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!


Friday 29 January 2021

Scores on the doors

 I did my one hour (09.15 - 10.15 hrs) stint recording the garden birds and have to admit that I rather enjoyed myself, however predictable the visitors were. The weather was kind and I was able to stand on the patio, outside my study door, to conduct my observations. This is what I recorded:-

Herring Gull - 14 to bread on the lawn, many more attracted but unwilling to join the battle.

House Sparrow - maximum count of 43 was a little disappointing, but there were other flocks visiting gardens a few doors to the north.

Goldfinch - maximum count 19

Greenfinch - adult male (the female was recorded later in the day, after my hour was up!)

Great Tit - 2

Blue Tit - 5

Blackbird - 1 adult male

Robin - 1

Dunnock - 2

Collared Dove - 5

Wood Pigeon - 1 (very unexpected - landed in the boundary Elder)

Magpie - 3 - as above

Jackdaw - 2 coming to the mealworms

Sparrowhawk - adult male twice creating havoc amongst the feeding throng

Rose-ringed Parakeet - just a single, right at last knockings

All in all, not a bad return for an hour stood watching the feeding station. Nothing new for the BWKm0 list today, although I did see Raven, Common Gull and Cormorant whilst I was outdoors. The most obvious absentee from this garden list is that of Starling! At this time of year they are very sporadic visitors, using both fat balls and mealworms when they do turn up, but sadly not today. With the weekend forecast being fairly dire, I might give it another bash just to see how it compares. Nothing better to occupy my time - so why not?

Thursday 28 January 2021

Getting ready

 "Fail to prepare - prepare to fail!" It's a saying that has accompanied me throughout my adult life, yet remains as valid today as it did in the late-1970's. I've been perusing the BBC weather forecasts and it would appear that tomorrow (Friday) offers the best conditions for me to conduct my "Big Garden Birdwatch". One hour of my time to assist in the biggest citizen science project in the UK. I can submit my results on line, so there's no reason not to be part of this celebration of garden birds and do your bit to assemble data that reflects the status of our common species within this "green & pleasant" land. Being in lockdown mode just makes the 2021 effort that bit more relevant, in my opinion. 

Knowing that I would be partaking in this RSPB initiative, one day over the weekend, our garden feeding station has seen much attention during the preceding week. All six feeders, four sunflower hearts and two fat-balls, have been topped up every morning, plus there has been additional mealworms and bread on offer. The only thing I have not been able to provide is halved apples, a favourite of the local Rose-ringed Parakeets, but they still visit the sunflower feeders so don't go without. We've got to get Bev's Mazda over to Perry's for it's MOT, between 08-09.00 hrs tomorrow, so I'm planning to do the count as soon as we get back from dropping the car off. 

I finish early (20.00 hrs) on a Friday, so will hopefully be able to post my results after my shift has ended? I've added another four species to the BWKm0 effort, over the past couple of days.

No. 38 - Long-tailed Tit - three very quickly moving along the boundary hedge

No. 39 - Meadow Pipit - a single flying west early this morning

No. 40 - Common Gull - after a series of "possible" sightings, I finally managed to add this species due to a nice group of three adults flying, very leisurely, westward thus allowing me clinch the id.

No. 41 - Peregrine - a stunning adult male, right over the garden whilst I was scoping the, ringed male, Greenfinch!! If it wasn't for the local Herring Gulls, I'd have missed it!

Fishing this weekend? I won't hold my breath.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Greenfinch bling

 Another decent morning spent out in the back garden, coffee and binoculars to hand, with a nice selection of species to keep me entertained. It kicked off with the second Grey Heron, of the lockdown, which pitched down atop of Arthur Burbridge's conifers very briefly before being seen off by the local Herring Gulls. It was then the turn of a splendid Mistle Thrush to fly along the gardens before dropping down to seek a meal out on the stubble beyond the garden hedge. Three more species made it onto the BWKm0 list and are as follows:-

No. 35 - Great Spotted Woodpecker - one flying west towards St. Lawrence College sports ground - probably a breeding bird from the Ramsgate Cemetery population?

No. 36 - Green Woodpecker - a calling bird over in the Newlands Farm compound area.

No. 37 - Cormorant - a flock of 25+ birds flying south towards Pegwell/Ramsgate Harbour

I then spent some time concentrating on the activity around the feeding station, as a warm up for the RSPB "Big Garden Birdwatch" initiative which takes place between 29th - 31st January. It will be a bit of an anti-climax this year as I won't have the grand-kids for company, but I will still do my bit in order to provide some data for this citizen science effort. House Sparrows are present in very high numbers, regularly in excess of one hundred individuals, whilst Goldfinches also occur in fantastic flurries of colourful action at the four sunflower heart feeders. Two Greenfinches (male & female - too early for them to be a pair?) were seen yesterday, the male again present this morning and, to my surprise, it is ringed. Hopefully, now I'm aware of this situation, the camera and/or Kowa TSN 823 might be useful in recording the details. A female Chaffinch appeared, very briefly, at the feeders and is, as such, the first of this species to be recorded in, as opposed to over, the garden since the lockdown started. 

The pair - the female just visible behind the base of the feeder.

Robin, Dunnock, Great & Blue Tit, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Collared Dove and Jackdaw were all recorded "in" the garden, thus countable for the RSPB project. Not too sure on what day I will undertake the survey, it will be weather driven I imagine, but what I do know is that Herring Gull will also feature in the count - I've got a stale loaf awaiting the designated hour, game on!

A shocking, hugely cropped, image of the male Greenfinch taken in the gloom of the 
early morning light today. The only redeeming feature is the fact that
it is possible to discern the BTO (?) jewellery on its' right leg.

Sunday 24 January 2021

Gaining momentum

 Unable to sleep, due to trolling by the "back gate repair police", I was up early doing my best to meet their ridiculously high standards. The embarrassment of making such a childish error being a huge stain on my reputation amongst my neighbours, all of whom have back gates which conform to regulation. If you've made it this far and believe a single word of this dribble then you're thicker than Donald Trump! 

Yesterday's Grey Heron

It is true that I took on board the advice offered by Gavin Haig and have, indeed, repositioned the lower brace to match that which he mentioned. I am, therefore, grateful because it was another good morning for garden birding with a further five species added to the BWKm0 list. 

No. 30 - Greylag Goose - a single, flying west, is the first garden record and only the second for the "patch". White-front, Pink-foot and Tundra Bean Geese are all more regularly recorded around Newlands Farm!

No. 31 - Linnet

No. 32 - Redwing - at long last, four flocks, totalling 29 individuals, all moving east.

No. 33 - Chaffinch

No. 34 - Rook

Goldfinches still remain the second most numerous visitor to the feeding station, numbers continue to build with 28 being counted mid-morning. I imagine it would require a ringing project to establish exactly how many birds are using this food source each day? The female Greenfinch appeared, very briefly, and a Robin was picking up scraps below the feeders, allowing me to grab a few images.

With a week of late shifts about to start, I feel sure that there are more opportunities to add further species to the garden list as the seasons play out their annual cycle. With so many very common species still required, any time spent outside will offer potential for adding to my tally.

Saturday 23 January 2021

Job's a good'n

 This is probably the saddest post I've ever made?  Worry ye not, no-one's died or anything similar. Oh  no, this is about repairing our garden gate. I feel like one of those morons who post pictures of their breakfast on Twitter and/or Facebook. What I will say is that it's a good job I don't earn my living undertaking such tasks, we'd be living in a tent! Five hours I spent, obviously  having no idea what would be required until I got started, but rather enjoyed myself making it up as I went along. To be perfectly honest I'm rather pleased with how it turned out. Basically I repaired the original gate but used the fixtures and fittings, plus some odd bits of timber, from the gate that Gavin had given me on Thursday to complete the repair.

Being outdoors provided opportunity to add more sightings to the BWKm0 garden list and I was not to be disappointed. Three more species were spotted whilst I was fannying about pretending to be a chippie!

No. 27 - Grey Heron

No. 28 - Kestrel

No. 29 - Skylark

The feeding station was incredibly busy with 100+ House Sparrows being the peak count. Green Finches were present (heard not seen) and I counted a maximum of seventeen Goldfinches, perched up in a neighbouring garden, before they dropped down into the Budlehia above the feeders. A couple of Rose-ringed Parakeets joined a small group of Collared Doves but, Blue Tits apart, very little else was attracted to the sunflower hearts. Weather is all over the place, sleet and snow forecast for tomorrow, so I might be having a stroll around Newlands Farm to see what I can find? Certainly not enthused to get back out with the rods, that's for sure.

Friday 22 January 2021

Just what the doctor odrered

 If I hadn't taken a day's holiday, I would still have been out of the bungalow for a similar period due to my shift pattern being earlies this week. I planned to spend around six hours fishing the drain so as to get back home at the same time of a normal work day. Give or take ten minutes, it worked a treat. Although I got the van loaded in plenty of time, things didn't get off to a very good start as it was nearly five minutes before the windscreen cleared of a thick covering of ice which seemed oblivious to my Perspex scraper. I was parked up, by the stables, just before 06.30 hrs and had got my tackle laden barrow to my chosen stretch by 07.00 hrs. A thick frost coated the vegetation and cat ice covered the many puddles as I made my way. The highlight of the walk was a "shooting star" type occurrence which manifested itself as a luminous green ball speeding across the sky in the pre-dawn half light. Probably nothing more than a speck of dust entering the atmosphere and burning up, it was taken as a good omen by this long-haired individual. All three rods fishing before 07.25 hrs and was grateful for the flask of steaming coffee as I watched the dawn break.

As mentioned yesterday, my binoculars and scope came along for the trip and I set about recording the birds that crossed my path whilst remaining in close proximity to the rods. 07.50 hrs and my middle rod was away, one of my brother's "back-biter" alarms alerting me to the situation. A beautifully conditioned pike, of 7 lbs 6 oz, came grudgingly to the landing net so a blank session had been averted. Coffee number two was poured, pike returned to the drain, I recast the rod and repositioned the rapidly freezing landing net. It was good to be alive and being able to watch the natural world embarking on another daily ritual just heightened the enjoyment of being outdoors. 

The sun shone brightly from a lightly clouded sky and the temperature slowly crept up which, in turn, meant that the frost disappeared and the bank became a slippery mud bath. Still, no point moaning as you can't have it all?  At 11.00 hrs, just as Neil and a friend (sorry I don't know your name) came wandering along the bank, my right hand alarm, a Siren R3, signalled a bite and I was landing the pike as they reached my swim. In similar condition to my first, although slightly smaller, it was quickly unhooked and returned to the drain. We had a good chat about the local birding, none of us expecting miracles at this time of the year. They reported seeing a couple of Yellowhammers, which I hadn't, but had spotted little else of note. Saying their good-byes, they continued on their way leaving me to continue to scan the surroundings for whatever birds I could find. I ended the session, packing up at 12.50 hrs, with a grand total of forty-one species. This included White-front and Brent Goose, Peregrine and Grey Partridge; not too shabby a selection for a fishing trip? However, it wasn't what I'd seen but, instead, what I hadn't which was most strange. Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw were glaring omissions, I didn't see a Mallard, Little Egret or hear a Curlew. No Marsh Harrier, Redwing or Stonechat, all species which could be realistically expected in this flatland location. With nothing better to do, I'm going to continue this type of listing whenever I'm out with the rods and just see what happens. The garden BWKm0 effort will remain the main project while the Covid restrictions prevail and, as a consequence, the Royal Military Canal is out of bounds.

So that's what I got up to with my day off. Quite how fishing is exercise, not leisure, I don't know but am grateful that it is allowed due to the mental health benefits involved with being outdoors in such wonderful surroundings.

Thursday 21 January 2021

Staying positive

 Just to put the tin hat on it, Storm Christoph has savaged huge swathes of the, Covid beleaguered, UK. The utter carnage, left behind, testament to the incredible forces of nature that were unleashed. Our neighbour, Barbara, has lost two fence panels, whilst our own back gate was snapped, like a carrot, as the winds raged between the buildings. At 02.30 hrs, on Wednesday morning, I'm outside attempting to close a smashed gate in order to get some sleep. The noise of the shattered frame smashing against the gate posts reverberated through the bungalow like some annoying, irregular, drum and bass track; sleep was impossible until I got it sorted. Bleary eyed, I made it into work, and was supping a pre-shift coffee, recalling the events of the previous night when Gavin, one of my shift colleagues, said "I've got a gate you can have" We had a quick chat about measurements and logistics but, as it worked out, the said gate is now in my back garden awaiting my efforts to replace the previous item. Let's get this right, a broken gate is but nothing compared to the devastation that has occurred in other areas of the country and I readily acknowledge this basic truth. Still won't stop me swearing a fair bit as I attempt to repair the damage. DIY doesn't feature particularly high on my CV of domestic abilities. I'll leave it there for the time being and give an update in a later post - maybe a photo - when the task is completed?

I'm having a day off, tomorrow, knowing that the forecast is crap for the coming weekend. Now there will be many thinking that the back gate ain't worth a day off and they're dead right! I'm going pike fishing. With five days carried over from 2020, needing to be used by March, I decided that a break from the nonsense at work (I will only be able to blog about it when I've retired) would be a good idea. I'm typing this already thinking that the day out on the bank will be enough without needing to catch a pike. The heavy rainfall, coloured water and ridiculous extremes of air pressure and temperature will all have an influence on the feeding behaviour of the fish I seek. However, if I haven't learnt anything about tempting pike, over the past fifty years, then I deserve to blank. I'm taking the full camera kit, plus my binos and Kowa TSN 823 scope, in the hope of making the very most of my time on the bank. I'm really looking forward to the session and will, hopefully, have something to blog about when I get back home? 

The only other bit of news, worthy of sharing, is that of a superb adult male Greenfinch, at the feeding station, this afternoon, and the BWKm0 addition No. - 26 Common Buzzard which flew south over the garden just after 14.00 hrs today.

Monday 18 January 2021

Not in the script

Saturday's dreadful weather ensured the post I'd planned will have to wait until a change in conditions allow me to take the camera (with macro lenses) out onto the farm, thus obtaining the images required to illustrate what lockdown does to a man? 

Day break out on the flatlands

I did get out with the rods on Sunday morning, landing a couple of lovely conditioned pike for my troubles. It was a spectacular morning and the first time I'd seen the sun in over a week. Especially nice to bump into Neil Davies who was undertaking his monthly WeBS count. He had seen relatively little on his wanderings but still managed to drop into the conversation news of an adult White-tailed Sea Eagle that had spent a couple of days in the vicinity around the turn of the year. My contribution was meagre fare, by comparison, but included an owl sp. that had flown over the drain as I was setting up and the roost site of a Cattle Egret that I discovered on another stretch of the "Black Dyke" just before New Year. We wished each other luck as he departed to continued on his, well trodden, route back towards home. I packed up, bumping a third fish which grabbed a dead bait on the retrieve, well pleased to have been able to spend time outdoors in such magnificent surroundings and doing so within the "stay local" guidelines. I wonder how many (Kent) birders pushed these boundaries and travelled to Orlestone Forest for the White-throated Sparrow? All I can say on the subject is that I'm very glad I wasn't faced by this situation in 1999 because I know that my actions would have been a lot different from those today - enough said! Oh, the beauty of getting old?

Back home, just after mid-day, there was little else to do but finish putting together the table and chairs, Bev had purchased for the conservatory, grab a San Miguel and listen to the football commentaries on Radio 5 Live, whilst sitting at the laptop in the study. Activity was constant around the garden feeding station and it was nice to spot the female Greenfinch, once again, with the Goldfinch flock coming to the sunflower hearts. Beyond the boundary, using my trusty Kowa TSN 823, I managed to pick out a pair of Stock Doves feeding on the remnants of the stubble a couple of hundred metres away. BWKm0 - No. - 24! I've not seen a hedgehog since the night of the 13th and the bowl has remained untouched for the past couple of nights, so not even a rat wants to take a chance. The Webley Mk III has been incredibly effective in deterring these unwanted visitors - funny that! Back on earlies, this morning, I was home just before 14.00 hrs and got the feeders topped up before grabbing some grub and settling down in the study. I was looking at some CNN/MSNBC Youtube offerings, pertaining to the lunacy involved in the Trump/Biden transition, when the gulls, Wood Pigeons and Starlings all went nuts. Grabbing my binoculars, I was in the garden within seconds, yet could spot nothing (which must have been an overflying raptor ?) that had caused this reaction. I completely screwed up the id of a distant group of thrushes, Redwings at a guess, purely because of the angle of the sun. This is the third time I've failed to add the species to the latest manifestation of my BWKm0 list. due to light conditions and being very rusty in the art of bird id - confidence is not what it once was! Still, all was not lost, as I'm in the garden, scanning the skies, picking up a very distant Mistle Thrush over by the farm compound - No. - 25. That'll do, says I. My laptop has now decided to stop recognising my Canon cameras, thus I'm unable to download any images. Fortunately there are guys within the FSIS IT dept who will be able to assist with rectifying this situation. Blogging is providing me with an incredible opportunity to keep active, within a mental capacity, during a period which the "stay safe" advice might just be altered to "stay sane" ?

Friday 15 January 2021

Inspired and enthused

 The blogging community I inhabit is a place where, hugely differing personalities, share a common passion for their outdoor hobbies via this written/illustrated format. In reality it is quite a niche environment attracting contributors of a certain vintage who are able, via rose-tinted memories, recall times gone by when life was so much simpler? Dwelling on events, long passed, isn't how our blogging is sustained but, during times of minimal stimulus, the ability to look back can keep it ticking over until outside influences, once again, dictate otherwise? 

Just this week Gavin Haig, he of Not Quite Scilly fame, produced an outstanding post about his angling adventures with barbel (see it here) and with it has fired up an enthusiasm for me to return to The Kentish Stour for another chance to pit my wits against this most worthy adversary. The latest lockdown has blown away any hopes, I had, of catching twenty doubles before the end of pike season so it's nice to have a new challenge on the horizon. No way am I going back to the lunacy of Willow Close, and all that it entailed, so a Canterbury & District AA ticket will need to be purchased, thus allowing me access to much more of the river. To be honest, Benno and Luke both became members this year and have been singing the praises of the various venues where they have cast a line ever since.  

There is so much that I'd like to be doing but, along with the rest of the sensible members of the populous, know that until the vaccine, is rolled out, Covid-19 "stay at home" isn't some fake news, conspiracy theorist, bull-shit but genuine advice to assist in the battle for a return to normality. I have no problem with playing my part, gutted that the Royal Military Canal isn't "local", but grateful for the BWKm0 concept which has already played such a positive role in my getting through the original lockdown period. If birds are to replace angling during this latest incarnation of lockdown then Jono Lethbridge's post about staying local was a very welcome introduction to another new idea (see it here) Birding, without petroleum, within a five mile radius of the front door? Bloody hell I need a boat! The reality is that our bungalow is a mile from the coast, at Dumpton Gap, thus four miles beyond the sand is just open sea. On the positive side, five miles from here includes Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate Harbour, North Foreland, Foreness Point, Margate Harbour and Minster SF. If the rods do need to be retired, for a period, then this birdwatching challenge might well need some serious consideration.

I can't finish without mentioning Steve Gale and his North Downs & Beyond blog. He's been a constant source of high class blogging during all of this uncertainty. It was he who facilitated the original BWKm0, being instigator and ring master for the entire project. He's had me looking at "big skies", marvelling at flowers and then, on Tuesday, looking at the leaves of our Red Valerian plants for the tell-tale signs of a fly! What's even worse than looking is actually finding the bloody things! (see it here) The craziest aspect of all this interaction is that none of us have ever, knowingly, met yet would consider ourselves mates (?) in some way. I did say Blogland was a strange place!

Finally the BWKm0 list has racked up another two species ;-

No. 22 - Great Tit

No. 23 - Great Black-backed Gull - an adult flying high, east, at 10.37 hrs this morning

So that's about it for the time being. Snow tomorrow? Pike fishing Sunday now that Boris has ensured that seven miles is "staying local" I have absolutely no idea where we, as a nation, are headed but do have some material for another post, tomorrow, which will demonstrate quite how boredom can facilitate itself. 

Monday 11 January 2021

Birds mirror the weather

 I took a short stroll around Newlands Farm, this morning, and wasn't particularly inspired by what I saw. Four Skylarks, flushed from the large stubble field opposite Fujifilm , was as good as it got. Plenty of Wood Pigeons, Herring Gulls and assorted corvids, but little else. As with the weather, it was dull! Three more species have made it onto my BWKm0 garden list, today, and are as follows:-

19 - Starling

20 - Raven - two flew south over the garden at 09.30 hrs, the first record here since the autumn.

21 - Black-headed Gull

The only other birds worthy of note were the lone Greenfinch, present for its' third day, and an increase in the Goldfinch flock to twenty-four individuals. With so many ridiculously common species, still awaiting inclusion on the list, I have to use it as a positive and say that the only way from here is up!

Sunday 10 January 2021

What were we thinking?

 Benno and I met up at the entrance to Sandwich Coarse Fishery just before 07.00 hrs. The gate was locked and we chatted about the prospects of the fishery being frozen whilst awaiting Kev, the fishery manager, to arrive and open up. It wasn't long before he pulled up and allowed us access to this superb little commercial fishery complex. Sure enough, with Luke also, socially distancing, joining us to survey the scene, Victory Lake- our preferred option, was coated by a sheet of ice so it was one of the match lakes, where an aerator was in operation, which allowed us to cast a baited hook. It was bloody freezing and we endured four hours before throwing in the towel. I did have a bite, but it failed to register on the alarm due to my line being frozen in the tip ring! Luke did manage three fish to the net, an F1 hybrid plus a couple of nice perch, the best of which tipped the scales at 2 lbs 1 oz. 

It was ridiculous, the air temperature not rising above minus two all the while we at the fishery. The bankside vegetation coated in frost as fog persisted for the majority of the morning. Yes, it was nice to spend some time on the bank, but it wasn't what we'd hoped and I didn't have any issues when deciding to call it a day. Back home by noon, Bev and I set about getting the Christmas decorations back up into the loft and, whilst taking down the outside lights, was able to add BWKm0 No. 18 in the form of a male Song Thrush which was singing, heartily, over at the farm compound. With a week of late shifts looming and the prospects of overtime becoming par for the course, I'm keeping an eye on the weather in the hope of getting a pike bait into the local drains as soon as is practicable? With five extra days holiday available, which must be taken before 31st March, I'm happy to use them, mid-week, should our work pattern return to that of pre-Christmas.

Saturday 9 January 2021

What next?

 Having been on early shifts since the announcement of this latest lockdown, today was the first day that the full impact, of the restrictions, registered on my routine. Benno and I have been in conversation about wetting a line, on Sunday, but it is now the start of a new BWKm0 project, with the added Newlands Farm patch listing thrown in for good measure. With no preconceived targets, the whole caper will be one of enjoyment and rediscovery as I am, once again, forced to make the most of what is available on the doorstep. It's been quite a while since I spent any prolonged time over on the farm and much has changed since angling returned to my life. With a week of late shifts starting on Monday, I'll have plenty of opportunity to take a stroll around the field perimeters, so spent the majority of my spare time today watching the garden feeding station. 

It was a rather weird experience as the second most numerous visitor, after House Sparrow (70+), were Goldfinches! A maximum count of twenty-one was a very pleasant surprise and I wondered if they might be accompanied by something a little more scarce? At 11.35 hrs my answer came in the form of a female Greenfinch - get in! The first garden record since May 2020. Oh how times have changed the fortunes of this, once common, visitor to our feeders.

1 - Herring Gull

2 - Collared Dove

3 - House Sparrow

4 - Carrion Crow

5 - Wood Pigeon

6 - Goldfinch

7 - Blue Tit

8 - Robin

9 - Wren

10 - Sparrow Hawk

11 - Jackdaw

12 - Magpie

13 - Dunnock

14 - Greenfinch

15 - Jay

16 - Blackbird

17 - Rose-ringed Parakeet

Well that's my lot for the first BWKm0 garden watch. Recognising this will be a marathon, not a sprint, I'll settle for that Greenfinch all day long.

Thursday 7 January 2021

Game's back on?

The Angling Trust has, today, secured Governmental approval of angling as a form of exercise? I'll go with that, although they are at pains to point out that "local" means local and unnecessary travel will be in contravention of the lockdown rules, thus, possible fixed penalty fines incurred should the venue be deemed "non" local if plod gets involved? Not wishing to mimic those "twitchers" who can make a case for a Short-toed Treecreeper to be reason to travel from Durham to Dungeness, the Royal Military Canal will remain off limits until such time as the Angling Trust advise differently. Fortunately, the East Kent Marshes and my syndicate fishery are all within "local" distance and I'll happily exploit the possibilities of these venues given the current situation. Twenty doubles? I won't find out if I don't try!

Tuesday 5 January 2021

Best of a bad situation

 I'm incredibly fortunate, in as much as, my garden sits in the middle of my Newlands Farm "local patch". I've been watching the birdlife, although never seriously enough to bother submitting records, since we moved here in November 2000. My garden and patch lists are maintained purely for my own purposes, requiring neither approval or third party scrutiny for any species to make the grade. If, as has happened, I make a mistaken id, then I'm well capable of admitting my error and moving on without any embarrassment or shame attached. Strange as it might seem but, I'm probably enjoying bird watching more now than at any other stage during my time in Kent. How? Well I'm actually watching birds rather than chasing numbers, and that is as much an age thing as it is down to me reverting back to angling as my main hobby. 

We've still got plenty of House Sparrows visiting the feeding station

Since the first "national lockdown" many of us have discovered the wealth of wildlife to be found right under our noses. For me, as a casual observer, watching an unfamiliar life form, of whatever genus, is about wonder not some dysfunctional obsession of needing to tick a box. Lockdown Mk 1 provided many such experiences. If my angling targets have to be put on hold, as would seem to be the case, then "patch birding" will be my fall back option. Time to dust down the long lens and start pointing the binoculars towards those distant blobs. If an unfamiliar invertebrate is encountered, then I will spend time looking without ever worrying about an id. Should I be able to give the creature a name, then so be it, but it's certainly not a paramount concern. Birds, moths, butterflies, mammals and dragonflies I'm relatively confident in my abilities. Out of this comfort zone and I'm clutching at straws. I have absolutely no gripes with others who wish to push the boundaries of their knowledge but, it doesn't work for me. It's a fly, beetle, bug or spider - I really don't care what it's called, just happy to have spent time looking at it.

Short-eared Owl over the Newlands cauliflowers

If this latest lockdown provides half as much wildlife entertainment as the first, then I'm in for a real treat. Obviously, with the passing of Bev's mum, I am able to wander a little more freely than during the previous occasions yet feel that garden based birding will provide the bulk of my sightings and blog material. The nocturnal antics of the hedgehogs and foxes, supplemented by the odd Brown Rat, will all add to the experience as this latest phase of the pandemic unfolds. Could get messy - let's see where it goes?

P.S. Just seen the latest Angling Trust up-date - no fishing allowed during this lockdown period! 

And finally, I would like to wish fellow blogger, Penny Clarke, a speedy recovery from her Covid-19 infection. Chin up - we're all thinking of you!

Saturday 2 January 2021

First pike session of the year

 Benno and I arranged to meet up at silly o'clock, this morning, for the first pike session of the new year. I am hugely indebted to Brian Harper who had provided some, much needed, information on the state of play regarding conditions and water levels along the Royal Military Canal. Bev and I had taken a drive down there, on 27th December, only to be confronted by a scene of utter, unfishable, carnage. 

The view from Gigger's Green bridge on 27th December - fast flowing Oxtail soup!

We had all four baits in the water before 07.15 hrs. At 08.10 hrs, one of Benno's alarms registered a bite and a brief, yet spirited, tussle ensued before a pike of around 6 lbs was in the net. Two more pike were taken, one each, over the following hour, or so. Benno's went 10 lbs 6 oz, mine 9 lbs 15 oz and that was that. We fished on until 11.00 hrs when we called it a day. A nice way to get the new year off the blocks as neither of us blanked. Although the raging current has subsided, there is still a fair bit of colour in the water.

 Depending on the situation at work, I'm hoping to get back down to the RMC very shortly as the weather forecast and improving water conditions are looking bang on.

Friday 1 January 2021

It took less than forty minutes!

 The first hedgehog of 2021 was photographed at the garden feeding station at 00.38 hrs. It might have been possible earlier but Bev was giving me another Scrabble lesson! Temperatures outside are barely above zero yet this healthy young hedgehog is happy to visit our garden. I've been absolutely blown away by these animals and will, hopefully, be able to add more data to the Hedgehog Preservation Society records which will assist our understanding of these wonderful creatures? Happy New Year.