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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Saturday, 27 April 2019

Wandering off

With the AGM talk almost finalised, I've had time to think about the birding prospects for our forthcoming holiday. What can I hope for, given a week, in the Greek sunshine next month? Looking back through old photo albums and holiday diaries, there is plenty to get enthusiastic about. I suppose the reality will depend upon how much has changed since Bev & I were last in Pefkohori - May 2009. Will the Bee-eater colony still be there, and that traditional sewage farm? There's a nice marina where Squacco and Purple Heron have provided stunning views. Black-winged Stilts patrol the shallow margins, whilst overhead Short-toed Eagle and Eleonora's Falcon vie for attention with their aerial antics. Four species of shrike, many warblers, buntings and finches to sift through; the calls of which will test my rusty memory well beyond any comfort zone. Then there are Golden Oriole, Hoopoe and Red-rumped Swallows in and around the local gardens and farmland.


I admit to getting rather excited at the thought of spending a whole week birding with no angling to get me side tracked. Butterflies around the Med are always numerous and varied, so I'll not be struggling for subjects to point the lenses at. If nothing else, it should be time where Bev and I can recharge our batteries without having to look after Bev's mum and/or baby-sit the grandchildren.


What little birding I've done around the local area, thus far in 2019, has had it's odd highlights. All the usual subjects have turned up in the waterside habitat at the fisheries I frequent, whilst a decent record was a Garden Warbler, besides the Wantsum, during the morning work party duties, last Saturday. Common Buzzards have been regularly spotted as they move NW over Thanet, yet just a single Red Kite thus far. The one obvious thing is the dwindling number of birds to be found around my Newland's Farm patch. Habitat loss will, undoubtedly, have an impact, yet, there can be no denying that there are far fewer birds in 2019 than there were in 2000, when we first moved here.


If I were still actively involved in birding the Kent countryside, then Turtle Dove would be a "gimme" year tick. As an angler, the species will now require a real quirk of fate if I'm to encounter one whilst outside. This situation is just the tip of an ecological iceberg, so many other, once common species, hanging on, in ever diminishing habitat within the UK countryside. I suppose this situation is a major factor in my present mind-set. Birding around the Med is completely removed from anything experienced in the UK, thus really exciting by comparison. Birds which are major rarities within the context of the UK are still plentiful in the relatively un-spoilt habitat of the Greek countryside. The other upside of birding abroad is that the encounters tend to be numerous and involve individuals in adult, as opposed to autumn juvenile, plumage.

The Yellow Wagtail conundrum is able to be explored further out in the Greek countryside.
Will 2019 provide any additions (lifer's) to my list? We've got two holidays booked up, the second will be much later in the year. I certainly can't count on another White-billed Diver scenario to provide the next tick, that's for sure!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Politics & Saharan moon "ghosties"

I have to admit that finding enthusiasm to write blog posts is a real challenge, at present. So much other stuff going on the world, way beyond my little bit, that it's very difficult to comprehend what's important any more. Our political elite have demonstrated that they're incapable of running a bath, let alone our country. On getting the EU to allow for a Brexit extension, they immediately go on Easter recess. No wonder the UK is now a laughing stock, even that fake tanned buffoon has more credibility than this shambolic assembly of egos. Three years after the referendum and we'll be holding MEP elections, cum May 23rd - what the f**k?
Then, just when you think it couldn't get any more surreal, up pop the Extinction Rebellion "sheep" Now don't get me wrong, the individual's right to protest, within our democracy, is nailed on and, there can be no denying the urgency of addressing issues involved in climate change. However, what sort of moron thinks that super-gluing themselves to a train is going to change anything and garner support for the cause? Isn't encouraging the use of public transport part of the solution to this problem? The Metropolitan police might be quite happy to engage in this folly, how would it go down in Shanghai or Moscow? If climate change is to be addressed then, surely, the major players need to be targeted? Pissing off the populous of London, whilst having "fun" involved in passive rebellion - get a life! If the protesters are really serious about getting their concerns noticed on the "world stage" then wait until Donald Trump visits, in June, and disrupt that showcase event. After all, Mr Trump is the number one supporter of these "fake news" stories and pissing off the most powerful individual in the free world might have a little more global impact than shutting Oxford Circus with a pink boat and getting in the way of tourists going shopping?
Lyra McKee's funeral - I don't think there's anything to say that hasn't already been said. The parting shot, by Father Martin Magill, was a stroke of genius and really hit at the heart of this senseless loss of life caused by political failures.
With those thoughts out of the way, what else has been happening?  Well quite a lot recently. I've caught plenty and also seen a nice mix of newly arrived summer migrant bird species. Best of all was, last Saturday morning whilst attending a Wantsum AA work party, I bumped into Chris & Anne Hindle, quickly followed by Marc Heath. Absolutely fantastic to spend time chatting with these stalwarts of the Kent birding (& dragonfly) scene. It's been far too long since we last spent time in each others company.

A scamp "ghostie" - great fun on the right tackle
My surface caught target of one hundred carp, before 16th June, looks very reachable; I'm presently on fifty-eight. The Easter break was great fun, especially as the sun shone brightly and a high pressure system dominated the full moon period. As the moon rose, on Good Friday, it was immediately apparent that the Saharan dust, suspended in the atmosphere, was playing tricks with the colour. I couldn't help myself and rattled off a series of shots to attempt to capture the event.


Easter Monday; I'm back and take my third "double" of this silly project. Only thing is that Benno was also present, along with my grandson, Bryn, his (my) mates Luke, Tom plus Max. They'd been fishing for a couple of hours before I arrived and Benno had already taken a sixteen, plus, Common Carp on his fly rod, a carp heavier than anything I've caught at the venue. It was his first fish, how unfair is that?

All very arty-farty - fly rod propped on his shoulder. Lovely carp all the same!
I took a mirror of 12 lbs 10 oz, along with another six scamps, just because I wanted to make the most of this window of high pressure. Great fun using the Hardy "Palakona" Perfection Roach, in conjunction with an ABU Cardinal 55, 4.5 lbs b.s. line and a size 6 Korda "Wide-gape", baited with a small cube of Co-op Wholemeal bread.


Work remains hectic, the welfare of Bev's mum still very much central to our lives, thus things are very much in limbo at present. Looking forward; our Pefkohori break can't come quick enough - although I have no desire to wish my life away



Sunday, 14 April 2019

Scamping, thoughts and talk

The two small club lakes, over at Marshside, are typical of many local mixed fisheries. They exist to cater for the average angler, be they pleasure, match or carp fishers, and to this end they are superb facilities. The monies generated from day ticket sales ensures that Wantsum AA is a viable club with the resources to provide safe access to all of our waters. Although the two "carp puddles" do contain a few larger specimens, these are hugely outnumbered by the hoards of lesser fish. No big deal, you pay your money and take your chance.

One of the very early carp that I caught, on m return to the hobby. At the time all I was after was
action and a bent rod; these ravenous scamps provided just the sort of sport I desired. 
Since March 15th, I have had eight visits to Homersham, the larger of the two ponds, and landed forty-one carp, just two doubles! I took sixteen of these in little over two hours on 1st April, missing as many again - just crazy! Tactics? Small cubes of wholemeal bread on the top, amidst a scattering of dog biscuits. As you can tell, this is real cutting edge stuff. From these results I am able to deduce that a:- my tactics are basically sound, b:- location isn't a major problem, there are lots of fish present, c:- I'm not fishing for big fish, d:- nothing about the situation is an indicator of angling ability, under no circumstances can this be taken seriously, therefore I must be simply fishing for enjoyment?
So how do I quantify enjoyment, as if it needs me to defend my current mind-set? Quite simple as, due to the close season,  that split cane thirty project is removed from the equation. I cast a bait with the sole purpose of catching a carp, whatever the size, and making the most out of the encounter by using tackle which is tailored to a situation where scamps dominate. Should I hook a bigger fish? Then the fun lasts a little longer, nothing more, I won't use tackle that will, in any way, jeopardise fish welfare in these encounters.

With the new season still eight weeks away I have set myself the challenge to take one hundred carp, off the surface, before I return to the serious business of the split cane thirty project. I'm not overly bothered about success, it is simply a way of remaining focused, all I want is to continue enjoying my fishing and tweaking the bait presentation as the carp wise up to this type of approach. The one massive difference with this style of angling, over my normal approach, is that I have to be constantly active, no requirement for the bite alarms or rod rests. A single rod, held at all times, my eyes providing the bite indication as a carp slurps down a small cube of wholemeal.

I'm due to give a talk at the Wantsum AA AGM, on Friday 10th May, and have started to sift through my huge collection of images in preparation for the event. The gist of the presentation will be my slant on the angling journey I've experienced and my perception of the negative effect that modern carp fishing has had on the appreciation of all other species which inhabit the freshwater environments of the UK. I suppose what I'll be attempting to highlight is the lack of requirement for an angling apprenticeship, so to speak? It won't change anything, modern angling will continue to be dominated by this blinkered approach, no matter what I say, or think! The other point that I am hoping to highlight is the future of angling, within the UK, requires the involvement of the younger generations. Angling, as a whole, has a major problem because it is failing to attract youngsters into the hobby, our club being no different to many others. The average age of those attending the work parties, is well passed retirement. At sixty-three I'm one of the youngsters! How can this situation be turned around? It's a far bigger problem than anything a single angling club can deal with, but it is an important issue which needs to be addressed by each and every one of us that derive pleasure from time spent besides the water, rods to hand. If we fail to recruit new blood then this club mentality will play no part in the carp dominated industry moving forward. Carp, an introduced alien species, are the water providers dream, they are low-level pollution resistant, thus the requirement for high quality treatment processes are lessened if the only fish that matter are able to thrive in the ecosystem. If there is no interest in other species, then who will care if the native aquatic fauna have been decimated by the legal pollution due to water companies pitiful lowering of standards, all in the name of profit?




Monday, 1 April 2019

Moving on

There's no getting away from the obvious - it's been a very testing time, just lately and Bev has been an absolute rock! Still got Denise, her mum, to care for and hopefully the social services can assist with this task? We'll see? A break is what's required and, today, we've booked a week away in Pefkohori, a place we last visited in May 2009. It's mainland Greece, if you're remotely interested.
I've been looking back through the archives and there are some very special memories recalled as a result. Way back in 2009 birding was still my primary obsession (hobby?) and there were loads of "lifers" to be found whilst wandering around the countryside that is adjacent to the resort. What is most amusing is the fact that I was still digi-scoping, thus required to carry a scope and tri-pod, plus my Nikon "Coolpix" 7600 compact - all seven million pixels worth! In 2019 it'll be a very different set-up. The Canon and Sigma 170 - 500 mm, plus assorted other lenses/tubes, I'll be better prepared than ever, to get images of the creatures that I stumble across during our stay.

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - an adult male; it had been singing!

Male Masked Shrike, a lifer recorded with a digi-scope set up


Rock Sparrow

I well remember Nigel Jarman, one of the Bockhill crew, telling me how I'd be blown away when Bev and I first visited the Med, way back in 2001. He was spot on and I've had reason to recall those words on many an occasion when raising the binoculars in the direction of another "lifer". The habitat/climate is unlike anything I've encountered in the UK and, subsequently the birdlife is also very different. I don't require a guide, I'll discover what ever I can and the birds I miss will remain unknown, not a grip via the internet news services.  Still got a few fish to chase before the holiday, and hopefully I'll get back into the groove of regular blog updates. Time is a great healer. A funeral without the God Squad - it really was a strange concept for me, but we need a break, that's for sure.