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!


Monday 31 May 2021

Not a lot

 There seems to be a common theme throughout "Blogland" at present. The format appears to have run its' course and those of us, aged, patrons are struggling for content worthy of sharing? Not that, for one minute, I think the "end is nigh!", just a need to re-assess what, as contributors, we want from our efforts? It seems that multiple factors have conspired to thwart any meaningful output from my perspective. I haven't caught anything worthy of mention and birds have been conspicuous by their absence around the Newlands area. Add to this an erratic weather pattern and, all of a sudden, eleven days have passed without a single post being made. 

I was fishing at my syndicate venue on the night of the full moon.
The camera saw far more action than the rods!

Bev and I are doing okay, life is pretty good and we're enjoying the freedoms that my retirement have allowed. If we fancy breakfast at Deal Pier, The Spitfire Museum or Capel-le-Ferne, we do it. A ride in the van, usually via a scenic route, and we're living the dream. A quick stop off at The Coach & Horses allowed us time to catch up with Mike, Penny & Nichola - it's been far too long! Yeah; life is good. We've been up to Yorkshire to visit Bev's best friend, Jane, and celebrate her God-son's baby's first birthday. My youngest brother, Sye, and his wife, Yve, have been down to Kent, looking for a potential new home, so it has been a great weekend of family interaction. It's still not normal, but the signs are certainly there.

I'm out in the garden, just after 08.00 hrs, this morning and managed to add two new species to my 2021 BWKm0 list.

No. 60 - Hobby

No. 61 - Red Kite - unbelievably late date for this annual Thanet migrant

I stayed outdoors until 15.00 hrs and was rewarded with some crazy raptor movement. I finished the session with two Hobby, two Kestrel, twenty-five Common Buzzard and a Red Kite! The Buzzard total was a slap-dash mix of singles until, at 13.30 hrs, a group of eighteen appeared drifting slowly north, causing absolute mayhem amongst the local Herring Gulls.

A crap image of an adult with a male House Sparrow

It seems crazy that Covid-19 has been catalyst for such a focus on local wildlife? I now am totally fascinated by the hedgehog activity around our garden,. That I can also feed and photograph them has taken the experience to another level. 

Garden visitors don't get much better than this?

Thursday 20 May 2021

This and that

 I'm not too sure how to explain my current mind-set? It's all very weird. Whatever the reality, I feel like I'm on holiday, still, I'm sure I'll get the hang of it as time passes? Retirement means that every day is a Sunday with the obvious down side - there's no double bubble in the pay packet any more. Back down the syndicate for another afternoon/evening session, yesterday, was quite an experience. One of my fellow members, Brendan, landed a superb Common Carp of 24 lbs 14 oz, whilst I had to content myself with bream - hey ho!

To say the weather was all over the place would be an understatement, it was crazy but did provide me with further opportunities to play around with the camera kit. I'm certainly finding it quite rewarding capturing images which convey the mood of the moment and, also, expand the scope of my photography whilst on the bank.

I was away from the fishery before 21.30 hrs, home by 21.50 hrs, so in plenty of time to get the hedgehog feeding station sorted. I've said many times, previously, how much of a privilege it is to have these wonderful creatures visiting our garden and how I'd still be completely unaware of the situation if the pandemic had not forced me into this "stay local" mentality. I hope that the thrill of watching these animals never ceases. So charismatic is their behaviour that I find myself staring at them, whenever they visit the feeding station, in  much the same manner as others do with fish tanks and/or open fires! It is not unusual to have four or five of them on the lawn at any one time, although very much socially distanced. The fun starts when they meet up at the feeding bowl. The noise and aggression has to be witnessed to be appreciated, they are really characterful individuals, size is not always the dominant factor in any altercation. 

Bev and I have experimented with various offerings during these past fourteen months and have to conclude that Tesco Kitten biscuits are the best offerings we've provided, as voted for by the feeding hedgehogs! However, we were in B&M's a couple of days ago and I purchased 400gms of Webbox "Hedgehog Food" for less than £2. I mixed it with the Tesco offering and have to say that the reaction was incredible. I'm certainly not sponsored by this mob and will reserve judgement on just how good the product is until it has been given sustained usage. The hedgehogs will have the final say when all said and done.

I nicked this image from Flea-bay - they'll get over it I'm sure?

Tuesday 18 May 2021

All very carpy

 The syndicate fisheries continue to be central to my angling efforts whilst I await the start of the new season. Because of the geographic location, it does mean that I've got something to look at/for whilst awaiting the alarms to signal some fish-type activity. It was talking with Bev, about my meagre results, that I realised that I was morphing into a carp faggot! Time is, once again, becoming a major factor in my approach. Okay, I don't do overnighters, but still happily spend eight plus hours sat behind cradled rods in the vain hope of a bite. I got home last night, after my second biteless session on the spin, determined to change things about.  

No time spent at the fishery is wasted however and, yesterday, I'd located a decent group of carp just before the onset of a two hour long deluge of heavy rain with accompanying thunder, lightning and blustery winds. The moody skies gave me scope to play around with the camera kit but, as I said, the rods remained inactive in their carpy pose. A check of the BBC weather page suggested that I might have a short window of opportunity this morning, with light winds and broken sunshine, and I took a gamble. Armed with a single 1959 Mk IV Dick Walker split cane, fitted with a Mitchell 300 loaded with 12 lbs bs floating mono, a small Nash "Bolt Machine" and a three foot hook link of 8 lbs bs line to a size 8 "wide gape" hook I set off back down to the fishery, via the local Premier shop to grab a couple of packets of dog biscuits and a wholemeal loaf. Landing net, carp cradle and weigh sling were already in the van so the only other bits required were a camera and my binoculars.

There was a far more northerly bias to the breeze than I'd expected, but I went about the ritual of catapulting out a scattering of freebies in several swims on the west and south banks of the venue. There was one other member at the fishery, bivvied up in the swim where I'd taken that Mirror from last week, so basically I had the run of the place. It was probably twenty minutes before I saw any signs of carp activity and set about getting the rod and landing net readied. I think I made two casts in twenty minutes, hectic it wasn't, but I was starting to see signs of activity in a couple of swims on the south bank. Off I went. Again I was seeing just the occasional sign as the odd floater was taken, certainly no pattern to this feeding behaviour. I got distracted by a group of seven fish, basking in a sheltered spot on the eastern margin, but they soon melted away when I scattered a few dog biscuits in their direction. It seemed that I was destined to continue my struggle. Thankfully, two carp decided that they were hungry enough to start slurping down a few offerings and, by studying their movements, I was able to ascertain a patrol route and get a cube of Warburton's wholemeal in position to intercept the next patroller. It worked like a dream! A dark shape appeared beneath my bait then, without any hesitation, it was gone and the rod hooped over as I set the hook.

An absolutely magnificent battle on my ancient tackle, never once did I feel under-gunned. I had to play this fish through freshly emerged wild lily beds and marginal rushes, the rod flexing down to the cork handle. The Mitchell 300 was a joy to use, as I've stripped the spools back and used silicon grease to lubricate the drag mechanism; bloody great. My prize was a stunning Common Carp of 15 lbs 3 oz and all that I wished for. However greed kept me searching for a second opportunity, which never materialized, and it was the deteriorating weather conditions which saw me pack my kit away and head back for home little more than two hours after I'd arrived. Just what the doctor ordered! 

Friday 14 May 2021

It's a start

 It's been nearly five weeks since I retired and, despite my efforts, not one carp had visited my landing net during the intervening period. Under these circumstances self-doubt really kicks in and I've been questioning almost every aspect of my approach when, in reality, I needn't have been. All the syndicate members have been struggling. Those few fish, which have been caught, more a result of time than ability. No-one has been smashing it, so why should I be any different?

I've not been biteless during these sessions as a few bream have provided evidence of the effectiveness of my rigs, bite indication and bait choice. Now, whilst many of my fellow members treat these unwanted species with utter contempt; fish shaped vermin, they have provided a little encouragement for me to continue with my angling approach, confident in the tackle I use thus allowing me to concentrate other aspects involved.

6 lbs 2 oz - the biggest of three taken on this session

I've been playing around with rig mechanics and have started to favour the combi-rig set up over the "Ronnie" presentation that has been my go to choice for several seasons. My bait preference now being a wafter as opposed to a pop-up. I'll probably write a more detailed explanation, at a later date, because I certainly feel there's much scope for tweaking this presentation. Whilst I fully endorse the basic fact that high quality tackle should be used in order to maximize the effectiveness of your presentation, under no circumstances do I align myself with the carp clones who think brand labels are more important than functionality. "Tackle tarts" more easily caught than the carp they seek and, as such, subject to "carp tax" Exorbitant mark ups on items of kit which play absolutely no part in the ability of an angler to catch a fish. Entirely the choice of each individual how they spend their hard earned cash but, for me, I'll stick with NGT and Wychwood and be looked at with distain by the fashionistas. One item that I use has caused a ripple of interest amongst these "hard core" carpers. I'd seen that Korda were selling "Stow" indicators for £20+ each - What? I made my own for less than a quid and have been using them for the past couple of weeks.

Last night, just before 21.00 hrs, the Siren R3 signalled a bite as the "Stow" bobbing smashed up to the rod before falling from the line. I'm in, game on! A spirited tussle ensued, the Duncan Kay being perfect for the job, and after a few, very enjoyable, minutes I was able to draw my prize over the net chord. A cracking Mirror of 16 lbs 4 oz the result. A very pleasing way to start my campaign for this coming Summer.

Thursday 6 May 2021

Birding softens the blanks

Man; am I struggling with my angling attempts, at the moment, down on the syndicate venues? I can offer as many cliché' ridden excuses about unseasonal weather patterns and an inability to spend endless hours camping behind my baited rods. The bottom line is that I've not been good enough to solve the puzzle posed by these carp, as yet. Two roach, by design, and an accidental bream are the sum total of my returns for seven sessions spent thus far. Not that I'm about to start complaining, the venue is superb, nestling on  the northern edge of the Stour Valley flatlands with uninterrupted views across the surrounding marshes/farmland. However, what I feel is very important to highlight is the role that birds play whenever I'm outdoors, whatever the reason. If catching a carp was the sole purpose of my involvement with angling then, it stands to reason, that I'd be really pissed off with my results, thus far. Chuck in the Magenta 5 Bat Detector and tub of sweetcorn for the Wood Mice, then I'm having a good time simply by being there.

I showed Bev the sun-rise image I'd taken last week and explained how Steve Gale had opened my eyes to the concept of "big skies" with all that it entails. Until Steve's kick up the arse I'd obviously seen them just never looked properly - "never too old to learn"  I'd arranged to meet up with Gaz Ashby, on Wednesday afternoon, down at the syndicate to spend a few hours chilling out and chewing the fat about subjects many and varied. Torrential rain, however, ensured our plans were severely disrupted yet we still enjoyed the session and were able to watch for carp activity as the sun went down after the weather front had moved through. 

Four more species for the BWKm0 effort have been added recently

No. 56 - Common Whitethroat (28.04.2021) - male in sub-song

No. 57 - Swallow (04.05.2021) - two

No. 58 - Common Swift (06.05.2021) - one over west

No. 59 - Lesser Whitethroat (06.05.2021) - singing male

Quite how I've managed to get to May 6th without recording a Red Kite from the garden is a real mystery. With the weather remaining erratic, at best, who knows which species will make No. 60?

Sunday 2 May 2021

Jabs, rapid test kits and a crazy twitch

 There are some things, at present, that are best kept vague, such are the pandemic restrictions still in force, despite the incredible success of the vaccine roll-out. With Bev and I both being well into our sixties, it follows that many of our friends are of a similar vintage. So with the security of a negative, rapid test, result and, at least one, needle in the arm, there were arrangements made to meet up with two very special people and spend a while enjoying each others company. 

So it came to pass that I found myself, around mid-day on Saturday, walking a footpath, which had superb views over the Upton Warren nature reserve. I'd said to my companion, "I reckon there's a twitch going on" as he parked the car opposite the entrance. There were just too many guys with bins and scopes wandering around the area for there not to be something going on? We took a leisurely walk along the footpath, spending quite some time scanning the small brook which runs alongside the footpath, finding a couple of Otter footprints in the soft marginal mud. Only carrying binoculars, we walked past several guys with tripod mounted scopes, peering out over the open water of the reserve. It wasn't until we'd reached the end of the path and decided to walk back that we stopped to have a chat with one of the scope carrying guys. It turned out that the Worcestershire birders were involved in a collective day list project and, far more to the point, the fact that a 2cy Bonaparte's Gull was present on site, a first for the county! No wonder there were so many scopes on display. It transpired that this guy, I have no idea who he was, cut his teeth around the Amwell area of Hertfordshire as I was doing the same at Tring. We spoke of the Tyddenfoot Short-toed Lark and how the fortunes of Ravens had changed in the "home counties" and beyond. 

My companion sent me this image, shared from Twitter, and I've cropped it quite heavily.
The original was posted by Pete & Marjo Lewis and remains their copyright.

I have to admit that it was a real struggle before I managed to secure binocular views which allowed me to confidently claim this rare gull. My companion, being a complete novice, was blown away by the situation and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. All I would like to add is that it was a most unexpected demonstration of generosity by a bunch of strangers, and a credit to those birders involved. Social distancing being observed, the happy/excited vibe was tangible as the bird flitted about along the far margin of the main pool. I've used an image which was sent to me, that I have no ownership/copyright, thus will give full details of the the source. If you know Pete & Marjo please pass on my thanks - it is a wonderful photo which helps cement the memory in the mental archives of an old git!