Who am I?

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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition, that was until Covid-19 intervened!. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!

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Saturday, 25 July 2020

Batty

The Magenta 5 bat detector, that I recently purchased, is very much an entry level device. A bit like the 8 x 42 "Pentax"  binoculars and Opticron HR60 scope that did me proud when I started out birding all those years ago. Fortunately, I don't foresee a situation where listening for bats becomes an obsession, thus am perfectly happy to dabble in this quest for understanding. Bats are a family of creatures which have always been there, in the background, yet never given more than a casual glance - it's a bat. Indeed they were a pain in the arse, like those bloody eels, when barbel fishing on The Stour. Benno and I were regularly given false indications, Daubenton's Bats clipping our lines as they skimmed the surface of the river searching for prey. 

The only image I've ever managed of a bat sp. (Sept 2019)
Taken during a fire on Kefalonia, this poor critter was attempting to avoid
the thick smoke emanating from the burning olive groves

Although I have no desire to amass ticks on lists, the ability to identify those species which cross my path does have some appeal. Already, just standing in the garden, I've managed to confidently identify Common and Soprano Pipistrelle then, during a session at my syndicate fishery, was enhanced, no end, by an absolute cacophony of Daubenton's which were hunting over the lake.  Three species, of a UK list which is around/less than twenty?  Whilst I was down at the fishery, it was clear that other species were also present, yet I had no idea which. What's required is the ability to capture the sounds and replay them at a later date when the vast resource provided by internet might be of assistance. 
I've owned, and used, a small digital voice recorder for a number of years. Talking into a recorder is far easier than making notes when my arthritic hands are cold and wet after landing a pike on a February morning. I felt sure that I'd be able to marry up the two devices, therefore be able to record the calls of these unseen creatures as they go about their nocturnal routines. I am indebted to Gary Pearse, my go to computer guy, with whom I work. He being able to provide the cable which connects these two devices. What I will also make clear, is it was Gary's wife, Julie, who was catalyst to me starting feeding the hedgehogs in our garden. Pretty sure I'll end up with a trail-cam before it's finished?
Yesterday evening, post sundown, I was stationed in the garden, detector/recorder in hand, ready to give it my first go. It was a runaway success, over six minutes of almost continuous chatter from two/three Common Pipistrelles which were feeding in the lea of the garden hedge. Technical stuff which will require further assistance from young Gary is my ability to transfer these sounds into a format which I'm able to share with blog visitors and, maybe a little more tricky? How to reduce the background noise (constant buzzing) caused by the detector frequency settings? To be perfectly honest, I don't remember being so enthused by discovering new opportunities to engage with wildlife than when I first started moth-trapping back in 1994!

Monday, 20 July 2020

Coming along nicely

Back into work, early this morning, me and the guys on "A" shift were quickly informed that our next week of furlough had been cancelled and we're now working late shift instead. All rather weird when seventeen shop floor positions are being made redundant? Still, it's not my place to worry about the business logistics. I'm paid to do a days' graft then I go home and leave all that stressful stuff to those who earn their money occupying management positions. Good luck with that! The highlight of my day (week?) occurred around 10.00 hrs when the head of our HR dept came over to deliver, hand addressed, envelopes in which were contained the all important numbers attaining to the company's redundancy payment offer. All of us who've made enquiries have now received these figures and, therefore, have something around which to base our decision. That initial enquiry has no automatic transmission into voluntary redundancy. Having now been given the figures any individual, wishing to be considered, must then confirm their intention, to continue the process, by submitting a request in writing. My letter will be in HR tomorrow, the difference between what I could earn between now and December 2021 and what I've been offered is just a few hundreds of pounds. Only a complete, money obsessed, imbecile could turn this opportunity down under these circumstances?

Remember this controversial character? 
Been there, seen it, got the "T"-shirt, which really pisses off some of the guys at FSIS.
More about this, insane, jealousy in later blogs - once the redundancy process has been completed.
It's all about perception and the poison of a twisted mind.

With my head now fully cleared of nagging doubt I'm able to look forward and make some plans for how I'd like life to move on. Bev has been an amazing help during this process and it's due to her positive outlook, as much as anything else, that has allowed me to reach my decision without feeling that I've, somehow, let us down. She's already  got enough on her plate, looking after mum, without having to nursemaid an ageing hippy! Plenty more to say but, given the "up in the air" situation, I'll hang fire for the moment. The Bat detector is an excellent piece of kit, providing some superb encounters and lessons, with the cameras seeing plenty of action, due to a continued desire to explore new avenues of experience.  July might prove to be the least productive month of the 2020 blogging year, purely because of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.




Friday, 17 July 2020

Walk in the park

This furlough lark is proving to be a  very nice warm up for the real deal that redundancy will represent. I've had seven weeks away from the factory, on full pay, and have only used one day of my holiday allowance thus far. Won't take too much adjustment for me to accept the situation on a permanent basis, that's for sure. Now that the lockdown restrictions are little more than token gestures, away from the political arena, I've been able to spend some quality time with Emily and Harry, two of my, five, grand-children. They have recently moved home and everything is still, very much, up in the air. Being able to take them away from the new house allows Debbie and Adam opportunity to get things done without having to concern themselves about what the kids are up to. 


The park over at Staple is one of our favourite places and, by following the Covid-19 instructions which are posted on the entrance gateway, a nice place to expend some pent up energy. The kids love it over there, all I require is a pack of anti-bacterial wipes and job's a good'n! The park equipment is hardly likely to be an epicentre for a virus spike, but it doesn't do any harm by sticking to the guidelines? 


Just across the entrance track is an enclosure which houses a group of six Emu, plus ducks, geese and chickens - game on! The kids run riot along the public footpath that crosses the field, adjacent to these birds and the fun commences. The Emu's are incredibly inquisitive and Emily, in particular, loves the interaction although might not be quite so brave if a fence wasn't involved?


I've been clicking away at odds and sods around the garden, with varying levels of success. Butterflies are the most obvious, and colourful, of visitors but I was rather pleased to be able to grab an image of a "Queen" Common Wasp that was inspecting our drive.





To finish up, I've just taken delivery of a Magenta 5 "Bat Detector". There were six individuals hunting over the garden, yesterday, and I'm sure that they are very common Pipistrelle's. Without the use of this technology I'll never know unless I can be bothered to catch one in a net or, even more extreme but very much in line with 2020 Pan Listing ethics, shoot one and do a DNA / gen det analysis, with accompanying HD macro images. Luckily for the local bats, moths, flies and umpteen other genera present, I live in the 21st Century and have no requirement to stick pins in specimens in order to add data to some pathetic list, however laudable others might see this behaviour and thus able to defend their "Victorian"  collectors mentality.



I'm gonna have some fun with this device, that's for sure

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

New horizons - outside the box

It was whilst working for Unilever, at their Ashford factory, that I first became familiar with the "thinking outside of the box" philosophy  A structured process, amongst an array of others, which businesses can utilise to developed ideas or seek new market opportunities. I have a great deal to thank Sarah Frost for, the factory manager at this time, as it was she who invited me to join the "factory strategy group", thus allowing me to experience the most educational period of my entire working life. I ended up getting heavily involved with statistical process control and discovering how numbers can be used to help solve the most unlikely of problems. 
So if this stuff, as I'm well aware, can solve problems in a business environment then surely I can use similar processes to assist me through the troubled times ahead? One of the "buzz phrases" back then was "don't see it as a problem, it's an opportunity!" I suppose it all comes down to the individual's perspective; Management bull-shit or not? I have about a month to develop some idea of what I want to do, beyond Fuji SIS, then it will be down to me to draw up a plan and see where it leads. As Ric alluded to, in a recent comment, doing nothing is a waste of life and not an option that I have any interest in pursuing.


The stuff going on, beyond the factory boundaries, is of far more interest to visitors to this blog, I'm sure. Despite the apparent failed breeding attempt, the male Common Buzzard continues to be seen, sporadically, hunting over the farm and, yesterday, was calling and sky dancing over the main farm compound. I really have no idea what's happening? Yellow Wagtail, Skylark and Lesser Whitethroat have all been successful in rearing broods around the "patch" and must be a direct result of the lockdown reducing disturbance around the farmland. Locally House Sparrows and Starlings seem to have had another very good breeding season, with large numbers of juvenile birds present around the garden. The fate of out local Blackbirds remains a mystery; at least two pairs have territories along Vine Close. I've watched the adults collecting food yet only seen one fledged youngster, so far this year.

The recent spell of warm weather has seen a massive emergence of flying ants and the gulls have been making the most of this bonanza. Monday afternoon was to see a flock of some 1,500 birds in a swirling frenzy, high over the farm. My best guess, under the circumstances, were an equal split of Herring and Black-headed, with a few Lesser Black-backed and, at least forty Mediterranean Gulls involved. Quite a spectacle, the sky being full of birds, yet not a sound from the flock as they went about the aerial ballet played out high over Dumpton. Very few hirundines around the farmland and even fewer Swifts, a sign of habitat or climate change or both ?  A male Blackcap, in fine voice, singing in the garden early on Saturday morning was a nice surprise, although it had disappeared well before lunch time, having got fed up with my feeble efforts at obtaining a photo, no doubt.


Butterflies have been reasonably varied, if not numerous, the newly found enthusiasm to keep our potted plants in good nick has obviously been a positive factor. Small Whites dominate the sightings, yet Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Holly Blue and Gatekeeper have been noted on the odd occasion. Four more sightings of Humming-bird Hawk-moth have also been made, all of them feeding on the strip of Red Valerian which grows along the border of our block paved, off road, parking area at the front of the bungalow. A Green Shield Bug turned up on the freshly washed towels, hung on our rotary washing line last Sunday and Bev & I found an Essex Skipper, on the patch, when out on one of our "furlough" walks. Certainly nothing to get excited about, for sure, but it's enough to keep me occupied whilst awaiting the outcome of the redundancy caper.



Saturday, 11 July 2020

Choppy waters

Redundancy, you might dress it up as early retirement, is not a situation that I'm looking forward to but, due to these unprecedented times, now one that I'm faced with ? Prior to the pandemic Fuji SIS were absolutely flying. Each and every target achieved due to the business being fully committed to a program of improved efficiency and customer satisfaction. Yet now what?  Our products remain world class, the factory floor a place which is fun to be part of but, through no fault of our own, we've become a business struggling to survive the crazy reality which Covid-19 has inflicted upon us all. This isn't a Thanet issue, nor even a UK problem, the reality is of global proportions and the economic fall-out will ripple around the planet for years to come. 

Sunset from the back garden. Storm clouds over Pyson's Road and the Fuji factory - how apt?

I'm sixty-four, no mortgage or debt, so why am I finding it such a difficult issue to deal with? If I'm brutally honest, then I think it's the fact that this decision, as to when I cease working, has been taken away from me. I'd always wanted to remain at work until my sixty-sixth birthday then simply walk away, no fuss or ceremony. Now, however, it doesn't look like I'll make it to sixty-five before being consigned to the scrap heap! Not a situation I relish although it does have some very nice spin off effects pertaining to free time and the ability to go fishing, etc... Looking at the numbers, although these are ball park figures and not yet confirmed, it will be a very small margin of difference between the redundancy package and the money I would earn should I stay in employment until December 2021. When looked at in this light it has to be a no-brainer - where do I sign?
Bev and I have talked through our options, so now it's down to HR, at Fuji, and me to see where this situation takes us. I'm furloughed for the next week, so it will be ten days before I am back on site and can set the ball rolling. The factory floor is my second home, a comfort zone in which I'm totally at ease and in control. This current situation is beyond my experience and one that takes me well out of my depth. Turbulent times. I should count my blessings, because we're in far better position to deal with this situation than many other households who are similarly affected. The new normal? Fishing five days a week! I very much doubt it.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Tackle Tart



I first used a fishing rod way back in the summer of 1963. It being a natural progression from the small nylon nets that I'd used to catch Sticklebacks from the River Gade previously. I was totally mesmerised by the fish which inhabited this tiny river and is how my angling journey began. I've written many a post about those crazy times, especially the late 70's - early 90's stuff, yet these are the experiences which have shaped the adventure and dictate my approach to the angling challenges that I now seek. I cannot deny the resistance to change that is part of my make up. Haven't had a visit to a barber since 1993! I tell Bev it's a look that I've been cultivating since primary school - she say's "I'm just a lazy tramp!" How kind? Still; it works for us, so how I look can't be that bad?
It's a bit of a weird one. How can I embrace the benefits modern thinking have upon the business environment in which I derive my livelihood yet remain so set in my ways beyond the factory environs?Horses and courses seems to be the best way I can explain my thought processes. Fishing is my hobby, not my job, thus I feel at ease with rejection of change, for change's sake. The fact that I've actually taken a step backwards, swapping carbon fibre for split cane, just highlights what a bizarre conundrum I now find myself in. At Fuji we are all about pushing the boundaries in a quest for success, and if that means exploring new avenues then I'm as willing, as the next man, to see where the process takes us. Success or failure, it matters not a jot - at least we had a look at the possibilities. Failure doesn't equate to a wrong objective, just a skewed approach which might become successful if tackled from a different perspective. Keeping an open mind is key under these circumstances. Enjoying my life is, also, a simple concept once age had allowed me recognise, and accept, that I'll never know everything! 
Angling has been, and will continue to be, a journey of discovery which I use to push the boundaries of my involvement with the natural world. I've stated many times previously, "there's more to fishing than just catching fish!" Of course I've para-phrased Dick Walker's statement which Jim Gibbinson used to open his 1983 "Modern Specimen Hunting"


So I'm totally at ease with my decisions, purely because they're made to suit me and my requirements; not in order to comply with expectations of others. My current situation allows me the luxury of being able to "cherry pick" those advances in angling tackle, technology, bait or technique without having to sell my soul to the logo, nor worry whether my face fits. It's a very nice position when I can do something because I want to, not because, somehow I feel, I have to. This applies to all aspects of my existence, work included. I am now going to write about two Nash products which have made a massive impact upon my appreciation of how modern manufacturing technology has enabled anglers to reap the rewards. 


I'll start with my thoughts on the Scope 4000 GT reels. £150 a pop, so they're certainly not cheap yet, I would say they are value for the money involved. Build quality is akin to those early, Swedish manufactured, ABU Cardinals and some more. Line capacity of the spools, for such a compact reel, is amazing and the drag mechanism way beyond anything I've previously experienced.  They are light, yet robust, and everything I was looking for when in the market for some new fixed spool reels. I understand that they're not Mitchell 300's and have no place in "traditional angling" yet they still perform wonderfully when mounted on the split cane Mk IV's.

Nash Siren R3 Alarm
A Nash R3  - superb, but are they value for money?


Nash Siren R3 bite alarms are something which I'd never needed, nor desired, yet a quirk of fate has allowed me to purchase three, plus a receiver box, purely because of the Fuji IPICS (ideas scheme) rewards system  presenting me with an extra £500 that I'd not expected. Now I own these alarms, I have to admit that they are in a different league to any I've used/owned previously. The electronic innards are derived from those used by the speed cameras which are the curse of speeding drivers. I was down at the syndicate earlier in the week, and spoke with a fellow member, who also owned these alarms. Both of us in agreement that they are something special in bite registration, especially if the take is not a full on "ripper"! Benno uses Delkims, which are vibration sensors, previously I was happy to use roller alarms marketed by Dragon Carp! 


At the huge sum of 3/£5, I actually owned four of these Chinese made devices. The two blue LED versions have long given up the ghost, yet the Red and Green alarms remain perfectly serviceable and I am very happy to use them in most situations. Knowing how the Dragon Carp logo is the sign of the Devil, to most carp anglers, I just can't help myself . Add to the mix a set of Taska "snag ears" the cost of the set up is still less than 3% of a Siren R3 - my problem is how are the Nash alarms that many times more effective? OK, no receiver box, but I still hear an audible alert and have the added bonus of a low light level LED during the hours of darkness, thus allowing me to see where the rods are. Not too shabby for alarms which cost £1.66 each! I have to ask myself if the R3's are so much more sensitive to command such pricing?  Luckily, I have no need to worry, it wasn't my money which purchased them, plus I look the part to the carp "fashionista's" when they're perched on my buzz bars.

A Brown Rat feeding on spilled particles below my rods.
Plenty of stuff going on, just much of it not within the remit of this blog?

Loads of stuff going on in the background, work, home and family related, so my blogging is well behind the reality of life. Plenty to look forward to, plus the hope of normality, the BWKm0 will start to pick up as autumn develops. So sorry for the paucity of my recent blogging - normal service isn't too far away!