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!


Monday 30 March 2020

#BWKm0 - Getting my arse severely kicked?

4 hrs 32 minutes for my first ever London Marathon (2000) - not so sad for a guy already on the wrong side of 45? Says who? - says me and that's the only opinion that matters in this situation. Age does this to an individual as wear and tear takes it's toll on the skeletal fabric which holds the biomass together. However, the upside of getting old is something which no amount of training, nor education, can substitute or bypass, it's called experience! This single factor is exactly why the greatest brains are housed inside the skulls of folk who have seen the sun rise over many a decade, not just finished wiping the snot from their first bout of flu.
Bev and I moved into our tiny dwelling nearly twenty years ago and since that moment, I have been recording the avian and mothing highlights with a degree of kleptomanic obsession that only like-minded souls will be able to align with. Straight away I've aliented a section of the visitors to this blog, purely because they are not of my generation and will very unlikely be in the position of ever owning their own property (if they live in the UK!) Both moths and birds have gone by the way as my angling exploits have, once again, come to the fore, but I can't deny the joy that both these hobbies have provided me as life has wandered it's erratic course.
Apparently we're eleven days into this garden bird watching gig and I'm miles off the pace. There are gardens in London already boasting lists in excess of fifty species whilst I'm stuck on thirty-three (sorry Darren - that's a factory joke!). How can this be so? I live on the Isle of Thanet, a garden list of 111 species (a patch list from the adjoining farmland is 207 species - although there is a lot more habitat variation and space). My reference to the London Marathon is not without reason, this "lockdown" birding caper will be just that. Those guys who've sprinted into the higher echelons have now got very little to look forward to, so will very likely burn out before the real gig gets started?
Twenty years of looking out from the garden has me optimistic for the future and will, surely, see me close the gap on these early pace setters?

I wonder how many gardens have Purple Heron on the list? Mine does!
I was sat in my van, social distancing during my meal break today, when I spotted a small bunch of thrushes (Redwings at a guess) moving north over the adjacent factory units. With only thirty three on the list my chances of seeing something new are far greater than if I'd already recorded every species on the county records for March! We're in this for the long haul, so we'd better get used to it!

Sunday 29 March 2020

#BWKm0 Important - certainly not?

I've not cast a line for several weeks and, if things remain as they are, can't see me being able to do so for many more to come. My syndicate  renewal fees are due to be payed at the start of April, yet I wonder if it the money could be better used as I'll not be able to get out all the while this pandemic dominates our daily lives. Decisions, decisions! To be honest I'll probably pay my membership, but what if I was self-employed or laid off? £250 might keep food on the table for a few weeks, rather than spent on a ticket that can't be used. I suppose it's for each of us to base our decisions on our individual circumstances.
I was rather drawn to a post, it doesn't matter by whom, which questioned the Noc-mig technology being used by some "competitors" in our laid back garden challenge. My initial reaction was that I was fully behind any such records being null & void. However, after a day to ponder on such trivia, I've altered my stance somewhat.
Technology has drastically changed so many aspects of our everyday lives. Mobile phones and digital imagery are two areas which we now take for granted as are, indeed, the various social media platforms by which we are freely able to communicate our slant on the world. If it were not so Steve Gale wouldn't have been able to garner so much support for our little project in such a short space of time? As an individual, I am wholly reliant upon electronic bite alarms whenever I go fishing, especially if I'm tucked up akip in my bivvy. And what about mothing, surely an un-attended light trap, being emptied next morning is much akin to letting some fandango gadget record the sounds in the night sky whilst you are sound asleep. I think the bottom line is that we must be able to allow each to their own.
There is no prize, no highly esteemed kudos, associated with the garden bird watch challenge. Who will be the winner, well we all will? We've come together in order to find a positive distraction from the reality of self isolation imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic which we simply can't ignore. I liken my involvement to running (?) my first ever London Marathon (2000) which was an incredible experience to be part of. When I crossed that finish line, in a time of 4 hrs 32 minutes, no one could take that feeling of elation/achievement away from me. Of course I hadn't won it, didn't matter a toss, it was the taking part and completion which made it such a personal triumph.
So there you have it - my very personal overview of what we've got ourselves involved in. Please feel free to hold alternative opinions, it won't be the first time someone has disagreed with me.

So what's been happening around Dumpton? Not too much being the very simple answer. Two female Blackbirds appeared on the lawn and, I would assume, were new arrivals?  A phone conversation with my youngest brother, Simon, who lives in the delightful Buckinghamshire village of Aston Clinton, was quite amusing. He has recently undergone heart surgery and is in a period of twelve weeks confined to barracks. I'd previously told him about the garden challenge and he reported that he was currently on eighteen species. He said that Raven was a good bird for him and that he'd also recorded a single Cormorant headed towards the Tring Reservoir complex, no doubt. "Bloody hell! I still haven't seen one yet" We exchanged the usual pleasantries as we said our good-byes and I returned to the task of clearing the debris from our patio area. Huge numbers of Wood Pigeons remain  around the newly planted fields to the north of Vine Close and provide quite a spectacle when disturbed by passing dog walkers, joggers or cyclists.
Chores completed, I made the effort to dig my trusty Kowa TSN 823 (30 x eye piece) out of retirement and attach it to my Manfrotto tripod which has been part of the fishing kit due to my requirement of self take images. So there I was, stood outside, scope, bins and camera at the ready. Very impressive, almost like I know what I'm doing when I spot three Cormorants flying in from the East. No time to check the camera settings, I fired off a short series of images and have to be grateful for the photo shop technology which has enabled me to rescue one of the pitiful efforts.

33 - Cormorant - Did make me smile when I rang Simon to tell him about this latest addition to the list.

Friday 27 March 2020

#BWKm0 - week 1 gone

It doesn't seem possible that seven days have elapsed since the start of this "laid back" garden birding challenge. Looking at Steve Gale's latest offering (click here) it would seem that our ranks are growing daily as the reality of the current situation starts to impact on all of our lives. I'm really enjoying this base level birding and am trying to use the situation to actually watch individual birds, as they go about their daily routines, rather than simply identify the species and on to the next one. The way this pandemic seems to be panning out, I don't think that time will be an issue - we're going to have loads of it at our disposal. With Bev's mum being so vulnerable and frail, our need for social distancing is a key factor in protecting her from this deadly menace. This weekend will see us both staying within the bungalow footprint, the only interaction will be with the carers who visit, four times a day, to assist with her cleanliness and medical requirements.
I've got loads to do around the garden, mainly tidying up the patio area and cutting back some of the Budlehia branches which are cloaking the aviary. If nothing else it will keep me out of mischief whilst allowing me to remain outdoors without any nagging guilt that I should be doing something more useful? The forecast isn't too sparkling, NE winds, gusting 45 mph, with light rain on Sunday. Who knows what might be seen during this unsettled period? It can't be too long before I start to pick up on some vis-mig, the conditions next week look like they have potential, although I'm on early shifts and will, therefore, only get the afternoons, into darkness?
Just one more addition to my list today, as a pair of Goldfinches dropped down onto a sunflower heart feeder for a few minutes just before mid-day. I rattled off a few token shots, but always distant, on the furthest feeder, my image is a very heavy crop from the original.

32 - Goldfinch - a pair at the feeding station for a few minutes

Thursday 26 March 2020

#BWKm0 - bread & butter birding

Another pleasant, pre-work, session out in the garden ever hopeful of the next addition for the "laid back" garden challenge list. As it turned out I did actually manage another two species, so should be happy with that, I suppose? Although the sun shone brightly from a relatively clear sky, the brisk NE wind certainly had a chill to it and, a female Sparrowhawk excepted, no raptor movement was forthcoming as a result. Chaffinches continue to move eastwards in dribs and drabs, yet it was the regular garden visitors which provided the bulk of the entertainment today. The camera is never far away whilst I'm outside so, after topping up the meal worm tray, I thought I'd sit quietly in the shadow of our sawn-off "Christmas Tree" and see what turned up.

30 - Linnet - Four birds passed along the hedge line several times during the morning, prospecting for nesting territories at a guess. They are a relatively common breeding species around the Newlands Farm area, so very much expected around the garden at this time of year.

I have to admit that I was getting a little bored by mid-morning and the chilly wind was taking its' toll. I retired to the study, confident that my day was over and Linnet my only addition. Then it happened. Completely out of the blue a Fieldfare landed in the tiny Hawthorn bushlet just beyond the garden boundary. This is the first 2020 record of this species from our bungalow - why today? I fired off a couple of token shots through the double glazing before opening the back door and securing a few more for the record. Wow - I don't remember ever getting so excited by a thrush, I was buzzing!
31 - Fieldfare - Nice! Very nice!!

I've just seen Steve's latest update on our "Lockdown" birding gig and the accompanying images of some of the competitors garden spaces. I also saw a post from Stewart Sexton depicting the abject squalor of life on the Northumberland  coast, horrific! No wonder he's in self isolation since 2006. Quite how my little piece of Thanet can hope to compare to the majestic scenery which Stewart overlooks puts this whole caper into perspective. Make the most of what you've got, stay positive and enjoy whatever comes your way. 
So to attempt to portray the minuscule footprint from which I'm conducting this exercise I took a few images to show the very ordinary space which I call home.

Wednesday 25 March 2020

#BWKm0 - loving it

For the second consecutive morning, I stood out in the garden, coffee, bins and camera to hand, awaiting the avian events to unfold. Clear blue skies, a gentle breeze, it felt good to be outside, if just a little surreal. I'd fed the birds in the aviary and topped up the feeding station with sunflower hearts and meal worms before 08.30 hrs. so had nearly five hours available before needing to leave for work. Obviously I needed to do other stuff during the morning but, for the most part, I was on station outside watching and waiting.

Happily it was well worth the effort as birds were constantly active around the feeders and also in the skies above. The bread and butter species did their best to keep me entertained, yet the birding gods were smiling today and I was spoilt rotten. It's been a very long time since I got so much joy from birding - must be getting soppy in my old age?

Three more additions to the garden list and one more for the photo challenge - results all round. Conditions were perfect for raptor passage over Thanet, as they have been all week, although the reduction in strength of the easterly wind certainly played a part today. I was only on my second coffee when the local Herring Gulls sounded their alarm and alerted me to the first, of three, Common Buzzards.

I'd not long finished watching the first Buzzard when the unmistakable, resonating, kronking, sound of a Raven had me focusing the binoculars on a rapidly approaching corvid. Camera quickly pointed in the same direction, I rattled off a series of shots without having time to check any settings. The results are little more than silhouettes, but better than nothing?

27 - Raven - A garden "mega" being just the third time the species has been recorded from the garden. However, I must add that this is most likely the same individual as was present from Boxing Day 2019 to 6th Jan 2020, around the patch and constituted the second record.

28 - Chaffinch - At last, two groups (three & four) flew over allowing confident id, plus several other occasions when flight calls were heard yet the birds passing unseen in the clear skies overhead.
29 - Red Kite - Two, high drifting east, just before mid-day, were the birds I'd been waiting for. Looking at the bird news from around Kent, during the past few days, Red Kites were obviously moving over the county and it was just a matter of time.

I went to work well happy as only a #BWKm0 "laid back" birder can.

Tuesday 24 March 2020

#BWKm0 - the first real effort

My shift didn't start until 14.00 hrs so I had all morning watching the garden. well it was the least I could do as Boris had so nicely asked me to stay at home unless absolutely necessary! Unbelievably, making digital ink is a key role within these troubled times and, therefore, my job is that of an essential worker. To be perfectly fair, some of our inks are specifically produced for medical and food labelling amongst so many other applications. I would imagine that Covid-19 warning posters are consuming vast amounts of our products as the public awareness program kicks in? So, unless we get instructions to the contrary, I will remain at work so long as my, and Bev's, health does nothing to cause a period of absence due to self-isolation.
It was a very pleasant affair, out in the garden, binoculars, camera and coffee to hand, enjoying the sunshine, just watching the activity around the feeding station and over the farmland beyond our boundary hedge. I ended the morning with five more additions to the BWKm0 total and, even more pleasing, two more species captured for the garden photo challenge, that I'd embarked upon on 1st Jan. I think the most frustrating thing was my inability to nail the id of four passerines (finches/buntings?) which flew east, but to the south of our garden. Not a squeak, nor any plumage features due to the position of the sun, I was left ruing a missed opportunity. Chaffinches being my gut feel, but it don't cut it if I ain't 100%. There'll be others, of that I'm hopeful. So here's a brief summary of what happened to my garden list today.

22 - Jackdaw. Several birds very active around the Vine Close area and I happily took the opportunity to nail a flight shot for my garden 50 photo challenge.

23 - Sparrowhawk. One of the local males soaring and wind dancing above Newlands Farm
24 - Rook. Two birds flew east, calling regularly, but kept low and well out of camera range
25 - Common Buzzard. I recorded four separate individuals during the morning although the commotion around the local gull colonies suggested there may have been many more?

Welcome to Thanet - a very typical reception
26 - Peregrine. An adult male was seen on two occasions during the morning. Always distant, I rattled off a few record shots as insurance for the garden photo challenge.

A very enjoyable time spent, for the most part, watching ordinary birds going about their daily routine. If this is the only option available it is going to be as much about learning more about species which are so familiar as to be overlooked in normal circumstances. Apparently Dunnocks lead a rather promiscuous lifestyle, I should have plenty of time to have a look for myself as they are numerous and active around the garden at present.

Monday 23 March 2020

It's game on

If the morons and idiots hadn't got it before; what Bojo had to say at 20.30 hrs this evening should put them straight? Social isolation, keeping 2 m apart from everyone but those who share your home. Not a particularly difficult concept, it will be a very interesting test of the UK's population and their, collective, ability to comprehend the enormity of the situation we now face. However, it was not my intention to get embroiled in politics, instead I wanted to say a big thanks to Steve Gale for allowing me to enter into the #BWKm0 "laid back" garden challenge. It would appear that nineteen of us cyber inhabitants wish to "compete" in this challenge which has few rules and certainly no finish date, at present. What I'm hoping for is some very friendly competition, with a positive spin placed upon the situation we now find ourselves in. Obviously, there might be some data created that will be of use by third parties, ie RSPB, who will be able to extrapolate various trends from what is nothing more than a way of keeping us actively looking.

So what has been happening around the Dumpton garden which will be my focus for the foreseeable future? This game kicked off on 20th March, yet it wasn't until Saturday 21st, that I got started. No worries, it will be a marathon, not a sprint, so "slowly, slowly catchee monkey!"  Here's my list so far.

1- House Sparrow - up to 50 birds present around the feeding station and that of my neighbours
2- Starling - max 15 attracted by the meal worms
3 - Collared Dove - 2 pairs around the gardens
4 - Wren - a singing male
5 - Robin - two, possibly a breeding pair?
6 - Blackbird - two males singing
7 - Wood Pigeon - still large numbers (100's) feeding on the newly planted fields beyond the garden hedge.
8 - Carrion Crow - numerous
9 - Herring Gull - several hundred prospecting nest sites around the housing estate and Pyson's Rd Ind Est. beyond Newlands Farm
10 - Lesser Black-backed Gull - up to eight pairs present at Pyson's Rd. Seen daily from the garden.
11 - Black-headed Gull - four went east early Sunday morning.
12 - Magpie - several pairs present
13 - Rose - ringed Parakeet - three individuals visiting the feeding station
14 - Stock Dove - seen with Wood Pigeons in flight
15 - Dunnock - up to five birds around the feeding station. Quite a lot of displaying - Spring is here!
16 - Blue Tit - at least three birds visiting the sunflower heart feeders
17 - Great Tit - two pairs, visiting the feeding station from opposite directions - can get feisty if all four are present at the same time.
18 - Kestrel - one went east over the bungalow early Saturday morning
19 - Chiffchaff - one fly catching from the rear hedge late on Saturday afternoon.
20 - Green Woodpecker - calling male over at Newlands Farm
21 - Great Spotted Woodpecker - drumming over at Newlands Farm

That's it for now but, my first decent session in the garden tomorrow, so I'm hopeful of a few additions (and photos!)

Sunday 22 March 2020

#BWKm0 - a way forward together


Quite how we've gotten to this juncture is due to fear, I guess? Fear of the unknown, fear of losing our grasp on the reality we call "normal life". Jolly old Bojo, the guy who will claim victory in the "Brexit" battle is now completely out of his depth, fighting to retain his political credibility, in a situation which has never been as rapidly changing, even in a war setting. I'll make it quite clear that I don't like the guy, but have to admit he's making a decent fist of it during these unprecedented events., to date.
This hashtag Bird Watching at zero Km stems from Italian birders and has been rapidly adopted by the cyber community as a symbol of solidarity during these troubled times. I believe Twitter to be the place where it is most prominent, yet us bloggers can also play our part. At present I remain at work but, can't believe that digital ink manufacture will be deemed an essential industry and as a result, we will be instructed to close the factory as Government is forced into ever more drastic action as the pandemic takes it's toll on our resources.
I consider myself to be very fortunate, under these circumstances, my garden being central to the majority of my birding since Bev's mum came to live with us, and the resultant restrictions it has imposed upon us both, almost a year ago. My study overlooks our newly turfed back garden and the feeding station, beyond the lawn, attracts a steady stream of visitors during daylight hours, and I've been feeding the local foxes with odd morsels placed upon our new patio area in the dark. If I'm legally told to stay at home, then photographing the foxes will definitely be a project worth following up. I love 'em. The situation with our neighbours rat infestation has now been resolved. Lots of poison involved, which I'm not particularly happy about, and sixteen shot with the trusty .22 - 1959 Webley Mk III underlever.
If we are forced to remain at home, for an extended period, I might even have to start pointing the lenses in the direction of other life forms which inhabit our small footprint. Still won't give a toss as to what they're called, I'll revel in the challenge of  attempting to master the photographic techniques involved in capturing a decent image.

So what's been happening around Vine Close over the weekend? Not a lot, if the truth were told. just odds and sods, as is expected (not hoped for) at this transitional period. The first Kestrel of the year passed over the garden on Saturday morning and I managed to grab a couple of shots of a Lesser Black-back as the Pyson's Road colony starts to reconvene; the birds flying over our garden as they move between nest site and the coast. Odd Chiffchaffs have been seen, although none hanging around for the camera and a group of four Black-headed Gulls moved east very early this morning and seem worthy of note. The most outstanding encounter took place in the yard at Fujifilm on Friday, whilst I was on the phone to Bev. A Firecrest was actively searching for food around a stack of IBC chemical containers, completely oblivious to my presence. How I wish I'd had the camera with me?

No. 25 for the 2020 garden challenge - so I'm right on track for my fifty species target.

Saturday 21 March 2020

Don't get caught

You'll have to forgive me for what I'm about to post. It comes as a direct result of an email I sent to a small group of fellow bloggers and will, hopefully, lead to some rather amusing posts, on various blogs, and subjects, over the coming weeks? Only time will tell. I'll set the scene by naming two of the major players in this game, both of whom you'll be well familiar with and another, far more shadowy character, who has been a massive contributor via our comments options yet has never produced a blog himself. Steve Gale, Gavin Haig and Richie Francis (Ric to his mates) have been instrumental in this happening, yet I also need to thank Derek Faulkner for his correspondence and input.
Covid-19 has the UK in melt-down. Our politicians and business leaders seemingly powerless to deal with the ever evolving dynamic of this situation, a bit like a rabbit in the headlights?  I'd hope that my previous two posts have pinned my colours to the mast of total bemusement in this current debacle. It was this feeling of utter hopelessness that led to my cry for assistance; these guys came to my rescue and I'm forever in their debt. It's a situation which will only get worse before it gets better and, even the most cynical amongst us, have to acknowledge the huge burden being placed upon the workforce, within our NHS, especially those on the front line in this war against an invisible foe. Just as when "Brexit" was the only subject in the news, now it's Covid-19 and, yet, every now and then a spin off news story will develop. Generally focusing on small community-based efforts to assist those in their midst who need a hand in order to get through this ordeal. Knowing that isolation, be that self imposed or a legal requirement, is going to be a very real situation for so many within our society I started to think about what I could possibly do which might ease the pain, so to speak. There's only so much t/v you can watch and social media will have a huge role in getting the country through this chaos. Being a blogger, admittedly not a particularly popular one, I felt sure that we could use this medium to bring a little rest bite from the madness? "BE KIND" seems to be the catch phrase at present and is superbly lampooned in this cartoon that appeared in The Yorkshire Post - Tuesday 17th March!

With so many poor souls, going stir crazy, I thought it might be a double edged sword, we could use blogger as a tool to entertain the captive audience and grow our visitor stats whilst doing so. All that was really required was an idea - how could we move forward? It was Steve who threw down the gauntlet and I've decided to accept the challenge - so here goes!

A Cautionary Tale
It is the Spring of 2001 and, just as things started to get exciting, an outbreak of "foot & mouth" disease rendered huge areas of the (Kent?) countryside as out of bounds. I was flying, still living off the adrenaline that setting new county year list figures had given me. I'd made my statement and was now well established on the Kent birding map. On 10th April, of that year, I'd been incredibly fortunate to have bumped into an highly excited Ian Hodgson, over at St. Margaret's. where he'd just discovered a singing male Sardinian Warbler. What a result, yet I was immediately made aware that news couldn't be released due to the cattle in the enclosure besides the cliff-top area the bird frequented. Any visiting birders would have to pass through this area to view the bird and, as such, the sighting was never released into the public domain due to fear of spreading this infection to the herd - bloody Kent suppressors at it again! I didn't care a jot, a new Kent/UK tick, it was my initials against the record in the BBRC listings for that year. We were able to justify our decision, to withhold the news of this very desirable bird, using the well being of the cattle as our conscience cleanser. What must be remembered is that the site had open access with a public footpath running right along its' boundary. Did we really make that decision correctly or was there more to it?

How I wish I'd the capability to have captured this image in 2001.
Greece - I guess, some time around 2008
Now let's turn back the clock to the mid-90's. The Ash Levels had become my local patch and, because of a chance meeting with the game-keeper, Dennis Joiner, I was introduced to the farming community who owned/controlled this wonderful area of East Kent. Over time I gained permission to wander unhindered across vast tracts of this agricultural land. I was no longer restricted to public footpaths or by closed gates, the world was my oyster. I remain ever grateful for the kindness shown me by Mr Robert Chandler, Paul & Roger Dunn and "Old man" Drew. Such fantastic memories as I discovered the joy of patch watching in an area of the UK where birds were still plentiful and diverse.
It was late autumn in '96 when I found a Richards Pipit in a field which was just over the Chandler & Dunn boundary. Not a lifer, nor even a Kent tick, it represented my first "patch" record and, as such, I felt fully justified to hop the fence in order to secure better views. No harm done, no one offended by my actions, simply because no one saw me. To top it off, I even took Andy Johnson to see it, although we didn't trespass into the field on that occasion. Again; news was not released into the wider domain because there was no public access to the site.
Come 1999, and I embarked upon that manic chase for a county year list record. Although it is true that I actually found 233 species for myself during the year, yet I obviously didn't necessarily find the first one I ticked and there were another thirty species that I saw which had been found by someone else, thus I was reliant upon news being made available via the various phone rotas of the Kent 300 club members in order to achieve my goal. Double standards is a theme which might begin to rattle about in your thoughts if you've made it this far? They certainly have in mine, how much of a bloody hypocrite can one guy be? I'll address this, and other issues, before I finish the post.

Sunset over Newlands Farm - March 18th 2020
So let's now fast forward to Friday 4th October 2013, as I'm walking home from work on a murky afternoon. Completely out of the blue I stumble upon a Great Grey Shrike in the hedgerow between my factory and home. A patch tick, so I was very happy to post this news on my blog, especially because my barbel/chub fishing on the Stour wasn't too sparkling. Being October, it was dark before my post made it into cyberspace, so Saturday morning was when I realised what I'd unleashed. All of a sudden "my patch" was heaving with binocular wielding/camera pointing folk who had never previously heard of Newlands Farm, let alone visited the site.

My Newlands Farm Great Grey Shrike - enjoyed by many
Despite the clearly obvious/sign-posted footpaths and farm tracks which border the various fields of the farmlands, guys were quite happy to stray out into the crops in order to get their view of the bird. In 1999 I'd have been at the front of the queue as I didn't find one for myself that year. What had changed? The shrike hung around for a couple of days, allowing many local, and not so local, birders to enjoy the experience. I have no problem with others coming to see the bird, my issues revolve around defending the unacceptable behaviour of unknown individuals to the folk who have been kind enough to allow me to go birding around their farmland. Both Nick Ash and Arthur Burbridge, the two farmers whose land make up my patch, have been 100% supportive of my recording the avian activity around the area, yet this episode took a lot of explaining before the status quo re-established itself.
So to where I am now. It has been an eye opening experience looking back at my behaviour and the rationale that I've used as an excuse for my totally selfish viewpoint. This had started out as a post about the issues birders face when trespass is in the mix. All it has done is provided all the evidence required that I would do whatever is required to achieve my goal, yet lack empathy with any others who are also driven by desire/obsession. You can draw your own conclusions from what I've posted, but take a second to think back on some of those moments which have impacted upon you when self comes before all other reason.

That is exactly what I did when this turned up on Newlands Farm last June - Toodle - pip!

Nothing more to add

Sunday 15 March 2020

A Thanet view

Twenty years ago, as Bev and I were starting out on our journey together, we had very little going in our favour apart from each other and the unconditional support of our friends and families. I've no reason, nor desire, to dwell on the past but it is only by looking back at our lowly beginnings that Bev and I are able to survey our current situation with a sense of achievement and pride. We've come a very long way and it's something that we can both take with us as we continue to move forward with our relationship and lives. Our home, this little bungalow in downtown Dumpton, is now ours. Every brick, blade of grass and broken fence post all bought and paid for. We owe nothing, to no-one, and that's a very comforting place to find ourselves in 2020.

Recently I made mention of the role that Unilever had played in my relocation to Kent, from Hertfordshire, as my factory in Redbourn was being closed down. I feel sure that if Unilever were still involved with the Bachelors brand, I'd still be working over at the Ashford "soup mine" in some capacity or other. I'm perfectly happy to state that my time within that organisation, particularly the Ashford period, was the most rewarding of my working life and has stood me in great stead ever since. Work, not work avoidance, has been the underpinning, fundamental, piece in the Wrathall family ethos. If we want something we can have it, so long as we earn the money to pay for it. Not a particularly radical concept, except to those who have no morals, nor conscience, and are happy to steal instead of earn. My departure from the Ashford factory is a rather unpleasant chapter in my story, as I've so many things to be grateful for. The lessons I was taught and being part of a workforce who were the most talented and committed bunch I'd ever had the privilege to have been associated with made it a very difficult to walk away. It was the, enforced, Campbell's takeover of the brand, which subsequently ended up with Premier Foods now being brand owners, that resulted in the wheels falling off of my personal development journey as profit, once again, took over as the main business focus. To be fair, is there any other way in these modern times? Well yes, ask Dan Price at Gravity, but these thoughts are for another day.

So here we are, in our little bungalow in one of the quietest backwaters within Ramsgate, still CT 11 and not Broadstairs, CT 10,  you understand, and, yet, I have only to look out of my study window to see the Fujifilm factory, which is situated inside the Broadstairs post code and has been my place of employment since 2005. It's the other side of my Newlands Farm patch and can easily be walked within ten minutes! Sixty four, no mortgage, happy, healthy & fit (ish) why am I still working? There are times when I have to ask myself this question but know, that in my heart of hearts, I have to remain true to the ethics by which my family have conducted themselves over the generations. I've never had the courage to offer myself for military service, as so many of my forebears have done, nor have I the ambition to push the boundaries in order to plough new furrows of business exploration. No, not for me, I've been happy to earn my living within the comfort of a multi-national enterprise. It's a very safe existence! Might not fit the mould for everyone, yet it has allowed me to lead a wonderfully diverse life as time has passed.

If it were not for the inheritance from my late parents estate, we wouldn't be as comfortable as we presently are, make no bones about that. What hasn't changed, however, is that underlying work ethic, thus I will remain in employment until my age/health dictates otherwise. Until such time, if we want something, then we can have it and I'm prepared to do the graft involved. Work at Fuji remains off the scale, I'm on 54 hrs/week as the company attempt to fulfil their clients order requirement. Brexit, Covid-19, who gives a shit? The world will continue to rotate and, all the while there's an extra few quid to be earned, I'll have my slice of that pie. If Bev and I are able to provide the same support for our kids, as have my parents, then our efforts will not have been without merit?

The Covid-19 situation is taking the UK into unprecedented territory, during peace time, and I've set a ball in motion which might result in some interesting blogging during the coming days? Watch this, and other, space!

Friday 13 March 2020

Am I missing something?

"Covid-19" Has the whole world lost its' collective mind? At worst, this is a very unpleasant illness with death being a possible outcome if you are already suffering underlying health issues, even more so if age is also an issue. What it ain't is the end of the world!
Yet our leaders are in total disarray - no collective, or correlated, response to the "pandemic" as it marauds around the globe. I'm sat here in my study having just got home from work, where Sky News is streamed into the tea room as the workforce had requested long before the Brexit fiasco, but the commotion being whipped up by this latest development beggars belief. Italy in lockdown, France soon to follow suit? Across the pond, that fake tanned idiot is blurting out contradictory statements by the minute, whilst our own clown prince hangs onto the tails of our scientific advisers. Yesterday I was told that I should self isolate if I had a "new cough" or fever symptoms - for seven days? Isn't the incubation period two weeks, so if I'm already coughing it's too late to prevent me passing it on ?
Utter chaos, yet our political elite are still attempting to point score at a party level when what is needed is a unified strategy.  As unpleasant as it might be, the one thing that every living entity on this planet has in common is the fact that death is not an option. The way you make your mark is what you do with the time between two dates; very simple when viewed at this level. So there was Boris, all serious and sombre, addressing the cameras and admitting that his government were following the best advice, as was to be had from our chief medical scientific team, who are the very top of their field. I have to agree with this definition as I feel sure they have a massive influence over the direction our NHS is headed. If you look at the current figures, nothing but positives can be given to the NHS for the paucity of deaths from Covid-19 in ratio to those diagnosed cases. The recent budget had our new Chancellor saying that whatever the NHS required it would get. Why do we need a global pandemic? The NHS should get whatever funding it requires - no ifs or buts!
So if Boris is so convinced by the advice about combating Covid-19, as supplied by the scientists, why the f*ck doesn't he, and all the other world leaders, take any notice when science is providing the evidence of global catastrophe via the climate change situation? Do you really need me to spell it out?


In 2020 over 1.5 million people (out of a global population of 7.7 billion) will die as a direct result of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) Covid-19 won't ever get close to this level of mortality, yet because if might affect profits in the "western world" it has caused utter panic amidst those who have nothing more than the "mighty dollar" as a reason to exist. A very short sighted strategy based upon the the time spent between two dates - birth and death!  I've really enjoyed my journey, thus far, and have no intention of stepping off this mortal coil any time soon, but do have very serious worries about the chances of my grandchildren ever being able to experience the same joys of seeing their own grandchildren. Global extinction is the real issue, not another version of the poxy flu! My guess is that it will be far too late before any money orientated effort is fully supportive of change to the way the comfortable elite run our planet.

If you've made it this far - many thanks. Please don't feel the need to spit your dummy if you don't agree - they're just one bloke's thoughts in a population of billions.

Monday 9 March 2020

A bit more like it

After ending my last blog entry with a rather "clutching at straws" type of effort I was very grateful when this Jay turned up at the feeding station this morning. Taken through the double glazing of my study door, it's certainly an improvement on that first image.

Not much activity around the feeders so far, the garden having been visited twice by the local male Sparrowhawk. Tends to make the regular visitors a bit jumpy as you can imagine.

Sunday 8 March 2020

Plagiarism, inspiration or idea theft?

Somewhere in Ramsgate lives a lady, with two beautiful daughters, who works in a school and regularly sends photos into the BBC "Weatherwatchers" page. Her name is Kerri Baker and, although we've never met, I'm forever in her debt. I discovered all this info from "Twitter" although I have no account, nor intention of ever signing up. I think it was the weekend of Storm Ciara when the BBC used one of her efforts as a background image for the national weather forecast. It was of a sunset with Ramsgate as the title. I was totally mesmerised by the image as the forecaster rattled off the details of doom and gloom bound for many areas of the UK.
Ramsgate? I'd never seen anything like it. Where had she taken the photo? Two hands, holding an arc of baubles, with the sun setting over Pegwell Bay. Obviously it had to be along the West Cliff and I'd walked past the sculpture hundreds of times without a second glance. Kerri had spotted the image, making the best of her opportunity and produced a magnificent result. Inspired, I was having a bowl full of that, all I required was the weather and my shift pattern to align to allow me the chance to have a go for myself.

It has taken until today to be able to get across to the West Cliff for a chance to recreate Kerri's image for myself. I wasn't to be disappointed, although a dirty camera sensor didn't assist my effort. As the sun sunk below the horizon, the clearing skies revealed the almost "super moon" high in the skies overhead. So, once back home, had a bash at grabbing some shots of the event, knowing that tomorrow, the night of the full moon, I'd be at work until 22.00 hrs and the forecast was for heavy cloud cover!

I think I'm right at the limit of my technology?
Still using the Sigma 150 - 500 mm lens with a 1.4 x converter.
EOS 400d mounted on a tripod with a 10 second delay shutter release option.
ISO 100 - 1/250th sec exposure
Other stuff going on around the bungalow included more rat action beyond the garden fence, a tail-less Magpie and the first chance of a Jay photo. It would seem that there is a major problem with Blogger and the comments option on my blog. I have no explanation, but am hopeful that it will get sorted out. If anyone reading this post actually knows Kerri, please pass on my thanks for the inspirational image she shared - sorry I stole her idea but the original is still the best!

A Magpie with no tail

Not much, yet there's no problem with an id so it counts!

Blast from my birding past

It's 2010 and Kent birding central to my waking hours. Bev and I had been together for a decade and well settled in our bungalow; Thanet now my stomping ground with Newlands Farm my "local patch". Everything in the garden was rosy. I'm not too sure if I could look up the statistics of the time, but know that I was well up in the Kent Listers rankings, certainly in the top twenty five.(The KOS website reveals I'd still be well within the top fifty today if it were important!) I'd been truly privileged to have seen some extraordinary birds within the Kent boundaries, finding many rarities for myself. The further up the list my total progressed, the more obvious it became that Alpine Swift was a proper "tarts tick"; a glaring omission which needed addressing. Indeed, I already seen two, finding one, Pallid Swifts within the county. What was going on? I think that it would be true to say that Alpine Swift were, almost, annual on Thanet? Barry Matlock, Dave Gilbert, Mick Davis, Francis Solley, Simon Mount, et al, will all recall their discoveries as little more than another early Spring morning highlights. Could just have easily been a Serin or Hoopoe that they'd stumbled upon whilst wandering around the Thanet coastal strip. Exciting yes, extraordinary? No way, these Thanet stalwarts have their sights set on much bigger prizes!

However, everything comes to those who wait, or so the saying goes. It was always going to happen given the amount of time I spent in the field and yet, no matter how many words I use, nothing I write will come close to relaying the unbridled joy and sheer relief that occurred on that fateful afternoon of 29th March 2010. After finishing my early shift I drove across to Elmwood Avenue, parking up just above Joss Bay, probably in the hope of a Wheatear if the truth were known. As soon as I got out of the car I spotted a large swift sp. flying over the adjacent North Foreland Golf Course and knew exactly what it was before I'd even lifted my bins. I can't condone trespassing but, with no-one on the course, I grabbed my camera gear and headed straight over to the "triangle" where I was within fifty metres of the patrol route the bird was using above the fairways. I remember punching the air and shouting something silly - I was absolutely elated, absorbing every emotion that moment produced. I must have spent the best part of an hour just savouring the experience as the bird continued to patrol the airspace, just in the wind shadow of the Port Regis boundary. With my photos taken and Bev needing to be picked up from work, I drove across to Broadstairs grinning like an imbecile. It is events like that which ensure life is so much more than an existence. Sure, I'd seen loads of Alpine Swifts before that date, and have seen many thousands more since yet, somehow, that individual, the ridiculous, random nature of the encounter, just amplifies the memory and elevates a disorientated waif to the highest echelons of my most precious birding moments.

You can't get much more Thanet than a rare swift in company of a Herring Gull?

News of the bird's presence was released and, fortunately, it hung around for a couple of days thus allowing others to share in the experience. Less than a month later, down at Minster SF, I was to discover a Red-rumped Swallow as well as a Chiffchaff x Willow Warbler "mixed singer". Birding really was a huge part of my life it seems incredible that one week in Scotland could alter my journey so radically.

When your luck's in - make the most of it

Saturday 7 March 2020

Clicking away

The garden photo challenge is slowly coming along with two new species already added at the start of March. I have no rules, just a simple desire to photograph fifty species in, over or from the bungalow footprint. Quality images are always nice, but so long as the species depicted, is recognisable that'll do for me. I can always hope to improve on the original if the opportunity should arise. Common Buzzard is an obvious case in point, Goldfinch being another.

This sneaky sod was perched on the aviary netting, the dappled light making photography rather tricky.
The most frustrating part of my project is the missed chances. Just today, whilst sat in my study, I've seen Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Rook, Lesser Black-backed Gull and, to really rub it in, a Mistle Thrush. Fleeting encounters which offer me no realistic chance to grab the camera kit before they're lost from view. If it were any different I could hardly call it a challenge?

Number 23 for the year and I'll settle for that
This next one might make you smile? My neighbour's rodent problem doesn't seem to be under control,  despite calling in Pest Busters.
Feeding station harmony

Friday 6 March 2020

1999 - flashback

August 1993 and fresh back from the Atlantic Blue Marlin experience in Madeira. Unilever, my then employer, facilitated the relocation to Kent, from Hemel Hempstead. It is a pivotal event in my life, and, obviously, resulted in an interesting, although not painless, pathway to where I'm at today. I mention the Marlin purely because on my return from this ridiculously successful trip, any thoughts of pike, tench, barbel, roach or chub were completely without purpose. How could anything which swims within the freshwater environs of the UK ever hope to compete with sheer adrenaline overdose that a Marlin hook-up evoked? Rods were consigned to the loft as a new obsession took hold. I became a Kent "twitcher" lister. Okay, it took a couple of years to get my feet under the table, so to speak, but I was already fascinated by the county birding scene via the writings of Don Taylor.

The catalyst for an obsession. Even today, they are still well worth a read.
I'm very grateful to be able to say that I met the great man on many occasions and have nothing but respect
for what he put back into the county birding scene that he so loved.
Don was a huge personality within the county, at this time. Chairman of the Kent O.S. and county year list record holder. Unbeknown to me at the time, but it was Don who had pointed out a Marbled Teal (Duck if you would rather?) on a roadside island of the ARC Pit, at Dungeness, in the May (?) before I'd made the permanent move. Yeah, it was very much the fascinating tales of how he, and his friends, made the frantic journeys in order to "tick" another species within the county boundary which had me enthused by every sentence. His two books still have a very special place on the shelves within my study alongside the KOS Bird Reports for the 1991-2000 period.
So I bode my time, whilst establishing myself within a very clique orientated Kent birding scene. I had myself a superb local patch, out on the Ash Levels. Just a mile, or so, up the road was Sandwich Bay Obs - still a ringing centre, not a community coffee club, at this time and what a crazy place? Full of characters and extraordinarily talented birders; my introduction to Kent birding was a very pleasurable period and that county year list was a goal to which I became drawn as the years passed.

I took this from a light aircraft that Dad had booked as a surprise for Mum.
We flew from Manston over Sandwich, Deal & Dover before heading across to Sheppey, Oare Marshes and back
over Ramsgate Harbour before returning to land at Manston
So on to 1999 and that quest for a county record year list. Mobile phones had just become part and parcel of the birders kit, although it would be a few years before digital image technology would become equally available. The Kent 300 Club had just kicked off and as a result those of us within the clique had a list of contacts that needed to be called should a good bird be encountered. Jerry Warne, at Birdline SE was party to this and, as such, information was incredibly quick to circulate within the gang. Chris Abrams had got two phone rotas in place, and what a great piece of fortune that it coincided with the best year in the history of Kent birding. The stars had aligned to allow me the best chance of setting new year list figures as I now was well established within the Kent crowd and to top it off Unilever had given me a two day week contract (24 hrs - 2 x 12 hrs over the weekend) so free time wasn't an issue.  This single factor was to allow me to spend all, or part, of twenty eight days at Bockhill Farm, St. Margaret's Bay, during that October - result! A car, limitless time and enough dough - I couldn't fail?

The target was 242 and I smashed it! I finished the year on 263 species, which didn't include Yellow-legged or Caspian Gull, as they'd not been split, nor the Pratincole sp. that I'd found over Grove Ferry whilst the Baillon's Crake was still in residence. I missed Iceland Gull and Stone Curlew, both of which were at Dungeness, but still ended up finding 233 species for myself during the year.  My total was registered, all sightings accepted by the KOS and associated birding authorities. I have no idea as to whether this still remains a record? To be honest I don't really care. It was a fantastic year, huge enjoyment, camaraderie, adrenaline and umpteen other experiences which made for lasting memories and friendships. On the flip side, it cost me my first marriage - so how clever is that? Under no circumstances can any sane individual think that this is a price worth paying? However, without this event I'd never have married Bev and be in the very comfortable position I now find myself. Clouds and silver linings? It was the discovery of one of my old note books, not a diary as such, but more of a highlights collection of birds seen that I've been moved to write this blog entry. There are very poor record images, via the medium of paper and pencil, which just demonstrates how far we've come since the advent of the digital era and exactly why the mobile phone/camera has so revolutionised bird recording.