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!


Wednesday 31 August 2022

The Military Missions

I'm currently in the process of writing another article for Martin Mumby's "Catch Cult" magazine and whilst looking through the various diary and blog material, which I've amassed over the years, had an idea that there might be a blogging opportunity as well? Due to the fact that, currently, my angling content is non-existent; a trip down "Memory Lane" might well have a place? At the very least, supply a smidgen of fish related nostalgia in my, of late, moth dominated offerings. So we have to start somewhere and it was a "twitch" that saw my first visit to this historic waterway. A Green Heron, which turned up at West Hythe Dam in October of 2008, was the reason I made the journey. I would imagine I was the only "twitcher" who also noted the incredible amount of pike activity at the site? I would return soon after because an adult Night Heron spent some time in exactly the same location! Again I noticed fish activity although, at the time, hadn't picked up a rod since 1993!

I find it incredible that almost eleven and a half years have now passed since I returned to angling, where does time go? That the digital age allows me to record the events in such a fashion that I can access memories with the simple click of a button, on the keyboard of my laptop, is mad. This post will be very photo heavy because I'd like to keep the bulk of my article content for just that purpose. So here we go. Benno and I spent a very productive winter (2012/13) Pike fishing the Seabrook section of the canal, our best fish weighing in around sixteen pounds if memory serves me correctly (can't be arsed to look it up) but had decided to change focus as that season drew towards a close. It was just six days after my Mum passed away that I landed the first "twenty" since returning to angling. A truly memorable event at so many levels.

Over the following few weeks Benno and I went on to land another four "nineteens" and an eighteen fifteen, truly exceptional Pike fishing for a canal. It wasn't until the 2016 season, however, that anything significant was to next occur. Benno had moved into a property in Sandgate and, as such, was in pole position to embark upon a pre-baiting program. Carp were the target and Benno quickly reaped the rewards of his efforts with a magnificent twenty-four pound Common. 

I'd been gifted a 1959 "Dick Walker" Mk IV split cane B. James & Son rod for my sixtieth birthday and it was the canal which provided my first "split cane" twenty a couple of weeks after Benno's  success - happy days! These canal Carp are much sought after. There are a select group of, hugely talented, Carp anglers who ply their trade along the banks of the RMC and it is not my intention to spoil their fun because of unnecessary detail. All I will say is that they go carping, not camping and it was one of them who generously gave Ben the info which was to prove so valuable as the campaign evolved. I returned to the section the next year, around the same period, and was blessed by the Carp Gods in the shape of a stunning 23 lbs 5 oz fish which, again, came on the split canes.

It had become a bit of a ritual, a couple of weeks before Christmas, to travel across the county border so we could enjoy a social session at Iden Lock, East Sussex. I haven't fared too well on these occasions but Luke and Benno have both taken Pike in excess of twenty pounds along with some very nice back up fish. Sadly, as with so many other aspects of modern life, things have changed and the section is no longer available for day ticket anglers. We might have lost access, but the memories of good times will always remain.

Gigger's Green and Aldergate Lane have long been associated with Pike fishing along the RMC and, indeed, have provided me with some very enjoyable memories of decent sessions, be that a single specimen or a number of lesser fish. The one downside to these areas is the number of other anglers who are also aware of the potential on offer and, therefore, are effectively competing for the same fish. Obviously, as a Pike angler of a certain vintage, I am able to draw upon a wealth of experience to ensure my bait choices and presentation will give me some type of an edge. However, Pike are pretty dumb fish and can get caught by the most agricultural of methods, on occasion, and this single factor is why I try to avoid the crowds whenever possible.

December 3rd 2020, the day before my sixty-fifth birthday, and I have to use up my holiday entitlement or lose it. With work off the scale, in the run up to the Christmas break, I would spend the whole day on the bank. Using Google maps, I'd chosen an area, way off the beaten track, and was to be rewarded with a superb brace that session. Pike weighing 22 lbs 6 oz & 19 lbs 5 oz graced my landing net and were the best early birthday present I could have wished for. Sadly my self-take efforts didn't do justice to these magnificent fish, but the seeds had been sown for future Pike adventures along this wonderful waterway.

Nothing I now say, or do, will alter the fact that I retired in a manner which was not of my choosing. My time at Fujifilm had been an absolute blast, yet is forever tainted by those final weeks of ill-feeling and stress. With unlimited time now in my armoury, angling projects had a flexibility which I'd never experienced previously. The run up to October 2021 allowed me to formulate a plan and set targets for what I hoped to achieve over the coming five and a half months. That I absolutely smashed it, is an understatement, but the whole experience was about so much more than catching Pike. The people I met, the wildlife encounters and the stunning scenery all combined to provide a campaign, the likes of which, I can never hope to repeat. My recollections of these events are the mainstay of my article, so won't be recalled here. I'll share a few more images just to set the scene.

The Royal Military Canal is a National Treasure and of such historical significance that it remains a draw for visitors from around the world. That I've been able to sample just a snippet of the ambience it creates has been a privilege. I am so lucky to have experienced the venue, it's changing moods as the seasons unfold, and the joyous camaraderie it creates amongst the regular visitors, as well as the superb angling it has to offer. I've been truly blessed. If my writing inspires others to give it a go, then it will have been worth the effort. That Shepway Council and the various land owners, along the waterway, offer very restricted access, away from the main towns, is definitely an increasing issue. However, it is not insurmountable and if you want it bad enough,  effort will equal rewards.

I'm still not feeling it for the Stour Barbel project, at present, the water conditions being a massive issue. With the looming break in Kefalonia to look forward to, it might well be October before I return to the bankside. Already there are ideas floating around as to what I'd like to achieve over the course of the next Pike season. I won't be too ambitious, as who knows what's around the corner? First things first - we desperately need some substantial rainfall.

Sunday 28 August 2022

Pegwell again

So birding it is whilst the river fishing prospects remain, drought affected, and my enthusiasm is completely absent. Two more trips down to Pegwell Bay NNR have resulted in three additions to my self-found year list tally. Little Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and Little Tern taking my total to a very modest 158, although perfectly understandable given the complete lack of effort I've put into this project, thus far, in 2022.

Green Sandpiper - one of three yesterday

Moulting adult Greenshank

Yesterday I only took my bins and camera kit, today I added the scope to the luggage to lug around, but it proved to be a very good decision as I watched the incoming tide in the company of a certain Francis Solly - Thanet's finest? So much to enjoy, as I wandered the coastal path and various trails which criss-cross this superb reserve. The garden has also provided some very nice encounters which have included the third Pied Flycatcher of the autumn and some decent Common Buzzard movements when the conditions have been suitable.

The Common Seals, which haul out on the banks of The Stour estuary provide a fabulous spectacle, when viewed from the Stonelees watch point, yet must be off the scale when aboard one of the many boats which ply their "nature watching" trade from Ramsgate Harbour and Sandwich Quay. As intrusive as these craft appear, the seals don't seem remotely bothered by the situation. 

The heat haze prevented a sharper image - Common Seals hauled out beside The Stour.
Ramsgate Port providing the skyline features.

The garden mothing continues to provide much entertainment. Now up to six Convolvulus Hawks (plus another which fell foul of the garden Hedgehogs), so far, but plenty of other species to add evidence of large scale migration taking place due to the current weather conditions. 


Scarce Bordered Straws

Marbled Yellow Pearl

One really strange capture is that of a Poplar Hawk-moth, only my third of the year and the first since early June. Second generation? I have absolutely no idea! Whilst chatting with Francis, this morning, I casually made mention of the numbers of Box-tree Moths I'm currently recording. Three figure counts, for the past couple of nights, he predicted that this would pale into insignificance next month. That'll be nice.

Until there is significant rainfall, my efforts to improve upon the "self-found" tally will take president in my outdoor activities. A bit of sea-watching could provide massive opportunity to add some very common species which have avoided my gaze, thus far, in 2022. 

Thursday 25 August 2022

A coastal amble

 I really don't know why I bother looking at the weather forecasts which refer to Thanet. Absolutely no idea how many £billions worth of satellite technology the Met Office have at their disposal, yet, with a consistency matched only by my own inability to tempt a Barbel from the Stour, do they get the forecasts so horribly wrong. I'd set the alarm for 04.45 hrs, this morning, purely because of the 99% chance of torrential downpours accompanied by thunderstorms. I didn't want the moth trap getting soaked and, as such, was a little pissed off when I discovered clear skies with no signs of inclement weather. After switching off the moth trap, it was a bit of a surprise to see how the forecast had changed during the six hours I'd been in bed. Light showers and a moderate breeze being the revised offering. Even this was way off the mark. If I were able to measure all the rain that fell along Vine Close, today, it wouldn't have filled an egg-cup! It would seem that looking out the window and hanging some seaweed on the fence couldn't give any less accurate predictions?

Olive-tree Pearl - one of three today

Bev had a chiropodist appointment for early afternoon, so I decided to take a wander along the clifftop footpath from Pegwell to Cliffs End then onward to Pegwell Bay NNR. I carried my camera and binos, just in case. I was actually trying out my new Karrimor "Elite" walking boots for the first time. With our Kefalonia holiday getting closer by the day I didn't want a repeat of my Corfu experience. I'd purchased some rather expensive (£89 in a sale) Mountain Warehouse walking boots and completely destroyed them in seven days walking up and down the rugged, mountainous, terrain that surrounds Agios Gordios. The uppers were relatively okay, the soles were absolutely ruined with splits and missing chunks. Unsurprisingly, they got thrown in a Greek dustbin, prior to flying home, and I won't be spending any more cash on that brand. Mountains? They'd struggle with a dropped kerb!

I've owned quite a few pairs of Karrimor boots over the years yet the pair that I really felt were excellent in both, value for money and comfort/performance were a cheap Hi-Tec product that I've been unable to source again. Anyway, the new footwear performed admirably and I enjoyed my stroll without seeing anything particularly notable or getting soaked. Pegwell Bay NNR is an amazing place which has almost unlimited potential for watching wildlife, birds in particularly. However, due to the physical dimensions, a scope is a real necessity if you want to make the most of the site and what it has to offer. I was out, simply enjoying a stroll, without any preconceived ideas as to what I was hoping to encounter, en route. As it turned out I was pleasantly surprised to record decent numbers of Mediterranean Gulls amongst the hoards of Block-heads (not a typo!). At least sixteen Little Egrets dotted about the salt marsh, a Whimbrel, a Green Sandpiper and a decent number of Swallows moving through whilst the bushes held good numbers of Common Whitethroats and a lone Willow Warbler. Back home within two and a half hours, I'd really enjoyed my little ramble. If I ain't feeling it for the Barbel then it seems stupid to ignore the potential offered by the other opportunities that Thanet is able to provide?

I apologise for the lack of angling content, it quite simply ain't happening at present. I'm also attempting to steer clear of mothing content because my own slant on the hobby is not shared by the vast majority of those bloggers who are also interested. Just can't be arsed to get into discussion about something so bloody unimportant! If I have to resort to a few "birding" posts? So be it!

Sunday 21 August 2022

Very pleasing

 There's something very satisfying when a plan comes to fruition. In fact I'd go so far as to say that the longer the period of planning the more smug and contented you feel when the target is achieved. For me, personally, it is this target system which I use to keep me focussed during the various angling challenges I set myself. However, this particular plan had nothing to do with my angling exploits, it was all about growing Nicotiana plants, from seed, and ensuring that my patio planters were at peak flowering during the Autumn period when migrant Hawk-moths put in an appearance. 

For some, reading this post, it will be a no-brainer but, for me, never having attempted anything of the sort, prior to my retirement, growing flowers is a very new experience. To get them to reach a pinnacle which coincides with a perceived window of "moth" opportunity was a whimsicle notion when I first placed the seed trays inside the conservatory in early April. It would appear that by some kind of fluke I've done just this and there are currently four planters supporting a large number of Nicotiana plants which, in turn have attracted an unknown number of Hawk-moths to our small garden. How do I know this? Well, firstly I have seen several Hummingbird and a couple of un-id'd Hawk-moths feeding on the flowers and in the last six days have captured three Convolvulus Hawk-moths in the 125w Robinson MV trap. Two of them were quite worn but, this morning, I potted an absolute "minter"

The supporting cast has been equally enjoyable if not quite as aesthetically magnificent. Another Golden Twin -spot, several Olive-tree Pearls, Dark Swordgrass and Pearly Underwings with good numbers of Rush Veneers and Diamond-backs adding to the evidence of moth migration. Where are the Silver Y's?

Yesterday morning also saw a decent movement of Willow Warblers along the Vine Close gardens. I counted seventeen in little over an hour and was delighted to watch the first Chiffchaff of the Autumn and be able to compare the feeding behaviour of the two species. Willow Warblers were constantly searching the foliage whilst the Chiffchaff was less mobile. Tail flicking, regularly, before hovering to pick odd morsels from the underside of the leaves. What was most surprising is the fact that I didn't hear a single call during the time spent observing this spectacle.

Finally I'd like to give a heads up for, my mate, Gareth Craddock's blog. Please feel free to click the link to read evocative accounts of his slant on life and our natural world. Without doubt, a master craftsman of the written word, if not a prolific blogger!

Friday 19 August 2022

The garden provides the goodies

 It would seem that low water levels and a dangerous concentration of E.coli bacteria, in our chosen section, the River Stour is telling us to stay away. I won't need much persuasion as I am really not feeling it, for the Barbel, at present. Although I have spotted some very big fish, for their species, not one Barbel has been located. Unsure of how many fish one needs to catch before you've caught enough, I'll happily keep my gear packed away until such time as conditions change, for the better, and we get a flush of new water in the river. 

Elbow-striped Grass-veneer - Agriphila geniculea

The moth trap continues to take centre stage in my daily routine turning up some very nice species, common and otherwise, for our garden list. My macro photography is slowly, oh so slowly, starting to improve hence allowing me to record better images of the intricate patternation of some of the miniscule creatures that I discover on the egg trays. Hummingbird Hawk-moths are still present in decent numbers, four yesterday, but it was a medium sized Hawk-moth sp. which zoomed around the Nicotiana flowers, at dusk, which caused the most frustration. It was almost certainly one of the "A" list species which I've never trapped?

Spindle Knot-horn - Nephopterix angustella

Southern Bell - Crocidosema plebejana (a much better effort than the last one!)

Grey Knot-horn - Acrobasis advenella

Cream-bordered Green Pea

Bordered Straw

Autumn bird movements are now well under way. Yesterday I counted seventeen Common Buzzards and three Ravens over whilst today there have been two Pied Flycatchers in the garden Buddleia and Elder trees. As crazy as it might sound, Pied Flycatcher (No. 155) is the first addition to my self-found year list since our June holiday on Corfu!

The local Hedgehogs continue to visit our feeding station, it not being unusual for there to be three or four at any one time. However I've not seen a Fox since the first week of July and feel sure that it/they have fallen foul of the local pest control clowns.

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Cherry on the cake

I've been very fortunate to have lured many scarce, and even some quite rare, moths to the various garden traps I've run over the years. However, the "A" list Hawk-moths have avoided my efforts. I've been shown Striped, Spurge and Bedstraw Hawk-moths which have turned up in garden traps on Thanet, yet never have I clapped eyes upon a Death's Head Hawk anywhere. Still, it's not about bemoaning the fact that, somehow, it's not fair. Enjoy what you achieve and keep the faith. The Jersey Tiger situation is getting ridiculous, I had twenty-one on Sunday night yet, it is the Convolvulus Hawk-moth which turned up today which steals the show for me. I caught my first UK specimen in our garden in October 2001, having previously taken quite a few in Brittany whilst on family holidays. This moth is the one which completes the set, for me, having now recorded all nine Hawk-moth species, on our garden list, for the first time in a single year.

Plenty of micros to puzzle over but, they don't come close to the buzz I felt when seeing this huge insect as I switched off the trap at dawn. 

Sunday 14 August 2022

Getting back on track

 On Saturday afternoon, whilst Steven Gerrard was ensuring that Frank Lampard's weekend was ruined, Benno and I had a wander along the banks of The Stour at Fordwich. Despite the fact that the river was dominated by the antics of those using canoes, paddle boards, kayaks and motor boats, we were still able to explore a section where we feel we might be in with a chance of a Barbel? Watch this space!

The moth trap continues to dominate my natural history experiences, although raptor passage is definitely starting to pick up and Willow Warblers now provide daily sightings in, and around, the garden. Under the current conditions it is obvious why the provision of water is such an attraction for these, long distance, migrants.

Another double figure haul of Jersey Tigers, thirteen, just put the icing on the cake of another great night for the garden MV trap.  A few photos cos I can't be arsed to get into any more, moth related, nonsense with "f*ckwits" who have lower IQs than the insects they stick pins in!

Yellow Shell

Southern Bell - Crocidosema plebejana

Scarce Bordered Straw

Saltmarsh Knot-horn - Ancylosis obitella

Blogging - it's just a way to share experiences with an unknown audience, not a reason to start a war! 

Friday 12 August 2022

Let there be light

 Another ridiculously warm day here in deepest Dumpton. The moth trap is still turning up odd surprises but, given the current conditions, there are not as many individuals being attracted as I would have expected. The airflow across The Channel, from mainland Europe, is almost directly from the east and, surely, a few potential migrant species will utilize these conditions to explore new opportunities for colonisation? Quite probably they are but, one thing's for sure, steering well clear of our garden! 

Diamond-back Moth - Plutella xylostella

This is a situation where the internet is able to offer massive insight into what's happening elsewhere. I found it absolutely astonishing that Dungeness BO only trapped five moths (in two traps) the night before last. At least I'm attracting a lot more than that even if they are mainly Light Brown Apple Moths and Common Wainscots! 

Clancy's Rustic - not up for discussion?
That UKmoths describe it as similar to Pale Mottled Willow has me wondering if
the hobby is the domain of "guide dogs" and white sticks?

One aspect of mothing in 2022 that is causing me massive problems, hence refusal to join in, is the continued reliance on killing insects in order to undertake genitalia detail examination. Sure, I understand that the Victorians had to resort to such techniques, but today? If we haven't developed the photographic and DNA sequencing techniques to a level, where the need to "take a specimen" hasn't been consigned to history books, then the hobby deserves to go the way of the dinosaurs. 

Brown Knot-horn - Matilella fusca
My best guess without the need to kill it? Does it matter if I'm wrong? Got it in one!

"Is that a Greater Sandplover?" Don't know "Let's shoot it!" Absolute uproar if such a thing happened in UK birding today. Is it not time to ask questions about the mentality of those, who purport to be, naturalists yet have no qualms about killing the very creatures they claim to be the reason that they're interested? Science and technology are advancing at ridiculous rates, so why haven't these traits been utilized by the "pan-listing" community? Must be because the Victorians had got it right and Grouse Moors are no place for Hen Harriers. A phone call from Benno announced the fact that I'm able to return to The Stour, although the Fordwich Lake complex remains closed. Onward and upward - if the angling Gods are smiling!