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!


Saturday 29 October 2022

Mothing gold

The garden moth trap remains central to my daily routine whilst the current overnight, double figure Centigrade, temperatures persist. Being a direct consequence of southerly airflow, there can be little surprise that migrant moths are being reported in, both, spectacular numbers and UK distribution. My own results have been very much in keeping with those of other Kent sites, according to the various sources available on the internet. 

The Vestal was a real "rare" when I started moth trapping
 in the late 1990's. Today I expect, and get, garden records on
a regular basis

Moths that were once considered to be rare are now very commonplace and surely another demonstration of the undeniable effects of climate change? Olive-tree Pearl, The Vestal and Small Mottled Willow are now so regular as to be included in the "gimme" annual expectations and might even be colonists along with so many other species. On the periphery are those species which still cause an adrenaline rush. For me the capture of my third, 2022, Merveille du Jour has been insane, having only taken two in the previous twenty-two years yet was knocked into a "cocked hat" by the occurrence of a Blair's Mocha this morning!

Blair's Mocha

I really don't have any idea where this latest dalliance into the "after dark art" will lead me. Having no restraints on my time, the checking of the egg trays can take as long as is necessary, although the Pike season is now upon us and I have an appointment with a River Stour "twenty" to keep! Still, whilst temperatures remain conducive for mothing they are, by definition, not what I want as a Pike angler. 

A Red-green Carpet in much better condition than my last one!

I'm very happy to carry on checking the egg trays as I await the first frosts and a change in the seasons. 

Thursday 27 October 2022

Here & there - this & that

Bev's best friend, Jayne, lives in the South Yorkshire village/town of Thorpe Hesley. It's junction 35 of the M1, thus two-hundred & fifty miles away from Ramsgate. When Bev learned of the birth of Jayne's second grandchild there was nothing I could say, or do, which would stop us travelling so Bev could spend time with, Harry Joshua, the latest addition to our Christmas present list!! To be fair, I don't mind these types of events as it means I get to wander around places and environments which are well outside of my normal routine. So on Tuesday, we drove up to Jayne's place, having pre-booked a night in The Premier Inn, Meadowhall. (I don't care how much Sir Lenny Henry raves about the brand, this was possibly the worst experience I've ever had at such a place! If you do need to spend a night around the Meadowhall area, then the Travelodge is a far superior option - rant over) We arrived in Thorpe Hesley just after 14.15 hrs and the girls quickly arranged to drive over to see the baby. "Did I want to come?"

I quickly explained that I knew what a baby looked like and would, instead, be perfectly happy to take a wander along the Trans Pennine Trail down towards Barley Hall Stables. It's a nice woodland walk, although running alongside the M1, very noisy. It wasn't too productive from a birding perspective and I discovered myself looking at fungi instead. I don't have the first idea as to what they are called, but can't deny the fun I had whilst playing around with the camera.

On Wednesday morning, Bev & I having endured our night in The Premier Inn, all three of us went for breakfast at The Wetherspoons, in Meadowhall. By the time we'd finished fannying around it was almost mid-day and the girls went off to do what they do best - shopping! I had a wander along the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal which is also part of the Trans Pennine Trail. Once again birdlife was a bit limited, but I did see several Kingfishers, a Grey Wagtail and a Sparrowhawk amongst the more mundane species.

At this point I must say that the Yorkshire folk, whom I encountered whilst on my walk, were far more friendly than their southern counterparts. I had several pleasant exchanges with dog walkers and cyclists as I made my way along the tow path. One young guy, who was cycling to work, stopped to feed the Mute Swans I was already watching. All three of them were colour ringed and I asked him if he had reported them? He said that, although he fed them regularly, he hadn't noticed their rings! Bloody hell, they were bright yellow. I set about getting images of the rings as he pedalled off towards his place of employment. I then went on to find another Mute Swan, again colour ringed, although this time with a red one. 

I've had a quick look at Euring website but have to say that it is far more complicated than it used to be and have now given up attempting to find a contact for reporting these birds. So after our whistle-stop visit we arrived back home just before 20.00 hrs and I quickly decided that I'd get down the river early door this morning. Kit was already prepared, I just required to grab a few deadbaits from the freezer and load the van. 

So it was just after 06.00 hrs that I parked up and had two baits in position within half an hour. Eels proved to be a right pain for that first hour, although I did manage to land my third Pike of the campaign - another "jack" of six/seven pounds. A spectacular dawn was deceptive as it pissed down later, however, not before I got another self-found year tick in the form of Common Crane. 

I knew the bird had been watched flying into roost in the reedbed over at Grove Ferry NNR. Therefore it might be possible to spot, if it was still present, as it flew out towards the Chislet Marshes, from my chosen section of the river. Not twitched, so it counts for me.

Monday 24 October 2022

The start of a new adventure

I parked the van in the car park just before 06.30 hrs, this morning. It was to be my first Pike session, of 2022/23, on The (Kentish) Stour. I'd been informed that Pike fishing wasn't to commence until 1st November but Benno had a chat with a bailiff, whilst Perch fishing on Saturday morning, and was reassured that Pike fishing along the river was perfectly okay.  That was all I needed to know and it's now game on!

Almost certainly a photo taken using
Ektachrome slide film. My Thames "twenty"

So what's the plan? It's surprisingly a very simple one; I want to catch a twenty from the river. I've only ever caught one river twenty, from the Thames (20 lbs 1 oz) on 8th January 1987, so am hopeful that should I achieve my goal I will also beat my river PB. With this being my focus, I am happy to see where, and how, the campaign leads me. As of today, it would seem that I'm going to allow myself until the end of January 2023 to land my target before spending February 2023 back down on the RMC, where I've a score to settle, which is a tale for another day, perhaps? All that I need to concentrate on, over the next fourteen, plus, weeks is location, rig mechanics and bait presentation along the banks of The Stour. Thankfully, it will not be a complete voyage into the unknown as Benno & Luke have done an awful lot of the spadework and I'm happy to follow their advice whilst learning the ropes. As a further back-up I also have access to a wealth of experience via the Canterbury & Thanet PAC Regional meetings. I certainly don't expect it to be easy, but know it will definitely be fun. 

I landed two Pike this morning, the biggest one weighing a smidge over 7 lbs. A beautiful morning, a couple of Pike and the whole place to myself. What else could I wish for? I won't get back down until Thursday, due to prior arrangements, but after that it will be full steam ahead. 

Sunday 23 October 2022

Garden mothing and some birds

As I await the start of my R. Stour Pike campaign, our garden remains central to my wildlife encounters. The moth trap is a constant source of interest as the egg trays are examined each morning. I really don't know what I'll discover? Although, by keeping abreast of what's being reported along the Kent coastline between Sandwich Bay, via Folkestone, down to Dungeness plus around the local patches and gardens of fellow bloggers, I do have an inkling of what might be possible. 

A beautifully pink tinted Vestal.

Because I've not been a particularly active "moffa" over the passed few years, 2022 has proven to be an incredibly enjoyable return to the "after dark art". There will certainly be an effect, on my results, due to the ridiculous weather patterns we experienced over the course of the summer. However, I also feel that my involvement in actively maintaining our garden flora will have made a positive impact upon the moths attracted to the 125w MV Robinson trap. It can't be too long before I pack the trap away for the winter but, while the night-time temperatures remain well above 10C, it won't be just yet. 

Small Mottled Willow

Rush Veneer

Large Wainscot

I think that I've recorded most of the species expected in my garden, plus plenty more that weren't, since starting to run the trap on a nightly basis way back in early April. The real learning has been provided by a desire to take a closer look at micro moth species. I'll happily admit that this group had been completely ignored for many years and I now realise what a massive error this was. Still, with the nights drawing in and, hopefully, Pike fishing taking centre stage, I should have plenty of opportunity to spend time with the many hundreds of images recorded over the summer which require scrutiny in order to establish an id for the various species which have been photographed.

Quite a bit of vis mig, to keep me entertained, has included decent movements of Redwings and Starlings with lesser numbers of Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch and Fieldfare. Odd Blackbird and Song Thrush have added to the aerial display whilst three Long-tailed Tits, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and seven Goldcrests have passed along the garden boundary hedgerow. Chiffchaffs continue to be recorded on a daily basis, the maximum, recently, count being nine on Wednesday.

Pike fishing tomorrow, so watch this space - hopefully!

Friday 21 October 2022

Fig-leaf (Tree) Skeletonizer

So there I was perusing the various websites which constitute my daily routine when I espied a snippet that struck a chord. Ian Roberts had posted, on Folkestone Birds, that he had discovered evidence of Fig-leaf Skeletonizer (Choreutis nemorana) being present at Mill Point. I'd never heard of such an insect therefore did a little Google research. Well what d'you know? I've been attracting these moths to my MV trap since June! Not surprising that I'd been unable to id them as they hadn't been recorded in the UK prior to 2014 and, as a consequence, were not depicted within the pages of my Micro Moths of GB & Ireland field guide.

Mike and Leslie, our nextdoor neighbours, have a Fig Tree growing in their garden, right up against our southern fence line. Having seen the photo that Ian posted I took a look at the foliage of this tree. Guess what? The leaves were covered with signs of Fig-leaf Skeletonizer caterpillar activity. The fig harvest doesn't appear to be effected, although Mike & Leslie certainly don't rely on the fruits to provide sustenance during these economically troubled times.

I've photographed this species on many occasions over this past summer and am indebted to Stewart Sexton for his generous contribution to my woeful id efforts. A comment he sent was to assist me with the id of several species which I'd completely screwed up but, and it is a big but, his suggestion that Apple-leaf Skeletonizer was one of the mystery moths (although he added that he'd never seen one!) just aided the crazy situation. That particular moth, I couldn't id, certainly didn't match the artwork of Richard Lewington in my field guide, yet I had nothing else to assist me so happily went along with Stewart's far superior experience. 

Four and a bit months down the line I am now confident that these moths have been attracted to the garden MV trap on many nights. I don't keep a diary, because, to me, it doesn't matter, but I would guess that these moths have been taken on fifty nights during the past, incredibly warm, summer. Why don't I report my catches? Because until Victorian methodology is removed from entomology I refuse to support it. My records are just that - mine!

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Rolls Royce moment

Garden moth trapping is, for me, little more than a pleasant distraction. What I fail to id causes not a nano-second of concern. It's just the enjoyment of looking at the creatures, attracted by the 125w MV light, which ensures I make the effort to prepare the egg trays each evening. As I said, in yesterday's post, my results are very similar to many other gardens that fellow bloggers also operate such contraptions of the "after dark art". At this stage in my journey I'd like to think that I'm well beyond jealousy? What other folk are recording is great to read about but, in all honesty, why worry about species you've not attracted and, instead, concentrate on making the most of those you have!

A bit of a puzzle? To all intents and purposes this has to be
a Least Carpet yet, some things don't add up. Firstly it was very small,
the wing span being under 15mm, and it didn't rest in the typical, wings
at 90 degrees to the body, pose associated with the species.

This morning I hit the jackpot; a real piece of moth trapping gold. Well over halfway through checking the sparse contents assembled upon the egg trays when I found myself staring down upon an absolute beauty. A Merveille du Jour, only the third I've taken in the garden, was resting there, before my very eyes. Just as when I land a decent fish, or discover myself watching a "rare" bird, the enjoyment is tangible and something which I hope will never stop. I grabbed a few shots before potting it up and taking it indoors to show Bev. It's moments like these that make all the effort so worth while. Sure, it's not one of the rarer Hawk-moth species which I hanker after but, without doubt, is aesthetically better than any other moth I've seen in 2022!

Is there a better looking moth?

Garden vis-mig this morning was dominated by Starlings. It was certainly the largest movement I've witnessed, thus far, this autumn. I didn't keep an accurate count yet there were certainly hundreds of birds involved. Still the odd Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Chaffinch noted as I scanned the skies and, best of all, were my first Fieldfares of the season - three!

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Bumbling through October

The month started well enough yet, somehow, I lost my way and with it the enthusiasm to keep the blog regularly updated. I've been out with the rods for another, blank, Pike session but the bulk of my time has been spent doing the rounds of local birding spots. On Friday morning I had a fabulous time down at Grove Ferry/Stodmarsh NNR made even better as I bumped into Steve Ashton and we were able to spend a very pleasant half-hour, or so, chatting about this, that and the other! I was rather glad that the Grey Phalarope had gone missing, so I didn't have to compromise my "no twitching" rule for my, "self-found", year listing effort. I did manage to add Pintail to the tally, so a good substitute? The garden and Newlands Farm continue to feature prominently in my birding experiences with some nice vis-mig taking place without ever being on a large scale. Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Redwing, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Starling and Wood Pigeon have all been recorded, over the garden, in varying numbers during this past week.

Chiffchaff numbers are noticeably lower than at the start of the month, although still seen daily. Two Goldcrests have been spotted, but both had no intention of posing for the camera, despite calling loudly from the "Christmas Tree" which is just 3m from my study door. Common Buzzards have been very obliging, by comparison, although it is difficult to know if they are genuine migrants or simply birds establishing territories for the coming winter?

The icing on the cake came this morning (still present at 16.15hrs) in the form of my first garden record of Stonechat. They are annual visitors to my Newlands Farm patch but, over the past twenty-two years, never been recorded from the garden. I do wonder how much this sighting is a direct consequence of retirement? With time now being my own, how many other Stonechats might have been viewable from the garden had I not needed to go to work?

The moth trap continues to produce results, although nothing particularly exceptional when seeing what fellow bloggers are reporting from various other locations around the UK. 

Red-green Carpet - very worn

Oak Rustic - almost pristine

The Delicate, Scarce Bordered Straw, Olive-tree Pearl, Pearly Underwing, Rusty-dot Pearl and Rush Veneer are almost constants whilst the temperatures remain in double figures. The most gutting (frustrating) record is that of a Convolvulus Hawk-moth on the night of 16/17th which fell foul of the Hedgehogs.

Thursday 13 October 2022

Harbour fun - eventually!

 Overnight rain persisted well into mid-morning. Great for the parched landscape, yet not so brilliant if hoping to spend any time outdoors. By mid-day, however, my patience was wearing a little thin and I decided to take a wander down to Ramsgate Harbour. I parked the van above the Winterstoke Steps and walked the cliff-top path towards the town, thus allowing me to scan the gulls assembled on the new "quality street" apartments and hotel complex which overlook Ramsgate main beach. Quite why anyone would want to spend £750,000+ to purchase a flat overlooking Wetherspoons is way beyond my comprehension, yet surely someone has done the market research? Plenty of Herring Gulls to look at, yet not a single colour ring in sight, still I did stumble upon this piece of Thanet Council bollocks! (sorry I mean wisdom)

I live on "The Isle of Thanet" - the clue's in the title!!!!! Gulls are part of the ecosystem and quite how anyone is supposed to throw bread for the Sparrows, Pigeons and Starlings without also attracting gulls is beyond my comprehension. I wonder how the RSPB would feel about a sign "Don't feed the birds"? I digress, onward to the harbour.

It was still rather gloomy, yet remained dry and was actually brightening up by the time I decided to leave. The western arm, leading to the Harbour Lights Cafe was lined by guys fishing the rising tide. Those I spoke with said very little was happening beyond crab trouble! If it wasn't for Turnstones and Cormorants the effort would have been completely worthless. I then made my way around the marina area and out onto the eastern arm. A couple of Rock Pipits, a Kingfisher and two Grey Herons, roosting with the Cormorants out in the ferry port, were as good as it got. It wasn't until I'd almost reached the end of the arm that I spotted a juv Red-throated Diver out in the ferry port. Thinking I'd at least get a photo for the blog, the bird had other ideas. Over the course of the next forty minutes I was chasing shadows as I attempted to pre-empt the bird's route around the harbour. Eventually, however, it all came good and I was able to point the camera at my subject knowing that if I screwed up it wouldn't be for any other reason than user error/incompetence? 

I have no doubts that competent photographers would have obtained far superior images. As I'm just a blogger, they'll certainly do for me!

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Grove Ferry dawn

I needed a change of scenery so, at first light this morning, parked up at Grove Ferry NNR so I could have a wander around early doors. The sun glowed bright orange in the East as it rose steadily above the horizon. 

It wasn't 07.30 hrs when I watched two Great White Egrets pass overhead, flying deliberately westward towards Stodmarsh. I rattled off a series of shots but, in all honesty, the light levels were poor and so were my images. I'd set myself a time limit, saying to Bev that I wouldn't be any later than 10.00 hrs getting home. Knowing that I might, easily, get distracted should I attempt the complete circuit my plan was to walk to The Marsh Hide and back. Two hours should give me plenty of flexibility? 

I was sat in the hide, overlooking the grazing marsh and pools, within forty minutes of parking the van. A couple of Little Grebes were about as good as it got! Had I really gotten up so early for this? A male Marsh Harrier drifted by and then a Green Sandpiper noisily announced its' arrival on the poolside margin. As I scanned the surrounding marsh it appeared the avian inhabitants were slowly awakening. A male Sparrowhawk perched up on a fence post whilst a couple of Stonechats were flicking about alongside a reeded ditch. A Kestrel flew by, carrying a vole, just as I spotted a group of birds arriving high from the north. Ten Cattle Egrets descended onto the marsh, about 800m from where I was positioned. It was all very weird, as the cattle they'd chosen suddenly became very agitated and spooked. The birds did like-wise. Four flew towards the Marsh Hide and landed beside the cattle that were grazing there whilst the other six headed off, high, to the East.

I spent the best part of thirty minutes in the hide before deciding to look for the missing Cattle Egrets. I failed dismally! Plenty of other birds to look at as I scanned the various livestock grazing around the reserve. Lots of Song Thrushes present along the hawthorn hedgerows with a couple of smart Bearded Tits beside Harrison's Drove. Stonechats were everywhere I looked, which was encouraging, and I also managed to locate three Little Egrets, thus completing the set! Just as I was setting off back to the van a Black-tailed Godwit flew west and a Kingfisher called loudly as it sped along an adjacent ditch. A cracking morning's birding and I was back at our bungalow with ten minutes to spare - result!

Tuesday 11 October 2022

Play-time lessons

I think it's fair to say that birding has been a very pleasurable substitute for angling thus far into the "Pike season". Once again, this morning, I went back down to Pegwell Bay NNR to watch the rising tide and had an absolute blast. The exposed mud was covered by 11.45 hrs despite high tide not being until 13.20 hrs, however, the angle of the sun being further towards the south ensured that viewing conditions were so much better than those over the weekend. I was fully loaded with scope/tripod, bins and camera, so had all bases covered? Still no additions to my "self-found" year list but highlights included an Avocet, 4 Red-throated Divers, 27 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and 12+ Sandwich Terns plus the regular fare which fill the diary pages at this time of year. At this juncture it might be prudent to get back to the beginning of my session? I had fitted the camera with a Sigma 1.4X tele-converter which, in effect, would mean that my Sigma 170/500mm lens when attached to the EOS 70D became equivalent to an 1120mm lens - absolutely crazy! What would the quality of images be like? There was only one way to find out!

Prior to leaving home I'd taken a few token shots of the House Sparrows at the feeding station. They didn't look too bad, so decided to experiment further. This is where fate played a major role. I'd only just walked past the Garage Pool, en route to Pegwell, when a Spotted Flycatcher flew across the path in front of me. In absolutely perfect conditions the bird then proceeded to pose like a prima donna as I rattled off a series of shots. This was my first UK Spotted Flycatcher for a very long time, probably in excess of five years; I might be wrong?

As you can see, the image quality isn't too shabby yet certainly not as sharp as some other efforts I've posted recently where there hasn't been the 1.4X converter used. I think that the lesson was one worthy of attempting yet all signs are that it wasn't particularly beneficial from a quality aspect. It was whilst I was looking at the results obtained today that I started to think about comparisons with images of "Mediterranean" Spotted Flycatchers that I've captured whilst holidaying on Kefalonia and Corfu. 

Really enjoyed myself today. The realisation that there is so much more to learn is very good for the soul.