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!


Friday 30 September 2022

Dumpton garden stuff

Almost three weeks have passed since I last blogged about our garden wildlife, well okay, moths but what a change has occurred whilst we've been away. The night-time temperatures have plummeted and, as a result, so have the number of moths being attracted to the 125w MV trap. Autumn is upon us so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the garden plants are starting to look a little tired. Thankfully my neighbour, Jo, has kept the patio planters well watered and, as a result, there are still loads of Nicotiana flowers scenting the air as darkness falls. Pike season starts tomorrow, although I've no intention of casting a baited hook in their direction any time soon. The BBC weather page is predicting a rise in temperatures over the next few days and I remain hopeful that the moth trap will produce more surprises before I place it into storage for the winter?

Black Rustic

Barred Sallow - a sure sign that the mothing season is on the wane.

Hedgehogs continue to visit the feeding station in good numbers but Foxes are completely absent purely due to the "pest control" half-wits who feel it prudent to satisfy their blood-lust by protecting Cauliflowers and stubble from these voracious predators. My neighbour, Madeline, walks her dog around the Newlands Farm footpaths and reported three Fox carcasses, in varying states of decomposition, along one hedgerow. 

The forecast for today is for strengthening SW winds and heavy rainfall by 19.00 hrs. Certainly won't bother with the moth trap tonight because of the conditions but have been well entertained by some vis mig this morning. Lots of Chiffchaffs have been moving south along the gardens whilst a trickle of Meadow Pipits and a lone Skylark passed overhead. A male Blackcap was a nice surprise, although it steadfastly refused to pose for the long lense. A couple of Swallows whizzed by and a juv Sparrowhawk flew deliberately south suggesting it was also on a mission to go somewhere other than Thanet?

Bev and I are incredibly fortunate to live where we do. The wildlife potential of the garden is huge due to a combination of geography and climate change. I might not need to know what it's called but I hope I never tire of looking at the creatures which cross my path.

I have just received an email from Josh Witzmann with details of the tagged Loggerhead Turtle I'd photographed in Argostoli Harbour (see my previous post)

Thank you very much for reaching out to us about the tag number! The turtle you spotted was Tilly, a young female loggerhead who we have known since 2019. She was sent to the rescue centre in Glyfada in 2020 as she had ingested a fishing net along with 6 hooks. This year she finally returned back home!

Thursday 29 September 2022

Loggerheads of Argostoli Harbour

 I fully understand that Kefalonia isn't a holiday destination which appeals to everyone. If, however, you do ever find yourself on this wonderful Ionian island please make the effort to visit Argostoli Harbour and spend time with the Loggerhead Turtles which live there. They are magnificent creatures and it must be one of the very few places where pedestrians can watch these oceanic wanderers in such circumstances. They regularly feed tight along the seawall, thus right under your feet, and the views are incredible.

The water is so clear that it is possible to watch the turtles swimming well below
the surface. This individual has a metal tag on it's left flipper (KF 05 36 ?)
I have now reported this to Wildlife Sense and will update whatever info I receive when and if?

Craig and I spotted turtles on every occassion we visited the harbour, irrelevant of time of day. This said, it would appear that mornings to mid-afternoon are the most productive periods as the fishing boats unload their catches and the (vegetarian?) turtles come in to feed off the scraps thrown overboard.

An absolute privilege to be able to get so close to these truly wild creatures - awesome!

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Kefalonian encounters - up close or otherwise

Since 2015 Bev and I have visited the island of Kefalonia on six occasions. It should really be eight but for the intervention of Covid-19! The reality being that I've now spent three months of my life on this Greek paradise. The adventures, friendships established and wildlife experiences which have taken place during these holiday periods are now etched in my soul. The laid back, Kefalonian, ambience is unparalleled by anywhere else I've been fortunate enough to have visited. That this last vacation has seen me struggle to match the wildlife encounters of previous years serves to illustrate the random nature of the passing seasons. For those, deluded, individuals who dismiss climate change as a political stunt, you're beyond help. Even a blind man could see the effects of this phenomenon within a very short period on this planet. I, like many of my blog visitors, experienced the 1963 winter and the 1976 summer. They were claimed to be exceptional, at the time, not so now. These freak weather patterns will become, very much, part and parcel of UK life whilst, globally, politicians and business leaders remain incapable of accepting the scientific evidence being presented to them?

Alpine Swifts with a Common Buzzard
So September 2022, on Kefalonia, was that of an extreme drought situation. Subsequently, migrating birds gave the island a wide berth and the result being I was on a hiding to nothing whilst out on my daily rambles. I have to admit that there were odd days when Alpine Swifts and Bee-eaters were passing overhead in reasonable numbers yet hirundines were conspicuous by their absence, as were so many many other species which I consider to be a "gimme" when on the island during the autumn. Still, it is ridiculous to moan about what I didn't see rather than enjoying those birds/reptiles/inverts which crossed my path during this latest holiday. Some photos!

This Gecko sp. (Mediterranean House Gecko?) was photographed on the wall of the Diana Studios bar area whilst we were enjoying an evening "light ale"

There is no way that Bev would have ever considered allowing a Praying Mantis to walk along her arm prior to meeting me. That she now has a favourite bird (Hoopoe) and enjoys spotting Buzzards whilst we drive around the UK highways and byways is testament to the addictive draw of our natural world. These next images are a result of pure fluke! I had been watching a group of Hooded Crows whilst bemoaning the lack of photo opportunities and was already retracing my steps when I heard a Crow protesting about something. Looking up I was confronted by an approaching Short-toed Eagle with a very irate Hooded Crow in close attendance. 

It must be noted that my new camera is far more talented than the long-haired fool pressing the shutter button! These next couple of photos were taken when Craig and I drove up to the peak of Mt Einos. Craig (he was bloody driving!) spotted what he thought was a Buzzard. What a result? On a very quiet back road we were able to abandon the car and enjoy the spectacle of an immature female Goshawk being mobbed by a male Sparrowhawk - top stuff! Once again the EOS 70D performed its magic despite the subject distance and prevailing conditions.

My final offerings, for this post, were obtained whilst walking the trail beside the lagoon at the bottom of Argostoli Bay. There is a Unesco Green Flag Site here and a superb visitor information centre. 

I ended the trip with just fifty-seven species of bird being confidently id'd. There were a few others which were so fleeting as to be impossible, although certainly additions to the meagre tally.  I'll finish with a shot of Cory's Shearwater which would have gone un-recorded had it not been for the camera!

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Home again

Bev and I arrived back on Thanet just before 05.00 hrs, this morning, having spent the past fortnight with four of our dearest friends. Kefalonia is where we first met and still retains a magic which is impossible to put into words.  Two weeks of laughter and superb company can do nothing less than create lasting memories of happy times. It will be around Christmas time when we all meet up again. Craig & Carrie-anne, Leon & Leenie share a passion for this island which draws us all together. I won't say too much more, because it doesn't have a place in my blogging when all said and done. The memories we create are all very personal and should remain within the gang for the most part.

What I will say about this latest adventure is that if wildlife had been the primary reason for the holiday, I would have returned home very disappointed. Obviously there were some wonderful encounters during the fourteen days on the island but, generally, they were the exception to the rule and it was a struggle to spot anything let alone get a photo opportunity. However, I've still got loads of images to sift through, some of which are far superior to anything I've managed previously. Not too sure if I'll do a trip report or simply post a series of photos with some background info? So to get the ball rolling it might be easiest if I start with some Yellow-legged Gull images? They were relatively numerous around Argostoli Harbour and it was good fun, and somewhat educational, to look at the plumages of the different year groups.

To be able to capture feather detail of birds in flight is purely a demonstration of the technology contained within the EOS 70D and absolutely nothing to do with the clown pressing the shutter button!

I only slept for three hours, this morning, as my head was spinning. I wanted to see what my photos were like and catch up with what has been happening whilst I was in a techno vacuum on Kefalonia. My own choice, not a reflection upon the internet providers of the area. It was whilst I awaited the laptop to download the EOS 70D images that I decided to fill the garden feeders and replenish the bird-bath. It couldn't have been five minutes before the local sparrows were back and less than ten minutes later when this stunning chap turned up!

Good to be back and I'm really looking forward to firing up the 125w MV again. My neighbour, Jo, has been an absolute star and the nicotiana plants are still in full flower. Are there any Convolvulus Hawk-moths still on the wing? I should find out tonight, if I can stay awake!

Saturday 10 September 2022

Convolvulus overload

 For more than twenty-eight years I've dabbled in the "after dark art" of mothing. At times it was quite serious but, just recently, it is little more than a dalliance with these creatures of the night. My camera driven efforts, of yesterday, did nothing other than spur me on to better things. I'd spent a wonderful afternoon down at Pegwell Bay NNR, in the company of Gideon, yet the focus of my attention was upon the nicotiana plants on my patio.  It wasn't properly dark (19.50 hrs) when the first Convolvulus Hawk-moth turned up at the nicotiana planters. By 22.00 hrs there had been in excess of a dozen individuals visiting these fragrant offerings. How many will end up in the MV? Very few being my experience, thus far. There was only one last night - number sixteen! To be totally honest I couldn't care less. Now I've got my new camera to play with I'd rather take a photo than pot one up. 

The EOS 70d - I'm loving it!

Friday 9 September 2022

Some observations.

With no fish, let alone Esox lucius, to blog about any content will have to revolve around my observations for the time being. In the quest to improve upon my woeful camera skills Youtube has been scoured for offerings which might provide me with a few tips on how to make the most of my newly acquired EOS 70d. Some of the advanced techniques, I watched, are way beyond my comprehension, being such a techno-dullard, yet there have been several times when the information provided has made sense and I feel better equipped moving forward. Professional wildlife photographers/Youtubers set a very high bar. As I'm, at best, an average blogger my own efforts need to be nothing better than able to embellish the written content I produce. One other outcome from this research effort was the discovery of a consensus opinion, amongst Canon users, that Canon branded spare camera batteries were a complete rip-off. Perfectly suitable alternative power packs are available at less than 20% cost of a "genuine" spare. I had a peruse of Amazon and purchased a twin pack, with charger, for under £30! 

As appears to be the case for many fellow bloggers, as well as myself, moths continue to take centre stage in our wildlife encounters. The reports of migrant species which were once considered rare visitors but now appear to be numerous and widespread just adding further evidence to the impact climate change is having on the ecosystems which human activity, alone, has caused. Garden moth trapping is very much akin to local patch birding. Both activities allowing individual species to take on a status based upon this very limited catchment area, opposed to a general overview, be that at county or national level.

So, for what it's worth, here is my recent experience with Convolvulus Hawk-moths. The 2022, garden, total now stands at an incredible fifteen individuals potted, whilst three others have fallen foul of the garden Hedgehogs. However, this is just the "tip of the iceberg" so to speak. I've blogged previously about the gardening exploits that I'm now embarked upon and, particularly, the desire to grow nicotiana plants which will be at peak flowering during the autumn period. Well, unbelievably, it's working out better than I dared hope. Sitting at my desk, looking westward from my study window/doorway (a highly pretentious description of my man-cave extension) With the garden illuminated by the 125w MV moth trap; I'm able to watch the activity around the two patio planters without getting off my arse! Not long after sunset these huge insects start to appear around the planters and it is not unusual to have several individuals present. Yesterday evening I decided to have a go at establishing just how many moths were involved and decided to use my butterfly net to catch those feeding on the nicotiana. Within an hour I had four potted in the fridge before the heavens opened and I called it a day. This didn't stop more moths coming to the plants, just I had no desire to get soaked. 

Not bothered with the net this evening preferring, instead, to employ the new camera. It's not yet 22.00 hrs and already I've seen Convolvulus Hawk-moths on thirteen occasions. Obviously this doesn't equate to thirteen different individuals but it certainly demonstrates the allure of nicotiana fragrance over the ultraviolet light produced by a 125w MV bulb.

Absolutely blown away by the new camera. We're off to Kefalonia next week and I'm confident that the images I manage to record will be far superior to anything I've captured on previous visits. My nephew and his girlfriend are house-sitting whilst we're away. They're saving for a deposit on their first house and this means that they'll get a seaside break without the cost of accommodation. A wim - win situation all round!

Thursday 8 September 2022

A sad day

 I'd been following the football, on Radio 5, when the news came through that Buckingham Palace had announced the passing of HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Absolutely gutted, she being a shining beacon of honesty, decency, and commitment to public office which our current political elite are so woefully inadequate. 

Sleep well, your majesty, you served our nation, and the commonwealth, with dignity and respect. RIP.

Tuesday 6 September 2022

So much to learn

If you wish to be an author there is absolutely no requirement to purchase an expensive pen to achieve that goal. A Bic ballpoint would be perfectly adequate as it is the individual, not the tools, which are key to good written content. Therefore, in very similar fashion, good photography is not about the camera kit but, instead, the talent and vision of the person pressing the shutter release. All that said I have to admit that my recent purchase, of an EOS 70d, has certainly given me an edge over the previous kit I owned. The lenses remain the same, just the camera body has changed, so am now realising how limiting that aging technology within the EOS 350 & 400 d's had been upon the picture quality I've been able to record. I went for an afternoon stroll around Pegwell Bay NNR and had ample opportunity to play around with my new toy. Absolutely blown away by the difference in image sharpness and quality. Best of all I managed another self-found year tick in the form of a Whinchat (No. 159)

Still not potted a Convolvulus Hawk-moth, in September, yet am seeing them nectaring on the Nicotiana plants most evenings. A Hoary Footman, yesterday, provided another addition to the garden list whilst common migrant species are regular visitors to the egg  trays. Still no rainfall, worthy of mention, around Dumpton although other parts of Thanet have certainly experienced heavy downfalls. Our lawn remains the colour of a bleached corn field so provision of water, for the avian and mammalian garden visitors, is paramount whilst this situation remains. The BBC website is predicting a significant change in the weather, over the next few days, so hopefully the garden will get some moisture and the Hedgehogs a choice of worms, slugs or snails in their diet due to rainfall?

As Kefalonia beckons, the camera lessons are a useful part of my prep and, have to admit, that my expectations have certainly risen a notch, or two, because of the images I've managed to capture.

Sunday 4 September 2022

New toys

In no way do I wish to appear boastful about my personal circumstances when, currently, so many other folk are really struggling to make ends meet. The insane situation our politicians have conspired to create is one that beggars belief. Genuine poverty amongst sections of the population of the seventh (?) richest nation on the planet! Lloyd George made his "A fit country for heroes" speech, days after Great Britain had signed the Armistice of Compiegne on 11th November 1918. What needs to be remembered is that the vast majority of those heroes, to which he alluded, were ordinary working class lads who'd survived arenas of horrific brutality that, today, we couldn't start to imagine. In 2022, working class families are perceived as a burden by the elite classes. Those smug fat cats who have never done a day's hard graft, in their lives, yet went to the right schools! So sorry for this heavy shit, but my family's military links are so embedded that, although I was never brave enough to enlist, the piss-poor standard of our leaders has me wondering why future generations would be moved to put their lives on the line for a country run these, self-serving, out of touch, contemptuous, goons?

To get back on track. New toys are always good fun, especially when they are a whim rather than a necessity! My first is something I'd seen on a Carpology offering (Youtube) where Curly (Joe Wooltorton) was singing the praises of a Nash Pinpoint Hook Doctor device. I couldn't give a toss about keeping "Ronnie Rigs" razor sharp, the potential offered by the device is why I contacted Camo to get me one. Aware that Drennan and Partridge no longer manufacture "doubles"  I need to make the most of those hooks I still have in my possession.  Not a cheap item, by any means, but I'm very impressed by this gadget and the opportunity to prolong the useability of my vintage Pike hooks it provides. My second toy is an up-grade for my Canon camera kit. I've been using EOS 350d & 400d models for well over a decade. The 10.1 million pixel sensors have served me well for, both, my blogging efforts and the occasional magazine stuff. I spent considerable time perusing the internet, looking for an up-grade, without wishing to break the bank. All my research led me to Park Cameras, Burgess Hill, West Sussex. Their website was a shining beacon in a chaotic mire of advertising hype. That they also claimed to offer expert advice for those seeking assistance, it was a no-brainer for Bev & I to jump in the van and embark on a road trip. Absolutely no way did I need to purchase a "new" camera, a used item would suffice and I'd already chalked in an EOS 750d, although not dismissing the EOS 200d as recommended by expert reviewers on Youtube. It was a very educational experience chatting with the young guy behind the counter. I told him what I was looking for and why I would be grateful for any advice he was able to offer. It was an interesting chat and I left the premises with a Canon EOS 70d rather than one of the, two, models I'd expected. I've only had a day to play around with this latest acquisition but, have to say, it's like comparing a Vauxhall Viva to a Lamborghini.

The picture quality offered by a 20.2 million pixel sensor, assisted by some very clever camera software, is way beyond anything I've previously managed. With Kefalonia beckoning, I hope to have gained a slight insight into the potential of this camera before heading off on holiday. I've been playing around in the garden with it set on auto and am suitably impressed.

Still rather quiet on the birding front, although the year's fourth garden Pied Flycatcher was a very pleasant, if fleeting, visitor last Thursday. My first Wheatear of the Autumn was equally skittish as I took a wander around Newlands Farm, earlier today. So, once again, it is moths which have provided the bulk of my wildlife fix. August provided nine Convolvulus Hawk-moths for the 125 MV, with another two falling victim to the garden Hedgehogs. I've not yet taken one in September, although, as I type, there is one nectaring on the Nicotiana right outside my study doorway.

Certainly an increase in the numbers of Silver Y's, of late, yet it was the capture of three Beet Moths (2nd Sept) that really stands out. I wouldn't have the first idea about such a moth if it were not for the recent posts by my fellow blogger, Gavin Haig. Not seen any other Kent reports, but that isn't particularly an issue, these moths might well be regularly encountered by other county moth-ers? All I know is that it was a new species for me.

Really looking forward to putting the EOS 70d through its' paces, as the Kefalonia gig gets ever closer. The only way is up? Bat detector and a fishing rod are to be included in the luggage - who knows where that will lead?