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!


Tuesday 27 February 2018

Camera practice

The view from kitchen doorway, just after 07.30 hrs was very white! Our back garden looked just as tidy as all of neighbour's for a change. Yes; we'd had some overnight snowfall and there was more forecast, however, nothing like they'd experienced further inland and along the coast. Once again the Thanet micro climate prevailed. Kettle on, out I went to replenish the feeders and sort out the aviary. I required a metal bar to smash the ice on the bird baths before being able to top them up. It's just as important to provide water, as it is food, when conditions are harsh as they are at present. Tasks completed, I made my first coffee of the day and stood by the back door watching the activity around the feeding station.

Relatively quiet until just after 08.00 hrs when the first mob of House Sparrows flew in. After which it was hectic, with birds constantly moving in and out of the garden. Bird of the day came in the shape of a Chiffchaff which very briefly flew up onto the garden fence before disappearing next door. There seemed to be more Great Tits today, joined by a couple of their Blue cousins, visiting the sunflower heart feeder regularly throughout the morning. There were two Robins, which is always a recipe for a scrap, chasing around the feeding station and at least three male Blackbirds, who were far more tolerant of their fellows - food more important than fighting? A motley collection of feral Rock Doves were happy to scratch about beneath the feeders and were joined by a couple of Wood Pigeons for a while.

Robins are Bev's absolute favourite bird - the link with Christmas being a major factor. The sultanas are
for the Blackbirds, although I have seen Dunnocks, Robins and Collared Doves also eating them.

These two stayed for quite a while, pecking around under the feeders.
Plenty of subjects for me to point the long lens at, shame the light was so variable that I was forever changing the camera settings. Still, at least I was doing something other than moaning about the conditions and watching the tele, whilst awaiting the start of my shift. All images were taken through the double glazed kitchen door panel.

Arctic backdoor birding

Well; it's not the end of the civilized world but, there is no denying, it is bloody cold! Thanet is usually immune to these weather systems, not this one! We're shivering along with the rest of the East Coast counties. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that I didn't venture far this morning, just down to my aviary to feed my Java Sparrows and provide some, ice free, water. Once done, I then set about re-filling the feeding station feeders, two with mixed seed, one sunflower hearts and the other with fat-balls. I scattered a handful of raisins & currants under the feeders and returned to the warmth of our bungalow, already aware that there were a few Redwing moving south, overhead.
Activity around the feeding station was constant despite the biting wind and frequent snow showers. The light was appalling, requiring ISO 1600 1/500th sec to secure any image worthy of sharing. House Sparrows continue to dominate the scene, I estimated 50 - 60 birds, but really am unable to be accurate with my counts as birds were constantly moving along the gardens in all directions. Five Blackbirds, two Great Tits, a Robin, three Dunnock and a Wren were more confidently recorded as representative totals. A flurry of Linnets, buzzed along the back hedge and a lone Lapwing flapped slowly into the wind. Something was going on out there, time to grab the camera kit?

The local gulls were restless and vocal, not that there was any raptor movement going on, but I did think that there was an unusual number of Black-headed Gulls about so hatched a plan. Back out into the garden, I smashed the ice on the bird bath and refilled it, before scattering a mix of cubed gamon, shredded ham and bread on the grass between the feeding station and the aviary. I realize that this might sound a little flamboyant but, the truth is far more mundane. It is food that's been in the fridge that's simply passed it's sell-by date. I'd rather feed it to the birds (foxes) than throw it in the bin!

It took a while before the gulls plucked up enough courage to land in the garden, a magpie being the first customer before the Black-headed Gulls gained confidence. Shortly after all hell broke loose as the Herring Gulls arrived, en mass - freebies gone in seconds!

Sunday 25 February 2018

Sunshine birding

For the second morning, on the spin, I had a session with my binoculars and camera looking to fill a few gaps in the year list. I drove across to Government Acre and took a stroll down through The Chine to the Western Undercliff and along the coastal path to Ramsgate Harbour itself. Despite the brilliant sunshine, there was a biting easterly ensuring that I needed to keep well wrapped up. Almost the first bird I saw was a "tick" - an Oystercatcher, well to be honest there were loads of these carrot billed, black and white, tideline foragers spread out along the coastal chalk reef. The sun wasn't particularly helpful, being behind any subjects from my position, so it required a bit of stalking to get a more suitable angle.

A handful of Curlew and Turnstone were about the only other waders to be seen, although I flushed a lone Redshank as I walked out across the rocks. A couple of skeins of Dark-bellied Brents headed along the coast, out of their Pegwell Bay roost? Ever onwards, I walked past the Port entrance and along the roadway beneath the chalk cliffs. I flushed a small passerine from some low roadside vegetation which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a smart little Chiffchaff - nice surprise. The harbour was a bit of an anti-climax, nothing of note to be seen. I spent a while checking the legs of the assembled ranks of the Herring/Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls. Nothing doing, although a fair number of the birds were hunkered down as a result of the stiff breeze.

Female Black Redstart studying the warning notice just before flying off
I started to retrace my steps and had just passed the wind farm offices when I stumbled across a smart female Black Redstart, perched on the wire fence. I managed just two images, neither particularly good, before it flew directly up the cliff and disappeared from view. While I was scanning the surrounding area an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull drifted over and, as a result, provided the fifth year tick of the session - fantastic result for such a short session. It wasn't over yet, as I walked past the Port entrance there was a lone Dark-bellied Brent feeding on the closest bit of reef, completely oblivious to the two dog walkers who were entertaining their charges within a hundred metres. I wandered down onto the sand and grabbed a series of images before continuing on my way back to the car and home beyond.

Dark-bellied Brent on the rocks!

Saturday 24 February 2018

Grove Ferry/Stodmarsh

The weather forecast, for the coming week, reads like the end of the world. Daytime temperatures barely above zero and the night-time lows predicted to be -5C (remember we are on the coast and frost is rare here) with the added threat of snow, possibly heavy and prolonged, courtesy of blasting Easterly winds all the way from Russia! To sit behind a pair of pike rods in such conditions has lost any appeal it may have had in my youth. Getting cold and aggravating my arthritic joints, just to catch another pike, is now one experience I'll happily forgo. Once the cold gets to you any enjoyment is lost, the elements have won, and recognising that fact is one of the, rare, benefits of the aging process. However, I'm not one for sitting around indoors, whatever the weather, and have enough suitable clothing to ensure I can remain warm whilst outdoors, in the most testing conditions, as long as I keep active. I'd said to Bev that I'd probably "take Phil's lens out and do a bit of birding" and, this morning, is exactly what I did. It was getting on for 09.00 hrs when I parked by the Grove Ferry entrance to the reserve and set off to do a clockwise circuit of the whole site. Glorious sunshine, a bitingly cold easterly and the ground, underfoot, frozen solid. I was on site for nearly three hours, seeing eight other people, five of which were dog walkers. One of the most important nature reserves in Kent (the UK?) and deserted. Not that I'm complaining. There is an incredible amount of habitat management being undertaken around the reserve and, as a result, the permitted footpaths are in a bit of a state, very rutted and muddy. Not too much of an issue when the ground is frozen! I had a brilliant morning, adding four species to the year list (Green Sandpiper, Water Pipit (5), Treecreeper and Bearded Tit) plus getting some photos with the newly acquired lens - happy days.

Female Marsh Harrier from the Lampern Wall

Common Buzzard along The Stour

Male Great Spotted Woodpecker along The Stour

Cock Teal from The David Feast Hide

Drake Gadwall from The David Feast Hide - one of our most under-rated wildfowl?
I have so many brilliant memories of time spent around this reserve that, I suppose, cause unrealistic expectations?  What, no Bitterns?

Thursday 22 February 2018

New toys

Ric "Little Richard" Francis (a friend from way back in the Tring Syndicate days - 1980/90's)  passed comment, recently, about jealousy, borne of ignorance, because of money. He offered some very well reasoned thoughts about, how others, perceive relative wealth and resent the increased ability to make choices because of it. Bev and I have always enjoyed a reasonable standard of life, since becoming a couple in June 2000. We already own our bungalow, are able to take at least one foreign holiday a year and drive around in modest, yet tidy, motors without the need for finance. We are enjoying the fruits of our labour. Neither of us smoke or gamble - I like a beer, Bev spoils the grand-kids; it's a simple life. We're doing OK, living the dream that Maggie Thatcher sold to us, ex-council tenants, way back in the late 80's. Basically, we have attempted to live within our budget, worked hard and spent accordingly. We had enough, but never surplus! The settlement of Dad's accounts has changed this beyond anything we've previously experienced. Although "money to burn" doesn't quite fit the scenario, we now find ourselves in a very comfortable place. I continue to work because I enjoy it, should the day dawn and I've had enough? Then I walk away knowing that we'll survive. It's a fantastic feeling and all because of the endeavours of my parents, their God bless them.

Not Bev's motor, but you get the drift? Nice car! (If you like that sort of thing?)
We'd toyed with ideas of moving to Spain, yet the uncertainty of Brexit and Bev's desire to remain close to our grandchildren, has led us to the very obvious conclusion that we are happy where we are. Moving involves expense and "dead money" so the simple option is to modify the dwelling we already own? Plans have now been submitted to Thanet Council and we await their decision/consent. With luck, and a following wind, our builder will be in action within three months, finished in five?

A proper fishing motor? I pick it up on 3rd March minus the roof rack and internal storage units.
All of a sudden we find ourselves able to look beyond our normal scope and explore other options. A new Mazda CX-5 for Bev, ensures we have a vehicle suited to transporting her aging parents and grandchildren alike, so I can now indulge myself and get a van to replace the Mazda 5 MPV which I have ruined by transporting/storing wet fishing tackle - nets, unhooking mats and weigh slings. There are many downsides to getting old - this isn't one of them!

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Calmer, Karma, Chameleon?

Now I'm really scraping the barrel here? Getting in from work, this afternoon, I fired up the laptop and did my usual peruse of the blogland offerings only to discover that there was a new Letter from Sheppey!  Derek had something to moan about, after all! Bloody great. We've never met, but are cyber mates and for that I'm very grateful. Over the years he has offered very reasoned comment upon my, more outrageous, posts and, as such, is a reassuring and calming influence as age advances - he's seven years in front of me!!! (Calmer) My post, of yesterday, elicited a wonderful comment from Lucy, who, again, I have never met but feel I know her through her own blogging, especially that period which focussed around The Boxmoor Trust land in Hemel Hempstead. Despite her own battles with mental health, she found time to make an observation about the generosity of my neighbour and the merit of religious belief, if it works for you? A fantastic recognition of the positive side of humanity and "it's nice to be nice" - "reap what you sow" vibe. (Karma)
So now to the really tricky bit! Bev and I are on holiday (2008) in Icmeler, Turkey, enjoying the magnificent hospitality, weather and experience that the resort has to offer. What a place? What a touch that we have great friends, Robert and Jackie Chaffe, living out there and, as such, guaranteed good company. I had been very fortunate to have discovered many avian "lifers" during my exploration of this magnificent place but there is one memory which, although my only encounter, doesn't quite live up to the feel good theme. Turkish cemeteries are stunning places. Neat and clean, set in the wondrous backdrop of mountains and pine forests. It was no morbid longing that had me fascinated by these sites, but more the fact that they provided habitat for some very special creatures which would be more tolerant of human activity than those I encountered on the wild hillsides. It was an early morning walk, en route to such a venue, that was to see me come to the rescue (?) of a chameleon which was walking, in that stuttering, rocking fore and aft, sort of way, across the main road into Icmeler. Because it was early, there were very few vehicles on the road and I was able to get to the creature very quickly after spotting it. I hadn't realised that they grew so big - this individual was possibly 18 inches long?  Being a caring type of person, I did what I thought was the right thing and picked it up so as to move it, away from any danger, to the side of the road - the little shit bit me! Not a nip, this was the real deal and had the desired effect because I immediately let go and dropped it into the roadside ditch. Grabbing the camera kit, I rattled off a series of images as this wonderful creature continued on it's way, completely indifferent to my efforts or presence.

A reptile with proper attitude problems - sorry I care !

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Warms the cockles!

Ann is our neighbour, just two doors south of us, who is moving away due to external circumstances which have no place in this blog. It was soon after I'd got back from work that she was knocking on our door, a package in hand. Not something dropped off by a courier, oh no! This was a small black rucksack.
Invited in and sat with Bev and I in the living room, cup of tea in hand, we chatted about the forthcoming move and what that entails as she moves forward with her life. Just twelve weeks ago, Ann became a grandmother for the first time and she was full of it. Her late husband, Phil, wanting nothing more for himself. Sadly he passed away never achieving this goal, but Ann is very positive about life and how things happen for a reason. So back to that package! Phil was a keen birder, and it was Ann's wish that the contents of this bag were put to good use, rather than stuck in a cupboard. I think I was expecting a pair of ancient binoculars - not sure? What was revealed beggared belief. There, in this dusty bag, was a spotless Sigma 170 - 500mm (and I mean a fully functional, un-used version), a Sigma 55 - 200mm and Canon 18 - 55mm lens. "Could I use them?" Absolutely gob smacked - why? She told us that Phil would want them used for the purpose he bought them. They were gifted to me, because she hoped that I would be able to put them to good use. She had no idea I owned a Canon camera, yet fate had delivered a brilliant twist thus this outcome. Ann steadfastly refused any monetary settlement, so I offered a donation to The Salvation Army, of which she and Phil were members. Thankfully this gesture was accepted.
I nicked this image from E-bay, so not the lens that Ann has given me.
I really am unable to put into words the gratitude I feel because of this display of generosity. Having experienced the power of devout Christianity, as Mum and Dad left this mortal coil. I am, once again, finding myself asking questions!

Monday 19 February 2018

Iden Lock morning

I've been going nuts, the weather has been all over the place and, as such, my desire to get out with the rods has been tempered by the variable conditions. It'd been twenty-three days since I last cast a baited hook and, man, it was fantastic to get out again. Iden Lock, on the Royal Military Canal, was my chosen venue and involves a 90 minute drive, from Thanet, across the county border into East Sussex. Leaving home, just before 04.30 hrs, the car display registered -2C as I passed through Wingham, Canterbury and Ashford before settling at 0C out on the marsh. Two rods fishing by 06.30 hrs it was a beautiful clear, crisp dawn, the temperature rising steadily as the sun rose. I missed my first chance, just forty minutes in, on a Mackerel tail section, but wasn't overly concerned.

Two Duncan Kay's fitted with Matt Haye's centre-pins. My swim on the RMC at Iden Lock
I finished the session with just one pike, around 6 lbs, from three bites. Dropped baits are a regular feature at this pressurized venue and I will have to work much harder at my bait presentation and bite registration if I am to succeed in my attempt at a double from this section of the canal. Birding, however, was excellent with four additions to my year list in the shape of Raven (2), Stonechat, Yellowhammer and Coal Tit, plus a nice supporting cast of other species. I packed up at 10.30 hrs, very happy with my morning and already making plans for a return visit. With the traditional close season, still applying to this stretch of the canal, I don't have long to make it happen.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Thanks Camo

Alan "Camo" Turner has a small tackle shop, in Ramsgate, which I use regularly to obtain various items of terminal tackle, get a free coffee and stay in the loop with all things local (in angling terms). It is now the hub for all of Thanet's freshwater fishermen/women and a nice place for an exchange of ideas, news and opinions. Alan's an incredibly successful carp angler, with many big fish to his name, and I am very happy to be a supporter of his business venture which is quite a gamble in these times of Internet tackle suppliers.
He e mailed me, today, asking if it was OK to use a couple of my photos, one of me and one of Benno, in his advertising at The Big One; a massive tackle show at Farnborough 24th & 25th March 2018? His request was just common courtesy but, completely, unnecessary such is our friendship.

It's rather flattering when you see yourself in the media, under these type of circumstances, so I must be doing something right? It's been a lot of years since I courted such exposure, deliberately, and I'm pleased that it is now to promote someone else's endeavours rather than any egotistical self aggrandisement!

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Getting heavy

What to do?  Enthusiasm is at a very low ebb, weather patterns, cold conditions and lethargy rule my thoughts as I attempt to make it through my daily routine. The rods propped, redundant, against the study wall, my gear is stowed away, bait in the freezer, all awaiting an upward change in temperatures and daylight hours. Plenty of ideas for the future, but what about now? I'm really struggling to do much beyond going to work - now that has to be sad! Or is it?

Bev and I are now in a very comfortable position, financially, and have been able to do things which were unthinkable before the passing of my Father, my inheritance being a life changing sum. Bev's Hyundai IX20  has morphed into a Mazda CX-5 SUV and my Mazda 5 MPV will soon be replaced by a VW Caddy, so far more suited for transporting smelly fishing tackle. Why? Because we can! At present we've got an architect submitting plans, to Thanet Council, for an extension and a builder awaiting instructions to "do a job" restructuring the interior of our bungalow. Exciting times for us, means Jack Shit to anyone else. It's not about boasting, it is a reflection of how the hard work of my parents has given us an opportunity to do the same for our children, when the time comes. These are the core values that hold my family together and make it a very strong entity. I reckon I've got another four years before I pack it in. A very pleasant situation when I go to work because I want to, not because I have to - and man, does that piss some people off?  All the more reason to keep at it; every penny earned is ours, to do with as we wish. Jealousy is a powerful poison and, sadly, manifests itself in many guises as workmates (not friends) make snide comment upon my continued presence in the factory. I really don't care what they'd do; I'm me and will make my own decisions.

"Money is the root of all evil" and I firmly agree with this sentiment, having witnessed, first hand, the catastrophic fall-out between family members when St. Faith's at Ash was up for sale. My brothers and I have agreed that such events will never beset our relationship and have placed family values far above the dollar as a result. Maybe it's an easy thing to say when all three of us are "comfortable"?
Greed is a major player in modern society; a feast is never enough, I want more! Want, a massive word when compared to need and completely at odds with the Christian teachings we were influenced by as we grew up within the family unit. Mum & Dad devout, Tim, Sye and myself, didn't buy in - yet have no reason to question the power of faith or the comfort derived from religious belief. I've enjoyed some very "deep" exchanges with religious folk, of many doctrines, over the years, yet have never been inspired by their "God Squad" message or that fairy tale book of rules, they call the Bible! It's not that I don't want to believe in an after life, just can't align myself to this ridiculous tale of "Chinese Whispers" that subsequent translations has produced as the years progressed and the story evolved. Interfaith intolerance, completely at odds with any teachings each religion is based upon, has caused bloodshed and misery over the centuries, only matched by the quest for power, thus wealth, yet it continues to this very day because humanity is incapable of learning the lessons from our past. If you've made it this far, I'm very sorry for the "off piste" subject matter and the heavy moral vibe - it's just where my head's at during this period of crap weather. Note to self - you're getting more like Derek Faulkner by the day, snap out of it! Letters from Dumpton?
It does have quite a nice ring, so I'll keep my powder dry and see where it leads. Toodle-pip - Dyl

Saturday 10 February 2018

Sunshine (memories) on a rainy day

I don't know when I'll next get out, such is the influence that current, unsettled, and very variable weather, conditions are having on the local fisheries. Cold does nothing to assist arthritis, my hands less able to do simple things, than during warmer weather. To be perfectly honest I no longer enjoy pushing myself, in inclement weather, when it is a problem to do the things which I used to take for granted. Let's get this right, I'm certainly not incapable of using my hands, when it's cold, but I do struggle with my grip, which can be a problem when unhooking pike and/or packing my kit away. If I don't enjoy it, then why do it? Rain is falling, driven on by 40 mph southerly gales, and I find myself looking at old photos; reliving moments when the sun shone brightly from a Mediterranean sky. These images will mean very little to others, yet they make me smile, feel warm, and recall memories of great times in fantastic company - a glass of Mythos close to hand.

This damselfly is a complete mystery. The smallest example of this family that I've ever seen.

All of these images were taken, in September 2017, whilst we were enjoying our Kefalonian holiday. Very happy days!

Sunday 4 February 2018

Carping - that spark?

The weather is awful and I've been spending my time sorting out the tackle in preparation for the next chapter of my split cane caper. Korda have just released their 2018 series of Masterclass videos on Youtube and I have to admit that there is a lot of useable advice amidst the blatant marketing blurb. So a positive review and thumbs up from me! One of the good bits about Youtube is the associated links that are shown whenever you click an offering. Generally they are of a similar nature and I have found myself wandering off at many strange tangents because of this. One particular thread has taken me along the "Catch of a Lifetime" avenue. Typically the carp anglers, well it is on Carp TV, under the spotlight, choose their biggest fish but, one, Adam Penning , was far more honest about the fish that shaped his own angling journey and recalled the extraordinary effort which was required to catch his first "twenty". Although published over five years ago, I found it superbly refreshing amidst the current crop of, clone-like, dross that is a portrayal of modern carp fishing.
I'd called in at Camo's Carp Cabin, yesterday, to purchase a new Petzl head torch and found myself involved in a conversation about the kit available today and how it is deemed a must have? I own very few items of "carping bling" because they don't catch fish - just anglers! I happily concede that modern technology has advanced our ability to produce terminal tackle, beyond anything I could have, possibly, imagined back in the 1980's. Shouldn't be too much of a surprise that I use everything at my disposal to enhance my chances of catching fish. The rest of the tat is all about impressing the neighbours, not catching fish! So, funnily enough, I don't need it. My tackle is perfectly functional, without being covered with brand labels because I might look like a noddy without them. Face - bothered?
So, as a direct result of this activity, found myself thinking back to when, and how, I caught my first twenty pound carp? July 5th 1983 saw Paul Elbourn and myself spending an afternoon session on a tiny pond called Bridego, just outside Cheddington, Bucks. The London to Glasgow train line running directly beside the pool at the exact point where Ronnie Biggs, and co, staged The Great Train Robbery almost twenty years previously in August 1963.

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That fateful day, 8th August 1963, the mail train on the bridge beside Bridego Pond. 
The venue already had a place in history and, much to my enjoyment, I was able to add further to the notoriority by capturing my very first twenty pound carp there. It was a blazingly hot afternoon and Elb's & I were doing our best to tempt a carp to take our surface baits. The pool is very small and much of the surface, then, covered with lily-pads. I think that we had both had fish, but my diary notes are fairly skewed, due to the fact that I added over ten pounds to my PB carp!

21 lbs 10 oz - Bridego Pond, Bucks. July 1983 and the fish that kick started my carp fishing adventure.
Using a Gerry Savage, stepped-up, Carp Rod (so probably 1.75 lbs t/c) 12 lbs b.s. Maxima line, a size 4 Partridge Z2 hook and some red "Floating Slyme" by Duncan Kay I managed to tempt this magnificent mirror carp, very pre-historic looking, to slurp down my bait and, as a result, grace the folds of my landing net. I offer no excuses for the hair do - just to say that Kevin Keegan has a lot to answer for!