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!


Sunday 31 May 2020

#BWKm0 - Mad World?

At 08.50 hrs I was stood outside, in the back garden, as a Sand Martin skimmed over the rooftop, headed eastwards. The most surreal sighting given that I've only ever recorded the species half a dozen times on my patch. Only one previous record from the garden and all but once in the autumn migration period. I made comment to Bev about the sighting, yet almost immediately gave it some credibility, by realising that I was only stood outside looking at the sky due to the current Covid-19 restrictions. Every other year I  would have been doing anything but, standing in the garden on May 31st! Is the occurrence of Sand Martin, in May, that unusual or is the record a direct consequence of being forced to watch from the garden?  Number 65, and a most unexpected addition to the lockdown garden list!

Bev and I should now be on Kefalonia, spending time with four extraordinary friends. It would be our first time on this magnificent island during the Spring. We're not, which is painfully obvious, so I spent a while flicking through some archive photos, just as a way of pissing myself off even further.

Having so many happy memories of time spent, around the Eastern Mediterranean, I'm gutted that we're unable to do so. In the bigger picture, however, politics remains centre stage. The fall-out from the George Floyd murder, in the USA, has resonated around the cyber world. Only when you think that the "tabloid scandal rags" can't sink any lower do they come out with social distancing criticism of those involved in protest against this racially motivated situation. The world's in melt down - as Tears for Fears once sang - It's a Mad World!

Friday 29 May 2020

Justice and democracy - now just words in a dictionary

Once upon a time there was a world when equal rights, freedom of speech and punishment fitted the crime were central to the civilised society for which they were the founding pillars. In 2020, none of these fundamentals hold sway any longer. I've just about had it with the pathetic rabble who masquerade as our political leaders yet, am fully aware of the situation across the pond. The most powerful human being on Planet Earth, with an IQ just short of that of a garden gnome, has gone to war with "Twitter" over their censoring his outrageous claims. 
Johnson can't believe his luck? The incoherent ranting of the "fake tanned moron" almost make Boris's failings look insignificant. These are very strange times and when the ordinary man needs a hero to step up to the plate we've got this pair of imbeciles. Is there any hope for our grandchildren?
Sorry to keep going on about this ridiculous situation, but I simply can't ignore the political lunacy that is affecting all our lives. We need leadership and we just ain't getting it from these tossers!

Thursday 28 May 2020

Pinch yourself - this is reality!

Sixty four and one half years I've lived in this "Green & Pleasant" land, proud to be able to call myself an Englishman, born and bred. My family values have instilled an incredible sense of patriotism, an unquestioning devotion to the Cross of St. George and the Union Flag beyond.  Equally respectful of all others ability to be proud of their own birth rights, wherever in the UK (the world!) they originate. Cecil Rhodes once said, to a disgruntled soldier fighting in the Boer War, and I quote!
"Sir, you are an Englishman, thus have won first prize in life's lottery!"
My Great Uncle, Joe Lawrence, fought in WW1 and came home, after witnessing scenes of utter horror and experiences that he never spoke about, with Lloyd George promising him, and his fellow service personnel, a Land fit for Heroes!
Likewise, family members of my parents generation fought, and died, in the conflict of WW2. Again, those who survived the conflict never spoke about the experiences they'd been forced to endure. The only thing that I can recall is that my uncles, be they Royal Navy, Army or Air Force biased, never once said anything which would encourage a child to join the Armed Forces? Winston Churchill had made great collateral from the "The Few" quote relating to our pilots involved in The Battle of Britain, and, again, once hostilities had ceased, the UK politicians again promised a golden future.
Anyone spotted where this is going?
Covid - 19 is my generation's version of a war and, once again, politicians are pushed into situations that are well outside any comfort zone. The ordinary man, on the street, is now at the mercy of these, party point scoring, clowns. Let's get this said here and now - Politicians tell lies, for a living! End of.
Boris has made a major error of judgement, but then again, he was always a pathetic excuse for a human being from the off! Let's remember that he couldn't hold a candle to Paul Merton, Ian Hislop and Angus Deayton during the "Have I Got News for You?" days. Ensuring Dominic Cummings still has a job or the well being of the UK populous? A difficult one, yes I agree, but then I haven't had to drive sixty miles in order to check my eyesight?
Proud to be English, yep I still am. Proud of the pathetic dereliction of duty, as displayed by our current Cabinet incumbents is less clear - I despair at the incompetence on display. What do outsiders think - looking in?

My walk to work

With the glorious weather seemingly here, on Thanet, for the foreseeable future; I have taken to walking to and from work in line with the government recommendations. What a pillar of society I'm becoming? With Fujifilm SIS furlough planning, I start at 07.30 hrs and finish at 15.10 hrs and will do so for fourteen days (the middle three) of a nine week period which started at the end of April. This morning I took a camera with me, just to capture some shots of "my patch". Concrete and cauliflowers is how most folk perceive Thanet. This is the tiny piece which I call mine. It has been scene to some absolutely outstanding avian encounters over the two decades that Bev and I have lived here. So here's my walk to work!

Just stepped off our drive. This is the view, north, along Vine Close.
Access to the  criss-cross mix of public footpaths is via an alleyway between
 the two furthest bungalows.
This is the field margin which lies directly at the end of Vine Close. The hedgerow on the left is a nice mix of Damson and
wild plum, much of which is covered in Ivy. A great spot for Ring Ouzel in both migration periods.
That small group of trees,on the right hand horizon, is where the Great Grey Shrike favoured during it's
two day stop off. At the end of the hedge I turn left, towards Pyson's Road.
It is a very strange arrangement as the land is farmed by four different landowners. The two who live on site, so to speak, have always been very supportive of my birding activities and for that I am incredibly grateful.

This is the view from the footpath, looking SW across to Arthur Burbridge's farm complex and the
two new schools of Ellington and Foreland Fields. The potato crop, in the foreground
is where the Yellow Wagtail is holding territory.
Getting close to work now. The scrub on view is the remnants of The Old Rose Garden
and presently home to a male Lesser Whitethroat.
There we are. My blog title image, of my shift colleagues and I doing the NHS clap was taken right under the obvious
fire escape steps.
As I walked back home, this afternoon, I thought it would be useful if I took a photo of Nick Ash's farm compound. After all, it is his farm that bears the name Newlands! 

That stand of mature trees is where the Common Buzzards have set up home.
Beyond that skyline is a wonderful mix of paddocks, a huge Kent Peg barn and
the very heart of my Newlands Farm Patch

With this as my back yard, it is very difficult to find anything to complain about during this unprecedented period of lockdown. There are certainly many folk far worse off than I, that's for sure.
Concrete and cauliflowers? I'll take that over concrete and nothing else every time!

Wednesday 27 May 2020

No credibility, certainly no respect

Well today's "Liaison Committee" farce finally put the "tin hat" on any chance of Boris remaining a serious voice in this pandemic situation. It was like an episode from The Muppets, only far more laughable, if only it wasn't so bloody important! Matt Hancock simultaneously announcing the track and trace system being launched tomorrow. If you have been in contact with some one who's tested positive then the instruction is to self isolate for 14 days! Get to fuck!
Shops are reopening, the beaches around Thanet are absolutely rammed. This Conservative government has lost any hope of remaining a credible source of information due to the ridiculous pandering to the career of one, unelected, adviser. When the second peak comes, and rest assured, following this whole sordid affair, it will, Boris and co might just have the guts to say sorry? Yet somehow, I very much doubt it!
I'm now back at work, which has been a great lift during these crazy furlough times. We're only working day shifts, so I'm walking there across my Newlands patch. A Yellow Wagtail is holding territory on a potato field, some 400 m from the bungalow, yet I've still to record one for the #BWKm0 garden list. A Lesser Whitethroat is singing away in what remains of The Old Rose Garden, just reminding me of what I've missed during this strangest of Spring's? A couple of Skylarks are also present and the Common Buzzards remain in situ around the main farm compound.

With very little else to point the camera at, I've been recording the sunsets as viewed from the garden. No two ever the same and a nice distraction from the nonsense of reality in 2020!

This is my first post using the new "Blogger" settings - they're are causing me all sorts of issues and might well be the beginning of the end. I ain't poncing about with this crap. Can't get text to align or resize my photos!
Update - I've just reverted back to "classic blogger" and have managed to sort out these issues. What is the matter with Google - why mend something which isn't broken?

Sunday 24 May 2020

Serious mis-judgement of public feeling?

I've just watched that clown, who purports to be our PM, defend the, guideline breaking, actions of Dominic Cummings. Because, at every election, I make the effort to place a cross on a ballot paper I, therefore, have the right to voice an opinion as to the conduct of our political leaders. At the last General Election, under no circumstances could I ever vote Conservative and yet, because Jeremy Corbyn had ensured that Labour were un-electable, placed my cross next to the Green Party candidate, knowing full well that I was wasting my time. My right to criticise remains intact, it's part of our UK identity and culture.
Quite how tomorrow's headlines will read is completely unknown, but one thing's for sure, Boris has made a very serious error of judgement in offering support to this odious little maggot! With so many of us sticking rigidly to the government's advice; it would seem "do as I say, not as I do" to be clear message emanating from No.10.  How many MP's, of all parties, will be under pressure, from constituents who have experienced far more trying ordeals of illness and childcare, without the need to drive 260 miles?  A major "U" turn in this debacle is the only way forward, otherwise it ain't going away and the Great British public will have lost all faith in what the politicians, and their scientific advisers, are asking us to adhere to. If the rule makers don't stick to them why should anyone else?
I'm sure the entire front line team of NHS staff, community carers, police and ambulance paramedics are fully supportive of what Boris had to say today. When that second peak occurs, then maybe he might just understand what a complete moron he has as his chief adviser? Too late, too late, will be the cry!
Even Sir Roger Gale, the North Thanet Conservative MP, since 1983, has added his voice to the calls for the removal of Cummings from UK political involvement - not very often I find myself agreeing with this guy, that's for sure!

Writing - a wonderful distraction

These past three weeks have seen me spending a great deal of time at the laptop, attempting to put together pieces for several projects/publications. Obviously this task has helped me avoid going "stir crazy", but has also brought back just how much joy I derive from the written word and all that it entails. Don't get me wrong, I love blogging and the spontaneous interaction it can illicit, yet sitting down to actually write something which has more than two paragraphs, attempting to do more than describe the events of a day on the bank, or in the garden, is very different and, ultimately, far more satisfying when completed. I use Google Docs for my efforts although Microsoft Word is equally suitable. One such piece is sat on the laptop, yet I'm unsure if the project it is destined for is anything more than a pipe-dream? So to rid myself of the venom and bad feelings created by the antics of Boris's chief adviser I'll share it here.

Two pivotal weeks - Two years apart

You’ll have to bear with me; for the start of my discovery of the thrill, to be experienced, chasing wilderness carp can be traced back to some incredible events, which took place on The Stour. It was August 2013 and, along with my son, Benno, the stretch of river behind, the now infamous, Willow Close, in Canterbury, was the scene for a drama which I couldn’t have scripted, even in my wildest dreams. The original project target was a double figure Barbel. In these modern times nothing particularly remarkable, but I’d packed up chasing Barbel in 1985, my PB of 9 lbs 2 oz being a very respectable statistic at the time. Eighteen years away from fishing was an incredible period spent watching birds but, as they say, all good things must come to an end. A week’s pike fishing in Scotland (April 2011) re-ignited the flame and, once again, speccy hunting became my focus.

August 2013, and, thus, I’m already two years back into the angling groove, although this time round not quite as obsessional? Both Benno and I had already taken a “double” apiece from this notorious stretch of the river, so it was game on! Some of the other folk, also frequenting this particular stretch, were proper wrong’uns, so we carried walkie talkies as a method of raising the alarm should anything untoward arise. It didn’t, but at least we were prepared. The evening of Saturday 17th August, was to see me having to create a brand new swim, because some lame-brain had ruined the one I’d been targeting. I must have done half a decent job because two guys came past and climbed an adjacent tree, yet still didn’t spot me, or any barbel, for that matter! 

It was just after 23.00 hrs, on that fateful date, when the rod wrenched round, the centre-pin spinning wildly, as an unseen fish bolted off with my rig. I had to get into the river, in order to net the culprit but, at 13 lbs 5 oz, there was nothing I could complain about. I’d smashed my PB out of sight. Walkie talkie quickly in use, Benno was soon at my side, assisting with the weighing ritual and capturing those, all important, trophy shots.

Just four days later we returned. No question as to where I’m fishing, Benno dropped into the “Willows”, some 400 m upstream from me. Being Wednesday, therefore a work day, no way we could stay late but, my bite came at 22.30 hrs and ensured, we overstayed by some considerable margin. 13 lbs 14 oz of pure River Stour magic. The capture of those two fish meant it was probably the best week in my entire angling adventure? I’d certainly have to do something very special to beat it.

So now I fast forward to July 2015 and a manifestation of the ridiculous role that fate plays in all our lives? It was mid-afternoon on Sunday 5th, when I rang Benno to say that I was thinking about taking a drive over to Canterbury for my first barbel session of the new season. What a fluke? He’d been drop-shotting just upstream from my favoured stretch, that very morning, reporting that the EA had been carrying out some extensive weed cutting and the situation was absolute carnage. That’s plan A scuppered then, what to do now?  It was at that moment I remembered another angler telling me about some big tench which inhabited a small drain that I had pike fished in the winter of 2011/12. With nothing better to do, I’d give that a try. Bait was already prepared and stored in my freezer; left over from a recent trip down to the river. I left home around 17.30 hrs but, due to access restrictions, did not arrive at the venue much before 19.00 hrs - that's some walk. The drain hadn't seen any angling activity, which was obvious by the luxuriant bank side vegetation. Lily pads and extensive aquatic weed beds, in crystal clear water, made it a very picturesque scene, although finding and preparing a swim was a little problematic. I eventually settled on a swim, which had produced a few decent pike in the past, knowing that the depth was slightly deeper than the average, plus it was on a slight kink in the waterway and, to top it off, had a nicely spaced group of lily pads. I got started by casting a small lead around to establish the condition of the bottom and the extent of the weed growth. Once done, I proceeded to go through the routine of introducing my "munga" which consisted of nothing more than hemp and sweetcorn! Two Duncan Kay's, fitted with Mitchell 300's were assembled and baits cast out onto my spots. Curried chickpeas on the left hand rod, a neutral buoyancy 14 mm halibut pellet/fluoro pop-up combo on the right.

I set about getting a few shots of my gear, but got distracted by several small patches of bubbles appearing over my baited areas. Some time after 20.00 hrs the left hand alarm screamed into action as the indicator smashed up to the rod. The fish went nuts, careering through lily-pads, the line cutting through the stems of these wild plants, like cheese wire. It took three attempts to get it into my waiting net - wrong choice? I was using my 24” round Tring tench version which was perfectly okay for those Stour barbel. I’d certainly not been expecting this. A stunning Common Carp which tipped the scales at 18 lbs 2 oz! I doubt if it had ever seen a hook? Absolutely pristine, beautifully dark, almost like it had been carved out of mahogany - a truly sensational creature. I did my best to get a record shot, but failed to do the fish true justice, my auto focus isn't much cop on timer delay plus the light was starting to fade.

There is no doubt that this capture was nothing more than a fluke, yet the sight of such a glorious creature encapsulated everything I was seeking in my angling. It didn’t have a name and there wasn’t another soul, let alone angler, within miles of me. A truly wild fish from a neglected dyke and, unsurprisingly, I wanted some more of it.

Five days later and I’m back at the waterside, this time for a dawn session. The light was just starting to intensify on the eastern horizon as I went through the ritual of introducing a few pouchfuls of munga and flicking out two hook baits. It was chickpeas on both rods this time round and I hadn’t been fishing for longer than an hour when, at 04.40 hrs, the left hand indicator smashed up to the blank and I was into carp number two. What a battle and what a magnificent fish. If I’d been blown away by my first, then this one pushed me over the edge. Absolutely perfect, in every detail, the rising sun just adding to the drama by picking out the subtle shades of black, brown and bronze, as it lay there on my unhooking mat. I was speechless, although had no-one to talk to, my mind racing through the events that I’d just been privileged to experience. It weighed in at 20 lbs 10 oz and, as such, was my first twenty since February 1984. What a moment, all the more intense because I was alone with my thoughts and emotions. Too early to ring Benno, no point packing up, I sacked my prize and recast the rod; caring not a jot if I caught another fish - ever?

Sitting out there, basking in my moment of glory, bathed by the early morning sun, I decided that 06.15 hrs would be time to pack away the kit and get some selfies done. Already counting down the minutes when, with just ten remaining, the right hander was away. All together a far more routine battle with the outcome being a beautiful, fully scaled, mirror, of 12 lbs 6 oz, joining the party. The rest of the day passed in some sort of a blur as I tried to get my head around what I’d actually achieved? No new PB’s, in truth very ordinary carp if weight is the primary concern. What the capture of those three carp provided was, far more than anything I could have hoped for? It had opened a doorway leading to a path where, once again, I would be able to pit my wits against the demands of truly wild fish in their own backyards. 

Obviously success is based upon very personal goals which, by definition, won't be shared by others. The ridiculous quirk of fate which led to the sequence of events, out there on the drain, has steered my angling ever since. If it hadn't been for the EA weed cutting I might still be dodging the wrong'uns and chasing big barbel along The Stour?

Saturday 23 May 2020

Dominic Cummings - a total disgrace!

I was going to leave this until tomorrow but, as Mark Skevington has set the ball rolling, I'll have my say now. Within the corridors of power are some incredibly shady characters who wield huge influence over the direction our political elite manouver. One such, odious, individual is Dominic Cummings. I don't know the guy, never likely to cross paths, yet this power seeking, egotistical, fuck-wit has undermined everything the government has been imposing on the entire population with no consideration to the fallout or the consequences. The man is a self-serving c*nt - not much more to add!  Let's hope that the front line NHS and care workers are able to identify with his "essential travel" whilst desperately fighting to save the life of another Covid-19 victim. If there's any justice in this crazy world - he'll get his! Is Boris really the PM, or just a puppet? As leader he must show the UK that no one is above the self isolation guidelines and rid our political scene of this nasty little man. Come next Thursday, the 10th week of our NHS clapping tribute, let's hope that we will be able to also celebrate the removal of this unelected scum bag from the UK political scene?

Two weeks stolen by Covid-19

It must have been six, even seven, years ago when I watched a Youtube offering depicting a group of "bikers" riding the Tyndrum to Loch Awe road, all, helmet fitted, Go-Pro imagery and accompanied by the wonderful Elbow track - "One day like this" It is now a song which is synonymous with my memories of Loch Awe and everything it stands for in my life's journey.

But now reality is life in "lockdown 2020" and all that this unprecedented situation entails. Since Bev and I got together, it has been our desire to have a fortnight's break somewhere, in the sun and beyond our normal routine,  a holiday abroad for want of a better description. To be fair, we've achieved this, and so much more, during our time together. What with retirement beckoning and the current state of affairs doing nothing to suggest that it won't be sooner, rather than later, we have to accept that our first Spring holiday on Kefalonia is already a write off. Today, 23rd May, we were due to fly from Bristol, along with four of our dearest friends, to spend a fortnight in a villa whilst celebrating birthdays and the like. It's been put on hold, certainly not cancelled, but one thing's for sure, it ain't happening any time soon. We've all lost money, of that I'm certain, but in the bigger picture no way is our situation unique and a lesson learnt?  Sure, we're pissed off that our plans have gone "tits up" but what about those folk on Kefalonia whose livelihoods are 100% reliant on tourism. How are they coping?

These past five years holidaying on Kefalonia has resulted in some of the most outrageous events of my life, Friendships formed between people who have absolutely nothing in common, other than honesty of soul and the recognition of the true value of such things. We will be together soon, of that I'm convinced, but in the mean while we need to remain positive. So to Carrie-Anne & Craig, Leon & Leenie, it's "Yammas Malakas"- we'll be together as soon as is possible, that's for sure!

Thursday 21 May 2020

Garden time

Wednesday was another stunner, here on Thanet, and I spent my time watching the birds whilst also getting the tackle ready for another session at the syndicate fishery. New line on three reels, more rigs tied and generally ensuring that everything I require is present, in a usable state of repair. I also prepared some mashed bread, purely as a result of an interview I saw involving Lee Jackson. Although in no way am I seeking to copy what he did, the use of bread is something worthy of further investigation?

The camera is always close to hand, just in case something catches my eye. The parakeets and jackdaw were good value but, just after 11.00 hrs, three Red Kites moved north over the farmland allowing me a record shot opportunity as they did so. In keeping with the sightings of so many other birders, across southern England, these three birds were all 2nd c/y individuals with that characteristic wing moult providing a gap at the join of the secondaries to the primaries. Three is my best count so far this year and takes my tally to eight since the lockdown started.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Not quite what I was expecting

I didn't blank but, a very small "jack" pike grabbing two chick peas, as I reeled in, isn't the outcome I'd hoped for.  Just wonderful to be back out on the bank again, I also added Turtle Dove and Cuckoo to the year list whilst sat behind motionless indicators. Good stuff.

Even a non-angler would spot the obvious swim, between the two lily pads to my right. The left hand rod
was fishing in a more open area.
I saw enough to help me formulate a plan, as time moves forward, but it wasn't the fish, or lack of them, that provided the excitement. With the wind trickling into the corner swim, that I had chosen, my binoculars were in constant use as I looked for signs of feeding fish. The sun was beginning to head towards the western horizon when I espied a very strange shape in the closest lily pad. A bloody terrapin! As you will see, I rattled of a number of images which have allowed me to tentatively id the creature as a Yellow-bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta ) which is native to the southern United States, Florida and Virginia? Obviously been released by a pet owner bored by the responsibilities of keeping such a demanding animal, the sighting certainly added to my session yesterday.

This is how I first saw it

Then it decided to swim right under my rod tips, the auto focus picking up on the shell, not it's head!
Whilst I was sat in my swim, another member, who was respectful of the social distancing guidelines, came along for a chat and told me about an eel that he'd caught last week. At 5 lbs plus, it was certainly an interesting snippet and something to think about as the season progresses?

Sunday 17 May 2020

Almost there

In less than 24 hrs I will have cast a line into Church Lake, at my syndicate fishery, for the first time since this pandemic situation began. I can't recall feeling any more excited about going fishing in my entire life? To be totally honest, it won't matter a jot if I catch or not, the fact that I'm able to cast a baited hook, once again, suggests that there is light at the end of this, awfully dark, tunnel. 3 kg, dry weight, of munga has been prepared although, obviously, I don't envisage needing anything like this amount for my initial visit. All that's required now is to prepare my flavour smoke, liquidised sweetcorn and tuna flakes, and job's a good'n! I've got a couple of extra camera batteries in the tackle bags, so am hoping to get a few shots of the ridiculous array of gear that is now deemed "essential" when faced with a new challenge. I've made the decision to use the Duncan Kay's to start with, as I have no idea how these carp behave, so don't wish to destroy a sixty year old, split cane, rod whilst discovering I'm under-gunned. All part of the, never ending, learning process? Best err on the side of caution until I've got my feet under the table, so to speak!

It's been a beautiful day here, on Thanet, with early cloud burning away to reveal a wonderfully clear sky, light winds and brilliant sunshine. Bev loved it, pretending to be a lizard, laid there on her sunbed, just like she does in Kefalonia, but without our friends. (More about them soon) I spent the majority of the day watching the local Buzzards and Sparrowhawks going about their daily routines, whilst noting a definite increase in House Martin and Swallows around Newlands airspace. Camera is always close to hand and I was happy to stand in my study door and record, both, Jackdaw and Wood Pigeon just because I could.

Saturday 16 May 2020

All rather quiet

The garden seems to be very much in a state of limbo at present. Still plenty of visitors to the feeding station, but all very predictable in the species department! The parakeets are regularly using the bird bath as opposed to the sunflower heart feeders, so I'm fairly confident it's for moisture to pass on to their offspring. The local pair of Common Buzzards have started to behave very differently, now they have an established nest site. The male is doing the vast majority of the hunting, thus leading me to believe that the female is now incubating? Although they can still be quite vocal, he tends to head off to hunt over the farmland, usually accompanied by an irate Crow or Herring Gull, but returns, alone, just skimming the ground so as to avoid the attentions of these pesky neighbours? It'll be very interesting to see if this breeding attempt is successful? Urban Buzzards, great stuff!
I'm feeding a lot of dried mealworms, at the moment. £4.99/400 g at B&M's - I soak them overnight, about 50 g, then place them in a tray below the feeders and scatter a few on the lawn. The Magpies love them, as do the House Sparrows and Starlings, only very rarely does a Robin or Great Tit show up to enjoy the feast.

The first fledged juvenile Starlings, of the year, were present this morning, as was the first juvenile Dunnock. At least the local birds are off to a good start this Spring it seems? I spent the majority of my time sorting through the carp gear in preparation for my first visit to the syndicate fishery since the lockdown began. All mats, slings and even the barrow got a thorough clean up; my rods, reels and assorted terminal tackle were given the once over to ensure that my first visit would see every base covered. Munga, having been in soak for 24 hrs, is now in the slow cooker whilst sweetcorn and tuna flakes await the liquidiser treatment, prior to joining the mix, once ready. I have no great expectations for this first visit, I've only allowed myself ten hours and have to abide by very strict rules as to where I'm able to fish, so being able to wander around trying to locate fish might not be possible. I'll just be happy to be on the bank again, a bite would be a great bonus under the circumstances. A decent tench, or even a bream, would do the job. All I hope for is an R3 to sound out as the bobbin rises steadily towards the but ring - roll on Monday afternoon!

Wednesday 13 May 2020

#BWKm0 - no kites?

Blogging has been very lax, this past few days due to influences far beyond my usual scope. Being "furloughed" has become a little more bearable because of the demands of finishing off that chapter for Ben Ward's book and, as a bi-product, getting involved with producing a magazine article. Been good fun and taken my mind away from the current lunacy. Hot on the heels of these two projects came news, from the local syndicate coordinator, that fishing could recommence as from 13th May, but with very strict and obvious guidelines in place to ensure we remain within the government's rules.  I'll be watching the weather closely before booking a session, or two, with our bailiff.

The garden has remained central to all my nature watching and I have to say that here, on the east side of Thanet, it's been rather weird. I've only seen five Red Kites since the start of the "lockdown" others around me are seeing more than that number in a single flock! Common Buzzards, on the other hand, continue to pass overhead in dribs and drabs and, via the prolonged use of my Kowa scope, I have established that, as well as the Newlands birds, there is a second pair holding territory somewhere over towards St. Peter's.

Hirundines and swifts remain very scarce visitors to the airspace above Dumpton, although the blasting NE winds can't be doing much to help the situation. Yesterday I had a flock of fourteen adult Mediterranean Gulls go east, very high over the garden, which are almost certainly the same flock as recorded by Marc Heath earlier in the day at Reculver. I was interested to read Chris Hindle's remark about flooding in The Medway being the, probable, cause due to the loss of nest sites at this large colony. Yesterday also provided me with the sighting of the first brood of, newly fledged, House Sparrows and a rather bold, and very independent, young Robin. All very positive.

My feeding station is just one of many along the gardens and the local Sparrowhawks treat the situation like a fly through McDonald's! If they miss in one garden, then straight on to the next, no messing about. There are at least three pairs locally, so the alarm calls of the House Sparrows is always a good sign to pick up the camera. A male Kestrel, probably the partner of the female that saw off those two Red Kites last Thursday, has taken to hunting the field margins right behind the garden hedgerow and has become number 44 for the garden photo challenge as a result.

Hedgehogs remain very active, visiting the feeding station each night, but I've not seen, or heard, a fox in some while. The most unexpected sighting has been that of Rose-ringed Parakeets flying in to use the bird bath. I don't know if they are having a drink or collecting water for their young back at the nest sites around Ramsgate Cemetery and beyond?

So that's me up to date, now to get them rods out and let's go fishing!

Saturday 9 May 2020

Catch up

It's been a rather weird sort of time, these past couple of days. Obviously the occurrence of that Black Kite has to take centre stage, yet I can't say that I was able to derive the pleasure, from the encounter it warranted, as it was nearly a day later when I realised what I'd seen. The adrenaline moment well gone by that juncture. I now only require a White-tailed Sea Eagle to drift over Dumpton to have the entire Kent raptor list included on the patch list, Hen Harrier being the only other one missing for the garden!

Another Dumpton sunset -  The Isle of Thanet; what a  deprived place to have to call home!

Being a "big fish" angler of many years experience, my immune system must be up there with the best of them. Cooking with lake water, no clean cutlery, dirty cups and plates, surely these antics must have a positive part to play in immune response? Last night I was to discover that this theory might not be as bomb proof as I'd first thought! The Smoked Haddock, which had been stored in the fridge, was a day past it's best before date! "That'll be okay" says I and happily chomped my way though half a fillet before thinking that something wasn't quite right. At 02.00 hrs, this morning, I knew I'd made a mistake. I felt decidedly "here & there" although, thankfully, I wasn't confined to the loo. I got up, purely because I felt so uncomfortable laying down, and went into my study where I grabbed a glass of Watermelon & Strawberry Lucozade.
A day after its' peak, the "Flower/Milk" super moon still shone brightly in the heavens and I thought I might as well have a play around with the camera whilst I was up and about. I used some camera settings which I'd seen on a Youtube offering and clicked away merrily for a few minutes. No point me moaning about the results, they are the best my ancient kit are capable of, good enough for blogging that's for sure.

That "Big Bad Moon!" - Joe Satriani knew what he was singing about!
Whilst I'm outside, using the ten second timer delay, to keep camera shake to the bare minimum an Oystercatcher pipes out it's unmistakable call from the sky above! Gotcha - number 64 on the lockdown garden list! I knew there was a reason for me feeling "Bill & Dick". I kept the back door open whilst I downloaded the moon photos and was quickly aware of some noise outside. A hedgehog had turned up at the feeding station and was munching, extremely loudly, on the biscuits that are on offer. Gone as quickly as it arrived, I feel so privileged to have these animals visiting my garden and will continue to do all I can to encourage them to hang around.

Swift and Sparrowhawk are images from yesterday, I'm now up to 43 species photographed from the garden since Jan 1st. I couldn't have known it at the time, but feel that my decision to attempt such a project, to capture 50 species on camera, during 2020 might just prove to be a good one?

Friday 8 May 2020

End of the line? - No chance

I have to start this post by offering my sincere thanks to Steve Gale who has provided the platform for the #BWKm0 "laid back garden challenge" these past 49 days. His effort and IT skills have provided me, and so many others, with a fantastic distraction from the realities of "lockdown" UK.
Cheers mate!
My own circumstances won't change much, for at least the next fortnight, due to having Bev's mum living with us. Eighty-six, very frail and bed-ridden, I don't want to be the one who passes on this dreadful virus which might see her spend her last few days, alone and frightened, in a hospital ward. Garden birding and social distancing is how it must remain, for Bev and I, whatever Boris announces on Sunday? Anyhow, there I was, yesterday, desperate for one last addition to see my garden total reach that magic sixty mark. A bit of high grey cloud, early doors, gradually burned away as the sun dominated the majority of daylight, from mid-morning onward.
Glory be, there was a very brief appearance by a male Lesser Whitethroat, two bursts of that unmistakable "warbling rattle" and my target was achieved. A group of three House Martins appeared shortly afterwards, so number sixty-one, and I could feel myself grinning with satisfaction, although I had no-one to share the moment with.
It was around 11.10 hrs when I watched, in utter amazement, a female Kestrel chase off two, rather tatty looking, Red Kites. They were headed my way, from down by St. Lawrence College, before Mrs Kestrel got involved and pushed them off to the east. Thinking that they, like three Common Buzzards the previous day had done, would not fancy a sea crossing whilst the murky conditions along the coast prevailed, would end up doing a circuit of Thanet. Fully expecting another chance, I remained vigilant outside in the garden. My binos and camera were close to hand when the gulls, over at Pyson's Road, went up. Never really in full panic mode, they simply soared above the factory units not particularly happy about something? I picked up a very distant raptor, approaching from the west. Common Buzzard, no surely not? Marsh Harrier, yeah that's more like it and I watched it start to move south towards Pegwell Bay. I grabbed the camera and rattled off half a dozen shots, thinking nothing more of it. Steve was emailed with my final tally, there was the Thursday NHS clap to participate in, hedgehogs to feed, and so much other stuff that I didn't download the camera until this morning. What with a magnificent sunset, and the super moon, blogging sort of went out the window somewhere in the mix.

What a mistake. A group of Common Swifts and two sparring male Sparrowhawks had me pointing the long lens skyward early this morning, whilst a Hobby made it onto my list at number 62. It wasn't until lunch time that I bothered to see what I'd managed to record. Because I have two cameras, which I use simultaneously, the downloaded images quite often have the same jpeg number as another image and, as a result, I get a file with the photos I want to view, interspersed by previously downloaded ones from other dates in the month. I have absolutely no doubt that there is a very simple solution to this problem but, hey-ho, I'm totally computer illiterate, so will continue to do things my way. My photos were okay, the swifts will do for the fifty species garden challenge if I don't manage something better later on? So whilst I was at the laptop, yesterday's Marsh Harrier images might as well get an airing. "What the f*ck? "

The bird was never any closer than 800 m, a similar range to the Rough-legged Buzzard, but at least it had the decency to fly south and not north. Six visible primary "fingers" the carpal angle in active flight and the, slightly concave, triangular tail shape - I'm going with BLACK KITE! Can I count it? Are you kidding? I made a mistake which, fortunately, technology was able to rectify. I'm only human after all. So Hobby was actually number 63 on my garden list. Quit now - not a chance!

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Two boxes ticked

Despite the sun blazing down from a, relatively, cloudless sky it was bloody chilly outside, today, with a blasting easterly doing nothing to aid the situation. It remained like this for the entire day and, as a result, I was confined to barracks, sat at my laptop with just one thing on my mind. I had to complete that piece I'd promised Ben Ward and so it came to pass that box number two, on the furlough "to do list", was ticked. I've forwarded a draft copy of my effort, yet will happily tweak it if Ben sees a need. All I require to do now is sift through the archives to find some decent images to accompany the piece and then it's time for box number three! Not that I've got a box number three, as yet. Although I'm sure Bev won't have any difficulty selecting one if I'm struggling for ideas. A major tidy up of the study might just be the one, although I don't see that getting done in a day somehow. With another twenty days before I get back to work, there's a chance we might get our garden ready for the Chelsea Flower Show?
The forecast is for the winds to die away and the temperatures rise accordingly right through to the weekend. If this happens, then being outside will certainly take priority over the tidy study project. I still need House Martin and Yellow Wagtail for the #BWKm0 garden list and won't add them if I'm stuck inside. The area down by the sheds and aviary are in much need of a little TLC and it is this task that is likely to take president if the sun continues to shine. I need to be careful that I don't over do the tidiness, as it's the area of the garden where I've recently positioned my "Hedgehog Hilton"
Still; all these things are of very secondary importance to the reason why all of our lives have been turned upside down. From what I'm seeing on the various news providers websites, the UK is on the right path in combating this invisible enemy and looking towards ways off lifting the restrictions which are so inhibiting our normal routines.
One side effect of the social distancing rules which has really struck me, during the recent weeks, is just how polite the folk in my local neighbourhood have become. Complete strangers happy to cross the road, in order to comply with government instructions, yet still willing to exchange pleasantries as they pass. The two local shops have become the hub of our community and are able to provide the basics for everyone who needs them. Once again, social distancing is observed without the need for floor markings or security staff, and the good natured banter amongst those waiting outside is, hopefully, a positive sign for the future?

Monday 4 May 2020

Sad news

My brother, Simon, rang me earlier today to tell me of the passing of Lester Strudwick. He was a member of The Tring Syndicate, during the early-mid 80's, and an incredibly successful big fish angler during this period. He was always generous with his time and advice, as we were learning the ropes at the reservoir complex. Lester not only inspired us to travel to Scotland, in search of pike, but also gave us the heads up about Stanborough Lake, in Welwyn Garden City, for the carp fishing that was to be had there.

Lester with a 7 lbs 2 oz Tench from "The Royal Box" on Startops - summer 1985(?)

We hadn't kept in touch yet I feel a sense of loss. He was certainly one of a kind - RIP mate.

Sunday 3 May 2020

#BWKm0 - Garden mega and more

06.45 hrs, I'm outside, coffee and kit at the ready. It was a fairly dismal daybreak, if the truth were told, but the still conditions bode well? I don't know how long it was before something clicked in my head! There's a Reed Warbler singing somewhere to the south of the garden. Only snippets of quiet sub-song but, yes, there was definitely a Reed Warbler singing!! Insane, surreal, use whatever words come to mind, this was the reality of my situation. I grabbed the long lens and my binos and went for a walk to the end of Vine Close, thus enabling me to wander along the garden hedgerows back to our bungalow and those to the south. The field margin is a massive swathe of Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) and it was within these hidden depths that the bird was secreted.

Taken using the Sigma 170 - 500 mm. The Alexanders form a continuous
boundary to the Vine Close back gardens.
I failed to get a photo, despite the bird ending up singing in the Elder above my aviary, but enjoyed every minute of the experience. By 08.10 hrs it all went quiet and the bird was gone, I suppose? I've got to be grateful that it was a singing male, as I'd never have spotted a silent female amidst the tangled mass of yellow flowered umbelifers!
I've spent the vast majority of today building my "Hedgehog Hilton" and have to admit that I'm rather pleased with the outcome of my labours. Okay, it wouldn't win any prizes in a joinery competition, but I'm hopeful that the garden Hedgehogs won't be so judgemental? Scrap pallet wood and based upon a design shown on the Wildlife Trusts website, it's now positioned at the far end of the garden, just beyond the feeding station.

I had the camera kit to hand whilst engaged in this mammoth building project and managed to grab a series of images when a male (local?) Sparrowhawk drifted over the garden. Yesterday I'd grabbed a nice image of one, of three, Goldfinch at the feeders and carried on playing about with the lenses and captured a rather pleasing shot of a hoverfly - sp.

Saddest of all, I even pointed the lens in the direction of a flower! What has my life become?

58 - Pied Wagtail - a bird flew through my binocular view as I was watching a migrating Common Buzzard yesterday.
59 - Reed Warbler  - a singing male! Ridiculous.