decades I have been privileged to discover some fantastic birds within the boundaries of this working harbour. Obviously, not every bird comes with plastic ornaments, but is every bird a candidate for such jewelry laden study?




I would like to think that my memories are based upon good experiences, good times, when the encounters helped enhance the time I spent wandering around this semi-industrial environment.
I've seen divers, auks, multitude gulls and even a flock of seven Sooty Shearwaters whilst stood on the fabric which is Ramsgate Harbour. Looking back is on a very pleasurable period of my life. I don't keep a Ramsgate Harbour list, but know it would be quite impressive - Osprey, Shore Lark, Snow Bunting, Little Auk, Iceland, Caspian & Western Yellow - legged Gulls, Black Redstart, Scandinavian Rock Pipit, Arctic Tern (in December), Kingfisher and Moorhen all being "Harbour Ticks!" over the years.


It is a fantastic place to visit, Ramsgate making great efforts to shake the "kiss me quick" stigma of yesteryear! The harbour is now focal to the whole vibe of regeneration and optimism. Natural history continues to be part of this process and I will do my best to remain positive about the future as the harbour evolves to encompass the requirements of the businesses that use it and keep it viable.

1st winter Iceland Gull with a 1st winter Great Black-back - not a C-R in sight!
This morning in Ramsgate Harbour.



Saturday, 6 January 2018

C-R reporting and me

Bev and I are both struggling to shake some type of virus/bug thingy which has left us in pretty poor shape. There does seem to be a lot of it about, locally, as quite a few guys in the factory and girls in Bev's darts team have also been suffering with similar symptoms.  Like a true soldier, I've not missed a shift, but have to admit that's because I'm far happier doing something rather than, moping about, indoors, feeling sorry for myself! If I'm well enough to go to work, then I can get outside, however, fishing wasn't an option because I couldn't cope with extended exposure to the elements! Choosing to get down to Ramsgate Harbour, to year tick the Iceland Gull, was a deliberate decision by which to, best, utilize my free time. What I couldn't have known was that I would stumble upon a C-R (colour-ringed) gull which would add to the the newly rediscovered enthusiasm for birds and birding. It only took an e-mail exchange with Paul Roper (North Thames Gull Group) to re-open another avenue of birding involvement. Reporting the sightings of birds with coloured leg rings (bands if you're from The USA) via the cyber network is a very simple, yet scientifically sound, method of data gathering and it's fun! Over the past couple of decades, colour ringing schemes have risen to the forefront as a method of avian movement recording as they no longer require a recapture, or a corpse, for the ring details to be recorded.


The first recorded sighting of a Canadian C-R Turnstone in Kent - yep! that was me.
I've been reporting colour ringed birds since first becoming aware of this ringing development in 2003. Over the years I have been exceptionally fortunate to have discovered some fantastic birds, complete with their coloured plastic bracelets and, by reporting them, made a contribution to the database that is human understanding of our natural world - so a very one dimensional perspective.
After seeing that Herring Gull in Ramsgate Harbour I knew that there was another C-R Herring Gull present by the Fuji factory in Pyson's Road. I made the effort to get over to record the ring details and, much to the amusement of that section of factory "lowlifes" who require a nicotine fix to make it through an eight hour shift, did just that! G4FT (click the code) is another bird from the North Thames Gull Project.

Crop full of "Kingsmill" this bird has been present beyond the factory perimeter for a few weeks.
I'm going to stick with this birding side show. Some of these projects have turned up outstanding information about movements of species and, even more importantly, the speed and distances which they are able to travel in very short time periods. I have already posted the links for the Herring Gulls  and will do the same for any other birds I am able to discover. Recovered enough to get out this morning for a session at Iden Lock on The Royal Military, I was on my way before 05.00 hrs. Only because I'd traveled all that way did I bother to stay. It was utter chaos. The water in full flood, carrying loads of colour and associated debris, the icing on the cake provided by the bloody eels! I stubbornly stuck to my task until 09.15 hrs before admitting defeat and heading back homeward. It was not a total waste of time as I recorded two adult Whooper Swans high overhead, heading north, just as I was packing up - result! Now, with time on my side, I thought it might be a good idea to call in at the harbour to look for the Snow Buntings (bloody twitcher!). Nothing doing, didn't even see the Iceland Gull but didn't feel particularly bothered. I was on my way back to the car I stumbled upon a C-R Shag, which was fishing the small channel between the Marina and Outer Harbour. Very active, it required the camera to ensure I recorded the ring details. A quick search through EURING provided the link to the project co-ordinator and, as such, ring details submitted.



Mark Newell will hopefully provide the information associated with this particular individual and I will attach the link when I have received the relevant details. LCJ - (click code for details when they show yellow!)

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Harbour insurance

With Storm Eleanor battering this corner of Kent it seemed like a good idea to have a quick visit to Ramsgate Harbour in order to "tick" the Iceland Gull that remains faithful to the slipway. Sure enough, present and duly added to the fledgling 2018 list. What else could be found? Great Black-backed Gull, Fulmar, Turnstone, Great Crested Grebe and Redshank also made their way onto the tally which has now reached a lowly 52 species. There were Snow Buntings present but, I failed to see them, instead spending some time photographing a C-R Herring Gull.


One of the birds ringed as part of The North Thames Gull Project; LG5.T (click the code)  was behaving impeccably by the harbour office. Back home within the hour - job done!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Off to a steady start

New Year's morning and I was on my way shortly after 05.00 hrs, headed for the same drain as I fished on Christmas Eve. I'd already chosen my swim, whilst still in the car, due to previous sessions and knowing the underwater topography rather intimately. I'd spent quite some time, in early summer, mapping the depths of this particular drain, as it also holds a decent head of carp and this area looked particularly "carpy" due to some nice depth changes close to the far bank. In these murky water conditions, I felt that the same features might harbour a pike, or two? As it turned out, I managed to tempt a couple of fish to pick up my heavily flavoured mackerel tail, which was popped-up a few inches off the bottom. The first bite resulted in a nice, tail walking, pike ending up on the bank; shame it was the same individual that I'd caught on the previous visit, although 4 oz heavier this time. The second chance came to zilch when the fish threw the hooks just as I started to put a bit of pressure on it.


Birds were very much as I expected and totaled 43 species by the time I packed up; a nice start with an imm/female Merlin being the pick of the bunch. Notable absentees included Kingfisher and Redwing. Just three more species have been added since. House Sparrow, Rose-ringed Parakeet and Great Tit - all from the kitchen door!