Who am I?

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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!

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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Time for a rethink - me thinks!

I don't know how obvious it is to regular visitors of this blog, but the current building project is really getting me down as it continues to impact on my ability to establish anything close to my normal routine. True, we already have a fully functional bathroom and the kitchen/diner is taking shape by the day. With luck it will be ready for decorating within the next fortnight? The extension, the room that is going to be my study, still awaits the footings to be put down due to the demands of the building inspectorate. Kevin and Andy have spent much of today getting a steel framework in place in preparation for the concrete base being laid. Fortunately it passed the inspection first time round and the brickies should be able to get started next week? All done by the start of September? It's a nice thought, although I'm not planning on holding my breath!
With nothing to show for three sessions, over the weekend, I am seriously beginning to consider a change of tack until the building work has been completed and I'm, once again, able to prepare any bait, as required, rather than simply using what's available in the freezer. I need to catch a few fish, of whatever species, just to feel a rod bending again. I've got until Friday to hatch a plan, as I'm currently on lates, thus have ample time to assess my options. As important as my desire to catch that carp is, at a very personal level, I really don't have the mind-set, or drive, to pursue an individual target fish, without a full armoury of tactics, and bait, at my disposal whilst my free time is so limited. On the plus side, however, was the sighting of my first ever Southern Migrant Hawker, patrolling a "Levels" drain. What a superb dragonfly with its' stunningly intense colouration and those gleaming blue eyes, a very pleasing, self-found, distraction from my angling short comings.
Beavers continue to entertain, in an irritating sort of way.

Not the greatest image, yet it does show the size and width of that infamous tail.
The novelty wears a little thin when one wipes out a carefully set rod at 03.00 hrs and smashes the surface with all the impact of a cow falling into the drain; that flattened tail is something else! It couldn't be any worse if someone threw a paving slab into my swim; every fish in the drain is aware of my presence after such an event.

Birding has been, very much, on the back burner since we returned from Mallorca, so the decent movement of Swifts, early on Sunday morning, was a nice reminder that Autumn is not too far away and the doldrums of Summer are soon to be over. My year list is nudging 200 species, following the holiday, but a long way short of my target of 300. Maybe I should go birding whilst the building work impacts upon my angling, in an attempt to fill a few gaps on the spreadsheet?  Not a chance, I've been there, seen it and won first prize - never again. If I am to record 300 species, it will because I have travelled widely and been very fortunate in my encounters with the avian inhabitants of these holiday destinations.

Speckled Wood - the Mallorcan version
Butterflies have always provided peripheral interest, whatever else I was focused on. The southern form of Speckled Wood was a pleasant addition to my list, although obviously overlooked during earlier holidays around this region?  2018's most intriguing sightings of these insects, thus far, have, however, both been out on the marshes, this summer, with a Grayling along a farm track, near to where I'd photographed that Stoat, and Fritillary sp. feeding on Blackberry flowers out on the "Levels". Moth trapping hasn't even entered the 2018 equation, although the gear is still to hand and will be pressed into service once the grand-kids need a project for school holidays. I remember that thrill when I first discovered moths, and the kindred spirits who fanned the flames way back in the early/mid 1990's.  Back then it was all about Macros and the species contained within the bible, that was the original Skinner. Micros were all science and gen. det. stuff, so ignored by the majority and thus off the radar. It was Francis Solly who first made me aware of this group and the fascinating challenge they offer. I can't recall my exact reply but "F*CK OFF FRANNIE" might have been close, when he showed me a Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner for the first time. I've long since mellowed and would probably say go away should he attempt to interest me today? The seeds were sown, however, and now even these insects are able to provide distraction whilst I'm outdoors. I would think that modern digital photography has made as much impact upon my own involvement as anything else. Being able to get up close and personal with such tiny creatures opens a whole new arena for discovery - just how far do you want to go?


Saturday, 28 July 2018

On the road again

Time is a very precious commodity and this becomes more apparent as the aging process unravels. I find it hard to believe that Dad passed away two years ago, 02.08.16, and I'd said to Benno, at the funeral service, each one that you attend takes you one step closer to the front of the queue! It's a very sobering thought that the road in front is far shorter than the one behind. Hey ho - it's reality and something that everyone has to confront. Oh the joys of getting old! Am I any wiser; or do I live for the moment and take each day as it comes?
At 09.00 hrs, on Thursday, I had my annual company medical. That Fuji are happy to provide such check-ups has more to do with insurance (me driving fork lifts) than any concern for my well-being. However, I am very grateful for this provision as it was the company doctor that diagnosed my arthritis and ensured my duties were adjusted in order to manage this ailment. Joy of joys - I'm now also suffering from sciatica, my right leg completely numb and lower back a constant nagging pain. Whoopee - doo! The poor girl, charged with my medical assessment, didn't stand a chance! She is a technician, a computer operator, who does what the system tells her. She logged in and immediately asked for my phone number. "You what?" Why do you need my number? "If you have any health problems we'll be able to contact you" "FUCK OFF! - If I have health problems I'll seek medical advice, not a computer operator" She was seamless - OK, I understand - do you have an E-mail address? Bloody priceless if it wasn't for real. A medical conducted by computer - there are many advantages to this digital revolution - medical diagnosis ain't part of it. From my tone you'll understand that this process didn't proceed very smoothly - but I passed the company MOT and will still be able to use the fork lifts, and other machinery, for another year. It's a fantastic place to be when I go to work because I want to and not have to. Both my supervisors are in no doubt that my resignation letter will be two fingers and I ain't coming back! Don't like it - what's the alternative? If ever the day dawns and I no longer feel enthused about going into the factory then I'll walk away - easy as that. All being well, it will be December 2021 when I call it a day and, Fuji will have to put up with this cantankerous old git until I've had enough?
Out fishing tonight, got wasted yesterday in the thunderstorms, but have a 36 hour window in which to catch a carp. The change in the weather will be a positive, am I able to make the best of it? Time will tell - Dyl

Thursday, 26 July 2018

It's just stuff - an opinion

Brexit has proven to be a complete farce, the political system thrown into disarray because first past the post democracy no longer holds sway, The political/educationally superior inhabitants, of this sceptred isle, unable to accept that they got beat in a two horse race? Weird, they wouldn't be so vociferous if the result had been different. What I'm having a real problem with is the issues which no-one, who voted leave, were ever asked to take into consideration. I will only voice my own opinions, thus may not be representative of many other leave voters. I was asked if I wished to reinstate our border controls and judicial system? My vote was cast with this foremost in my thinking. Three generations of Wrathalls have lost members, fighting to prevent German domination of Europe. They died, successfully defending this situation. "A Land fit for Heroes" is what they were promised for their sacrifice. Successive governments, of whatever persuasion, have sold them down the river until we reach 2016 and the electorate, once again, have the opportunity to let these lame brained, self-serving, elitists know what is happening at street level. SHOCK/HORROR! The, then, political leader jumps ship, pension fund well sorted, and leaves some poor soul (Mrs May) to attempt to pick up the pieces and deliver on a promise that was never meant.
I saw that Gary Lineker has added his support for a second vote - oh well that'll make all the difference to my Uncle Joe - a WW1 veteran. As I recall we joined "The Common Market" - not the Federal Republic of German controlled Europe! That an un prosecuted, war, criminal is also able to voice similar opinions, contra to the majority vote, demonstrates the complete lack of reality in the corridors of power. If all the cards had been laid on the table, when we were asked to vote, then I feel that there might have been a different outcome. They weren't and this is where we're at. The UK is a great place, in or out of the EU, I work for a Japanese company; we export 85% of everything we produce. The countries of the world depend on each other, it no longer matters about politicians and their stupid egos. The digital revolution has ensured that trade will continue, whatever the political situation, via the wonders of the world wide web. Brexit might ensure that we re-find our identity, as an island race, but the cyber system will ensure that global business interaction will continue - whatever the politicians tell us. China, Russia, America, Asia, Africa, Europe and our entire planet depends on the efforts of others to maintain normality and equilibrium. We're not in the EU! - Yah Boo Sucks!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Wiped out - big time!

Back out for another session on the Levels but, this time, I carried the long lens set-up as well as the usual kit. Arriving around 18.00 hrs, I was able to spend a while preparing my spots and ensuring the rigs were placed exactly as I wanted. Not one carp was seen during my entire stay! I remained on the bank until 22.30 hrs, packing up after a one toner caused by my marshland nemesis - a beaver swimming straight through my left-hand line. This project is hard enough without this sideshow. Time for a rethink I feel.

Plenty of juvenile Sedge, & Reed, Warblers around the waterside reeds. 
I had already spent quite a while getting some images of these creatures with my Canon gear, two of which I am happy to share. I had to resort to ISO 1600/ 1/400th sec with the resultant grainy effect but they're certainly better than anything I've previously managed.


Two of the youngsters, seen this evening, so close that I couldn't get the whole creature in the frame - even with the lens reduced to 170 mm!

Friday, 20 July 2018

Effort equals success - hopefully

I finished my shift at 20.00 hrs and, instead of heading homewards, drove down to the "Levels" to introduce a few handfuls of bait into a couple of swims that I'm favouring, at present. I spooked a decent fish off my first spot, as I arrived, and had fish on my second spot within five minutes of getting my bait in the water. I had taken the absolute bare essentials and managed to get a couple of rods cast, although the rapidly fading light did little to assist my efforts and I wasn't very confident that my presentation was as good as should have been. I gave it 90 minutes before calling it a day and packing up. I'll be back, with far more time, tomorrow.
I hadn't even got to my chosen spots when I encountered my first Beaver of the evening. Luckily it was still light enough for some token images, using the Finepix S, but my results are nothing more than average. I ended my session having seen five, possibly six?, individuals, three/four youngsters and two adults (one of which was in a different drain as I walked off) It's a crazy situation! I only saw my first Hedgehog, of 2018, yesterday night yet have seen Beavers (or signs of Beavers) on every visit to the East Kent Marshes, since June 16th.


Thursday, 19 July 2018

Probably the only one singing from this hymn sheet?

I have no idea what year it was, that I attended a Herts Bird Club "conference (?)" in Wheathampstead, where Roy Dennis was the guest speaker.  His enthusiasm for reintroductions of our lost wild life was infectious and I remember driving back to Kent thinking that I'd been privileged to have been there. What I do recall is that it was on the back of breeding Eagle Owls at a remote location, controlled by the military, and the fantastic documentary tv program that had been a direct result of this situation. Roy's visionary stance was delivered with such aplomb to the audience present in the venue, the Rutland Osprey Project following the same spectacular route as the previous Chiltern Red Kite pilot scheme. The man had the greatest sales pitch I've ever heard - I'll have a bowl full of that, and some more, if you don't mind! So far, so good - I was full on birding at this time and cared little about other aspects of wildlife or ecological backlash.

Let's fast forward to 2018 and now I am not so sure that Roy had thought his ideas through quite as carefully as required. The ever growing population, of our already crowded isle, and the impact that mankind make upon natural resources means that turning back clocks is a very unrealistic aspiration. My birding is now very much a secondary pursuit, as are moths, butterflies and umpteen other aspects of natural history enjoyment. Today  I'd like to be perceived as an angler who is able to see beyond the limitations, of a very myopic hobby, but a fisherman none the less. A countryman with experience of many aspects of enjoying what is awaiting discovery by anyone with the desire to push boundaries and take a look for themselves.

I can't align myself with angling's problem with Otters. They are 100% native creatures to our UK ecosystems and have enjoyed a resurgence of distribution based upon the ilegal spread of a species which had very limited distribution prior to covert introductions. Barbel are the key to modern Otter success, they belong in five, not eighty two, river systems. All the while our modern water suppliers are using, dilution to solve pollution, tactics which have resulted in a decimated eel population in all of our major river systems. Otters eat eels, end of! Only when there ain't any do they change their diet, barbel fit the bill perfectly, as do carp - both species capable of survival in semi-polluted waterways, whilst eels have long since succumbed. Can there be any surprise that Carp and Barbel are now the two most popular species with the UK's anglers?  Water providers are under no pressure to return our waterways to their previous biodiversity, due to the dominance of the carp industry, within UK angling, and the rise of social media influence upon the the "ordinary guy" Big carp and barbel available to all, except Otters? If our waterways contained all the species that they did, whilst I was growing up, the Otters wouldn't be preying on these two species. Oh yeah, that would involve the water providers actually cleaning up their pitiful efforts at effluent treatment - not going to happen all the while these two species dominate anglers attention.

So I'm out in the wilds of East Kent chasing a species that was brought to our shores by the Romans. English as "fish & chips" but still an alien introduction by definition. Then a bloody Beaver wipes out one of my rods, swimming through the carefully prepared line set-up. F**king things! Roy Dennis (or his organisation) will have been involved in the reintroduction of these creatures. I say introduction, what has happened is the result of piss poor management by KWT, at Ham Fen, and the ease by which these large animals are able to escape the compounds in which this experiment was being conducted. When a Beaver passes, it isn't a Water Vole - you've just seen a Labrador go through your swim; they're bloody massive creatures. Beavers are now widespread across the whole of East Kent, despite the denial of various authorities, who have alternative agendas?

So what's next? Lynx, Wild Boar (we've already got them in King's Wood!), European Bison, Brown Bear or Wolf?  Roy Dennis, as infectious as his enthusiasm was, has an awful lot to answer for - we're running out of space for humans; where are these creatures supposed to fit in?


Monday, 16 July 2018

Surprise encounter

I was walking off the Levels, down a lonely farm track, when my attention was grabbed by a small creature bounding along the path in front of me. My initial reaction was "what's a bloody squirrel doing out here?" but, raising my binoculars allowed me to get a proper id, it was a Stoat. How wrong could I be with a gut feel? Camera immediately pressed into action, light was always against my position and the resultant images are heavily adjusted, via the wonders of modern digital technology.




Not a creature that I see with any regularity, so it was an absolute privilege to watch this individual actively hunting the trackside vegetation. I assumed rodents would be the chosen prey, yet the behaviour suggested that large insects were also on the menu.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Jungle warfare - an ongoing saga!

The season is almost a month old and still I await my first bite! This is not me moaning but, instead,  just stating facts about my results, thus far. I am fishing in a very remote spot, way out on the Levels, completely new to me, where I have located a small group of carp, one of which is bloody huge! My baiting strategy remains very particle biased, with pigeon tonic seed mix providing the base. Hemp is always an essential in any "party mix" that I use and it's seen me in good stead over these past few years. Originally concocted for use during the R.Stour barbel campaign in order to reduce the bloody eel problem, it has proven to be a first class fish attractor, with one or two tweaks along the way. Liquidized sweetcorn is always a decent addition, to any mix, as are Tuna flakes (in brine) if eels are not a consideration. In all honesty, there is very little difference between my "party mix" and the majority of other carp anglers "spod mixes" except I don't use boilies in mine!

12th July 2015 - the journey begins. My first carp from the East Kent marshes and, back then, I still didn't own a
split cane Mk IV. An awful lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. Seven twenties and umpteen doubles
have graced my landing net, yet still I seek my target fish in order to draw a line under this particular challenge.
My real issue is with hook baits. I know my attractor is well proven and I have seen carp feeding over the spots where I've introduced it, what I am failing to do is get these fish to pick up my baited hook. If the bungalow wasn't in such disarray, I'd be able to prepare some fresh Maples, Chick Peas or Black-eyed Suzies, as I felt necessary, thus being able to ring the changes. Alas, it is not possible and I must struggle on with the bait I have at my disposal.

Not my current swim, but an insight into the set-up I'm employing with my line
entering the water directly under the rod tip, dark matter rig tube/lead core leaders and back leads
ensuring my bait presentation isn't compromised by fish coming into contact with my mainline.
That original section of this post was written on the 13th July, after a run of four consecutive blanks at my original spot, The chance to get out whilst the England v's Belgium nonsense was underway allowed me opportunity for a bit of fish spotting. What a result, I managed to relocate that big fish, about 500m downstream from the original swim, and had the camera to hand which allowed me to grab a few images of my target carp. I returned home, a niggling desire to get straight back out, plaguing my thoughts as I drove home. I knew where it was, so I really needed to cast a bait in it's direction. Bev wasn't overly happy, but I went back and got two rods out in the general vicinity, hopeful of a change of fortune. Nick and Tom were also afoot on the marsh and stopped off for a chat as they headed homewards, as the late evening light started to fade away. They couldn't have been gone more than ten minutes when my right hand rod was away and I found myself playing a lively little wild common of around five/six pounds. So my first carp since 16th June and a sure sign that I'm doing something right. Confidence boosted, I was back out this afternoon, whilst Bev watched the Men's Final at Wimbledon and France were beating Croatia in Russia. Nothing to report, although Tom rang me with a sorry tale of a missed chance. Later we were to spend a while watching some carp moving around the drain and made plans for further experiments as our season progresses. Sadly, Nick - the gamekeeper, is moving to Sussex in order to further his career, so it will be just the two of us for the remainder of the summer/autumn.



Bloody huge carp - very tricky location to get bait presentation spot on.
Tom and I have very similar aspirations, although we are chalk and cheese in our approaches. He is very much a modern carp angler, aged 27, I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum as regular readers will be well aware. Tom is firmly convinced that the boily approach will yield him the result, whilst I have to stick with my tried and trusted particle tactics. What is not up for discussion is our unfailing belief that every fish in these waters are very special carp, each one to be cherished as if it were your very first.

Crap photo - my first "flatland" carp of 2018
Not everything is about the fishing, these East Kent flatlands are home to some wonderful wildlife and it can be no surprise that I require bite alarms to ensure I'm not distracted by some other encounter when I finally get that bite registration. Beavers are now well established right across the "Levels" with anglers able to recall sightings along The Stour, Wantsum, Westbere, Stodmarsh, Ash and Worth Marshes. I saw three on Thursday evening in a tiny little side drain. We might not have any Otters (yet) but plenty of these unwanted inhabitants around the area  - there are farmers applying for licenses to shoot these creatures due to the damage to waterside trees (willows). Lord Northbourne has needed to have a willow, made safe, after the attentions of our furry friends, at one of his flight ponds out on Worth Marshes. I can't recall any consultation process which asked the inhabitants of East Kent as to our opinions on the introduction of these sizable beasts into the local ecosystem. It is no longer of any consequence, Beavers are here to stay and we have to live with this situation.

Another flatland sunset - only by being there can you appreciate the ambience and the vibe.








Monday, 9 July 2018

Birding - Mediterranean style

It had never been my intention to visit Mallorca and go at it, full on, in order to amass a lengthy list of the island's specialities; there were other priorities as I've already mentioned in the previous post. It didn't mean that I was without opportunity to wander around, especially early morning before the clan mustered around the pool and made plans for the day ahead. The adjacent farmland held many of the species which I had expected to find in such terrain, although I'd not expected to see so many Cattle Egrets in fields which held no livestock. Hoopoes are alway good value, no matter where you encounter them, and so it was great to discover a family party within a few hundred metres of the villa. They remained faithful to one particular paddock for the entire duration of our stay. Serins "jangled" in the hedgerows and gardens, Sardinian Warblers rattled their machine-gun alarms from dense scrub as I passed whilst Fan-tailed Warblers "zitted" their way overhead, occasionally dropping down to perch in, Fennel-like, umbellifers, posing for the long lens.


Fan-tailed Warblers near the villa
Serin (male) preening in the shade - ISO 1600 1/800th sec

One of the local Hoopoes, unbelievably difficult to see amongst the dried grass stems of the paddock.

Breeding adult Cattle Egret, it had been feeding behind a farm muck spreader'
hence the dirty feet.

The mini-bus allowed me to visit the two reserves at Albufereta and S'Albufera where the long lens was in overdrive, such is the richness of birdlife to be seen around these magnificent wetlands. Purple Swamp-hen was seen at both sites, I'd only seen the species on Menorca previously. I fluked Marbled Duck, Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron and Gull-billed Tern at S'Albufera and got great views of Bee-eater, Woodchat and many hundreds of Black-winged Stilts. Eleonora's Falcon was a gimme, but I had to wait until our final day to connect with Booted Eagle, I saw eight from the garden! It is a joy to spend time in relatively unspoiled habitat, watching species which are like gold-dust in the UK. Two hours from Gatwick and waiting for anyone who wishes to explore the potential of the novel concept of looking for birds without the aid of a pager! Who knows, it might just catch on?

Audouin's Gull - Port de Pollenca

Stone Curlew at Albefereta
Male Kentish Plover at Albefereta

Black-winged Stilt, with the hump, youngsters nearby at a guess?

Hoopoe - real poser 

Black-winged Stilt - typical view

Bee-eater at the traditional S'Albufera breeding site

Adult male Marsh Harrier - just like being at Stodmarsh - NOT!

Adult Gull-billed Tern at S'Albufera in the company of several hundred Black-headed Gulls

I had a brilliant, if somewhat limited, time wandering around this spectacular place. If I'd have made more effort the likes of Thekla and Short-toed Lark, Blue Rock Thrush, Marmora's Warbler and many other species would have been possible. Hey-ho, but I suppose that's much easier to say when you've already seen them on previous visits?

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Mallorca

We got back home around 20.30 hrs on Saturday, having spent the previous week based in a superb villa on the outskirts of Pollenca. Scenery was stunning, as was the bird life, with twenty-nine year ticks added without any effort to "do the circuit". It was a holiday for Emily & Harry, our grandchildren, and the first time they'd ever been abroad so everything was concentrated on ensuring they had a good time. From that perspective we succeeded big time; the hustle and bustle of the Gatwick terminal, to the take off and landing, and our Renault Trafic, nine-seater, minibus to the villa, pool, barbeques and general holiday adventure, they loved every minute of their experience.
It made no difference if we were sneaking up on basking Geckos or stopping the minibus to jump out and gaze, in wonder, as a Black Vulture leisurely soared above the adjacent hillside or just sat in the garden as the sun went down, watching bats hunting around the trees and listening to the haunting calls of Stone Curlews - brilliant memories for all of us!



I've got over 650 photos to go through, so there is plenty more material for a few posts over the next week, or so. England's progress in the World Cup is a wonderful distraction for all of us long suffering fans, so used to underachievement by our national team. I managed to see both goals, as they were scored, but not much else of the Sweden game. I assume it must have been rather good, as there were still parties going on when we arrived back at the bungalow. I've got some particles cooking in the slow cooker and am hoping to get out for a short session this evening before the reality of work kicks in at 05.00 hrs tomorrow. So there you have it. Holidays, football and fishing - life really doesn't get much better?

Emily and Harry enjoying themselves in the sunshine at
Marine Park, just west of Palma.