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 30 September 2021

Pike fishing - the next chapter

To state the bloody obvious, my blogging has been a little erratic just lately. There is some serious shit going on in the real world; nothing to do with "Covid", Brexit, fuel shortages or the insane behaviour of our political leadership. One of our family members has health issues which have no requirement to be made public on this platform. I will just say that our hopes, of a positive outcome, are firmly aligned to the treatment delivered by the dedicated, and highly skilled, medical team who are dealing with the situation.

The first RMC pike of the 2020/21 campaign

It's October tomorrow, thus, the start of the new pike fishing season. I can't recall when I was last so excited about this date. What with retirement, and all that it entails, I am hoping to pick up where the "post Christmas" lockdown put pay to my RMC campaign in January. I'm not setting any targets, nor wishing for anything more than to enjoy the journey. The new freedoms allowed by my situation will ensure I'm able to maximise the pottential offered by weather conditions and the changing seasons? 

I've decided to concentrate my efforts on the banks of the Royal Military Canal because of a desire to push the boundaries of my angling experience. When I became aware of Jim Gibbinson's "Pike thrive on neglect" theory, in the mid-1980's, my own thought processes were guided by this statement. The one glaring oversight, thus failing, in Jim's hypothesis was the obvious omission of "Pike also thrive in modern commercial put & take trout fisheries" However, I digress somewhat, as the truly wild pike, that I seek will definitely be resident in some quiet, overlooked, venue where the willingness to walk that extra mile will make their capture even more rewarding. 


I don't think I could be any better prepared? I have a nice array of bait, in my freezer, from which to choose. Fish oils and "Predator Plus" are now standard fare, wherever I seek my pike fix, but various buoyancy aids and dyes are still something which helps set my baits apart from those of others. My bite indication technology has stood the test of time. Very little has changed since the "circuit" years of the 1980/90's, although build quality and reliability, of said alarms, is now very much better than was obtainable during those crazy times. I fully understand how the use of a float is optimal to the sensitivity of bite registration but, due to my attention span being less than that of the average goldfish, I remain a disciple of the audible alternative. Staring at a float is a non-starter, a Kingfisher could fly past or a Buzzard spiral up over the surrounding countryside, far too many distractions for such folly.

Monkey on a needle

My biggest problem, where bite indication is concerned, revolves around the merit of "back-biter" over front-runner & monkey, on a needle. Both systems have provided me with bite indication resulting in many magnificent pike gracing my landing net yet, if I am totally honest, the monkey on a needle is far more sensitive in the intimate situations I now favour. Will tomorrow see me off to a flier? Only by going there will I ever find out - here's hoping!

Royal Military magic

Friday 24 September 2021

Garden Vis Mig and more

Life has been a little hectic, to say the least, just recently. However, thankfully, it would appear that we've endured the worst and things can only get easier from here on in? Our bedroom is almost back to normal, just the "spare room" and our Summer House requiring some serious furniture movements in order for the finishing line to be crossed. I've spent the majority of my spare time, enjoying myself, out in the garden, pretending to be a carpenter, whilst keeping an ever watchful eye on the sky. 
Wednesday, 22nd September, will stick in my memory for a good while. Outside by 07.20 hrs, I was constantly serenaded by the flight calls of Meadow Pipits as they moved steadily N/NW overhead. It wasn't too much later, however, when the real action started. Hirundines were moving N in unprecedented numbers. What made it even more crazy was the fact that House Martins outnumbered Swallows by a ratio of 4:1. I make no claim for these figures to be accurate, as I had to do some odd jobs for the decorator but, between 07.45 hrs & 09.20 hrs, my rough counts had produced 2,300 House Martins & 550 Swallows. 

Chiffchaffs and the odd Blackcap continue to pass along the Vine Close gardens, more often heard than seen. A flock of eight Common Buzzards moved SW on Thursday morning but, for a few Meadow Pipits, little else occurred. 

This morning was been spent getting the bedroom back into some type of order yet, by 12.30 hrs, Bev & I had completed our tasks and I was able to get back outside. A superb juvenile Peregrine put in a quick cameo appereance, whilst Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard just confirmed the Autumn's progression, as they moved steadily SW overhead.

I've accompanied this post with some of the regular garden birds which make up 90% of my garden encounters. Nothing too spectacular, they still provide me with a great deal of pleasure whilst awaiting something a little more exotic!

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Steady as we go

Bev and I returned home, late Sunday afternoon, after enjoying a fabulous weekend break, away with our very dear friends Carrie-Anne & Craig, up in Wychbold - just outside of Droitwich - in the beautiful Worcestershire countryside. Kefalonia it wasn't, yet the fun was certainly of that holiday quality. Over, all too quickly, plans have been laid to attempt a Christmas meet up before we're hopefully able to arrange a return to Kefalonia with any degree of confidence? Fingers crossed!

The garden remains central to my outdoor experiences, whilst the decorator and carpet fitter carry out their tasks. Hopefully things will be have returned to some type of normality before the weekend and I will, then, be able to focus my attention on the 1st October and a resumption of the Royal Military Canal pike fishing quest. 

I've got quite involved with a side project, which might well prove to be a sustainable hobby in it's own right? I'll keep it under my hat until needs must! The garden has been pretty good, with Blackcap, Chiffchaff and the odd Whitethroat being seen, whilst overhead Common Buzzards continue to provide stimulus for the local Herring Gulls to get agitated. Three Grey Herons, in the past two days, are worthy of mention whilst the continuing Meadow Pipit passage provides a nice soundtrack to early mornings out in the garden.

I took a series of images of the "Harvest Moon" yesterday night - not brilliant but good enough to share I'd like to think?

Thursday 16 September 2021

Garden mega

Our decorator wanted to get started at 08.00 hrs, so Bev & I were up by 07.15 hrs! As it turned out, this was a blessing in as much as we were able to get the few chores out of the way, early doors, and spend the rest of the day doing very little. Bev choosing a bit of crafting, whilst I pottered around in the garden, camera and binoculars close to hand. As soon as I got outside it was obvious that Meadow Pipits were moving north, in dribs and drabs. Two more Grey Wagtails were heard, as they passed overhead, and there were a few Chaffinches in the mix, just for good measure.  At 09.08 hrs I was attempting to count a small flock of Meadow Pipits when three birds flew through my binocular view. What the f*ck? Bar-tailed Godwits, the first garden sighting of these waders, although they've been on my Newlands "patch list" since the winter of 2000/01 due to me deliberately spending time looking south, towards Pegwell Bay, where Peregrine activity regularly disturbs huge flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover and Barwits! Sadly, these three were already passed me before I picked them up, so absolutely no chance of grabbing a token image despite the camera being close to hand.

BWKm0 - No. 70 - Bar-tailed Godwit

The rest of my outdoor time was split between sky watching, chatting with the neighbours and pointing the camera at whatever seemed worthy of attention. Chiffchaffs were particularly numerous, at least a dozen individuals through the garden, and I saw Sparrowhawks eleven times today. It's difficult to know how many were involved as seven sightings were of birds hunting the local gardens, however, four were definite migrants moving, deliberately SW, high overhead.

With conditions so perfect for raptor migration it seemed crazy that I didn't record a single Buzzard today, although the local gulls suggested I missed several with their spiralling kettles of vocal protest.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Biding my time

 It was the last day of August when Nick Ash, the Newlands Farm owner, finally managed to get the contractors on site to cut the corn in the field directly beyond our boundary hedge. Within a couple of days the field had been harrowed and the local population of Feral Pigeons descended on the area with a vengeance. Wood Pigeons and a huge mixed flock of corvids also joined the party to feast on spilled seed and disturbed invertebrates. 

It's not just the noise of this heavy machinery, when the corn is cut the dust created is incredible.

On the 12th September I recorded the first Raven, since the Spring, from the garden and then a little later my first two Grey Wagtails

BWKm0 - No.69 - Grey Wagtail

The decorating of our bedroom is currently "in progress" and we have confirmation that 23rd September is when the carpet will be replaced, thus I am confident that we'll have the bungalow back to some type of normality before October and the start of the "Pike season"? Not too much else to report. A Western Conifer Seed Bug turned up in my study a couple of days ago. I potted it up and stuck it in my fridge, only to forget about it until I went to grab a Fanta this morning. I got my photos then released the poor creature back onto our "Christmas Tree"

A decent record for the garden?

As I'm sat here, typing away, a 1cy male Sparrowhawk has just landed on the fence of my next door neighbour. I managed to grab two token shots before it flew off along the gardens. 

Quite a bit to look forward to before Pike season kicks off. Bev and I are off on an adventure on Friday and there has been a very strange twist in my retirement routine which might just provide another avenue to explore? The only other news, of any consequence, is that I shot the first Brown Rat of the autumn, underneath the feeding station. Nothing too surprising as the annual harvest always displaces these creatures and all of us, who's properties back onto the farm, see them in our gardens.

Thursday 9 September 2021

Round up

Time seems to be passing ever quicker as the years pass me by. How has a week elapsed since the last post? Bev and I are in the final stages of getting the bedroom ready for the decorator to do his thing, before the carpet fitter adds the final touch. Fishing has been rather low key and, if I'm honest, my heart isn't in it at present. My thoughts are focused on the coming of the first frosts and the challenges I've set myself centred around the inhabitants of murky depths of The Royal Military Canal. Locally, Newlands has provided a couple of highlights in the form of a Wheatear, on Monday, then a fly over Tree Pipit on Tuesday morning. These were, however, eclipsed by a Golden Plover, over the garden, later that same day thus another addition to the BWKm0 list for 2021.

BWKm0 No. 68 - Golden Plover

Buzzards now feature regularly as the Autumn starts to establish its routine. The one real benefit of having large numbers of immature Herring Gulls around is their massive over reaction to any passing birds of prey. The adults are quite at ease, remaining on the roof-tops, uttering an odd cry of discontent, the youngsters go into meltdown and spiral into the air in a raucous frenzy. I've not seen too many, as yet, but it's not unusual to log five or six whilst stood out in the garden. Surely it won't be long before something a little different turns up?

Yesterday Bev and I took a drive down to the RMC and had a stroll along the Aldergate section. There were two combine harvesters doing their thing out on the marsh, to the south, and at least six Common Buzzards were in attendance, swooping down to pick up odd morsels thrown out of this agricultural machinery. The canal looked stunning and I quickly made plans for a return this morning. Sadly my enthusiasm went unrewarded but, I still enjoyed a fantastic session on the bank of this superb fishery. 

About as "carpy" as I'm likely to get.

I spent the majority of my time either scanning the surroundings through my binoculars or pratting around with the long lens attempting to get some dragonfly flight shots. Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters made up 99% of the sightings, as expected at this time of year. However I did manage to get some poor record shots of a Small Red-eyed Damselfly which is the first I've seen at the site although, as I said to Ian Roberts, pike season isn't the most productive time to record odonata species.

I packed up, fishless, at 10.30 hrs and pushed my kit back along the tow path only to flush a Grasshopper Warbler. Fortunately it flew across the canal and perched up nicely in the bankside vegetation, remaining in view long enough for me to confirm id through my binos, before it dropped into the thick cover and was lost from sight. Yeah, there's an awful lot more to fishing than catching fish!

Thursday 2 September 2021

Having time

 I'm starting to get to grips with this retirement lark, enjoying the freedoms it allows me. Although I'd never consider myself a gardener, there is no denying the pleasure I'm getting from just pottering about, ensuring the hanging baskets, pots and the flower bed beside the front door are as well presented as I can make them. Keeping the lawn in trim has, until now, been the limit of my involvement with such activity. Just by being out in the garden has meant that I'm more aware of the wildlife that is in the vicinity, be that insects, birds or mammals.

On 29th August I recorded six Swifts (5 + 1) all headed W, in a short time between 09.47 & 09.54 hrs and really thought that they'd be the final sighting of 2021. Not so, as I've just seen two moving N, into a moderate breeze, at 16.36 hrs today, these being my first September, garden, records that I can recall. However, the avian highlight occurred this morning, whilst I was outside twatting about with some recycled pallet wood. At 09.35 hrs the gulls went mental and I realised that my binos were still in the back of the van, as I'd been fishing last night. I grabbed the key, from my study, and rushed to the front of the bungalow just in time to watch an Osprey flying deliberately W, flapping steadily, intent on getting out of Newlands airspace as quickly as possible. 

BWKm0 - No. 67 - Osprey

Now, I am sure that I've passed comment upon the Thanet Hedgehog population crash in some previous posts? When Bev & I first moved here, I had to erect a wire mesh barrier around the moth trap to prevent these spiny, moth eating, scoundrels from accessing this food source. Road casualties were a ridiculously common sight around the local area, so common in fact that the term "Dedgehog" was often used to describe the encounter. Then, just as has happened with our Greenfinches, they were gone! Disease, habitat loss, climate change? I have nothing to say about the catastrophic population crash, because, at that time, hedgehogs were not of much interest. Oh how time has changed my outlook? Quite how history will look back on the Covid pandemic and its' role in redefining "normal" within a UK context, I have no idea, but garden hedgehogs have been a superb result of this global catastrophe from my perspective. I (& Bev) signed up to become a Hedgehog Champion, via The Hedgehog Preservation Society, thus have access to much information regarding the status of these fascinating creatures. 

Adult and youngster on 30th August 2021

I might be a little cynical here, but, do all conservation based charities thrive on negativity? The Thanet hedgehog population is certainly very buoyant, although not back to the levels of twenty years back, yet road casualties are far more regular now. Bev & I saw three, "Dedgehogs" between Bromsgrove roundabout and Asda, on Sunday morning. For these poor animals to be involved in such tragic accidents is a sure sign that, in the bigger picture, numbers are on the up? The garden feeding station is within 3m of my study doorway and there is a camera pointed in the direction most nights.

I'd got back from a late evening session at the syndicate fishery and placed the food dish out just before midnight. The first visitor was on site within ten minutes, within an hour I was watching this!

I really have no idea as to how many individuals visit our feeding station during the
course of a night/week/month/year?
Whatever the "doom & gloom" merchants want you to think -
Hedgehogs are doing okay here on Thanet!