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 22 May 2018

Greenfinch overdose

Something very strange is happening around the garden feeding station. Since that first female was seen, on May 9th, Greenfinches have been almost daily visitors. At least five different individuals, based upon the plumage and condition of their feet. Four males, yet there is no sign of nesting activity anywhere around Newlands. I am now wondering if I'd fed sunflower hearts instead of mixed seed, over the winter period, if I would have attracted more of these finches? Whatever the answer, it will be sunflower hearts all the way, going forward. With my long lens ever present, I have managed to grab a few shots, in varying light levels, of these welcome visitors. Taking down the blinds in the conservatory means that I'm now able to get within four/five metres of the birds without any disturbance and take my photos through the double glazed windows.

House Sparrows continue to dominate the feeders, but a couple of pairs of Goldfinches and Great Tits are also taking advantage of the food source as is the Rose-ringed Parakeet. All good stuff. Saturday afternoon was spent sorting through masses of junk, out in the garden, and coincided with a decent raptor movement. Two Red Kites and fourteen Common Buzzards moved N/NW over the garden and were a welcome bonus before that pitiful excuse for a football match kicked off.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Nice twist

I hadn't got any particles prepared, so was taken by surprise when the opportunity to go fishing suddenly arose. Scratching around the bait cupboard I managed to assemble a couple of tins of sweetcorn, some flaked tuna and some krill carp crumb. It would have to do, because there was nothing else! Kit already in the van, I drove across to Marshside in brilliant sunshine, just happy to be out. I pulled up and did a lap of Homersham Lake, but wasn't overly impressed, so continued on to Scroggins where the only angler on the venue was just packing up. I'd got the place to myself, and so it remained for my entire session. Two rods out, fishing to marginal features, with a stiff ENE breeze pushing into my swim. In spite of the wonderful sunshine, sat on my chair it was rather chilly and I grabbed a couple more layers from the van to allow me to keep warm.
Nothing happened to trouble my bite alarms and, eventually, after three hours, I decided to reposition the baits into open water where a few carp had shown. I cast out the rods, hoping that a carp might stray across my single offerings. There was a bit of activity in the marginal reed beds and I threw out a couple of handfuls of dog biscuits amongst the stems to see what was causing the commotion. Almost immediately a bright orange Koi appeared and started taking the floating biscuits. Only six or seven pounds, but still better than the bottom baits had provided, so time for a change of tactics. Back down to the van I grabbed my sawn-off Mk IV and spare Mitchell 300 loaded with 12 lbs b.s. line. I tied on a size 8 Fang Twister and baited up with a scuffed up 14mm pop-up. Twice, in a few minutes, I had carp suck in the offering, yet I missed them both. I was headed for a blank. Whilst I was stood up, I saw the Koi swimming at the edge of the reeds, sucking down debris from the floating scum that the wind had pushed in. Time for a move and quickly my little offering was bobbing about amidst a raft of floating reeds and then it was gone and I bent into an incredibly powerful fish. Game on, I couldn't give it an inch and had to bully it away from the snags and play it in the open water, avoiding the two lines that were still fishing. Probably five minutes had elapsed, and it clearly wasn't that Koi, when I got my first glimpse of the fish and immediately knew it was a bit special. A couple of minutes later and into the net it went - bloody hell, it's a "twenty"!
With no-one else around, I had to set up the camera for a few self-takes and hope that I'd do the fish justice. It looked magnificent in the late evening sunshine and I felt very pleased with myself for making something happen rather than sitting behind the alarms just hoping. Job done, I happily packed up and headed home. Days like these don't happen that often and I wanted to enjoy the moment. I couldn't blog about it, however, because I'd placed all my card readers and cables in storage. Dumb schmuck! I was down Poundland, just after it opened, in order to get another SD card reader and transfer the images from my camera to the laptop. I called in a Camo's to tell him the tale and scrounge a cup of coffee, before coming back to go through the process and write this post. I think the majority of pleasure anglers would agree that it is a superb fish, especially as it's my first double from the fishery!

A cracking result of opportunism - 20 lbs 7 oz of total joy

With all the upheaval of our current building project, I'm not too sure when I'll next get out but will remain content with my lot as this fish didn't figure in any of my plans for 2018. Happy days.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Lost treasure - old photos!

That box of old slides has provided me with some great, nostalgic, recollections of the crazy days of big fish chasing and the superb company I enjoyed whilst on my adventures. I actually think it was a slideshow compilation that I had assembled for a NASA Regional talk, somewhere or other. It doesn't matter about such trivia, what is enjoyable about the event is that I'm looking back at images I've not seen for about thirty years. Not sure if it would have happened if we hadn't got the builders in? The slides are a little dusty and my equipment is not the best, but I've copied a few photos to share with anyone interested. I hope you are able to empathise with my situation and share the enjoyment of these long lost memories?

A Rudd-like hybrid from Wilstone

Some, fresh-faced, young Essex Boy on the banks of Wilstone.
I wonder whatever became of him?

Cuddles and Baz Adams on the Sixteen Foot Drain - an iconic image from my Kodak years.
I was made up when I discovered this image in my slides and wanted to share my joy with the
technical team, who resided in the offices above the warehouse. I was told that "to get better
exposure, of my subjects, we should have been fishing on the opposite bank!"
Some people just don't get it

Still my PB Zander - Three Holes, September 1987 (?)  My diaries are in storage, so I can't check it up.

Wilstone sun-set - pike fishing from the pier

Monday 14 May 2018

Chaos on the horizon and a few gems

It seems like an eternity has passed since we submitted our plans to Thanet Council for their approval. Our builder has finally been given the green light and the transformation project begins within the next fortnight. Bathroom and kitchen have been designed and purchased from our chosen suppliers and now all that is left is for Bev & I to clear the rooms, and loft space, in order for Kevin and the gang to do their stuff. I'm sort of excited, but admit that carnage before creation fills me with dread. It would appear that the bungalow will be uninhabitable for a short while as the bathroom is relocated. I've still got to go to work and, hopefully, remain on an even keel? I'll readily admit that I don't do stress very well - and this period has all the ingredients to provide bucket loads of the stuff. However, every cloud - as they say, I have made inroads into the loft clearance and discovered some long forgotten treasures as a consequence. A box of slides, some old diaries, which include the (rejected) September 28th 1999 Booted Eagle notes and field sketches, plus many other items which are able to transport me (& Bev) back to earlier times in our lives.

In 1999; being called a liar (for that is what the rejection of this sighting amounts to)
I was totally dejected. Birding politics having far more impact than any other
factor in this debate. The Kent vs Norfolk stuff was constantly in the background
and, as such, when Millington put together his chronological Booted Eagle
sightings, this imacculate juvenile was lumped with all the others despite being obviously
a separate individual and put into Room 101. Important? Not any more - it's on my Kent list!
BBRC - who are they and what part do they play in my birding? Zilch - I'm able to make my
own decisions without assistance from "job's worth" committee members!
This afternoon, I've been emptying my book shelves, packing away some incredibly old publications dating back to 1896 - Lloyd's Natural History, 14 volumes, leather bound, that allow an insight into the unravelling of our natural world as travel became more available. One of my absolute treasures is the five volumes of the 1963 version of "The Handbook" which still remains a viable id resource in 2018. Obviously knowledge has moved on, but this landmark publication still has much to offer the general field birdwatcher.
It can be of no surprise that my angling has, once again, become a casualty of the situation. I will get back out once the prep work has been completed and our lives return to some form of normality, although that is a very difficult concept to grasp in a Wrathall household!! With so much change in the offing, it is comforting to know that I have holidays already booked (and paid for) which will allow escape from reality during this period of upheaval. Guess what? There'll be Booted Eagle on my 2018 year list - that's a certainty! And it won't require a rarities panel to decide if it's acceptable either.

Friday 11 May 2018

Keep coming

It was whilst I was an employee of Batchelor's (The Unilever owned version) at the soup mine in Ashford, fantastic memories of very happy days with an outstanding group of guys and gals, that I first became aware of this new fangled internet/worldwide web stuff. One particular website stood out as a beacon of what this information technology meant to the ordinary guy. The ability to voice opinions, without fear of censorship, directly into cyberspace. Nothing to do with pornography, racism, politics or religion, the "Birds of a Cheshire Garden" was a labour of love by a guy who's ill-health meant that his garden was the limit of his mobility. Sadly, I cannot find any reference to this pioneering enterprise, thus am unable to give full credit to the visionary individual who's efforts were, in all but name, a blog; long before Google ever got involved. There was one post (diary entry?) which remains in my memory, the day when he had a Mediterranean Gull fly over his tiny "patch". The words were written with such passion that it left you in no doubt as to the impact this particular encounter had. Grammar and spelling mean jack shit - the ability to purvey the intensity of a moment being the whole point of communication, done with aplomb on that occasion and has stayed with me ever since. Why am I recalling this tale?  Today it happened to me, but not a silly Med Gull, even more bizarre, a bloody male Greenfinch! I know that I'll see Med Gulls around Newlands Farm, particularly during the autumn migration period, Greenfinches have disappeared off the radar so to have two, in two days, is mental.

An incredibly frustrating set of encounters, the bird was singing at one point, and had made a fleeting visit to the feeders, but no photo obtained. Two, very photogenic, Goldfinches dropped down, El Gringo joined them, but remained hidden in the shade. Three hours after my initial sighting, I was almost ready to leave for work, when it landed, in full sunlight on the feeders, Bev loading the washing machine between me and the camera! Chaos ensued as I grabbed two shots, through the double glazed backdoor panel, before it spooked and I needed to leave for the afternoon shift. Result and much basking in smug fulfilment - job's a good'n. Not that I knew that until I got back home after my shift. A Sparrowhawk, over, being the only other notable sighting during a rather eventful morning.
The reason for my adrenaline rush - a male Greenfinch. Sadly showing the tell tale signs of the
trichinosis infection that has decimated the species over the past decade - his feet ain't good! 

Eyes to the skies - the patch watchers "sea watching" ( as recently defined by Steve Gale and I ain't arguing ) 

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Green the new Gold?

I have altered the feeding station, very slightly, and have decided to feed with fat-balls and sunflower hearts only. The local House Sparrows and Starlings are perfectly OK with this strategy; the only birds which are directly affected are the feral Pigeons that were attracted to the spilled seed of my regular garden feeder mix. Coffee and camera to hand, I was enjoying the early morning sunshine, stood at the back door when I heard the unmistakable call of a Greenfinch - game on! I was on coffee number two when a pair of Goldfinches dropped down onto the feeding station allowing me my first photo opportunity of the morning. They stayed a few minutes, alternating between feeders and the bird bath, before heading off across the fields towards Broadstairs. Then it happened, a flashing yellow/green rump and there she was, a female Greenfinch on the feeders. Camera in overdrive, I clicked away merrily, in order to obtain a decent record of this momentous occurrence, the first garden record for over a year! How sad is that?

After she had departed, in much the same direction as the Goldfinches, I was looking at the images on the back of the camera when a Rose-ringed Parakeet dropped in. Absolutely glowing in the brilliant sunshine, I couldn't help myself. They might be invasive aliens, but they are sure impressive when seen close up.

Monday 7 May 2018

A Bank Holiday weekend to savour

Wow! A bank holiday weekend and the weather has been spectacular and, for once, for all the right reasons. It appears that the entire UK has been blessed with some incredible sunshine and associated high temperatures. Me? I've had a blast. Bev went away to Cornwall, with her brother and parents, and I didn't! I spent the entire period fishing and birding - bloody good plan, if you ask me. 
As nice as it is to have blazing sunshine, clear skies overnight can produce some dramatic temperature variation and, with no chance of cloud cover, I didn't feel confident at tackling the Royal Military Canal. I wimped out and had four sessions (three evenings and a full day, today) playing around with bait presentations and bite indication, at Scroggin's Lake - Marshside Fishery.

I caught on all visits, although the carp had started to spawn today thus my only action came from snotty little bream. Six scamps, over the previous three sessions,  provided some proof that my tactics are viable, nothing bigger than 8 lbs though. I'm very impressed with the Nash Siren R3 alarms, unbelievably sensitive, and also the Korda Krusha. I'm rapidly turning into a tackle tart! So, in order to off-set any concerns, I have also had a play around with "Jasper & Sid", my wasp indicators, and they are now transformed into, unique, wind beating, swingers - well off the, carp clone, fashionista radar.

I've also managed to add four more year ticks, to my ever growing list. Common Tern, Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler are very much expected. However, I fluked upon a Long-eared Owl, whilst walking around East Blean Woods in the continuing quest for Nightingale; and I'll take that all day long. With the sun such a dominant factor, I carried my camera kit for much of the time and got a few shots to accompany this post.

I also had the good fortune to bump into John Cantello, whilst at Stodmarsh, and enjoyed an hour, or so, in his company. Despite the deteriorating health of his beloved wife, Liz, he's keeping himself busy and attempting to put a positive slant on the situation - I wish him well as he moves forward.

Thursday 3 May 2018

A chat in Camo's

With the bank holiday weekend approaching, rapidly, I needed to get across to Newington to purchase some "party mix" from Cathy Newbury, at Maxim's pet shop. Four kilos (dry weight) = £3.60 and I'm free to add whatever I wish, prior to a session in the slow cooker. I'd finished my shift at 14.00 hrs and had already been down to Camo's where I was able to talk through a bait flavour, and approach, which is highly unlikely to be replicated, accidently, by other carp anglers along the RMC. A Korda "Krusha" was an item which I feel will assist with my bait presentation and Camo had no problem taking my cash in exchange for such an item. There were several other customers, in the shop, and it was a good atmosphere as banter pulsated between us. I did ask Camo if he'd ever caught any big fish? His best is over 1,100 lbs smaller than mine! Call that a big fish? - bait is what we call it! Only mates can get away with this level of disrespect - outsiders would find it quite offensive, which is exactly why they're on the outside! A great vibe and why I support his business venture; which is an incredibly brave gamble in these cyber-net times of e-shopping. £30 lighter, I left the premises, clutching a few items which will be soon pressed into service.

Alan "Camo" Turner cradles a carp of 51 lbs - that the best you've got? How very parochial!!
I'm really looking forward to the challenges of the new season, the RMC being where I feel most confident of catching that carp but, I can't ignore the unexplored drains so, am not putting all my efforts into the one venue. Camo has been extremely generous with his advice and I feel confident that a positive result will be possible because of this input. Best bit is that he's always there should I seek further assistance. He might not have caught a "Grander" but he does know his way around a carp puddle.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Year ticking

The ancient carp kit is being sorted out, the coming weekend will see my first serious effort of 2018. The bait issue still to be resolved, although Camo has offered some assistance and we will be having a chat tomorrow, or Thursday, about finding that edge I so desire. If anyone can help, then Camo's the man. Still to purchase a set of Cygnet baiting poles, won't be long, and I'm already thinking about getting a receiver for the Siren R3's. Particles are already purchased, awaiting a mix up and session in the slow cooker, the chick peas soaking in curry sauce, whilst some Key boilies are air drying. That's as much as I'm prepared to say about my approach, although it's hardly the dawn of a new era!
It was that "Golden Eagle" moment that has had the most impact on my outlook to my year listing effort. I wanted to list 300 species in 2018, now I'm totally committed to making this happen. Don't forget that I have two more planned holidays and my lists recognise the same boundaries as the birds I seek.

The best I could manage today. There were a couple of males "purring" around the site, neither of which
were particularly happy to pose for a photo.
It was adding Nightingale that was on my radar, as I drove down to Minster Marshes, yet not a peep from this magnificent songster. Three more ticks appeared in the form of Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat and Turtle Dove. It might have, also, been possible to add Lesser Whitethroat and/or Garden Warbler but not today. I am hopeful of a visit to Oare Marshes, before the end of the week. There are several "gimmees" around this superb KWT Reserve at present, according to the KOS recent sightings pages