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 January 2022

A good month all round.

There are very few occasions when I find myself in agreement with Neville Fickling but his statement, about January, being the month for catching "big" Pike, remains as relevant today as when he made it back in the early 1980's! Looking at my results from the RMC, this month, certainly suggest that what I am doing is consistent with Neville's theory. I had twelve sessions during the month, with eight bites, from Pike, registered of which seven resulted in fish being landed. Six "doubles" and a "twenty"! Where are all the jacks? Those lesser specimens which must be present in a healthy ecosystem; something that the canal certainly is. Could it be that my approach manages to be far more selective in as much as my bait presentation is deliberately targeting the bigger fish? I will offer an, in depth, explanation once my campaign has finished, on 14th March! My running totals are as follows :-

Target No.1 - three "twenties" - two landed = 67% (rounded up)

Target No.2 - twenty "doubles" - sixteen landed = 80%

Target No.3 - one hundred Pike - thirty landed = 30% (I've already conceded defeat for this particular part of the challenge)

Although my diaries do support the January/big Pike correlation, they also point to the fact that February has always been the month, on the RMC, when Benno, Luke and myself have enjoyed our most successful sessions coupled with more than our fair share of fish in excess of 15 lbs. If the Pike gods are on my side, there is every possibility that I'll have the project wrapped up before the start of March? Watch this space!!!

Birding has also been a very rewarding side show to my angling exploits. I'm still not too sure about the local stuff, instead being perfectly happy to continue my self-found year listing effort. As of today, my list stands at a modest 91 species. There are still some glaring omissions which will surely be rectified at some point in February. My odd sojourns down to Pegwell, Ramsgate Harbour, the cemetery and King George VI Park will continue, yet only if I fancy a stroll, not part of some more established routine. 

Saturday 29 January 2022

Pegwell stroll

 In keeping with my current routine, no Pike fishing until Monday, thus avoiding the weekend circus which convenes at various access points along the banks of the RMC. No doubt I'll be tidying up odd, discarded, drinks containers and dead bait wrappers in the aftermath, but a price worth paying to have the place to myself for the weekday sessions I so enjoy. With my year listing a very poor relation to the Pike campaign, I decided to take a wander around Pegwell Bay & Stonelees NNR in the hope of adding a few more species to that particular tally. I have to admit to a very serious, school-boy, error! I didn't bother taking the scope - what an idiot? Binoculars and the long lens camera set-up were my companions for the sojourn and proved to be woefully inadequate under the conditions. If it were important, as it has been in my past, I would have thrown the dummy out of the pram. Today it was more of a wry smile, knowing that I'd screwed up and no-one else was to blame. 

Certainly not all doom and gloom, I had a very pleasant walk around the site adding another five species to the list which has now reached 89. However, it wasn't about the birds I added but, instead, those I could clearly make out through my binoculars yet were unable to be clinched due to distance and light levels being a limiting factor. Hey-ho! There's always another day? Three species which would have surely been added are Sanderling, Grey & Ringed Plover, plus there is always the possibility of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gull and any amount of seabirds moving, offshore, along the coastline.

It was whilst watching the Common Seals, hauled out along the banks of the tidal Stour, that the day's highlight occurred. A lady borrowed my binoculars, thus allowing her to look at these animals for the first time. An absolute privilege to be able to share in such a moment - I don't know who was most excited?

It's obvious that I saw nothing exceptional and, what I did see, won't be passed on to some third party in order for it to be "authenticated" or "recorded". Was it, therefore, a trip without purpose? (As has been questioned by a fellow blogger) Having no need to justify my involvement with our natural world to anyone else but myself, I will sleep well in the knowledge that by sharing time, and equipment, with another person, I might have inspired them to continue looking? That'll do it for me.

Thursday 27 January 2022

First impressions

Well I'm back home after the first afternoon/evening RMC Pike session. Not sure that there's much I can conclude from the effort, although another "double" to the tally certainly ensured it wasn't a wasted journey. Three baits in the water by noon, meant that I was starting my session at the point in the day when I'm usually getting on my way home. No sign of any of the regular crowd, with the exception of the rambler who's input was catalyst to this venture. I enjoyed my time on the bank, as usual, but wasn't too sure what I was expecting to happen. At 13.40 hrs, my right hand alarm signalled a bite and, after the usual tussle and bankside rituals, I placed a nice Pike, of 14 lbs 11 oz, into the ET Pike Tube prior to getting the camera kit set up. 

A fresh bait in the canal, followed by me moving the other two rods to the east of the one that had seen the bite. And that was my lot!! Not another bleep for the remaining three and a half hours. By the time I started to pack up, there was already a coating of frost on the kit and the wet landing net was rigid! Quite obviously, one session isn't going to allow an understanding of the feeding patterns of the Pike in the venue, but I saw enough to want to get back for a few more visits in the hope of learning more?

Fortunately, angling has the wonderful ability to allow me to engage with so many other aspects of the natural world. Birds, today, weren't that different to any other recent outing but, still kept me entertained whilst awaiting an alarm to signal the next take. Light levels were all over the place, yet I still find it a bit of fun to attempt to get token images of the birds on show. I suppose the best thing is that I make no claim to be a digital photographer, thus happy with the second rate offerings I seem to capture. Todays efforts are just that - efforts! Yet good enough for a blogger to convey the RMC vibe.

Spot the Med Gull. RMC snow flakes

As I packed up and pushed my barrow off the canal, there were at least three (possibly five) Barn Owls calling out in the darkness. It couldn't be a wasted day?

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Snaggy reward

It's always nice when a plan comes together and the result, you'd hoped for, becomes reality. And so it has proven with my decision to target that snaggy section of the RMC. Only two sessions, thus far this week, but I've already seen my unhooking mat graced by yet another "double". The real icing on the cake will be if I manage to get any action during my afternoon, into dark, session tomorrow?

13 lbs 4 oz - yet another "double" closer to my target

I've been playing around with my bankside display, not that I'm likely to encounter any other Pike anglers whilst at the RMC. I'm doing it "because I can" I suppose. I've already mentioned that I swapped my rods and reels. It has now gone a step further with my decision to incorporate the £1.66 (Three for a fiver) Dragoncarp "Ultimate Redmire" bite alarms and my brother, Sye's, home made "Back-biters". What needs remembering is that my terminal tackle, bait choices and presentations haven't altered one iota and that's the only bit that the Pike will encounter, until it's too late. The kit on the bank and what it looks like, however, is for the angler, not fish, to worry about. When I end this current project, be it a success or not, I have every intention of posting a "how I do it - warts an' all" Pike fishing the RMC piece. I've been capturing odd images of the tackle, scenery, plus other bits and bobs, with just such a post in mind.

Because of my anal obsession with recording "doubles" (whatever species) I know that this current Pike campaign is, already, the most successful I've ever undertaken. With, at least, another nineteen sessions planned before the curtain falls, a new benchmark has been set should ever I find myself seeking a return match? I cannot deny my love of Pike angling, although another campaign on the RMC might be unlikely but, "never say never!" Wherever my angling adventure takes me the RMC ain't going anywhere so will always be there should I need to scratch an itch!

Saturday 22 January 2022

Bite time?

There are just fifty-one days remaining until the close of the "traditional" coarse fishing season and with it, the end of my 2021/22 Pike challenge. All being well, I expect to get in another twenty-one sessions before the curtain falls on this particular campaign and my sights alter focus in search of other species. Resting against a bookcase, in my study, are three rods which I have only used once since our last trip up to Loch Awe in 2019. They are a Tri-Cast 13' 2.25 lbs t/c, a Bruce & Walker 13' 2.75 lbs t/c and a Bruce & Walker 12' 2.25 lbs t/c. All carbon fibre, manufactured in the mid 1980's, they remain very serviceable bits of angling hardware and a pleasure to use in the right situations. 

As I had said in a previous post, my angling focus has moved some three-quarters of a mile along the RMC and has certainly proved to be a positive decision. However, between these two points, there is a section of the canal that contains some rather substantial snags which certainly have the potential to hold Pike. As fantastic as my Duncan Kay 1lb 10oz t/c rods are, using them in this type of situation isn't particularly wise. If fish welfare is important, then I need to use gear which will cope under these specific conditions. Whilst I readily admit that these alternative rods are nowhere as much fun to play fish on, what they lack in finesse, they more than compensate with the brute force required for keeping hard fighting Pike away from the underwater obstructions, once hooked. I've made the decision to spend the next three sessions, so to the month's end, targeting these snags just to see if I've overlooked an opportunity? 

There is one other avenue of exploration which I feel needs some attention in the run up to the finish of my project. Up until now, all of my sessions have been conducted from pre-dawn to mid-day (maximum) and a very successful approach it has proven to be. However, because of a chance conversation with a guy, whom I regularly see out on the bank, the possibility of a late afternoon, into darkness, feeding spell has come into my thinking. Obviously there is only one way to check out the hypothesis and I've already made plans for a session, next week. One session isn't ever going to be enough to make serious judgement upon the possibilities, but it will be a start. I well recall the "problem" caused by night feeding Pike during my winter Eel campaign of 2015/16, so the concept isn't something new. 

Not what you want whilst deliberately targeting Eels!

I've not fished into dark for a while and recognise that, at this time of year, it will pose some specific issues should I have to deal with a decent Pike when the light has gone. Head torch(es) and spare batteries will be essential items, as will a supply of extra layers. As for trophy shots? I'm already thinking along the lines of getting the camera gear set up in the daylight and then covering it with a padded bag to stop condensation from forming on the lens. Whatever the outcome, it will be good to push the boundaries of my experience with the inhabitants of the canal. Always learning; because the day I think I know it all will be the day when I pack it up!

Friday 21 January 2022

Utter madness

 I had all three rods cast out, baits in position, before 06.45 hrs this morning. A clear, calm, dawn saw the sun rise in a cloudless sky and therein lay the problem! As the light intensified, so the temperature dropped and "cat ice" started to form on the surface of the canal. By 08.00 hrs the canal had a lid on it and my baits were underneath. Absolutely no surprise that nothing happened from that moment onwards. I packed up around 11.00 hrs, having to break the ice to get my rigs back - what fun!!! A Barn Owl ghosted past, at 07.05 hrs, whilst three Little Egrets flew east and a Grey Wagtail fed along the canal margin. I did glimpse a Kingfisher, as it sped by, but the majority of my time was spent attempting to get decent views of a Mink. Always remaining in the shadows, my attempts with the camera were "iffy" at best. A cracking little animal, whatever the rights and wrongs of it being at liberty in the Kent countryside.

Not back with the rods until after the weekend, there are some nest boxes to build which should see me gamefully employed, in the interim, plus Bev has some ideas for tidying the garden and conservatory. No rest for the wicked - eh?

Wednesday 19 January 2022

Pieces of the puzzle

Back down on the banks of the RMC, well before sunrise, ensured I was able to get my baits in position long before "bite time". As it happened bite time didn't produce a single bleep from the alarms and I was convinced that another blank was on the cards. However, two Barn Owls helped ease the situation, plus at least three Badgers which were picked out in the beam of my head torch as I got the rods set up. Pretty sure that the sound of the alarms caused these animals to come and investigate the source of the high pitched bleeping? It was just before 09.00 hrs, whilst chatting with Kevin (& Mac) that my right hand alarm signalled a bite. Sadly, after going through the time tested ritual, my strike only resulted in a small Pike rolling on the surface prior to shaking its' head and ejecting my bait, complete with hooks. Having seen the fish I wasn't too disappointed, although it would have been nice to add another number to my campaign tally. Kevin and Mac headed back towards their car and I was, once again, alone awaiting something to happen. 

I rang Bev, shortly after 09.30 hrs, and stated, during our conversation, that I'd be packing up around 10.45 hrs. She had just said "see you when you get home" and rung off when the alarm on the middle rod burst into life. This time there was no mistake. Over with the bale arm, tighten down and fish on! A very spirited encounter ensued, as the fish had no desire to see my unhooking mat. Fortunately, the tackle was up to the task, my prize drawn into the landing net at the first attempt and, therefore, I was able to go through the well rehearsed drill of unhooking and weighing prior to placing it into an ET Pike Tube to recover. At 14 lbs 2 oz, it was another double closer to my target, I'd worry about trophy photos after packing the rods away. 

I now feel at least some of this RMC conundrum has started to unravel. My bait choices & presentation, rig mechanics, bite indication methodology and, most importantly, fish location are all beginning to make sense, purely on the basis of my results. I've now undertaken eight sessions during January which have resulted in just six bites (from Pike) and five fish landed - four doubles and a twenty!! Knowing that I set my stall to cater for the pre-spawning females, this level of success would indicate, to me, that I'm not a million miles away from cracking the code? Effort equates success, and I have no issue with this mind-set, however, single minded obsession shouldn't be confused with effort. If unable to ring the changes and accept failure, even the most myopic of angler will enjoy a moderate level of fishy action. For me it has to be about pushing boundaries, constantly questioning what and, more importantly, why I'm doing whatever it is at the time? I've said, on many occasions in the past, "it's no good getting old if you don't get artful?" I'm sticking by this sentiment, purely because there are no short-cuts to experience. You have to have lived in order to learn from the journey, thus lessons, your life has provided. With this as my base line, I'm one lucky man. Life has been extraordinarily kind to me. 

I have every intention of sticking with my current campaign right through to 14th March. Quite how close I'll be to my targets is anyone's guess. Three "twenties"? I would like to think so. Twenty "doubles" - possibly in the bag by mid-February? One hundred Pike - not a hope in hell. Three sessions a week until mid-March, means there's potential for an awful lot more twists and turns in this campaign before I cross that finishing line. Onward and upward!

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Quiet times

Bev and I spent a fabulous weekend away with our dear friends, Carrie-Anne & Craig, up in Wychbold, Worcestershire. To be honest, we didn't do much other than laugh but, on Sunday, did venture across to Stratford - upon - Avon before moving on to visit Worcester city. Carrie-Anne and Bev did the shopping thing whilst Craig and I had a wander along the Avon, in Stratford, then the Severn when we reached Worcester. Great to be able to spend time with such special people, just a shame it wasn't in Kefalonia! We haven't made any plans, as yet, but September certainly looks to be a possibility? Here's hoping.

Back down to the RMC, this morning, only to discover the venue to be covered by a layer of "cat ice" making bait presentation very difficult. I lasted three and a half, very uneventful, hours before calling it a day. The fishing might have been poor yet, the birding wasn't too shabby. In the half light of dawn I managed to add Little Owl to my year list (No. 82) then was treated to a superb cameo performance by a Barn Owl hunting the bank right above my head. A couple of Chiffchaff, four Little Egret, a Grey Wagtail, male Stonechat and a smart adult female Marsh Harrier ensured I had something to look at for the majority of my stay. By the time I packed up the ice had gone and was already planning where I want to set up on my next visit. A quick detour to Camo's, on the way home, meant I was able to pick up some more "winterised" fish oils and dead baits, therefore ensuring my ability to present boosted offerings for the rest of the campaign.

Having driven down to the RMC, this morning, my route illuminated by the "Wolf" moon. I made the effort to get a token image, this evening. Although past its' peak, the moon still looked magnificent through a very thin veil of high cloud.

Thursday 13 January 2022

Red Letter Thursday

I have to credit the total blank session, which I endured on Wednesday, for my decision to move my focus to another section of the RMC, some three-quarters of a mile east. And so it was, at 06.55 hrs, this morning, I had three baits in position as I awaited the start of another new day. It was a beautifully clear and still dawn, with a light, but widespread, covering of frost. If ever there was a "Pike Fisher's dawn" this was it! At 07.45 hrs, the middle alarm signalled a bite and I was quickly into battle with the first Pike of the session. I had just netted it when Chrissy and Mouse (her dog) appeared, so we had time to share the moment. At 13 lbs 9 oz, it was yet another step closer to my "twenty doubles" target. They left me to continue their walk, Chrissy saying she'd see me on the way back. I placed the fish in an ET Pike-tube, in order to get some photos when the sun rose higher in the sky. 

It was 08.25 hrs when my right hand alarm signalled the next bite. Once again I go through the ritual of feeling the line before clicking the bale arm shut and winding down prior to setting the hooks. Bloody hell! I hit it and felt like I was snagged on the bottom? Only thing was that the bottom was steadily moving away from me and, even with the rod hooped over, there was nothing I could do to stop it! Words can never do justice to the adrenaline rush caused by an encounter with a big fish, well certainly not mine. However, as befits the occasion, this Pike put on an impressive display of attitude and power before, finally, allowing me to draw it over the net chord. As I did so, I could see Kevin and Mac (his dog) approaching from the west. The fish was quickly unhooked and weighed before placing it in my retaining sling. It was an absolute gem of a Pike, just a smidge over 21 lbs, thus the heaviest of the current campaign and to say I was chuffed doesn't come close to describing how I felt. 

When Kevin reached my swim he said "I hear you've had one!" - obviously been chatting with Chrissy. "No mate" says I "I've had two - and one of them's a proper'un" I proceeded to recall the events of the morning, asking if he'd do the honours with the camera. Being the gentleman, that he is, Kev was only too happy to oblige and we waited until Chrissy had got back before going through the process of getting my trophy shots. It was a magnificent Pike and to be able to share the experience with two people who've become friends, because of a shared enjoyment of this magnificent landscape, just added to the moment. 

After we said our good-byes, I remained on the bank for another three hours, the only action courtesy of bloody eels. Five times my soft bodied dead baits were savaged by the slimy pests. Did I care? 

Monday 10 January 2022

Snot an advert for Pike anglers

I had all three rods in position as the sky started to brighten on the eastern horizon, heralding another RMC dawn. Impressive, if not as spectacular as some I've witnessed, another Pike session was underway. The orange/pink glow faded to a creamy yellow as the sun broke through and the waiting game commenced. Once again the canal was carrying a lot of colour due to heavy rain during Saturday, but conditions weren't too bad. Visibility was around 6", therefore I opted for heavily flavour boosted baits in the hope of stimulating a response via the taste receptors, opposed to sight. The pike will be getting ready to spawn very soon, therefore my thinking is focussed upon providing easy pickings for the large females. 

I was chatting with Kev, one of the regular dog walkers, when my middle alarm sounded a few beeps and the monkey rose 3" up the needle. "That's got Eel written all over it" I said as I picked up the rod. Sure enough, a slimy, tackle tangling, pest had hooked itself and I got covered in stinking eel snot as I unhooked the creature before launching it back into the murky water. It was 09.30 hrs and I told Kev that my session looked doomed as we said our farewells. By 10.15 hrs I was thinking about packing up when the right hand alarm bleeped twice. On the rod very quickly, I watched the line tighten, then fall slack again. "More bloody eels" thinks I as the rod is lifted from the rests. With that, the line pulls off the reel steadily and I go through the ritual of tightening down before setting the hooks. All of a sudden I'm attached to a Pike and it's game on! In all honesty the fish provided little more than token resistance and it was quickly engulfed within the mesh of my landing net. Clearly a "double" I rested the fish in the net whilst preparing the unhooking kit, weigh sling and camera gear. Once satisfied with my efforts, the Pike was lifted from the water, un-hooked, weighed and held for a few trophy shots before being returned to the canal. Over and done with inside 3 minutes 30 seconds - I deliberately timed it on my watch. Why am I telling you this? Well sadly, this Pike had a ripped gill raker, a sure sign of incompetent handling/un-hooking technique sometime in its' past. Thankfully this type of injury is not fatal, although it can't be good for the individual fish concerned. 

12 lbs 12 oz of RMC fun - just look at the colour of that water!

So once again I find myself questioning the anglers who choose to go Pike fishing without having the first idea about fish safety and unhooking techniques. I'm pretty confident that Youtube is the major contributing factor in this situation. Sure the guys (and gals) who post their stuff on this platform do so in good faith. It is without question that Pike angling is great fun and Pike, themselves, are impressive fish to pose with. What these offerings omit to do is educate others about the vital role of bankside etiquette and unhooking techniques which are a fundamental skill required for all catch and release Pike fishing. For my own part, all I will say is that anyone new to the sport should get along to a Pike Anglers Club of GB meeting and seek assistance from experienced anglers. Just like riding a bike, once learned, the basic techniques can be honed with experience but, unless you have a grasp of what is required, Pike will suffer as a direct consequence. End of sermon.

Friday 7 January 2022

When lists are useful

A full week into 2022 and my bird list has risen to a very respectable tally of seventy-five species. Whilst I readily accept that it can't, under any circumstances, be described as "local", what it does provide is an insight into the gaping holes in my species list which, with focussed effort, can easily be rectified without having to fire up the Nissan NV200. So far I've not set foot on Newlands farmland, nor walked the coastal fringe from Dumpton Gap to Ramsgate Harbour and there are so many other local sites which require exploration due to their past histories. 

A Chiffchaff, associating with a mixed tit flock, in Ramsgate Cemetery

Glaring omissions include all bunting species, Skylark, Stonechat, Linnet, Coot and Tufted Duck! Whilst the final two are Thanet rarities, but "gimmes" out on the flatlands, the others are likely to be encountered if I put in the effort to visit suitable local habitat. I know that the "year list" is my priority, yet should easily be able to maintain a "local" version purely because of the technology available on my laptop. I remain fully committed to my angling projects and will continue to undertake, at least, three sessions a week in pursuit of my various challenges. That said, there are obviously four days a week when fishing doesn't feature and I will be able to spend an unspecified amount of time birding the local areas. 

A pleasing image of Black-tailed Godwits flighting into
the Garage Pool at Pegwell Bay NNR

I reckon that my January total should be in the region of one hundred species. At the end of the month I will set about formalising the "local" boundaries and possibly set myself a realistic figure! Not because it is important but, more to do with my own requirement for targets in order to help me maintain enthusiasm. 

Thursday 6 January 2022

Always something to look at

Two early morning sessions have been conducted in superb winter conditions, just a shame the Pike haven't got the same script as I'm using! Frosts on Thanet are very unusual and, even when we do experience them, rarely require little more than a quick once over with a scraper to clear the windscreen. So it was this morning and I was quickly on my way. It was once I'd reached Wingham that it became apparent how cold the overnight temperatures had fallen; the parked cars glistening in my headlights as I passed. Once in the Elham valley it was treacherous along the untreated lanes and I was well aware of my speed as I negotiated my way towards the Royal Military Canal. An extra ten minutes on the travel time is far preferable to a bent motor and subsequent repair bill.

I parked in a frozen car park and got the barrow loaded in preparation for the long trek to reach my chosen section. The ground was frozen solid, as were the tack side puddles, and the vegetation glistened with a coating of frost as my head torch illuminated my route! As I reached the first gate, a Barn Owl called out in the darkness and my head torch picked out the staring pale green eyes of a Badger, foraging in the canal side field. It just shuffled away, occasionally looking back at me, the torch light reflecting from its' eyes as it did so. Three baits were in position little after 07.00 hrs and sunrise was still an hour away. The day dawned clear and bright, the gentle westerly breeze barely ruffling the canal surface. It was a good to be alive morning. As the light intensified, the temperatures fell further and all my kit became coated in a thin layer of frost, whilst the grass was gleaming sea of white.

Even if the Pike weren't playing ball, it didn't prevent the Eels from savaging my hook baits - bloody things! A flask of coffee and multiple layers ensured I kept the elements at bay and was able to enjoy the morning for what it was. Binoculars in constant use, I recorded some nice birds which included number seventy for the year, when I picked out a distant Great White Egret flying in from the south. It dropped down beside a frozen dyke, adjacent to a field where a group of Mute Swans were feeding; staying for about ten minutes before heading back from whence it came? All the other species were as to be expected at the site. Kingfishers are always good value, especially in the superb sunlight of this frosty morning. 

As always, some quality conversation with regular dog walkers and ramblers meant that it was another enjoyable session despite the lack of pike action. Not back until next Tuesday, at the earliest, the campaign continues to provide a roller coaster experience.

Tuesday 4 January 2022

Short stroll

Although Ramsgate Cemetery is just 600m away from our bungalow, as the Crow flies, I have to walk about three quarters of mile to reach the main entrance on Cecilia Road. I used to frequent the site regularly during the early 2000's and have been fortunate to discover some superb birds within its' boundaries. However, with the resurgence of angling, it has been a good ten, or more, years since I ventured into this oasis of calm within the Ramsgate hustle & bustle. My decision to incorporate birding into my weekly routine for 2022, means that the site will, once again, see me visit on a regular basis. Today was purely an exploratory trip lasting less than an hour. Much has changed, particularly habitat management, with large areas of bramble and ivy scrub cleared in order to make the site more presentable. It isn't a sterile wasteland, however, and the array of mature trees include many Oak, Beech, Holme Oak and Yew plus a central avenue of large conifers - species unknown to me. I did little more than have a quick scout around, adding another two birds to the year list as reward for the effort. The weather wasn't up to much but I carried my camera anyway. 

It would seem that I'm starting to formulate a plan for my local birding and am quite looking forward to seeing where it leads?

Monday 3 January 2022

Success and a stumble

 Three days into the new year and my bird list has risen to the mighty total of sixty-four species. I'm not "tree hugging" but, instead, recording the birds I see whilst going about my life. Just as my Pike fishing is centred around the RMC, other 2022 projects will see me driving to other fisheries, there is no way that I'll ignore birds seen whilst travelling to and from the venues or those encountered whilst sat behind the rods. Local birding will obviously be centred around Newlands Farm, as it has been for the passed twenty-one years, but will now also include the other sites that are within a couple, or three, miles of the front door. North Foreland, Ramsgate Cemetery and Harbour plus Pegwell Bay, et al.. If there is a rule, the one that I wish to abide by is "no twitching". If a species appears on my list, then I will have found it for myself - well that's the hope. 

So lesson number one was provided whilst wandering around Pegwell Bay, early yesterday morning. Arriving at the Garage Pool I was quickly scribbling down new additions which included a bunch of Barwits huddled against the far margin of the pool. A nice circuit, which took in Stonelees where I spent quite some time watching the Common Seals hauled out on the banks of The Stour. As I was making my way back towards the van, via the hover pad, I bumped into another birder. I'm pretty sure he said his name was Keith? Doesn't matter, he was a thoroughly nice guy and we enjoyed quite a chat whilst stood behind the garage, thus overlooking the pool. Quite randomly he mentioned "Black-tailed Godwit" to which I enquired "where? with the Barwits?"

"There aren't any Barwits, they're all Black-tails!" Oh f*ck, I hadn't even given them a once over. When I last birded this site the only godwits were Bar-taileds and I had gone into autopilot when they'd been first spotted. A closer inspection was to reveal the extent of my stupidity. One scan through my Kowa TSN 823 revealed the Black-tailed Godwits in all their glory. Whilst working there was a saying that "assumption is the mother of all f*ck ups" and I had demonstrated this with aplomb. A massive reality slap, much needed, should ensure that I expend more effort in establishing the correct species id before committing pen to paper. 

Mediterranean Gulls are a "gimme" along the banks of the RMC

Down to the canal, very early today, I was thinking that traffic was a bit quiet until it suddenly dawned on me that it is a Bank Holiday. Well, you just don't think along those lines when retired and "every day is a Sunday!" I had to park the van at a different spot, allowing me to quickly assess the water conditions before committing to the mile plus barrow push. The canal was still high, and carrying quite a lot of colour, but there was little flow and no floating debris. I fished my usual three rods, but didn't bother leapfrogging them due to the water conditions. Baits were heavily dosed up with flavour enhancers which I hoped would attract some interest. As it turned out, I only had one indication, but that was more than enough to ensure I returned home a very happy bunny. A brilliant battle with a lovely Pike, of 18 lbs 12 oz, was the perfect way to start the January campaign.

Not made any further plans for this week. I'll keep an eye on the weather before arriving at a decision. 

Saturday 1 January 2022

One step at a time

With no Pike angling planned, until Monday, it was birds that got my New Year's natural history gig started. Certainly not the dawn 'til dusk caper that I would have undertaken during the crazy days of the 1990's. A very sedate stroll from the Western Undercliff to Ramsgate Harbour, plus some garden stuff, allowed me to amass a very modest total of thirty four species for the day. Year listing is a marathon, not a sprint, and I've no preconceived target in mind by which I will gauge success or failure. Only two species were unexpected, they being Little Grebe and Grey Wagtail, both of which were recorded in the marina area of Ramsgate Harbour. 

Light rainfall is forecast overnight and a trip down to Pegwell Bay seems the best bet for a couple of hours on Sunday morning? Failing that, there's always Ramsgate Cemetery to explore and that's less than half a mile from the front door!

A very co-operative Rock Pipit along the West Pier pathway.