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!


Saturday 29 February 2020

An hour at Stodmarsh

Bev's mum has been transferred to the therapy unit at Kent & Canterbury Hospital, in Canterbury - where else? This afternoon we jumped in the van took a drive into the Cathedral city so that Bev could visit her mum whilst I had a couple of hours to fill before heading back home, Bev in the passenger seat having done her bit for the day. I'd thought about going over to Thannington and the Fatfish tackle shop, but knowing that I needed to tax the van today, all £260 of it, decided on plan B. I went over to Stodmarsh NNR and took a stroll around to the Marsh hide. This filled my time slot perfectly and really turned out to be great decision. With Storm Jorge (say Hor-hay) battering the Kent countryside, all morning, I didn't hold out much hope but things couldn't have been more different during my sojourn. The wind had eased significantly and the sun shone brightly from a cloudless sky. What is going on with our weather? I've not much else to say as I hope the accompanying images will do the talking?

The sign on the door - does exactly what it says on the tin!
A shed with an awesome view

A fantastic venue at which to waste away an hour, or so. I'd taken the van because I knew that Bev would have a wobbly if I'd taken her car down the muddy lanes plus all my wet weather gear is in the back. Welly boots were an essential piece of kit to walk around the reserve today. No-one else out there, it was just me and a Great White Egret, bloody brilliant!

Just one more!

Thursday 27 February 2020

Around the corner

Spring is in the air! Why else would I be sat in my study watching the rain, pissing down, with sleet showers forecast for later in the day? The local Magpies and Carrion Crows are actively engaged in nest building and I've already seen Sparrowhawks displaying over the three territories, which exist nearby, when there's been a suitable break in the clouds.
Because of stuff which is happening, well beyond the scope of this blog, I've needed to take a couple of "emergency days" holiday. This has given me time to attend to the personal stuff which Bev has been juggling in between hospital visits, plus I managed to get the van MOT'd and a new windscreen fitted. With Bev going over to QEQM, yesterday afternoon/evening, with her brother, Gary, I even managed a very short, impromptu, session down at the syndicate. That I blanked shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but I did get to meet the bailiff and have a chat with a couple of guys. All seems good. A Great Tit was singing nearby as I unloaded the van and it was a pleasant twist when I spotted a displaying pair of Great Crested Grebes on the old lake.

A Cetti's Warbler noisily announced it's presence in some bank side vegetation and, to top it all off, a Barn Owl drifted over my head in the half-light at dusk. So despite not catching a fish, the session wasn't without merit. Once the sun had gone the temperature rapidly fell away and I was happy to get packed up and head back home to the comfort of the central heating. Must be getting soft, or is that sensible, in my old age?

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Hypocrisy - who makes the call?

Being quite an opinionated individual, (perhaps you've noticed?), I choose to use this blog as a platform to offer my personal slant on things, as opposed to alternative social media outlets . I'd love to say that I remain within boundaries, limited by my own experiences, yet know that I often stray into uncharted waters - UK party politics being a very obvious case, recently. I can't help myself; it's like factory banter but without the come back, I say what I'm thinking at the time!
I have strongly held views about killing invertebrates purely for id league table status yet am just as passionate about the carp angling fraternity and their dismissal of all other species as nuisance fish. Just one man's opinion amidst a global population of billions. Under no illusion that I'm right and others are wrong, simply how I perceive the situation.

A couple of days ago. whilst sat at the desk in my study, I spotted a Brown Rat on the garden wall of my neighbour, directly beneath their feeders. I grabbed the camera and went outside, but not before I'd secured a few token images from the summerhouse. What I discovered was at least eight Brown Rats, including five rather small youngsters, enjoying the facilities on offer in this adjacent garden. What to do? Well the reality is nothing so long as these rodents remain within my neighbour's garden. However, one foot inside my boundaries and I've got a problem! What I've also got is a 1959 Webley Mk III air rifle (Walnut stock and fully original) and some extraordinarily effective "Neosorexa" rat poison which I can place within three plastic traps that are strategically positioned around the garden. Utter madness, under no circumstances would I feel the need to remove these creatures if they were Wood Mice!

I have a similar mind-set about Feral Rock Doves, yet refrain from any drastic action purely because I'm perfectly at ease with Collared Doves and Rose-ringed Parakeets utilising the same feeding opportunities. Foxes are actively encouraged into our garden, a Hedgehog would be treated like royalty, yet a Grey Squirrel would get a similar reception to the rats. How can this be? If I was consistent then needless killing, for whatever reason, is unacceptable? Obviously not and hence the blog title. Hypocrisy abounds; especially in this part of Thanet! I wouldn't mind betting that I'm in no way unique in my thought processes and irrational conclusions? Have a look at the following images and see if your reaction is the same as mine?

Always welcome

A bit of a cheat as this is an Eastern Hedgehog - always welcome
Sadly I haven't got any images of our native hedgehogs in my files.

Outside, always good to see. Inside the larder?  The joy is completely lost as I reach for the poison.
That's a yes - as native to Thanet as a Kiwi
A rat with wings, but I have to accept that because I'm feeding birds
they come as part of the deal.
Got to be a yes.
Absolutely no consistency, as irrational display of logical thought as is possible. One man's view of an unsolvable conundrum. The beauty of being an individual within a population of billions, I'm still allowed an opinion however far removed it might be from that of others! Oh yeah - what do you feel about discovering one of these in the garden; it's only a Grey Squirrel after all? If it didn't have a bushy tail it would be a white rat!

Sunday 23 February 2020

Making plans

With nothing better to occupy my time, I've been tank testing some rig variations that I'm hoping to use when I finally get back down to my syndicate fishery. There have been some outstanding Youtube offerings which have assisted my thought processes and will, hopefully, see me start to unlock the code to this particular challenge.

Barbless hooks are a syndicate rule, so what pattern should I choose?
Two "Ronnie Rigs"  - yet I'm unsure if this will be my route to cracking the code.at this new fishery.

With so little experience of this style of angling, it would be ridiculous for me to pass judgement on the tactics of other syndicate members, but have to admit that I've been shocked by the amount of bait some lads have introduced whilst I've been at the venue. My approach will be very similar to that of my Barbel exploits on The Stour in 2013. Everything I do will be based upon my own experiences, not following trends simply because that's what is expected. If I manage to get down during February, and that's a big "IF", I will be using tactics designed to solicit a bite. Certainly not aimed at a big hit during the present weather conditions. One fish at a time is the way I envisage this learning experience to develop, as I seek an insight into the subtleties of this population of carp and the conundrums they pose.

Two chick peas with a fluoro pop-up topper., the weight of the hook sufficient to counterbalance the presentation.
Particles are far more to my liking, being within my comfort zone, than boily fishing and associated
fads which come with mass baiting programs.
In angling situations, where other anglers are as much a consideration as the fish themselves, I have to find myself an edge be that bait or rig? I will learn an awful lot by simply watching the other members without any requirement to engage in conversation. What a miserable git I'm becoming!
In the very limited time I've spent there, no carp have been caught, so the baiting strategies I've witnessed have failed. It is a blank canvas for me to start out from scratch and succeed, or fail, due to my own decision making.

Two grains of maize, plus an IB pop-up, on a blow back presentation.
 Now we're talking
I have absolutely no doubt that I'll find myself some like-minded company amidst the membership of the syndicate, yet harbour no desire to "fit in". I want this challenge to be conducted by me, using my rules, whilst remaining within the boundaries of the fishery regulations. It is a project which really has me excited, being so far removed from any other since my return to the hobby in May 2011. It will almost be like a return to Stanborough and the crazy days of 1983/4 when carp dominated much of my time. Even back then I had to do it my way and discover stuff for myself. My memories of that period are very rose-tinted but, ultimately, linked to incredible enjoyment and success. Let's hope this next chapter can mirror that of my past?

February 1984 - the fish which saw the Stanborough project to a successful conclusion.
23 lbs 14 oz - in 2020, it needs to be beaten, and using a split cane Mk IV!

Saturday 22 February 2020

Intriguing stranger

For a third weekend, on the trot, I find myself stuck at home unable to do much other than stare through the study windows at the garden feeding station. On Thursday Bev had told me that she'd seen a bird with a red face on the feeders so it wasn't too much of a surprise when a Goldfinch appeared this morning. Sadly my pitiful attempt at a photo is not worthy of sharing, although I am going to include it in my tally. I also managed an image of a cock Blackbird, so my photo total now stands at twenty-one species for 2020.

The most interesting sighting of the day was that of an extremely pale (female ?) Great Tit. Regularly visiting one of the sunflower heart feeders, it had a very unusual head pattern, with restricted white facial markings. My pathetic attempts at grabbing images were further hampered by the fact that I was shooting through the windows of the summerhouse. Under the circumstances any image is better than nothing, so I am happy to allow others to see what caused the puzzlement. I'm sure I've seen images of all dark headed Great Tits from other European populations, but this was the first example of an alternative facial pattern I've ever encountered in the flesh, so to speak.

Nothing much to say beyond it was a very interesting bird
Activity around the feeders was regular, if not hectic, and I managed to grab a rather pleasing shot of a pair of Rose-ringed Parakeets as they squabbled over prime spot. Again, taken through my study double glazed windows, it goes to demonstrates how far digital technology has come to allow such results.

1/500th sec - ISO 1600 It might as well have been in the dark!
As I said in my previous post - digital cameras and computer software are far more talented than I'll ever be!

Friday 21 February 2020

Images and advances

It was during the autumn of 2003 that I fist became involved with digital image capture, via the digi-scoping revolution. A two million pixel Nikon "Coolpix" pressed against the eyepiece (30x magnification) of my trusty Kowa TSN 823 and off I went. Happily clicking away at any birds that were prepared to sit still long enough for me to get the, tripod mounted, scope focused and the camera in position. It was ground breaking stuff back then and something which really assisted my enjoyment of birding wherever I found myself.

Bev and I were on our honeymoon - she'd married a birder!
Digi-scoping kit came as essential items in the hand luggage, tripod in my suitcase.
It wasn't too long, however, before I started to recognise the limitations of digi-scoping as numbers of my fellow Kent birders began to explore the image stabilised benefits of the new fangled d-SLR camera and lens combinations. It is without doubt that there remain certain situations, even in 2020, where digi-scoping can have an edge but, as technology rapidly advances, they are becoming ever more uncommon. Indeed, some of the top end bridge cameras are absolutely incredible when used by someone who knows what they're doing?  Let's get this said, here and now, a top end camera and lens combo doesn't automatically make a good photographer just as an expensive pen won't produce a better writer. No; both are skills which require time and effort to become anything more than very ordinary.

Even without image stabilisation my camera kit has the capability to
record very pleasing images. It's the idiot holding it that is the
major fly in the ointment!
Me? I'm perfectly content to stick with the camera kit which has been the mainstay of my blogging since I purchased that first Canon EOS 400d and Sigma 150 - 500 mm lens combo around 2008. Working for Fuji, as I now do, I'd have to be an Ostrich not to realise how far digital image technology has advanced since I started out but have no need, or desire, to upgrade my gear; happy that this kit is well capable of suffering the mistreatment it's frequently subjected to without ill effect. To put it another way - it's bloody bomb proof! The other major difference between digi-scoping and d-SLR type image capture is the obvious ease of recording flight photography. If it had not been the case then, I'm sure, I'd still be pressing the "Coolpix" on the Kowa eyepiece, although it might now have been replaced by my phone?

My first split cane caught "twenty" from the Royal Military Canal - happy days!
Photos are not why I venture out into the field, with rods or binoculars, but I can't deny that a camera has the ability to ensure a memory is captured, thus enhance the experience whatever it might have been? I think what I'm trying to say is that photography is not a hobby in itself, but a very nice bi-product of my obsession with aspects of outdoor pursuits. I certainly cherish those moments when I'm posing with a decent fish, although it is the capture, not the image, from which I derive the greatest pleasure. A spinning centrepin, creaking cane and adrenaline rushes are not capable of being captured in an image, yet instantly recalled when looking at a photo of by-gone successes.

Saoulas sun-set. Kefalonia magic
Although I've never sought to pursue image capture as a reason for going outside, having the gear to hand has lead me to experiment with many aspects of photography purely because I can. Doesn't matter if it's scenery or macro stuff. I screw it up, can't get upset because it's not why I'm outdoors in the first place? However, the more I practice the luckier I seem to get, and have been very fortunate to have taken some very pleasing images during my wanderings. What must be recognised is that the digital camera technology/computer software is far more talented than I'll ever be and, as such, even an idiot will get lucky some times.

Got absolutely no idea what it is? Doesn't stop me enjoying the image.
Every now and then I will point the kit in the direction of a subject and fire away, completely oblivious to camera settings and the like, not downloading the results til some while later. Only then will I start to think "what the f*ck is that?" The recent run of bad weather has resulted in several such moments, one hailing back to June 2017! I've been poncing about for many years attempting to photograph the local Common Swifts which nest in the roof spaces of some of the older buildings around St. Luke's. I'd not had much success, so was happy to continue the project when Bev and I spent a week on Tenerife. It was Plain, not Common, Swifts that provided the subject matter and I clicked away merrily whenever the opportunity arose. Although we enjoyed the break, it wasn't a "good" holiday and certainly have no intentions of going back. I blogged about the event at the time and left it at that. Last Saturday I started to revisit some old files and came upon an image which had me totally bemused.

Not quite up to the standard of my Alpine Swift opener, these record images
do enough to allow an appreciation of the subtle differences between
Plain Swift and its' more familiar Common cousin?

I'd certainly managed to capture some record images of the Plain Swifts which frequented the resort, but had completely overlooked this!

What the f*ck? Further scrutiny revealed the obvious white cheek patch to be a small feather - destined for a nest site?

Sunday 16 February 2020

Random stuff

For the second weekend on the spin, I've been unable to get out with the rods. Bev's mum was taken into hospital with, surprise, surprise, pneumonia and sepsis but this time she has been kept in. Some ambulance chasing saddo, legal type bod, telling Bev that she should make a formal complaint and, guess what? He'd happily assist her effort, for a small fee no doubt? Rest assured that there will be no complaints about the NHS staff at QEQM Hospital coming from our direction.

How I wish this was from my moth trap - a Geometician discovered in the car park at Saoulas in 2018.
Absolutely no idea why I didn't blog about it when we got back home.
Storm Dennis didn't create the havoc, around Dumpton, that Ciara had the previous weekend but, there was still plenty of wet stuff falling, the desk in my study was the best place to be. I spent much of the time going through old photo files looking for bits that I'd missed or simply watching the activity around the feeding station through the rain spattered windows. I also made an effort to visit the blogs of Steve Gale and Gavin Haig, amongst others, in the hope of a snippet that might inspire me to start writing? Well Gavin is on fire at the moment; his output is high octane, thought provoking, superbly written and accompanied by excellent photos (& bloody videos if you please!). It was here that the spark for this post originated. Steve had also used Gavin as a springboard for a blog offering, so I'm not alone in seeking this type of stimulus and feel no guilt or shame as a consequence.

A male "Sard" - what's your problem?

What's in a name?
As humans we're all guilty of using our own values to pass judgements on others, it's an inbuilt design flaw over which we have little control. So Gavin got the ball rolling with a piece, to which Steve posted a reply, about birding nicknames and slang. I have to admit that I'm guilty as charged, birding slang is part and parcel of the route along which my adventure took me. I've seen "Lesserlegs" and twitched RB Fly's, been happy to call out Glauc or Pom whilst on a seawatch, none of those within earshot ever made comment upon my nomenclature, purely because we came from the same backgrounds. As with any language, every generation sees words bastardised and new ones come into use. If it were not true we'd still be speaking like Shakespeare and using thus, tho and thee in everyday speech. It must be an age thing, once again, as I'm perfectly at ease with RB Flicker, yet Pink Stink is just wrong. Casper works, Caspo doesn't, purely a result of the company I kept during my birding journey. The craziest thing about any of this is the fact that the birds have no concept of what they're called, it's all a manifestation of human invention. So the next time you see a Sub-alp, a Sard or a Golden O, think on! It has to be far more important that an individual is looking and enjoying the encounter, despite the words chosen to id the bird, than not bothering at all?

Looking at Gulls
An "atlantis" Yellow Legged Gull on Gran Canaria  January 2004
When birding played a major part in my life, particularly those early years on Thanet, the gulls of Ramsgate Harbour were of massive influence on my time in the field. The nuances of racial variation were of huge interest and compounded further by the very real and obvious age group plumages which were on display. Add the reading of colour rings to the mix and there was a recipe for total infatuation with this family of birds. Don't forget that this was prior to Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls being split from Herring Gull and I well recall a very prominent Kent birder, who will remain nameless, saying to me "Ducks plus gulls = Dulls!" He had no inclination to raise his binoculars in the direction of either group yet was quick off the mark when the Slender-billed Gull turned up at Monks' Wall and that plastic Hooded Merganser was discovered at Chilham. Those were the very early days of the Kent 300 Club and what great fun to be part of. Today? Couldn't give a toss! I still look at gulls with a great deal of fondness and can happily spent time just watching them as they go about their daily routines around the local area. Gavin has recently been "twitching" an American Herring Gull on one of his local estuaries with the euphoria of success obvious in his blogging. Me? I'm not too sure how I'd feel. Yes American Herring Gull is a very nice bird and to have one on your UK list might be enough for many. However, if I'm going to get American Herring Gull, then I'm off to America! I don't want to piss about with the nuances of an individual, I want to see loads of them and get a feel for the species and what they're all about. It's only by experiencing birds in any numbers that I feel I've gained anything beyond a pencil tick on a spreadsheet. As I've already said, gulls are a fabulous family of birds and worthy of study by anyone who has an enquiring mind-set. That I now live on the coast is obviously a huge advantage yet, it was a bunch of guys who watched the winter roost at Brogborough Lake in Bedfordshire, who were my first heroes. Gull enthusiasts without equal until I moved to Kent and met a certain Ray Turley (RIP) at Dungeness. Sadly that's another story for another day maybe? 

Still not a split from Herring Gull, this yellow legged individual is an example of "omissus" The Marsh Gull.
The primary pattern almost mirroring that of the Great Black-backed Gull directly behind it!

I no longer have the desire to spend hours scanning through the hoards of gulls in some vain hope of discovering a Yellow-legged Gull, Instead, when we're on holiday, I go to Argostoli harbour and see hundreds of them of all the varying age classes, so huge learning opportunities if I choose - simple!

Finally, as a parting shot to Gav. Who the f*ck would be on the look out for a Pallas's Gull? A Great Black-headed would be so much better, easier on the cardio vascular functions and within my birding vocabulary - funny how they both have the same scientific name? Toodle - Pip!

Friday 14 February 2020

Chipping away

With the situation at home remaining rather restrictive, I'm grateful for any chance to spend time watching the birds which are visitors to the feeding station. That I've set myself the challenge to photograph fifty species during 2020 in, from or over our bungalow boundaries is helping me retain  focus and ensure that the bins and camera kit are always close to hand whenever I'm sat in my study. I'd previously stated that I'd be on twenty-five species by the end of March so I really need to make the most of any situation which might occur. As the past week was to see me working on lates meant that I'd have plenty of time in the mornings, all I required was some decent weather/sun to assist my cause.

It has been quite productive, with my total now standing on 19 species with some very silly omissions! What I also realised was the number of "missed chances" that occur during the average day? Just this week I've seen Great Black-backed Gull, Pied Wagtail, Rook and also heard a Curlew passing over Newlands as I parked the van on the drive after 22.00 hrs - none of which were ever in the running for a photo.

Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Sparrowhawk are almost daily sightings, so quite why they've still not been added to my tally is a bit of a mystery? Must try harder! Jay and Stock Dove are also species which are a gimme during any week at this time of the year. The Green Woodpeckers, over at the farm compound, are very vocal thus I remain ever watchful for a flyover. This whole target driven project is exactly why I set myself these challenges. With so many other influences impacting so negatively, on my free time, the simple pleasure that I derive from the garden birding is a great antidote to the reality of everyday life. Birds might not play the role that they once did, but I'm very thankful to have enough experience to extract the maximum enjoyment from any encounter.