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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Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Gonna get wet

 At 13.40 hrs, today, I left work to begin my October holiday. I'm not back until early shift on Monday 12th, so am looking forward to my mini pike hunt. I don't mean I want to catch a small pike, I'll do that without needing a project, no; what I'm hoping is to fish every week day morning in the hope of getting the pike season off to a decent start with a double or two! Early tomorrow morning I'm off down to the syndicate fishery, where I'd like to think I might be in with a shout of my first ever Thanet double. The venue has turned up pike to over 26 lbs in the dim and distant past. Is it still capable of producing such specimens? I'll only find out if I give it a bash. The other venue I'm hoping to visit is the Royal Military Canal. Over the years this wonderful fishery has provided me, and Benno, Luke, et al, with some fabulous pike fishing. Plenty of doubles and even a few twenties, between us, just to keep us going back for more. 

If I'm honest, early season doesn't really do it for me but, as the Covid-19 chaos continues to impact on us all, I'll happily grab whatever chances come my way to cast a bait. Needing to be on the end of a phone, for Bev, should anything happen with her mum's condition; I plan to stay relatively local. Sessions will be dawn until 10.30 hrs-ish and I will certainly be back home by mid-day even if I'm smashing it! There is a slight spanner in the works, as the weather is set to be wet and windy for the entire period I'm off. Still it is a double edged sword. Yep, I'll get wet but, on the other hand, the only other anglers I encounter along the RMC will be of a similar mind-set and, therefore serious about their fishing, not licence dodging chavs.

I've every intention of taking all the camera kit just in case a decent bird appears, but will happily point the long lens at anything which adds interest to my time on the bank. Whatever the outcome, just having a bit of time off work without restrictions will be a nice break from the routine which has dominated much of 2020, thus far. With a bit of good fortune, there should be plenty of stuff to blog about as the adventure unfolds?

Monday, 28 September 2020

High Modular Carbon

 It seems incredible that split cane was still being used to produce fishing rods well into the mid-1960's, yet by the early 1980's carbon fibre was already replacing fibreglass as evolving technology rapidly advanced our understanding of rod design and manufacture. Fibreglass was the rod building material with which I grew up and used during my angling apprenticeship. ABU, Sportex, North Western, Tri - cast, Terry Eustace, Rod Hutchinson, Shakespeare and Bruce & Walker all brands, or builders, whose rods were to play a role as angling developed from a hobby into total obsession. When I embarked on the Tring Syndicate adventure, back in 1981, it was glass-fibre ABU "Legerlite's" which were my go to rod option. Looking back, how I wish I still owned them, they were every bit as good as anything Bruce & Walker were manufacturing, yet lacked that "logo" which all us tackle tarts aspired to own?

Way back then, working for Kodak, I was on decent money and could afford to indulge my selfish hobby without the family suffering as a consequence. It appears that my work option was far more rewarding than the "careers officer" painted when offering advice to a spotty fifteen year old! Gas fitting, the armed forces and/or further education were about the sum of their input, not a word about warehousing or factory work? Obviously, we're all very different and the route I've traversed won't suit everyone but, if your skin is thick and you can treat banter as the nonsense that it is, there are few more enjoyable ways of earning a crust than inhabiting the shop floor. The ability to look back is wondrous yet, cannot be taught, just a consequence of the aging process by definition. Maybe I lacked ambition? Possibly my OCD immersion with whatever hobby, took centre stage, plus an utter contempt for the pursuit of the mighty dollar has delivered me to a point where staying true to myself has inadvertently provided rewards? All I know is that nothing, money driven, was planned to lead me to the point at which I now find myself. I started work in 1974 and, since that fateful day, have only had four employers. If I ignore that folly involving the Medical Research Council (The Lister Institute of Preventative Medicine, Dagger Lane, Elstree, Herts) I've spent my entire working life within the factory/warehouse environment and have no regrets. The pension schemes of Kodak, Unilever and, now, Fuji ensure that retirement, when I decide the date, will be as stress free as is possible, certainly from a financial perspective. Anyway, that's enough of that tangent, let's get back to fishing rods!

Sadly I'm unable to find any images of the St. Alban's shop.

The St. Alban's branch of Leslies of Luton was the shop where I purchased the majority of "specialist" tackle required by a wannabe specimen hunter, way back in the early 1980's. The proprietor, Ian "Creepy" Crawley, only too willing to take my hard earned cash in exchange for various items deemed essential at the time. Leslies was the first place that I encountered Shimano fishing reels, but it was famed for being a custom rod building business, using the Bruce & Walker blanks, to manufacture bespoke items for their patrons. Over a decade, Ian was to build me several, matching pairs of, rods to cater for the angling situations I found myself exploring. Strange as it might seem, the catalyst to this post is a one off pike fishing rod, that Ian built for me in 1987/8, specifically for a trip to Loch Awe. What needs to be taken into account is, back then, there were no bait boats, no fish finding "Deeper Pro" technology available to us. Whatever edges we had were all due to our tackle and watercraft, not down to some fandango computerised wizardry! The rod that has gotten me so enthused is a Bruce & Walker HMC (High Modular Carbon) 13', 2.75 lbs t/c ultra fast taper blank fitted with a Duplon abbreviated handle which incorporates a Fuji reel seat and single legged Fuji rod rings (line guides if you prefer?) When it was first manufactured, this blank was the absolute pinnacle of technological advancement and, even now, it remains a very useful part of my pike fishing armoury. 

Benno, aged six or seven, being put through his paces with the
thirteen footer at Loch Awe

It was a couple of weeks back when I decided it was pointless hanging on to my holiday entitlement - just in case! So booked seven days, from October 1st, in order to get my quest for another wild twenty up and running. I'll be starting this project down at the syndicate fishery and have already formulated a plan which requires me to use the big guns to cast my sizeable dead baits to where I want them. It was whilst I was dusting down the thirteen footers, that I noticed just how tatty the Bruce & Walker had become. Flaking varnish combined with orange whipping looked awful, so time to do something about it. Being on late shifts, last week, gave me ample opportunity to spend some time getting this rod back into a far more presentable condition and, have to admit, I am rather pleased with the outcome of my efforts. My other thirteen footer is a Tri-cast "Ultralight" Kevlar model that I purchased from Joe Taylor's shop, over in Bicester, some time around 1991. It has a 2.25 lbs t/c and an altogether softer action than the Bruce & Walker, yet it still has enough backbone to get a decent sized bait out to the range I require and, more importantly, capable of setting the hooks when a bite is registered. 




It's good to be back thinking about pike fishing, after all this blog has its' roots firmly established in the period when I rediscovered the thrill of angling via the pursuit of wild "Esox" Hopefully this project will be able to fire my enthusiasm and drag me away from the Covid related nothingness?


Saturday, 26 September 2020

I'll settle for that!

 Thanet has been getting battered by a howling NW gale for 24 hrs and, if correct, the forecast suggests another twelve to go before any signs of it abating. The garden looks like a bomb's gone off. Plants smashed, furniture strewn around the patio and Bev's swing seat on its' back. Not too much point in attempting to dodge the rain to tidy up whilst these severe conditions remain. So, I was sitting at the desk, in my study, casually watching the sparrows around the feeding station when a Sparrowhawk came marauding over the fence and crashed into the thick vegetation at the bottom of our garden. All over in a flash, the hawk failed to grab a meal and dropped down onto one of the cast iron chairs that, luckily, was still upright. I grabbed the camera and rattled of a few shots through the rain smattered double glazing. As the bird was perched with its' back towards me I wondered if I might be able to open the study door and get some better images. Nothing ventured, as they say - I'll settle for these.



As I started to slowly open the back door the bird was obviously aware something was happening and, as I raised the camera, swivelled its head through 180 degrees to look in my direction. I thought it was only owls that could perform such manoeuvres? I continued to click away for another couple of minutes before the hawk decided that it was bored and flew off back from whence it came. I got some nice images, having to resort to ISO 1600 1/500th sec exposure. As is always the case, one stands out from the crowd.


Saturday, 19 September 2020

A divergence or distraction?

 The pandemic is really starting to cause me to re-evaluate any plans I had for my angling in 2020. Because of the situation with Bev's mum, and her deteriorating health. my free time doesn't allow me to disappear off with the rods, whenever I like. Mixing with other households is a no no, shopping is a massive challenge as we attempt to avoid mixing with crowds, and workplace social distancing is well observed by the guys in my department, ensuring the chance of infection is kept to an absolute minimum. Obviously I am far better off than many other folk. Living on the fringes of Ramsgate, a garden with views across farmland and our geographic location providing an opportunity to witness visible migration, particularly raptors, on a seasonal basis. Not wanting to wish my life away, I have to admit that the pike season can't come soon enough. With this in mind I'm grateful to some of the guys at work who have been kind enough to provide me with wine/champagne corks which I use to create sliding floats.


So with my angling being so restricted I have used the garden hedgehogs to keep me entertained and focused. Such is the enjoyment of seeing these wild animals up close in our garden that I've started a new blog to avoid "Of Esox" becoming side tracked. Hedgehogs in a Thanet garden is simply a way of using time and promoting the enjoyment of garden wildlife without derailing my main blog. If Boris is forced into a second national "lockdown" then BWKm0 and the hedgehogs will be the only things to keep me sane? Please feel free to take a look and leave a comment if you wish. Mad times and my own sanity is being tested to the limit!

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Buzzing in the garden

 It was a comment by Ric Francis, a fellow Tring syndicate member during the 1980's, about the population status of Common Buzzards within the eastern counties of the UK which had me outside, early doors, this morning. Their distribution has dramatically spread eastwards, even since Bev and I moved into our bungalow. Yeah! - they were not so Common Buzzards at the start of this millennium, yet in two decades have managed to establish sustainable breeding populations in many counties where previously they had been absent. It was a beautiful autumnal day, the sun blazing down through a thin layer of high cloud. The first Common Buzzard was seen heading south, just after 09.10 hrs, and was the precursor of a steady passage of these superb raptors over the Newlands farmland. By 15.45 hrs I'd recorded eighteen migrants plus the resident pair going about their routine. I had the camera kit to hand for the entire period and managed to get some rather pleasing images of the birds as they passed over the garden. Other bits included a few Meadow Pipits, early doors, a trickle of Siskin, four Swallow, three Sparrowhawk, four Kestrel and a lone Grey Wagtail. 



This was a bit of a weird one. Three Buzzards were circling to the
north of Vine Close when this drone appeared in their midst.
The Buzzards didn't bat an eye-lid continuing on their way. 
I have no idea who was flying this device, even less the quality of
the camera kit housed within? If they got some photos, they should be 
spectacular.





It wasn't all about the sky, other bits that drew my attention were subject to the long lens treatment with varying results.




All in all a very enjoyable day spent within the low carbon footprint - how very PC? 

Friday, 11 September 2020

Buzzards on the move

 During the enforced lockdown of the early Covid-19 pandemic I, along with many of my fellow bloggers, rediscovered the simple pleasures of local wildlife watching. Obviously, by definition, it has very limited scope yet, on occasion, has the potential to deliver enormous pleasure with an occurrence which, under any other circumstances, wouldn't warrant a second glance? The spin off activities from the BWKm0 initiative are now well documented by various noc-mig fans. Moth trapping has also seen a resurgence, certainly amongst the bloggers I regularly follow and for me, it's been garden hedgehogs which have fired up a new avenue of discovery and wonder. Staying local is now the norm and I'm trying to make the best of this predicament. 

The enjoyment that these creatures have brought into Bev and my lives
is difficult to over state. As a distraction from the realities of daily life, these garden visitors
are a ray of sunshine.

Just as in the Spring, raptor movement over Thanet is a gimme in the Autumn. It's all down to geography, certainly nothing to do with habitat provision, that's for sure! Having been on late shifts this past week, has meant that I've been out in the garden sky watching for the majority of the mornings. Meadow Pipits are now becoming a daily feature with odd groups of Siskin passing overhead just to keep me on my toes. Although Kestrel and Sparrowhawk sightings are always welcome, I have to admit that it's their larger cousins that keep me looking skywards. I've probably seen Common Buzzards on a dozen occasions this week, always singles, it's difficult to know which birds are genuine migrants and not wandering locals. In all honesty, I don't really care, it's the thrill of the gulls going up and scanning the skies that makes the moment. That I'm able to do this whilst standing in my back garden just makes it that little bit more special. The following images are all from the garden during the past two mornings - the final one speaks volumes about garden birding.







Monday, 7 September 2020

The way it is

 It was little over four years ago when my Dad passed away, Bev and I in close attendance as we'd moved into his home to ensure we were able to keep a promise that he'd die in his own bed, as Mum had done in Feb 2013. When Bev's father passed away it was, sadly, in a hospital ward (superbly cared for as is only possible by our NHS staff) - not a situation which allows for the intensity (Bev was there on her own!) of those final moments at a very personal level. Now we are very close to the end chapter with her Mum. Sunday lunch time had an ambulance crew summoned, by the carers, with the resultant decision that hospital was an unnecessary option under the circumstances. Denise's body is in shutdown mode, the stroke she's survived last weekend just a preliminary to a series of symptoms which will only have one result! Mid-day, today, another ambulance crew were called, as directed by the folk at the NHS 111 service, because we thought she was suffering a third heart attack. Ultimately the route we have to negotiate involves the medical professionals coming into our bungalow to administer the drugs (morphine) which ensure that Denise is not in any pain during this final act. Absolutely gutting to have to witness the demise of a loved one, Bev and I will come through this, as a couple, stronger because of the experience. How long have we got? I have absolutely no idea. Denise has been stubbornly fighting off every ailment thrown her way; she should be subject of a bloody t/v documentary! The hardest part of this whole process is the fact that the clearest memories will be those from the very last stages of life. My Mum lying. open mouthed, staring into nothingness, Dad, still warm, curled up like a young child, but smiling. How does that work? Some day, very soon, Bev will open the living room door to discover such a scene.  If it were an animal involved you'd. rightly, be prosecuted for cruelty, but euthanasia is a criminal offence? How does this crazy situation still exist in a world where the God Squad have been found to be a complete fabrication? I'm 100% behind spirituality -  the Holy Fairy Tale - stick it where the sun don''t shine! Both my parents were devout Christians and it was their faith that saw them face the final farewell without any regrets. Whilst I'm able to draw comfort from this knowledge, I can't buy into the concept of a supernatural power, with all encompassing knowledge, allowing atrocities to be perpetrated under the banner of faith? Homo sapiens will f*ck up the planet, they don't require a God to be anything other than the mighty dollar -  elitist greed is more of a danger to our existence than anything Covid-19 threatens. 

I've just re-read this, to find myself smiling at the intensity of my feelings and the fact that I've written the post without any influence beyond a personal level.  When I was at school I resented any pressure to express myself, beyond that boundary of subject matter contained within the curriculum.  If only I'd had the intelligence to recognise the gifts I was being given? My English teacher, at Halsey Secondary Modern, Hemel Hempstead, was Ms. Sue Llewellyn and only now am I able to recognise the incredible debt of gratitude owed. Mum and Dad were school teachers - she was an inspiration, if only I had the brains to see the gifts on offer. All I can say is that if ever "hindsight" appears on the curriculum options - grab it with both hands, it's an amazing thing!


Sunday, 6 September 2020

Why?

 It was a beautifully calm evening, yesterday, and I sat in my study; door wide open, as the sun dipped below the western horizon awaiting the bats and hedgehogs to come out to play. Three very brief cameos by Common Pipistrelles was enough to demonstrate that very specialist techniques will be required if I'm ever to get a flight image of these creatures in the half-light of dusk. Hedgehogs were quickly on the scene, as soon as it was truly dark and it was very interesting to note that several visitors were only wanting a drink and left without touching the food. Between 20.20 hrs and 23.30 hrs there were at least ten visits to the feeding station by hedgehogs, quite how many individuals were involved is a little tricky to ascertain but my best guess is that at least six animals were attracted during this period. 


The feeding station is set up around ten feet from my study doorway and by using the tripod mounted camera kit I have started to amass a collection of images which will hopefully provide me with a reference library of the garden visitors. At around 22.30 hrs a very large hedgehog rocked up, straight into the biscuits with all the noisy gusto of a hungry hog! Immediately I'm drawn to the strange white markings on its' rear flanks. Is it a partial albino? It was quickly joined by a smaller, much darker, animal and the pair munched away merrily as I fired off a series of shots. It was early this morning when looking back at the results of last nights efforts that I became drawn to the white markings again. A search of the internet, via the Hedgehog Street forum pages, was to reveal that my garden hedgehog is most likely a subject of a, potentially illegal, colour marking program. It would seem highly unlikely that a hedgehog could rub itself up against a newly painted fence/wall and produce such a pattern on its' spines.

It looks like someone has used a spray can and marked this poor
hedgehog with a primitive "O". For what purpose?

Unlike the, BTO endorsed, colour ringing schemes that exist for our feathered friends, there doesn't appear to be any coordinated/regulated system in place where hedgehogs are involved. Thus, I have to deduce that it's a free for all and no useful data is created as a result of such activity. So as I said in my title - WHY?

Saturday, 5 September 2020

September - takes some beating!

 I can delve into my early angling diaries and see that, even back then, September was THE MONTH to be on the bank. Having long since discovered the delights of so many other facets of wildlife interaction, September remains a month which holds much anticipation for me. Although no longer caring about things which were seemingly important way back then, instead, I now simply seek to enjoy those experiences which present themselves as the years rapidly pass by.  


I use this image of a Vestal for no other reason than to indicate my desire to get back into
recording the moths that are attracted to my garden. 
Watkins & Doncaster will shortly be receiving my request for a 125 w MV Robinson Trap.

Out in the garden for much of the day, I was to witness the first signs of autumnal migration. Certainly nothing to get excited about, it was still nice to be outside watching migrating birds that will have been missed by the vast majority of my neighbours. Wood Pigeons apart, which were moving steadily westwards in dribs and drabs throughout the day, all other species failed to make double figures! I finished the day, well the gardening, with the following totals. Common Buzzard - five (3S 2W), Sparrowhawk - three, Kestrel - two, Hobby - one adult, Raven - four (family party?), Siskin - seven West, Swallow - two South and the first Meadow Pipit, since lockdown was announced, went West! BWKm0 number 68! I wasn't finished there, oh no! A Curlew flew north, just before mid-day adding another species to the list, crazy! Robins are noisily announcing their presence along the gardens of Vine Close, so migrants swelling the ranks I guess?



Three Common Pipistrelles were hunting the garden hedgerow, as dusk fell and presented another whimsicle challenge. Do I have the ability to get a photo? Might require a bit of Youtube research before I can answer this one. With the hedgehogs continuing to provide nightly entertainment and stimulus to push my camera skills beyond what's comfortable, if I don't try, I'll never know? There's nothing to lose in giving it bash. What's the worst thing to happen? I don't get a photo - boo hoo!


Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Worrying times

 At some time around mid-day, on Sunday, Bev's mum suffered a stroke which, although seemingly catastrophic, was dealt with superbly by the carers, then ambulance crew, who were on the scene within minutes of the alarm being raised. "Blue lighted" straight across to the Kent & Canterbury Hospital, we've been left behind to ponder on the situation; Bev not allowed into the hospital due to Covid restrictions. An absolute panic for us, just another day in the life of a busy hospital for the medical team involved. Information has been painfully slow in coming our way, but the latest news is that Denise has an infection, being treated by antibiotics and is over the worse of this ordeal. A timid, frail, 87 year old, who has no comprehension of the situation, due to dementia, will be frightened stiff in these strange surroundings, yet Bev can't do anything about it. This is the reality of the pandemic and something which many other ordinary families will have had to deal with during this period. Still doesn't make it any easier to cope with?

Dusk at my syndicate fishery

My inability to catch fish has been a stunning display of consistency over the passed couple of weeks. Doesn't matter if I'm on the syndicate or down the Royal Military, the alarms remain silent, my baits untouched. I'm fortunate that the bat detector is able to provide some wonderful distraction from the obviously straight fishing rods and owls have also ensured interest during my sessions. Because of the incredibly random nature of my being able to get out, eels have been the target species due to having all the kit ready assembled in my study. All I require is to grab some bait from my freezer, load the van, and I'm on my way. However, as of today, I'm going to have a couple of months carp fishing, whenever possible, before embarking on the serious search for another "wild" twenty pound pike.

I know it's a photo, but it could just as easily be a movie of my recent angling endeavours!

I would be an absolute imbecile to claim anything than total joy from my encounters with the garden hedgehogs. I do, however, recognise how quickly my blogging becomes very samey when I stick to the one subject. So, although I remain fascinated by these wonderful animals coming into my garden, I will hang fire on future posts unless something out of the ordinary is witnessed. 

Just a small section of the garden hedge - around forty individuals viewable

With so many of my neighbours also feeding the birds and the fact that the stubble still remains untouched around Newlands Farm, House Sparrow numbers continue to expand and are now present in huge flocks the size of which remind me of my childhood exploring the Hertfordshire countryside. It is now regular to have in excess of two hundred birds in the garden hedge, flitting between the various feeders on offer in the adjacent gardens. No wonder the local Sparrowhawks are such regular visitors? It must be like a fly through McDonald's for them.


Not from the back garden, not even from the UK! A Hedgehog (sp.) 
photographed in Northern Greece during a holiday in 2008