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 27 June 2021

Bumbling along

 I've not been minded to post anything, of late, because there's very little to say if the truth were told. Eight sessions out on the flatlands has resulted in three bites - no fish landed! There's some real issues with other anglers (a very questionable description of these morons) and the subsequent fall-out with a major land owner who has withdrawn permission to access one of the most productive areas of the East Kent marshes. So with all this, in the background, I'm loathe to say too much about what is happening with my own fishing. Jungle warfare is the best description of what I'm embarked upon, just a single rod and the absolute minimum of tackle. Assuming I do get the fish I'm after, then will I make an effort to produce a post which explains my thinking, approach and methodology. 

Quite a bit of natural history has crossed my path whilst I've been out and about. Some of the bird movements certainly indicative of autumn with odd Green Sandpiper, Curlew and decent numbers of Swifts watched heading south over the marshes during this passed week, or so. Red Admirals and Painted Lady butterflies are now being seen in good numbers attracted to the Red Valerian growing on our drive boundary. To top it off, I saw my first Humming-bird Hawkmoth of 2021 on Tuesday morning. Other bits have included a Water Vole swimming under my rod tip, the first seen on this drain in five years, plus the crazy sighting of a small (coffee mug size) terrapin sp. cruising amongst the lily pads one sunny afternoon.  

Probably won't make any further posts until July? Bev and I have to attend a funeral, before heading off to Yorkshire to scatter her mum's ashes, next Saturday, and finally celebrate Denise's life with other members of the family. Hopefully; once this period has been negotiated some form of normality will return?

Friday 18 June 2021

Indian variant?

 The choice of title is a deliberate attempt to garner viewing stats and, most certainly, nothing to do with "Covid", the pandemic fall-out and restricted civil freedoms. Still, if it boosts my visitor stats, I'll happily live with any criticism aimed at my cynical exploitation of the various search engines within the cyber network. 

I, like so many others, have become fascinated by the wildlife that can be found within the garden boundaries since the onset of the pandemic. The amount of food placed outside for the various visitors sees our investment in excess of £1k/annum yet, in my opinion, worth every penny. Hedgehogs are obviously the stars of the show, but the birds provide the bulk of interest during any twenty-four hour cycle. I have six feeders in the garden, four of which are filled with sunflower hearts and are topped up daily ensuring at least 10kgs a week is required. House Sparrows, Goldfinches and Collared Doves are the main culprits, however, there are Wood Pigeons, Greenfinches, Blue & Great Tits, even Robins using this supply. Mealworms (soaked for twenty minutes prior to placing in the feeding dish) are a magnet for Starlings, Jackdaws and Magpies, as are the fat-balls. Any spare bread is rapidly consumed by hoards of ravenous Herring Gulls whilst table scraps are "fox food", our recycling bin remains un-used. 

Brown Rats and feral Rock Doves are actively discouraged from utilising these food sources yet, the most outrageous alien species is allowed free access. Rose-ringed Parakeets are not to everyone's liking, of that I'm certain, but gaudy plumage, raucous calls and extraordinary agility ensures they are always worth a look whenever they turn up at the feeding station. They have a fascinating social interaction which has led me to spend some time watching them. What I quickly picked up on was the variation in plumage colouration, particularly the tail. Racial variation or just a quirk? How I wish I never started. I grabbed my copy of "Birds of the Indian Subcontinent" (Helm ISBN 0-7136-4004-9) and took a look at the racial features of the birds in this part of their range. The turquoise blue tail colouration was a particularly striking feature and one that is prevalent on the birds visiting our garden. It was my decision to then take a peek at the words of wisdom contained within the mighty tomes of BWP (Vol IV) when I wished I'd never started. The geographical variation of these "bloody parrots" is as complex as anything Redpolls or Yellow Wagtails can throw up. I placed the book back into its' slot on my library shelves and will state, here and now, that I won't be doing any further research. They're wonderful birds, full of character, but I'm not really that worried about specific racial id, if indeed it possible to use field characteristics to assign these individuals to that extent. Being a feral population I sincerely believe mixed racial influences are involved, although the tail colouration does point toward a high degree of Asian genes being present in these Thanet birds.

I keep my camera kit close to hand, whilst sat in my study, and will continue to attempt to capture some more images which might help show the plumage variations to be seen. There are times when ten, or twelve, of these birds are in and around the feeders but, thus far, I've not seen any youngsters in 2021. The only other sightings of interest pertain to decent numbers of Painted Lady butterflies visiting the small patch of Red Valerian which borders our off-road parking area and the presence of a population of Norfolk Hawkers out on the flatlands which have provided a nice distraction from the static rods. The fishing has been tough and there's much to say about the behaviour of certain individuals. Another subject for another day?

Tuesday 15 June 2021

The wait is over

 To all of those "traditionalists" I wish you nothing more than you wish for yourselves as the clock ticks, ever closer, toward that magical mid-night start of the 2021/22 coarse fishing season. Sadly, I am unable to partake of that ritual "first cast" but will certainly wet a line during the next twenty four hours. 

Cometh the hour, I'll raise a glass to the memory of Isaac Walton, "The Compleat Angler", and wish all involved, tonight, tight lines! With my own circumstances so very different from any previous season, I'm certainly looking forward to the, undoubted, challenges I'll encounter over the coming months. Those enigmatic "wild" carp of the flatland drains are number one on the project list, but there are tench, perch and, quite obviously, pike which will see my angling focussed towards these wonderful species as the seasons pass. With my syndicate able to offer some decent bream and roach angling, I'm spoilt for choice as to what might take my fancy. A nice wild carp would certainly be a very pleasant way to get off the mark. Happy June 16th everyone!

June 16th 1992 - my PB Tench 9lbs 2oz from
the wonderful Wilstone Reservoir, TRING.

Saturday 12 June 2021

In, around, above & beyond

 If, fourteen months ago, at the start of the very first "national lockdown" the weather hadn't been so good, I'm fairly confident that local wildlife watching wouldn't have cut the mustard! However, almost certainly due to that wonderful Spring and the associated bonanza of weird and wonderful species viewed from gardens across this "Green & Pleasant" land, staying local has kicked in and aligns itself nicely with the reduced carbon footprint gig that is all the rage in 2021. Now, as it happens, I'm neither a "born again Christian" nor a reformed smoker with all that smug aloofness and wisdom that appears par for the course for those types. No, not a bit of it, I'd walked away from the OCD lunacy of ticking boxes when my first marriage went down the tubes. Setting new county (bird) year-listing figures (263 in 1999, thus beating Don Taylor's previous total by 21 species) was a brilliant experience yet, was it worth the pain of a marriage breakdown? I sincerely hope you never find out for yourselves!

So when the dust had settled and Bev came into my life I knew that if I'd learnt anything from that madness, then obsessional pursuit of such, ridiculously, selfish and unimportant goals couldn't happen again. We moved into the bungalow and Newlands became my patch, November 2000, and has remained so ever since. I've got two decades head start on this generation of "Johnny-cum-lately" converts. Do I miss "twitching"? If I'm honest the answer has to be "yes". I have so many wonderful memories from that period. Adrenaline, camaraderie, banter and superb birds; yeah there can be no doubt Kent was a great place to be part of the county listing scene during those halcyon times.

Obviously angling has returned to my life, with a real vengeance, such is my craving for pursuing targets. Yet with the passing of time, age has mellowed expectations without reducing any enjoyment of simply being involved. Hanging in our kitchen is a calendar, a present from Carrie & Craig, which has profound quotes as the header for each month. June, the month when the new season commences, has this absolute gem. "We didn't realise we were creating memories, we were just having fun!" I'd love to attribute this wondrous line to a highly acclaimed angler, naturalist or sportsman - not a bit of it - Winnie the Pooh!! If a reality slap was ever needed - this is an absolute belter! Out of the mouths of babes - eh?

On April 10th, last year, I was standing in the garden when a high flying Fulmar came in from the west, flapping continually with a shallow wing beat. It was only my second patch record and completely out of the blue. Imagine, therefore, my surprise when, on Monday ever hopeful of Rosy Starlings and/or Bee-eaters to make an appearance, another one passed over, this time arriving from the north and steadily headed S/SW.

BWKm0 No. 62 - Fulmar 

Two in two years, does make me wonder how many I've missed because of being inside a factory? I took an early drive across to the flatlands, this morning, checking out a couple of drains prior to the start of another campaign. Although I didn't actually see any fish, the signs look good and I'm excited at the prospect of this next chapter in my angling journey. The ability to be reactive, given weather patterns or whatever else, will be a great edge over what's happened previously. I certainly won't need to consult a holiday rota to see if I'm able to get a bait in the water. 

It would appear I'm coming to terms with this life of leisure; realising the freedoms available now work is no longer a factor in the daily cycle. I've accompanied this rambling piece with a selection of images captured over the past week which help illustrate just how diverse is the wildlife available to see if you only take the time to look.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

More random stuff

 Time seems to be passing without anything, of note, taking place? Only by taking a step back, am I able to see what has actually been achieved. The lawn is mowed regularly, thus in great nick, our Summer House has a new coat of "Sadolin Classic" wood preservative, the block paved, off road parking area, has been given a thorough dousing with weed killer and I've even given the van a wash!! Whatever next? Bev and I are enjoying this new phase of our life together, which can be nothing but positive. 

Spawning tubercles are clearly visible on this male bream

I've been griping about my lack of angling successes yet, in reality, the rods are seeing a fair amount of action. Bream to just over eight pounds have graced the net, just recently, which is a result in itself. The fact that they have been taken whilst surface fishing for carp just adds to the syndicate conundrum. 

A couple of carp have succumbed to my floating baits and I'm indebted to Bill, a fellow syndicate member, for the photos of the second fish and the "action" shot. One of the other members, Nick, has been an inspiration for me to pursue the surface fishing option. He is a very successful carp fisher, certainly the most consistent angler at the syndicate, but it is all due to effort, not luck. He's a bloody machine, constantly looking for that next opportunity! So, sadly, it comes as no surprise (to me) that there are some who seek to piss on his picnic, cast doubts about his angling ability and methodology. JEALOUSY - no more, no less. Happily, as I'm not party to the Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, nonsense it has no impact upon my opinion of this very talented angler and so it will remain. Anyway, whilst Nick is banging out twenties and thirties, for fun, I have to content myself with lesser fare. Yesterday it was a 13 lbs 9 oz, today 15 lbs 6 oz, both Commons, both most welcome, both on a split cane Mk IV with a Cardinal 66X for company.

The 13 lb fish and a sun burnt cranium!

Today I wore a hat, due to the complete lack of a fringe! What I should have done is think about the rest of my aging torso. I wore a vest and, as a consequence, look like a bloody tomato!!! Serves me right!

The fruits of my labour. Fifteen pounds of angry carp, a silly hat and sun burn - happy days!

Friday 4 June 2021

Onward and upward

 I'm incredibly humbled by the support offered me, via the comments facility on the blog, from folk, most of whom I have never met. That previous offering wasn't a cry for help, just a statement about where I'm at, but it obviously struck a chord with others? Have no doubts "Of Esox" will celebrate a decade of existence, December 2022, unless something catastrophic happens during the interim? Fingers crossed - eh!

The syndicate carp have recently begun spawning and as such, although no official ban imposed, I'm unwilling to cast a baited hook at the venues. Newlands birding remains dour, at best, but it seems that Kent is having more than it's fair share of visiting avian goodies. I've been attempting to keep abreast of what's going on via various internet platforms yet find myself questioning the greed driven ethics of the "news providers" as they tout for business selling news that they get for free? All I will say is that twenty-five years ago my stance would have been so very different. 2021 - I couldn't give a toss. How many of someone else's birds do you need to see before you've had enough? Surely the thrill must come from finding them for yourself - well that's what age has done for me! It doesn't require the IQ of an average carp angler to realize that birds have no concept of international, let alone county, boundaries. To understand the effects of seasonal climate variation and it's impact on migration of many species, be they avian, invert or mammalian (we've had some seriously weird bat and cetacean records of late) is a subject for intelligent folk. Me? I'm perfectly happy to tag along, if it suits, but head off at a tangent should the whim dictate. 

I use the various news services to assist me in as much as I am aware of what could possibly be encountered on my travels. The recent spate of Rosy Starling sightings certainly has me paying particular attention to the Starling flocks that are frequenting the Newlands area in the hope of locating one of these desirable birds for my patch/garden list. Golden Orioles and Bee-eaters feature regularly amongst the other Kent sightings. Of course they are superb birds, but I wouldn't cross the road to see one that someone else discovered. I would, however, happily jump on a plane and fly to warmer climes where I wouldn't see just one, I'd see hundreds. I'd have time to enjoy the experience, take in the nuances of plumage and behaviour without crowds or pressure. My birding has, as has my angling, mellowed into a hobby that I enjoy using my own rules and doing it my way. Sure there are others who won't agree with me but, at the end of the day, I do it for my pleasure; no-one else's!

With Covid still wreaking havoc with any foreign travel plans, the Mediterranean will remain off limits until such time as the scientists gain the upper-hand on this deadly virus. Our little gang wants nothing more than to reconvene on Kefalonia. Quite how long it will be, before the wishes become reality, no-one knows? Whenever it does happen, I wouldn't mind betting it will coincide with my next Golden Oriole, Bee-eater, Hoopoe and Wryneck encounters!

I've used these accompanying photos (all taken whilst on holiday!) because, during my time behind the rods, I've actually encountered all four of these species. However, my final offering is a little bit different. It would seem that Bryan East, a Stodmarsh regular, has had a "once in a lifetime" encounter with a White-tailed (Plover) Lapwing. The photo(s) he obtained ensure that BBRC are already an irrelevance, much as the "BB" magazine, with social media now being judge and jury on his wondrous find. So the final image is one that I actually captured during my "twitching" phase and, as much as I have no desire to go back, it was incredible fun all the same.