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 29 November 2020

Geese in the gloom

 It was at 06.35 hrs, this morning, as I was getting into the van prior to driving to work that I heard the wonderful sound of White-fronted Geese somewhere out in the darkness. What a result - BWKm0 species 36 - I was overjoyed to add this to my list. What was even more weird is that, once at work, another guy came over to tell me that he had heard "some geese?" calling in the darkness as he'd left home. That Chris Hindle has photographed six "Russian" White-fronted Geese, at Reculver, is just too much of a coincidence for them not to be the same birds. Too be fair I'd settle for that but oh no! Eight hours in the factory elapsed and I returned home only to see two "grey geese" flying over the Newlands farmland. I grabbed the camera and rushed out into the back garden. Fortunately for me they did a circuit, thus allowing me to grab four very grainy ISO 1600 1/320th sec images of these birds. Not a sound, no binocular views, I have to rely on the digital images for my identification. 

So where do I start? Bean Geese, of that I'm sure, Taiga Bean Geese? Well that's my gut feeling. Bean Goose is a garden tick, whatever, although I do have both races (species?) on the Newlands patch list. It is the head shape, with an elongated beak which sways my thinking. 

So the BWKm0 (Mk II) list now stands at 37 species and I'll settle for that. Will these birds also turn up at Reculver? Any comments would be very welcome. I am always willing to take on board other view points, especially when such subtle nuances are in the mix.

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Double bubble

 Well I only went and did it! Pike from the RMC and the drain, plus ending with an eel, just as I'd hoped. A really enjoyable days fishing which provided a real morale boosting achievement of my plan. Not only did I catch pike from both venues, I took two from each of which three were "doubles". I now have six days on the spin working which, including overtime, will be fifty five hours graft before my next chance to cast a bait. The events of today will make the time pass so much easier and help keep my focus for the next outing with the rods, a week today! I'll share a few photos but will probably post more about the finer details later in the week, there were some decent birds to accompany the fishing.

Bite number one at the RMC resulted in this nicely marked pike of 12 lbs 7 oz

Bite number two produced this battle scarred warrior of 10 lbs 2 oz

I packed up around 11.00 hrs and headed back to the van for the next leg of the adventure. As I get older the use of my, Carporter MK II, barrow ensures that I can still get all of my kit to the swim of choice without causing undue wear and tear on my arthritic joints.

I got this barrow, second hand, from a guy at work. It's one of the most useful bits of
tackle I own.

The drain was to see me land one of the smallest pike ever caught on rod and line before I reacquainted myself with that fish which I'd taken a trace out of last time I was there. Although I'm no fan of recaptures, there's nothing I can do about it apart from not fishing that venue again?

The third double of the day! Exactly the same weight as when I last caught it - 13 lbs 12 oz.

I was already packing up having missed two bites and bumped a third when the last remaining rod signalled a bite and this little bootlace graced the bank - job done!

Under the circumstances I don't recall ever being more pleased at catching a bootlace!

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Could go horribly "Pete Tong"

 I've got the whole of Wednesday to go fishing, such is the way things have panned out. I originally planned to go eel fishing straight after work but, by a stroke of luck, found that a days holiday was available - get in! So I want my plans known, prior to my effort, just in case everything falls into place and I have a result. My intention is to pike fish on the RMC from early doors to mid-day (ish) then take a drive across to a nice little East Kent drain which has good form for afternoon pike action. As the sun sets I will alter my tactics and have a couple of hours after the eels. So my hope is for pike from both venues before finishing the day with an eel or two. The best laid plans have a horrible habit of going "tits up" but if I do manage to pull it off at least, when blogged about, you'll know that it was intended and not fluked.

Sunday 22 November 2020

Pike focus and (f)Luke

 I suppose it's inevitable that, with the passing of time, enjoyment becomes more about the journey than the actual destination. I haven't undertaken a serious angling project since the Winter Eel campaign of 2015/16. Yes I know that I've made all sorts of noise about a split cane thirty and the like, yet have failed any serious commitment due to factors beyond my control. Now, however, with the death of Bev's mum our lives will return to a more even keel and my ability to chase dreams might, once again, allow me to focus on specific targets. 

Although I like to think of myself as an "old school" specimen hunter, an all-rounder, it won't require the IQ of Einstein to spot that I'm rather biased toward pike angling. Over half a century has elapsed since I caught my first yet, the thrill of a bite alarm bursting into life, as a monkey rises up a needle or a drop off falls from the clip, still has that something which I'm unable to convey in written format. Pike, the apex predator of UK freshwater ecosystems (prior to alien imports = Wels Catfish), are magnificent creatures which, even to non-anglers, are mightily impressive. The sheer size of the fish is enough; very modest individuals are nearly three feet in length. Coupled with that un-blinking stare, awesome dental display, plus the intricate, dappled, scale pattern along an elongated torso, they demand respect from all who set eyes upon them. It was love at first sight for me, not that I could have envisaged the power of obsessive addiction that was to develop, at the time?

So here I am in November 2020, twenty-one sessions into a new adventure; I blanked on Monday but took nicely conditioned seven/eight pounders on Thursday & Saturday, just to keep you up to speed! Over the course of this winter period I am seeking to catch a "wild" pike in excess of twenty pounds. In itself, not too much of an ask, I've captured plenty of pike which exceeded that weight during my angling adventure. What seems to have happened, just lately, is I've taken my eye off the ball. Allowing myself to meander, rather than concentrate on where I'm going. Looking back through the recent diaries reveals the cold statistic that it's been five and a half years since I caught my last twenty (Loch Awe - April 2015) In my previous incarnation, prior to the Kent birding sabbatical, I'd have been spitting feathers if it had been five and a half weeks during the most intense period of my "big fish" obsession! 

What's so different this time round? Well the most obvious factor is that I'm no longer part of he big fish circuit merry-go-round. Chasing yesterday's news has no place in my current thought processes and this applies to all aspects of my angling, not just pike. When, and that's not an if, the next twenty is drawn over the chord it will be a moment of intense emotion because of the choices I've made. Although I appreciate that many factors can motivate others to seek their personal goals, I have to remain true to myself and wild pike is how it has to be at this point in the saga. Joining Canterbury & District AA or Mid Kent Fisheries would provide an easy route to this target, but truly wild fish they wouldn't be, in my opinion, even if they had been spawned in the fishery.  In the "old days" I'd have been all over them like a rash, hence the expectation, but no longer part of the equation. It will be a lonely spot, most likely somewhere out on the Royal Military Canal, where the culmination of my quest comes to pass and, whilst I would like it to happen very quickly, the pike which grace my landing nets, along the way, are always appreciated whatever their size. As I said, at the beginning, it's an ability to enjoy those nuances of the journey which makes achievement of any goal so rewarding. With another seventeen weeks, at least, in which to pursue my prize. I'm very content to fish in a manner which has produced so many good pike for me in the past. 

Now whilst I am happy to align myself with a fairly specialised dead bait approach to my pike angling it doesn't mean that I've ceased thinking about what I'm doing or how it might be improved. As Eddie Turner had said, all those years before on the banks of Wilstone Res. "Make sure you find an edge" He didn't mean dropping the bait in the margin, although it might be worth a try under certain conditions but, instead, do something which makes your bait stand out from those of the other anglers fishing the same venue! It is a lesson which was quickly heeded and is now central to every pike angling challenge I embark upon. I'll end it here with a little snippet which might just demonstrate how much luck plays a part in this wonderful hobby. At 08.08 hrs, this morning, I'm at work (yes I know it's Sunday but the order book is at bursting point and "needs of the business Minge!" echoed in my ear) It was Benno telling of a pike that Luke had just taken from The Stour on a 4 gram perch jig using an ultra-light set-up. At least twenty-five minutes between hooking up and landing, Luke was a gibbering wreck - what a pike! Cop a load of this. Me next - please!

Saturday 21 November 2020

All over the show

 Normal? Not too sure I know what that means anymore. Work/life balance, weather and wildlife sightings just don't fit into any pattern that I've previously experienced. Maybe this is the "new" normal? Three pike sessions during the passed seven days has resulted in two more fish gracing the landing nets; both in superb condition and fighting fit. Both fish between seven & eight pounds, so certainly very welcome whilst I await the next double. 

Sunrise on Thursday morning (19.11.2020)

Out on the marsh, this morning, I had the privilege to speak with an elderly couple who were out walking. We didn't talk for long, observing the required 2m social distancing, but it was an incredibly pleasant exchange which set me off on a thought process of how lucky we are. Those of us who are able to derive joy from spending time, quietly outdoors, just looking and listening to our surroundings. I was drawn to recall a sign which is on display on the main beach at Ramsgate. It reads "Take only memories, leave only footprints" a sentiment which I whole-heartedly endorse. In my lonely spot I realised that any other humans which made the effort to get there weren't any less serious about their hobbies than I mine. There is no litter, what better advert for those who make the effort to visit such locations. For me, to get the kit out there, involves pushing the barrow over a mile and a quarter, each way, chavs ain't doing that! My mind did start to wander and I came up with an alternate slogan "Take only photos, leave only footprints" which seemed to fit the mindset of the moment.

The garden bird watching caper remains central to my work days, whenever I'm on late shifts, but has been a real struggle. I've added just three more species to the list since day two! Walking back from the local shop, on Friday morning, I was gutted to see a Meadow Pipit fly over my head. If I'd  been in the garden it would have counted, shouldn't have been too worried because within a few minutes of getting home a bloody Woodcock flew over the garden, not a bad swap! So my, lockdown Mk II, BWKm0 list now stands at thirty-five species. The other two additions being Common Gull & Redwing. The craziest sighting of the week must go to Friday's Red Admiral which chose to sunbathe on Bev's garden swing chair. The hedgehog drinking bowl had frozen and the grass was covered in frost! Are there any better conditions for butterfly spotting?

Coldest day of the autumn, thus far!

The garden hedgehogs remain a huge source of interest with no sign of reduced activity around the feeding station. On Wednesday night, between 22.00 & midnight, there were a minimum of five individuals photographed at the food bowl. On Friday it got even more crazy when, on stopping off at the local shop, I actually caught a young hedgehog which was wandering around the entrance path. Arriving home, I released it at the food bowl, fully expecting it to bolt off into the darkness once I'd retreated. Not a chance. It un-curled and started munching on the Tesco Kitten biscuits as if nothing had happened. It was soon joined by another very small hedgehog which, for me, completely dispels the notion that only siblings will tolerate each other in a feeding situation. Other hedgehog sightings during the week have revealed two more "colour marked" animals - WHY? If there is no central data base to report these sightings, what purpose does it serve?

The weather is doing little to assist my pike angling project, eels remaining a real pain due to the incredibly mild conditions. With the forecast predicting little change I'm already planning an after work session, at a local drain, specifically targeting these slimy pests! Could be entertaining?

Friday morning saw the first real influx of winter thrushes around Newlands Farm.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Simple things

 If it is possible to put a positive spin on the massive impact that Covid-19 has made to all our lives then, for me at least, it has to be a genuine appreciation of the wildlife that occurs locally. I'll share two images, taken from my study doorway yesterday. They are far more eloquent, than I, in making my point!

Saturday 14 November 2020

Flatland pike fishing

 Since November 2011 I have been exploring the various drains and dykes which criss-cross the East Kent marshes. Although I have been distracted by both carp and eels, pike have been the species which I've spent most of my time fishing for. So with nearly a decade's worth of experience I was quite confident when I rocked up at one of my favourite spots, for an afternoon session on Thursday, this particular venue having a reputation for producing bites late in the day. True to form I managed two fish, from three bites, but also had to accept the fact that eels were a bloody nuisance, constantly giving quick tugs on the soft bodied sardines that I was using as bait. It was getting on for 17.00 hrs when I actually managed to hook one, so wasn't bothered about calling it a day and heading for home. 

Time to pack up

I'd taken my binos and the long lens with me, probably a direct spin off from the BWKm0 garden birding that I'm currently enjoying. I wasn't expecting much, so was happy enough to spend time watching an adult female Marsh Harrier quartering the adjacent marsh - nice! There was a lot of Coot activity on the drain and plenty of commotion as territorial pairs squabbled over invisible borders. It was during one such bout of aggression that I found myself looking at a very strange Coot indeed. I fired off a series of shots, just hoping to capture something for the record. I've certainly not seen this type of plumage aberration previously.

With the cremation farce behind us Bev and I are hoping that some level of normality might return to our lives? Obviously the pandemic is set to cause further havoc before Pfizer (BioNTech), Astra Zeneca and/or The Oxford Labs come up with a viable vaccine. Let's hope it's sooner rather than later. Yesterday, after the trip to Margate, we jumped in the van and went for a long drive, just so we weren't sitting around indoors dwelling on events. A really nice ride taking in Canterbury, Ashford, Rye, Brooklands, Romney & Dymchurch before heading back, via Donkey Street (Burmarsh)This was a major mistake as it was an absolute chaotic nightmare with road closures and diverted traffic but, eventually we made it through the gridlock and continued up the Elham Valley then on, via Barham, Aylesham, Wingham, Ash before arriving back home. We didn't get out of the van, just needed to spend some time together gathering our thoughts and chatting. It was really comforting, in a weird sort of way! Essential travel? It was for us.

On getting home, once we'd settled down, it was time to get the kit ready for another session out on the marsh. This time I was headed for a drain that had been very productive during the early years and was always a good bet for a double or two. Being very narrow I changed my reels over to centrepins, as casting isn't an issue, thus ensuring that I'd derive every last scrap of enjoyment out of any hooked pike. Although the venue isn't too far, from home, it does involve a hike of some mile and a bit to get there so I was in the van by 05.00 hrs, thus, on the bank around 06.00 hrs. All three baits were in position by 06.30 hrs and the flask provided my first coffee of the morning. Common Snipe, Redwing and Wigeon were heard calling out in the semi-darkness of a very murky dawn. As the light intensified I was able to watch a splendid little male Merlin chasing a Linnet high over the marsh. It was a victory for the Linnet on this occasion, the Merlin sped off across the marsh in search of another victim. 

Dawn - for what it's worth

It was 07.20 hrs when the right hand alarm alerted me to the fact that something had taken my popped-up Sardine. On the rod within seconds, I wound down to find myself attached to very spirited little jack of around five or six pounds. I'd just returned the fish to the drain and got a fresh bait prepared when the left hand alarm burst into song! This time it was an altogether different battle as the fish surged off along the drain with immense power. Like all anglers, I'd love to say the battle was epic and lasted for an eternity, but it wasn't and didn't. I soon had the fish over the chord and there was my third double, of the campaign, in the bag! No sooner had I managed to get the pike unhooked (I had to remove a second trace from the throat of this fish) and into an ET Piketube that the right hander was away again. This time a lively customer led me a merry dance before being persuaded over the net chord. Around eight or nine pounds, I didn't weigh it, I had to pull a semi digested rat from its' gut in order to remove my own hooks. 08.00 hrs and it's all over, not another beep from the alarms until I packed up at 10.00 hrs. All the bites came to popped-up Sardines flavoured with Predator Plus and Mackerel oil. My middle rod was offering a popped-up Bluey section and did absolutely zilch, despite being in pole position, feature wise. 

A semi-digested rat - Pike ain't fussy eaters!

I've now taken thirteen pike in eighteen sessions, since the 1st October, not too shabby considering the very un-pike like weather we've been experiencing. Three doubles is also a very good return for my efforts and shows that I must be doing something right? 

I feel sure that this pike would have weighed more than 13 lbs 12 oz if
it hadn't been "stitched up" by another trace! 

Friday 13 November 2020

Covid reality - it's wicked

 At 09.00 hrs this morning Bev, her daughter Debbie, and I were in the Chapel at Margate Crematorium to say our farewell to Denise Bunclark, Bev's mum. It was the most surreal experience of my entire life! Just the three of us, plus a member of the funeral directors team and the coffin. No religion, no service, no extended family - what a way to depart this earth. Covid has robbed us of many things, but the chance to say good-bye to a loved one is the savage reality of the situation. All of Bev's family are under tier three  restrictions in Yorkshire and beyond, so unable to attend the service, even if our local rules allowed them to be there. So sad and something I never wish to experience again. Bev can take comfort from the fact that her mum died in her own bed, in our bungalow, and not alone, frightened, in a sterile hospital ward without family close by. I was going to post some other stuff about pike and shit - maybe tomorrow?

Sunday 8 November 2020

An Esox with observations

 Thanks to the efforts of The Angling Trust, fishing remains a legitimate pastime during this second lockdown period. There are recommendations pertaining to what is deemed reasonable distance to travel and, obviously, social distancing restrictions but, by and large, my fishing can continue much as before. I'd signed up for a weekend's overtime but, on Thursday, it was cancelled - shame! Bev had no issue with me getting two sessions in over the weekend, so off I went. 

Flatlands dawn

Saturday morning saw me  out on the flatlands, catching a small jack within fifteen minutes of casting my bait, and that was it! I spent the remainder of the session scanning the surrounding countryside through my bins and managed to add Great White Egret to the year list for my troubles. Good numbers of "continental" Blackbirds were present at first light yet had moved on before Neil Davies arrived at my spot and we spent at least fifteen minutes catching up on what's been a very good autumn around the SBBOT recording area. It was at very short notice that Benno and I arranged to meet up down on the RMC just before 05.45 hrs this morning. It was a very testing drive, through the patchy fog, at that silly o'clock time of day. However, we both arrived safely and headed off into the darkness, ever hopeful. My alarms only sounded whilst I was setting up, Benno managed a couple of pike, one of which wouldn't have been a decent perch! The weather was superb, as was the company, so a very enjoyable session all round. The conversations with passing dog walkers, ramblers and others was brilliant, such is the shared frustration with this latest lockdown situation. Common sense seems to be prevailing and social distancing was observed without any requirement for the police to get involved. It was just after sunrise when a Noctule Bat came flying down the canal, absolutely stunning in the daylight; they're huge! As the sun rose the day became, ever more, less pike conditions. Benno ended up in a "T" -shirt before we packed up at 10.15 hrs. In the interim, a pair of "red head" Goosander were present along the canal and allowed me a fantastic photo opportunity.

Other birds recorded just helped to highlight why I rely on audible alarm technology, therefore allowing me the opportunity to spend the time observing the wildlife which shares the environment I'm privileged to spend time in. 

Friday 6 November 2020

BWKm0 Mk II - Day two

 Another morning spent birding from the garden, pre work, was testament to the power of obsession. I'd already written that I wasn't too bothered about birding! What an idiotic statement - it took less than a couple of hours, yesterday, to know that I'd be getting back into BWKm0 mode for the second time this year. What follows is about as exciting as a telephone directory but, fortunately, will not require duplication in future posts.  MY LIST (in the order they were recorded!)

1 - House Sparrow

2 - Carrion Crow

3 - Herring Gull

4 - Great Tit

5 - Blue Tit

6 - Robin

7 - Collared Dove

8 - Goldfinch

9 - Sky Lark - up to six birds over the stubble beyond the garden hedge

10 - Magpie

11 - Jackdaw

12 - Rose-ringed Parakeet

13 - Blackbird - a continental male went East this morning

14 - Starling - a decent movement westwards noted yesterday morning 250+ 

15 - Sparrowhawk

16 - Black-headed Gull

17 - Wood Pigeon

18 - Blackcap - male

19 - Dunnock

20 - Linnet - over calling

21 - Mistle Thrush

22 - Jay

23 - Rook - one north

24 - Wren

25 - Green Woodpecker - calling over at the farm compound

26 - Common Buzzard

27 - Chaffinch - seven north

28 - Fieldfare - four west

Four more species added today!

29 - Lesser Black-backed Gull - three adults north

30 - Cormorant - one north

31 - Kestrel

32 - Pied (alba) Wagtail - over

So there you have it, thus far! November isn't a particularly favourable month around Newlands Farm yet, because I've nothing better to do, feel sure something unusual will turn up. I'll finish with a photo and hope that I retain the enthusiasm as this second lockdown period progresses?

Thursday 5 November 2020

Garden birding again

 Day one of lockdown Mk II and I'd already decided that the lawn would be getting its' last cut of the year, before leaving for work. on late shift, at 13.30 hrs. I awoke to discover a heavy frost, for Thanet that is, and had to wait until 11.30 hrs before it was realistic to push the mower around the garden. So what to do whilst awaiting the grass to thaw and dry? A bit of birding seemed to fit the bill and I rather surprised myself with the variety of species that were recorded. Yesterday I posted that I wasn't all that bothered about another BWKm0 effort but have to concede, that after this morning, I've somewhat changed my mind. I really enjoyed myself and, after all, what else matters? No competition, no rules, no boundaries beyond the December 2nd finish date, it's got to be worth a bash?

One of four seen this morning - how time has changed the status of these 
magnificent raptors.

Twenty eight species recorded this morning; the undoubted highlight being a male Blackcap. Plenty of other back-up sightings kept me on my toes and the bins constantly in use. I got so engrossed by the challenge that I dug out the trusty Kowa TSN 823 and used the higher magnification to scan the skies and distant tree lines. Great stuff! I have absolutely no idea what total might be achieved, November ain't a month to set the pulse racing around Newlands Farm. I've absolutely no idea how work and weather will impact on my ability to spend time out in the garden so I must treat the scenario as a very casual dalliance rather than a full-on project. Fifty species? Let's see 

November four

 There's much to be sorted out, prior to the cremation, that blogging is well down the list of priorities at present. It was twenty years ago, yesterday, that Bev and I moved into our bungalow and there are times when we need to pinch ourselves to realise how far we've come, the obstacles overcome, hardships endured, since that date. Certainly not an easy journey yet, all the more rewarding because of that fact. Plenty of stuff to write about, nothing exciting, but still worthy of sharing I guess. I will steer clear of the lunacy surrounding the US Presidential Election, purely because it is such a slur upon the democratic principles of the greatest nation in the free world - shambolic, at best, Donald Trump is the most dangerous individual on the planet!

Our own idiot, Bojo, hasn't exactly endeared himself to the nation, nor covered himself in glory, as a result of the latest U-turn. Lockdown Mk 2 - the same, but different, as Mk 1, only this time Dominic Cummings will stick to the rules - maybe? Fortunately I have full time employment to distract me from much of this lunacy and can still go fishing, should I wish, due to the wonderful efforts of The Angling Trust. My only other method of retaining sanity is to make the most of the wildlife that can be encountered during my daily routine and I'm well up for that. Steve Gale has already announced his intention to resume the BWKm0 caper whilst I am less focussed on birds and happy to look at anything which crosses my path. Today started with the first frost of the autumn, yet it wasn't long before the temperatures rose as a the sun shone from a cloudless sky and a Red Admiral appeared on the yellow buddleia which is hanging on to a few flowers at the bottom of the garden.

I think the best of all the spin offs from that first BWKm0 period, for me, has been the garden hedgehogs and all the learning that it has provided.  Well after midnight, I'm still sat in the study, door wide open (bloody freezing!) with hedgehogs still coming to the feeding station. On my laptop Sky News is the purveyor of a constant stream of information pertaining to the Trump v's Biden debacle, the sound of crunching of Tesco Kitten biscuits, emanating from the garden, provides much welcome distraction. There are still four (minimum) hedgehogs visiting the feeding station every night. "Lockdown"? - I'll cope with this!