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!


Thursday 26 August 2021

Syndicate session

 I've got to admit that the flatlands have me beaten. As much as I love the wilderness and unknown fish that I am chasing, blanking week after week isn't good for morale. So with a need to hear a bite alarm sound I took a drive down to the syndicate fishery, this afternoon. I didn't have too much time at my disposal, yet was in no great hurry to cast a bait until I'd located some fish, any fish! Fortunately, Nick was already on site, floater fishing as always, and he pointed me in the direction of a swim where quite a few carp had been showing earlier in the day. I happily accepted his help and did a quick lap of the fishery before grabbing my kit from the van. There were only two other anglers set up on the two pools and I was at liberty to spread my baits without infringing on others water. 

It's a fish, so something very special during my current run of blanks.

Quite a few carp showed as the evening started to close in and I had an occurrence on my middle rod which probably meant that I'd been mugged off! Not overly bothered, I'd heard a bite alarm which was the objective for the trip, I re-cast the rod and sat back to enjoy the light ebbing away. At 20.20 hrs the middle rod was away and I found myself attached to a lovely, male, Tench of 4lbs 4oz. That'll do thinks I, as the photo ritual was undertaken. I rang Bev to say that I was going to have an extra half an hour, and was able to justify the decision when that same rod was away again, at 21.45 hrs, producing another male Tench. This one weighing in at 5lbs 5oz - so I was well pleased. 

5 lbs 5 oz, of very welcome,  male Tench

The only other thing worthy of mention is the sighting of Swifts, from the garden, this morning. Between 10.43 & 10.54 hrs I recorded seven birds, 2,4 & 1, moving steadily NE. Will they be the last of 2021? 

Tuesday 24 August 2021

A day out

Bev's best friend, Jayne , has come down from Sheffield to spend a couple of days chillaxing before she returns to the classroom - she's a teacher funnily enough! Last time she was down we went to Dover Castle, where history was brought to life by the enthusiasm of the staff on site. Today, Bev, Jayne & myself, have enjoyed another fantastic day out. We'd planned, very badly, to start at the Cliff-top Café at Capel le Ferne, for breakfast before spending some time at The Battle of Britain Memorial just along the road. So we arrived at the café to discover it was closed, only opens Saturday to Monday? All very weird. We ended up driving into Folkestone and parking up near Copt Point before walking down to the harbour. A very happy accident, as we ended up at The Captain's Table where we all enjoyed a superb breakfast, served up by a nice group of friendly members of staff. Highly recommended is my verdict after the experience.

A slow stroll back along the sea wall was accompanied by the enthusiastic sounds of families enjoying the seaside and sunshine. It was nice just to be outside, the ambience was that of, feel good, laughter and lapping waves. On returning to the car, we then headed back to Capel le Ferne and the Battle of Britain Memorial. The weather was kind, the sun shining brightly through a light scattering of high clouds, although a moderate Northerly breeze ensured it wasn't too hot. The whole site is a magnificent tribute to those who partook in that historic period. Obviously "The Few" take centre stage, yet by spending time reading the various static display boards, a much bigger picture is available. It is quite an emotional experience to spend time standing by the wall, just reading through the list of fallen aircrew involved in this historical event. 

Jayne and I weren't leaving without "The Scramble Experience" and happily paid our money to see this superb, high tech, display. Bev went up to the, on site, balcony café whilst we enjoyed this exhibition, What a mind numbing collection of information and technology it provides. allowing individuals to recreate those times. Some of the audio visual stuff is incredibly powerful and made me realise how much my parents and, even more so, my grand-parents, had endured which had never been spoken about. A brilliant day out, seeing stuff that's right on our doorstep, yet ignored until someone comes to visit!

Sunday 22 August 2021

Autumnal feeling

 Should have kept my gob shut? Didn't record a Swift yesterday, although have seen a single bird struggling into the NNW breeze at 09.57 hrs today. Will this be the final garden record of 2021? I did get another species for the BWKm0 list when four Yellow Wagtails went west over the garden at 08.38 hrs. I was only outside, in light drizzle, because of a Common Whitethroat giving its' signature, scolding, churring, call from the Elderberry bush in our boundary hedgerow.

BWKm0 - No. 66 - Yellow Wagtail

The weather has been all over the shop. Dawn broke accompanied by a spectacular thunderstorm, complete with torrential rain. Arthur Burbridge and Nick Ash, the two farmers who's land makes up the majority of my Newlands Farm patch, will have very mixed feelings about this rainfall as they both have large fields of Wheat to be harvested, yet the recently planted Cauliflowers certainly needed a soaking.

Last night I was sat in my study, door ajar, awaiting the arrival of hedgehogs to the feeding station but also had the bat detector switched on hoping to record a pipistrelle sp. flying around the garden hedge. No joy but, whilst sat at my laptop, I noticed the increasing light levels due to the moon appearing from behind a thick layer of cloud. I grabbed the 600mm lens and, with a tri-pod mounted set-up, pointed the kit towards this "Sturgeon Moon"! Where does that come from? I looked it up only to find that it is derived from the peak period of the Great Lakes sturgeon season, so absolutely nothing to do with UK nomenclature? 

The images I captured aren't too shabby, but surely there is a name for this August moon which is derived from UK folk law rather than the US equivalent? The next two full moons are known as the Harvest Moon (September) and the Hunter's Moon (October), both of which I am familiar with. Bloody "Sturgeon" they aren't even native to the UK!

Friday 20 August 2021

Quick up-date

 Quite a bit's been going on, around the bungalow, and I've not been able to keep the blog up to speed, so to speak. The passage of Common Swifts continues to provide purpose for me spending prolonged periods, sky-watching, in the back garden. Numbers are rapidly declining, as you would expect, but I have recorded them every day this month thus far. 

On Wednesday, 18th August, I had a session out on the flatlands which was nothing to get excited about, due to the un-necessary weed cutting operation done by the EA. This particular drain doesn't require weeding, it needs dredging! There are times when I wonder why I bother paying this, piss-poor, anti-environment, gang a penny? What does my rod licence money actually pay for? I've only been checked twice, in eleven seasons, and I've paid in excess of £250 in rod licence fees over that period. Any how, I digress, the birding on that afternoon/evening was exceptional and these are my notes from that session

Marsh Harrier 1 ad female & 1 juv

1 Wheatear

3 Greenshank

17.35 hrs - juv Osprey hovering over the drain within 50 m of my swim before departing N 

I'd love to say that I'd captured this shot whilst out on the flatlands, but it isn't true.
This one was at Loch Awe in 2016

17.55 hrs - ad Med Gull east

Then the swifts started moving. This is what I recorded between 18.33 hrs and 20.30 hrs

7, 6,3,7,1,2,1,5,6,1,2,1,10,15,5,1,15,11,2 & finally a flock of 60+ feeding low over the newly mown field directly behind my swim

1 Sand Martin

3 Common Snipe 

Back out again, early doors, this morning I finally managed to catch a Tench, the species I've been targeting. At 4 lbs 6 oz, it's not much of a specimen yet it does represent the first one I've caught by design since the Tring days. 

Back home by 10.30 hrs, I recorded just four Swifts moving slowly NE at 11.47 hrs. Hedgehogs are nightly visitors to the feeding station with at least five different individuals noted recently. Once again, one of these wonderful animals has been colour marked, yet I am still unable to contribute anything to science as I can find no details for a database where I can report the sighting.

That's it, I'm up to date now.

Monday 16 August 2021

Along the way I grew up?

Over the years I've visited this subject matter in some way, or other, several times. The sheer adrenaline overload produced by capturing a carp, any carp, from the network of drains that criss-cross the East Kent flatlands, is unlike anything else I've ever experienced during my angling adventures. I suppose it would be wise to quantify that statement by putting it into some type of context. The passage of time has mellowed my exuberance, allowing a far more realistic appreciation of this wonderful hobby! Catching fish is not my job, nor the purpose I was put on the planet, it is just my way of having fun. The older I get, it would seem, the more fun I'm deriving from this fascinating pastime. Looking back, oh for that gift when I was younger, I am now able to see the flawed logic used which had me chasing around the circuit as I targeted specimen fish all the while hoping for publicity in the angling media of the period. In simple terms, I was a twat!

Now whilst I'm sure that there will be a section of visitors, to this blog, who would question "What's changed?" From my own perspective I now do things my way, purely for my own satisfaction; no longer attempting to impress an audience. I was speaking with Alan "Camo" Turner, at his shop, on Saturday morning, about the stunts I'd pull in order to get mentioned in David Hall's Coarse Fishing Magazine's "Snide Rumours & Dirty Lies" column. I really was a silly, publicity seeking, individual but, loved every minute of those times, enjoying them for what they were. I was thirty-seven years old when I quit the hobby, embarking on that crazy foray into Kent birding, before, eighteen years later, rediscovering the thrills of catching big fish, by design. I think it is safe to say that it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. My selfish behaviour costing me a marriage, yet allowing me to meet Bev who is now the rock around which my life revolves. Clouds and silver linings spring to mind! 

That's an original "Brolly Camp" behind one soppy muppet!
It's nice to be able to look back, so many fond memories, but I'm happy to move on.

During my time on the bank, I've been extraordinarily privileged to have crossed paths with many talented anglers. I could name drop until the cows come home and still not mention everyone who'd impacted upon my angling development down the years. Yes, indeed, I've been very fortunate to have experienced the adventure life's path has taken me along. Getting back to why I started to write this rambling post. I now find angling has morphed from an obsession to a pleasure and with that evolution has come an appreciation of the much bigger picture. Today there is so much more to my angling than just catching fish and I'd like to share my thoughts by outlining how I now approach the challenges I undertake. I'll use three species, Carp, Barbel and Pike to assist my efforts.

Before I go any further can I make it clear that these are my opinions and not a case of "I'm right, everyone else is wrong" So long as you enjoy fishing, however you wish to approach the hobby, it's fine by me. So I'll start with my ideas about Carp fishing. Pretty sure that 95% of current carp anglers will be unable to align themselves with my thoughts, but that's the beauty of being an individual, I guess! When I got back into angling in the Spring of 2011, I was totally bemused by the array of commercial fisheries which had sprung up to cater for the pay as you go carp anglers. I had a basic grasp of what was required and set off with my ancient assembly of kit to do battle with these "mud pigs". It was like ducks in a barrel, they were that easy and I quickly established that floater fishing was the most fun way of catching them. How do you make floater fishing even more fun? Chuck a centre-pin in the equation, oh yeah, add a 1983 Duncan Kay 11' 1lb 10oz t/c rod and job's a good'un. It didn't matter if it was Longshaw, Tyler Hill or Marshside, the pure joy derived from hooking these fish on surface presented bait, Co-op Wholemeal being a belter, takes a lot of beating. Still, there is only so much you can stand before wanting to push barriers beyond that of surface caught scamps. My best carp during this period was a gnarly old Common, of 18 lbs 10 oz, taken from the margins of the Longshaw main lake.

I started to visit the Sandwich Coarse Fishery complex and offering my baits on the bottom, Seeing what everyone else was doing, I avoided competition with the bulk of other anglers by not using boilies and, instead, opted for particles as my feed mix and either Pepperami, prawns, or chick-peas for the hook bait. Plenty of action ensued and my best fish, since returning to the hobby, became a Mirror of 18 lbs 15 oz. I have nothing but praise for this type of venue and, indeed, the local club fisheries which also provided me with so much carpy enjoyment. However, it was never serious, campaign, angling and it wasn't until July 2015 that I discovered what I had, unknowingly, been searching for. Fate played a massive role in the discovery of the stunning wild carp which inhabited a network of drains out on the East Kent flatlands. That first trip produced a spectacular Common of 18 lbs 2 oz and the seeds were sown. There were carp swimming in fisheries where I could do my own thing, just the fish to test me and my watercraft. Back again just a few days later and I capture my first twenty pounder since February 1984. This was the game changing moment, I'd discovered a situation which suited my style and fired my imagination. Ability to be measured by results, not comparison with other anglers or any requirement for the use of excessive time. 

The first "twenty" to my net after a gap of thirty-one years!

I passed my landmark sixtieth birthday in December of that year and with it came another tool for raising the enjoyment level even further. A 1959 split cane Richard Walker Mk IV Carp rod was gifted me by the family, I soon purchased a second as I have to fish a matching pair. Mitchell 300 reels were obtained, in order to remain in keeping with these iconic relics and off I went in search of more fun. It was The Royal Military Canal, not the flatlands, which was to give me the first taste of split cane action. A beautiful "leathery" Mirror graced my net, the scales registering 21 lbs 7 oz. We, Benno & myself, were only at the venue because of close season restrictions imposed upon the Stour Valley catchment area. However,  I've certainly not ruled out further adventures along this wonderful waterway, the carp population being wild as any that inhabit the flatland drains. (If you avoid the Hythe section!)

It doesn't get any more "carpy" than this for me.
A pair of split cane Mk IV's & Mitchell 300's poking out of a gap in the reeded  margin
of a flatland drain

I set myself the challenge of a "split cane thirty", something I promised my Dad shortly before he passed away in August 2016. It's an open ended project and, in many respects, why I joined my local syndicate fishery. A superb facility, my fellow members being a bunch of nice guys, but after two seasons I now realise that it's not for me. I simply don't fit in with the modern carp scene. All that show boating, time banditry and brand label snobbery. What's the purpose of three, matching, 3.5 lbs t/c rods, fitted with "big pit" reels, cradled on some fancy rod pod, at a puddle where I can cast a centrepin nearly half-way across? I'm planning on seeing out my ticket as I've some unfinished business with a shoal of roach, but that thirty pound carp? I don't know if I even want it from this type of situation now. The flatlands have cast their spell. If I am to succeed then it will have to be with the capture of a fish which inhabits the uncharted depths of a lonely drain, or some remote section of the RMC?

One of the major benefits of being able to please myself is that I am completely at liberty to walk away from any situation in order to recharge flagging enthusiasm levels and seek the simple pleasure of a bent fishing rod. To this end I am indebted to the local commercial fisheries, plus Sandwich & District AA and the Wantsum AC, for providing opportunity to get a carp fix at one of their splendid facilities.  Stocked with numbers of good quality fish, some of which are worthy of a place in anyone's angling album. 

A club water twenty - a lovely carp taken on a margin presented floater and split cane Mk IV

I'd now like to explain how I perceive the barbel angling scene and the huge influence that Fred Crouch (RIP) exerted upon my own angling methodology. I won't dwell on the politics surrounding the illegal populations of these magnificent fish in river systems across the length and breadth of England. They are now in these waterways and that's it. When Benno and I decided that we'd like to have a bash at barbel fishing, way back in 2013, we took a drive up to the mighty River Severn, at Hampton Lode, where we managed to bag a few fish between us. The technique involved wouldn't have been out of place on Deal Pier or Dungeness beach! Rods pointed skywards, with massive feeders hurled into the strong current. Bites being registered by savage tip movements as our quarry hooked themselves on this crude set up. It was hideous, yet successful, and if I peruse Youtube, there are still plenty of exponents of the art of sea fishing for barbel publicising their antics, via this popular media platform, to this day. 

This style of barbel fishing is a million miles away from the lessons imparted by Fred way back in 1985. Attention to detail was everything, accuracy of baiting and rig presentation paramount if you were to succeed in your quest. It was these lessons which I shared with Benno as we embarked upon the campaign which was to see us both capture PB barbel from the wonderfully clear waters of the Kentish Stour, just outside Canterbury. When I was being mentored by Fred, usually at "The Compound" on the Royalty Fishery - Hampshire Avon, it was maggots all the way. The use of a bait dropper was an essential part of the whole process. Nothing was left to chance and accuracy paramount if you were to make the most of your angling prospects. Staying back from the water, minimal movement and being organised, thus having everything you required close to hand, all key parts of the jigsaw. Fantastic times; the watercraft and bankside etiquette has remained ingrained in me ever since. So when time came to attempt to lure a barbel from the River Stour, I was already thinking along the lines of "how would Fred do it?"  

The first Kentish Stour "double" of our campaign fell to Benno's rod.

Maggots were out, right from the start, the massive population of eels ensuring that they weren't an option. We decided to use a mix of "pigeon tonic" and halibut pellets as our freebies with a "Robin Red" pellet on a hair-rig presentation as the hook bait. The bait dropper routine was quickly adopted, the river lending itself to close range tactics. A single rod, complete with Match Aerial centrepin (Benno used an Avon Royal Supreme), was fished parallel to the river's surface with bite alarm and "night lite" used to aid indication. What's rather weird is that all our fish came after darkness fell, we never got a bite during daylight? There were loads of other little tweaks we employed, as the campaign evolved, but never once did we feel the need to copy the techniques of other anglers, fishing nearby, with their rods pointing towards the stars. Under no circumstances can I say that we "cracked it" yet every fish landed was celebrated and well deserved. I remember ringing Benno the morning after he'd captured our first "double" of the campaign. "How you feeling?" I enquired. "Still grinning like a imbecile" came his reply. Been there and done it so many times, myself, over the years, should it ever stop then it'll be time to sell the kit and take up dress-making or, even worse, golf?

Pike have been the one constant part of my angling cycle, ever since the early 1970's. They are my favourite species which, over the years, have provided so many wonderful memories as I've captured specimen sized fish from such a wide variety of fisheries. In 2021, I would say that my pursuit of these apex predators has changed more than any other aspect of my angling? Obviously our trips up to the, peat stained waters of, mighty Loch Awe are an exception, but I now find myself completely at odds with my early years expectations. Right through the 1980's and into the early 90's, the bigger the pit, the more at ease I felt about the prospect of big pike being present. Of course I toyed with pike which inhabited other venues, travelling to the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk Fenlands, the Thames in Berkshire and even The Royalty on occasion, yet the real draw was the big expanses of still water provided by the reservoir complex at Tring and the gravel pits along the M1 corridor around Bedfordshire/Northamptonshire and also those over in Oxfordshire. Big waters = big pike, or that's how I perceived it at that time. I wasn't to be disappointed, as every winter period provided me with the decent fish required to support this theory. I certainly didn't do anything special, yet generally managed to land one or two which stood in me good stead with my peers within the Luton region PAC. 

Royal Military Canal perfection

So what has happened to change my outlook? Two anglers need to get a mention here. Firstly Jim Gibbinson, whom I've met but certainly don't know, yet made me aware of the fact that " pike thrive on neglect" and secondly Eddie Turner - who I did know very well back in the day. Up on the banks of Wilstone Res. in the late 1980's we had a conversation based around my decision to cease using live baits. Eddie didn't preach, or even question my decision, instead offering his wisdom. "Make sure you find an edge" and by this he didn't mean drop my bait in the margin. We spoke about flavour, colour and buoyancy options. Since that time I've played around with many other aspects of dead bait presentation which has ensured that I certainly land my fair share of pike over the course of a winter. I now find myself focusing my attention on remote areas of the RMC, courtesy of Google maps, whilst always finding time to drop a bait into the local drains if at a loose end. Expectations are not as high as when I was circuit chasing, yet my ratio of "doubles" to bites is far higher than it was during my "serious" phase. 

I stated that fun is now the overriding factor in any angling situation and I whole-heartedly stand by that statement. It doesn't mean that I've lost any of the desire to continue chasing big fish or push boundaries of my angling techniques. I just know that what is involved to achieve my goals doesn't sit well within modern angling devotees. My rod choice, for 99% of my angling will be one with a test curve between 1.5 & 2 lbs, be it cane, glass fibre or carbon and if I can use a centrepin, so much the better. It certainly doesn't mean that I'm so stupid as to ignore the huge advances in tackle manufacturing or, indeed, that of modern bait. If bait-boat technology allows me to present a dead bait at 120m, whilst using a centrepin, I'll use it! Old school I ain't. My reliance on electronic bite alarms is purely a symptom of my pathetic attention span. If I'm on the bank, then there's so much to distract me that staring at a float doesn't come into my thought processes. Yeah, I'll use as much technology as is available, so long as the end result is via that of a hooked fish and thrill experienced due to a bent rod. 

No amount of money could purchase this feeling of elation. 

Saturday 14 August 2021

Garden birding

The rod has remained untroubled. My baited rig presentation and mechanics still causing me much anguish as I struggle with the problems posed by the ridiculous weed growth in my chosen venue. Lessons have been learned, but still no further fish (Carp or otherwise) have been fooled by the various tweaks I've, so far, employed. The mainstay of my interaction with the natural world has been the continued sky watching from the back garden. That movement of Common Swifts, on the 10th, has really excited me as I now recognise the potential of my retirement situation and an ability to "make hay" whilst the sun shines! The one thing that I must emphasise is that, if I'd not been using my binoculars and/or scope, I wouldn't have recorded 1% of the birds I have. What follows are my diary notes whilst stood in the back garden.

11th August 2021 - 08.15 - 12.00 hrs

Common Swift - 1, 6, 2, 1, 5, 1, 4, 7, 3, 3, 2, 12 = 47 all moving W - SW

Swallow - 6

Sparrowhawk - 2 

12th August 2021 - 15.45 - 17.45 hrs

Common Swift - 6, 15, 2, 11, 2, 18, 3, 2, 6, 27, 1, 3, 2 = 98 W - SW

Mediterranean Gull - 3 adults spotted feeding on flying ants amidst huge flocks of mixed gulls.

Common Buzzard - 3 south between 16.33 - 16.56 hrs

Back out later I managed these additional sightings

Common Swift - 2 south @ 18.10 hrs, 9 west @ 18.15 hrs & 14 east @ 18 28 hrs

Rook - 1 north @ 18.35 hrs

BWKm0 - No. 65 - Mediterranean Gull - get in!

13th August 2021 - 07.45 - 11.15 hrs

Common Swift - 15, 4, 3, 1, 2, 3, 5, 4, 3, 6, 1, 3, 2, 5, 1, 5,1, 9,5,20,2, 6 = 106

Common Buzzard - juvenile from roost @ 08.10 hrs

14th August 2021 - 08.00  - 11.15 hrs

Common Buzzard - 1 south @ 09.30 hrs

Sparrowhawk - 4 north @ 10.05 hrs, 1 east (local bird?) 10.25 hrs

Common Swift - 3 north @ 10.27 hrs, 5 east @ 10.36 hrs

Swallow - 2 west @ 11.05 hrs

It's not been all about sky watching, the feeding station continues to provide much interest and I've enjoyed pointing the long lens at the regular garden visitors whilst awaiting the next pulse of migrants. 

House Sparrows have enjoyed a superb breeding season, locally, with
flocks of 50+ regularly visiting the feeders.

There are very encouraging signs of recovery for the local Greenfinch population, with a maximum of five birds being seen at the feeders during the day. Goldfinches and Chaffinches have also been regular visitors, whilst the odd Blackcap and Willow Warbler sightings provide confirmation of the impending change of seasons. 

Welcome back!

Birds I take for granted, yet no less worthy of mention, will now consciously be counted  because of the increased numbers recorded from my tiny position. Wood Pigeons and Black-headed Gulls are certainly building in numbers, whilst Collared Doves and Rose-ringed Parakeets also occur in numbers worthy of note. 

I've got a rather ambitious post in the offing, hence the lack of recent offerings. Hopefully I'll get this project completed, very soon, and then return to regular posting?

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Swiftly passing by

 There's no photos, just an incredible memory etched in my head. Out before 02.30 hrs, this morning, bait in the drain before 04.00 hrs. I missed an absolute sitter, of a bite, at 04.45 hrs then spent the remainder of the session (I packed up at 08.30 hrs) watching the spectacle of avian migration. There were two Hobby hunting the drain before sunrise, then it all kicked off. Between 0615 & 07.40 hrs birds were piling through. I estimated, it being impossible to make accurate counts under these circumstances, 1,200 Sand Martin, 400+ Swallow & 170 Common Swifts, all moving steadily south on a very broad front. It didn't matter where I pointed the binos, there were birds moving. And to think that I blanked!!!

Back home by 09.45 hrs, I thought it might be worth scanning the skies for a late garden record of Common Swift. I'd recorded two on Monday. To say that I'm blown away is an understatement. The movement that I was privileged to witness beggars belief. A slow start, as expected, rapidly developed into a sizeable W-SW movement of Common Swifts as pulse after pulse pushed into the moderate breeze. By 11.00 hrs my notebook had recorded in excess of 330 birds then it went ballistic! Between 11.00 hrs & 12 .40 Hrs it didn't matter where I looked (using binoculars and/or my Kowa TSN 823 x30 eye-piece) Swifts where absolutely piling through. I estimate, very conservatively, over 2,000 birds were involved. This is the largest movement of Swifts I've ever seen, although it might be purely due to the fact that, until now, I've never had the chance to spend time in the garden, scratching my arse and looking through the binos. I have looked at the SBBOT daily sightings, for today, and they've seen bugger all! It wouldn't have been like that when Rab Morton was in charge and the Obs actually functioned as a recording centre, not a coffee club!

Sunday 8 August 2021

C-R Herring Gull update

 Not too sure why it's taken so long for this map to be uploaded, but I now have the details from The North Thames Gull Group concerning the Herring Gull I photographed in the garden on 6th June. It had been ringed, as an adult, on 17th January 2018 at the Pitsea Landfill Site, Essex and my sighting is the first report since that date. Obviously I was only able read the code on the colour ring, the metal BTO code is known because of my correspondence with Paul Roper - GV55372.

Herring Gull - C-R Orange/Black Y0LT
The map is courtesy of NTGG and remains their copyright

Thursday 5 August 2021

Signs of the times

Knowing just how unlikely it would be, that lightning might strike twice, I still went through the ritual of the 03.00 hrs alarm call and the effort involved with getting my kit out to the flatland drain which has become focal to my latest challenge. I did register a bite but, failed to connect with the culprit which I suspect to have been an eel? There was a heavy dew and a veil of mist covered the surrounding fields as the light intensified prior to sunrise. With hardly a breath of wind, it felt quite chilly and I was grateful for that extra sweater I'd chucked on the barrow. After chatting with my brother, Sye, yesterday I got my bait in position then donned the chest waders, just in case. I know that I didn't need them today, but I did do that bit of gardening I'd overlooked on Tuesday. 

If the fish weren't playing ball, the local birdlife certainly did their best to keep me from boredom. I recorded a nice mix of waders, whilst sat behind the rod. A bunch of Sand Martins had roosted in the marginal reeds before departing south on their mammoth journey. Two flocks of Goldfinches, totalling in excess of seventy birds, quickly moved through; a sure sign of Autumn. Then, as if to confirm the fact, a lone Golden Plover flew over, uttering its' mournful piping call then I watched three Common Snipe, flushed by a juvenile Marsh Harrier, again my first since March.

The garden birding has also begun to show signs of the changing seasons. Common Swifts have all but gone, I saw only two today and the southerly passage of Common Buzzards is now underway. Two yesterday, one today, plus Hobby, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel sightings are becoming more frequent. It was great to see a juvenile Greenfinch on the feeders this afternoon, hopefully a sign that they've turned the corner on that wicked "trichomonosis" disease which so decimated their numbers?

Although I no longer feel the need to chase scarce avian visitors to the Kent countryside, Birdguides website is probably the most visited cyber address I use. Knowing what is being seen around the county keeps me in the loop of what I might possibly discover whilst casting a line. The Hoopoe at Oare Marshes, yesterday, caused a wry smile. They're a bird which I associate with holidays, although the last one I saw was flying along London Road in Deal! Just like Bee-eaters and Night Herons, birds which ooze the Mediterranean sunshine. We will be going back to Kefalonia, just don't know when as the logistics of getting the gang of six back together is, to say the least, a bit complex!

As a blogger I often find myself questioning why I bother? The time and effort involved in producing a post is relative, I guess, but not being the sharpest pencil in the box means it does require a modicum of commitment. I'm fully aware that these thoughts are not unique, many of my fellow bloggers have made mention of similar feelings over the past decade and, indeed, a few have chucked in the towel. On Tuesday I discovered (again) exactly why this platform is such a rewarding place to express your experiences and emotions. I am humbled by the reaction to my capture of that carp and am truly grateful to those who made the effort to offer comments - cheers!

Tuesday 3 August 2021

It had my name on it?

The alarm went off at 03.10 hrs, Bev questioning my sanity, as I slipped out of bed. "Tight lines" being her well rehearsed parting shot. Everything was already loaded in the van, just my camera bag needed before I departed into the darkness. Despite the dry forecast, it was drizzling and I was expecting to get wet as I hadn't packed any waterproof gear. Happily, as it turned out, the rain ceased by the time I arrived at my parking spot, so I managed to push the barrow across to my chosen swim without any issues. For some reason I'd chucked my chest waders onto the barrow, with the intention of clearing a few reed stems and the odd lily leaf, I guess? I was at the drain by 04.35 hrs, my baited hook in position within twenty minutes. It was a typical flatland's dawn with the sun appearing in a gap in the clouds which masked the horizon away across the English Channel.

I've already mentioned that I'm using worms as bait, in the hope of catching my target fish, but still wasn't best pleased when the bite alarm sounded and I found myself attached to yet another eel! I'd only been fishing for twenty minutes and had to sort out this snotty mess. I got it back in the water, no photos, wondering why I'd bothered getting up at silly o'clock. Another baited rig back in position, I was serenaded by three, possibly four, Greenshanks flying above the marsh but, if I'm honest, even the birds were all very predictable. It was 06.05 hrs when everything changed. The alarm screamed as the bobbin smashed against the rod and I found myself battling a fish which had no intention of visiting the bank. Fortunately, as I have alluded to in my previous posts, my gear is set up for just these scenarios and the 50 lbs b.s. braided mainline scythed through many lily stems as my unseen adversary careered along the drain. Eventually we reached stale-mate, the fish was weeded about 30 m away and, despite walking along the bank to get a different angle, nothing was moving. Swirls on the surface indicated that the fish was still attached so, opening the bale arm of the reel, I left the rod and ran back to my swim in order to get the waders on. What a bloody fiasco? Eventually I returned to the rod, waders on and landing net in hand. I waded straight into the drain, finding myself up to my chest within two steps from the reeds. I wound down and quickly established that the fish was still attached at which point it powered out of the weedy snag and dived headlong into another lily pad. This time, however, I was better positioned to counter the ruse. With the Duncan Kay bent to the handle, the fish came grudgingly towards my landing net, but it wasn't ever going to be simple. Oh no, the net was resting on lily leaves and the fish swam straight underneath it! Bollocks!!!! Next time, and due to weed on the line now covering the fish's head, I finally managed to draw my prize over the net chord. 

What a fish, what a huge adrenaline buzz. My prize being a stunning "wild" Common Carp weighing in at 22 lbs 3 oz. An absolute breeze block, of a character, with all the magnificence of true flatland royalty. Mahogany bronze, complete with real attitude and stunning surroundings, it is occasions like these when I realize exactly why the 03.10 hrs alarm call is worth the effort. I'd packed up by 08.15 hrs, with the self takes done, I was indoors before 09.45 hrs. Buzzing? You'd better believe it.