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 June 2023

June's final fling

I went back down to the "Carp Puddle", this afternoon, to play around with my version of the "D" rig. I fished it helicopter style, but tied using 12 lbs mono and incorporating a Gardner "Rigga" hook. All I need to say, at this point, is that it was an outrageous success. I couldn't keep two rods in the water, so ended up using just one, yet still getting bites ridiculously soon after placing the rig using eight sections of the Nash "Bushwhacker" baiting pole. 

It was a superb learning experience, from my perspective, as I've never used this set-up previously. I did lose a fish to a hook pull (barbless rules?) but also had a number of "occurrences" which I dismissed as liners before discovering that the "D" had actually twisted on the hook shank. This has to be a positive about using this type of venue for understanding rig mechanics? With such a high density of stock, action is almost guaranteed, so lessons can be learnt very quickly. All I can say about this particular venue is "that if you can't catch Carp here, seriously think about golf as a hobby"

Two more "doubles" for the tally but, the real lesson away from rig mechanics came in the form of getting self-take shots in a very tight swim. Plus there's always a bonus "out take" when using the intervalometer - enjoy.

Wednesday 28 June 2023

A June "double" - just!

My quest to catch a "double" (Carp) in every month of 2023 was teetering on the edge of disaster, as June approached its' final three days. Circumstances, way beyond my control, had dictated that my plans for the flatlands were thrown in the bin and the wheels had certainly fallen off my angling efforts as a direct result. It was my son, Benno, taking the piss out of the project failing in June which spurred me on. The local "carp puddle" had served me well up until this month, why not get back down there just to keep the challenge alive? So that's exactly what I've done. Tuesday produced just two fish, in little over two hours, the biggest weighing in at 7 lbs 14 oz. Today I managed seven Carp, the best one being a battle scarred old Mirror which tipped the scales at 10 lbs 4 oz - job's a good'n!

Silly hats come as standard, when Carp fishing. I got this one from Greece - quality!

There's an awful lot more I need to explain, ref the flatlands, but that can wait for another day. July will certainly be more productive, purely because I've now got some other options.

Monday 26 June 2023

The "Carp Puddle" is calling

 I've only been fishing twice, since the start of the "traditional season" and blanked on both occasions, so no great shakes there then! If nothing else, I'm consistent. My whimsicle desire to land a "double" (Carp) in every month of 2023 needs addressing and I'm fast running  out of time if June isn't to be the point at which I fail in my quest. Thus far I've landed twenty-five fish, in excess of that 10 lbs barrier, every one from the small irrigation reservoir just five miles from my front door. 

With the weather on the change, and a fall in barometric pressure forecast, I fancy my chances of a bite or two using the particle approach which served me so well during the early part of the year. As much fun as surface fishing, undoubtedly, is there is something immensely satisfying when the bobbin rises into the butt ring and the alarm bursts into song. The general consensus, amongst those club members with whom I've spoken, is that the largest Carp in the venue is around fifteen and a half pounds. I've already caught it, but that there are a considerable number of back-up fish between eleven and thirteen pounds. Any one of which would do very nicely under the current circumstances. 

15 lbs 6 oz when it visited my landing net in late March.

I should be able to get three sessions in, between now and Friday, hopefully it will only take one to achieve my June target? There are a couple of tweaks, with my terminal set-up which I've been playing around with. The "Carp Puddle" is certainly a venue where such experiments are worth conducting. If I muck it up, there's always another chance, such is the density of the fish stocks.

Saturday 24 June 2023

Sublime to the ridiculous, and all points in between.

There are occasions when I find myself wishing that I'd spent more time listening to the teachers, whilst at school. It's not about me being thick, or suffering from a second rate education system, not a bit of it. I left school with eleven "O" levels & three "A" Levels and have since gained a 2nd class honours degree, thanks to the "Investors in People" initiative and the incredible support provided by Kodak Ltd and Unilever during my distant past. So it's not about lack of intelligence, or some pay back for a deprived childhood, nope! I just lack the eloquence and/or vocabulary to deliver what I'd like to say in a written format which is able to paint a picture, rather than simply convey a message? 

First light out on the flatlands - needless to say "I blanked!"

Gareth Craddock is the finest wordsmith I've ever encountered in all my exploration of "Blogdom" whilst Gavin Haig is possibly the most thought provoking member of the gang? (click either link - they are in yellow) What they are able to convey, in written format, is stuff that I can but dream of. It's not that I'm ashamed about the material I post, just know that these two, in particular, would have been able to do so much more with the same experiences? Still, life goes on and blogging continues to provide me with incredible enjoyment. It might be a comment exchange or just the realization of how many folk are visiting "Of Esox" via the "dashboard" facility on my laptop. Blogging remains a very important part of my wildlife experience purely because of this ability to share the journey with so many other folk, the vast majority of whom I'll never meet! 

The Shears

The Rustic

The Rustic

Pale Mottled Willow

With my angling efforts being very low key, at present, it has been the garden moth trapping which continues to provide the bulk of my regular wildlife fix. It is a very humbling experience when you realise that the more you see there must be an acceptance of how little you actually know. Yet, it has to be good for the soul to keep pushing the boundaries. That quest to widen an appreciation of the other life forms which share our space. This is where I have to applaud the PSL (Pan Species Listing) crowd who have actively encouraged others to push the limits of their own wildlife experiences. I don't agree with the competitive aspect, but anything which encourages folk to look at the world with a different perception has to be a good thing. It has been my mothing, over this past couple of weeks, which is responsible for the title of this post. I adore Hawk-moths, and the ability to show them to my neighbours ensures that my request not to use garden insecticides is not falling on deaf ears. There are, at least, five other garden Hedgehog feeding stations along Vine Close and three also cater for the Foxes so we're a pretty good, wildlife friendly, neighbourhood?. So far, this month, I've trapped Lime Hawk-moth (8), Small Elephant Hawk-moth (1), Eyed Hawk-moth (5), Elephant Hawk-moth (22), Poplar Hawk-moth (3), Privet Hawk-moth (2) plus have seen Humming-bird Hawk-moths feeding on the Red Valerian in the front garden on several occasions. They're big, in your face, moths which are the real show stoppers when seen by non-mothing folk. 

Scarce Silver Lines

Male Rannoch Looper

However, from my own stand point, it is those pesky micros which provide the bulk of the attraction for me at present. Yes I know that I still make dodgy id calls for macro species but, the sheer diversity of both shape and colouration, these smaller moths have me totally engrossed, if not frustrated in the same measure? Very slowly, my camera work is improving and it has certainly been a major asset in my quest for id-ing many of these tiny insects. Only when seen on the laptop are you able to appreciate the intricacy of patternation and also the incredible talent of Richard Lewington who illustrated the pages of "The Field Guide to the Micro Moths of GB & Ireland" (ISBN 978-0-9564902-1-6) which is my go to reference book.

Long-legged Tabby

Dark Bordered Pearl - they used to be quite rare?

I'm sure that my skill set will slowly improve as I spend more time looking at these wonderful creatures. Mistakes are guaranteed, purely because that's the basis for how you learn. I am lucky enough to be able to go back to a time when I struggled to differentiate a Chiffchaff from a Willow Warbler, Marsh from Willow Tit, Black-necked from Slavonian Grebe, such was my inexperience at the start of that particular journey. Today it's a piece of piss to separate a Short-toed from a Common Treecreeper, a Melodious from an Icterine Warbler and so on. Experience and there is no fast track to bypass this very basic requirement. 

Blackthorn Argent

Cock's Head Bell

 I've got hundreds of images of micro moths which remain un-id'd, but that's my problem. What some might query is the lack of scientific names to accompany my images? I'm bloody struggling to get to grips with the moths without the need need to learn another language as I go?

Passer domesticus - It's a bloody House Sparrow no more or less!
Why are moths any different? I'm English, they've an English name - so use it.

Sunday 18 June 2023

No rhyme nor reason?

My current garden mothing is little more than a casual dalliance. In times gone by, it was far more serious but now, in many ways mirrors my birding and angling in as much as in 2023, enjoying the experience, not involvement with the mainstream, is what keeps me motivated. I do things my way and don't require the blessing of a third party before something unusual is "accepted". If I make a complete pig's ear of an id, so what? No one dies, it's only a bloody moth after all. Last night saw very humid conditions, complete with occasional lightning and accompanying rain. As darkness fell, the Red Valerian at the front of the bungalow was alive with Silver Y's, which was all the excuse required to grab the camera.

At 04.30 hrs, I turned the Robinson MV off and was immediately aware that Green Oak Tortrix numbers had risen again. There were sixteen on the outside of the perspex dome (a further thirty-one on the egg trays when I later examined the contents). I'm finding myself spending more time attempting to capture images of the micros, rather than worrying about how many Setaceous Hebrew Characters or Heart & Darts there are. What I did find puzzling, however, was the fact that not a single Silver Y had been attracted despite the obvious numbers present the previous evening. Pearly Underwing, The Delicate and numerous Diamond-backs were the only other obvious migrant species, but there were a couple of residents which were very welcome.

Puss Moth

Beautiful Hook-tip

I've not recorded Dark Swordgrass this year, which is very weird, but I've not attracted a Poplar Hawk-moth either, so something isn't quite right?  The first Box-tree Moths (three) turned up this morning and are probably a pre-cursor to another huge eruption. 

Apple Leaf-miner

Codling Moth

Where will garden mothing take me over these coming months? I've absolutely no idea but do know "you've got to be in it, to discover the answer"  So there I was, clicking away at whatever took my fancy and I managed a couple of, very poor, shots of a boring little brown job. Having had time to actually look at my results, it would appear that this little chap might be quite a good record? I'm drawn towards Straw Flat-body for the id, but haven't completely ruled out Pale Flat-body as a possibility, although wing shape certainly favours the former species.

Straw Flat-body?

Saturday 17 June 2023

Not quite what I'd planned.

 02.00 hrs on 16th June, I was on my way across to the flatlands, by 04.15 hrs I was back home. The sequence of events which occurred between those two time slots wasn't something I'd expected. So, in short, I've still not made a cast this new season! Knowing that the campaign for a 25 lbs plus Carp from the drains, will be a marathon and not a sprint, I'm happy to bide my time. My journey wasn't a total wasted effort as I managed to add Grasshopper Warbler (No. 158) to my self-found year list plus a nice view of a perched Barn Owl. So with fishing and birds out of the way, it's the garden moths which continue to provide the bulk of my wildlife entertainment.

Mottled Rustic - once again I'm truly grateful for the input of
Stewart Sexton.

Photography is, and will always remain, a spin off from my involvement with spending time outdoors. And whilst I'm perfectly happy to create images which are able to assist my blogging endeavours, there is no desire for me to push the boundaries in order to actually seek to master the digital art. With the technology contained within the EOS 70D already far superior to that ability I possess. Angling, self-take, trophy shots are one thing, the recording of macro images of the micro moths attracted by the 125w MV Robinson Trap are on a whole different level. 

Top to bottom.
Top - Olive Pearl, Middle - Dark Pine Knot-horn, Bottom - Buff-tipped Marble

My use of extension tubes, in conjunction with a Canon 70 - 210 mm lens seems to have given me some level of improved performance over the previous efforts. I shudder to think what someone who actually knew what they were doing could achieve with this same kit?

Top - Triple-blotched Bell  Middle - Marbled Orchard Tortrix  Bottom False Cacao Moth

All things being equal, I am far happier to have spent time looking than actually worrying about how my photography is capable of recording the experience. All I will say is that it works for me!

Cypress-tip Moth - only 4-5 mm in length, so any image is a result.

Thursday 15 June 2023

Angling's essentials?

As June 16th rapidly approaches, so I am attempting to reduce the kit required to an absolute minimum. With my sights set on a couple of drains. out on the flatlands, the desire to remove the barrow from the equation has meant that everything I carry needs a purpose or gets left at home. Short dawn or dusk sessions, in and out within four hours being the plan. No surface fishing, it will be simply placing, via the Nash Bushwhacker system, a baited rig on a spot which will see a regular supply of freebies as the season progresses. The target species is, obviously, those wild Carp which inhabit the crystal clear dykes, however, if the odd Tench were to put in an appearance there'll be no complaints from this direction. 

July 2015 - my first "twenty" since February 1984. Some wait!

If I'm honest about this particular season's efforts, then a PB Carp has to be top of the agenda. It's not about split cane eccentricity, or some old school ideology, nope! I'm fishing for a trophy shot which will be of a Carp that isn't on the mainstream circuit radar. So, straight away, the necessity for the camera kit to be carried is an essential. What I don't need is the tripod when a Gardner Multi-angle Adaptor will provide a very acceptable substitute, via this, very flexible, bankstick monopod option.

I nicked this image from "flea-bay" so apologise for the poor quality

The rod, I've chosen, is a Bruce & Walker 12', 2.25 lbs t/c, HMC  model which was built by Ian Crawley (Leslie's of Luton - St. Alban's branch) around 1983. The reel, a Matt Hayes "limited edition" centrepin (No. 54) loaded with 50 lbs b.s. Berkley "Whiplash" braided mainline, a metre of leadcore leader, a running, in-line, 3.5 oz lead and an 8" hooklink, incorporating that insane Gardner "Rigga" hook pattern.

Bankside essentials have to include a landing net, un-hooking mat, weigh sling/retainer, scales, with spare leads, hook links and assorted gubbins required should I decide to change my set-up. Keeping it simple is my main theme, with my particle mix as my "munga" with flavoured chickpeas and/or IB maize (plastic) as my hook offerings.. I am 100% confident that no other anglers will have ever offered my baits to these fish in previous seasons. With the exception of the IB maize, no other items of my bait are available from tackle shops. 

It doesn't matter how big, or small, a flatlands Carp is? Every single one
is hard earned and worthy of a trophy shot.

As I was going through my final preparations for tomorrow's pre-dawn start, young Tom Lane rang me to find out what my plans were for the coming season. Great to spend time chatting about hopes and expectations whilst also being able to relive some of the fantastic moments that we've experienced out on the flatlands during seasons gone by. Tom has already achieved a 25 lbs plus Carp from this complex of drains, so I've a bit of catching up to do. As he's off to Bridgenorth on The River Severn, for his opening gambit, chasing Chub and Barbel, I'll have a week's head start before our paths cross for real.

I've actually been to Winchester Cathedral, in the hope of seeing
this window. Only to discover that I needed to pay to enter a
place of worship. The God Squad, even more money driven than
the KWT, and that takes some doing!

I'll finish this post by wishing all those, like-minded souls, who'll be out there awaiting that "first cast of the new season"  tight lines! Let's hope that Izaak is looking down favourably on our endeavours but, whatever the outcome, I'll certainly be raising a glass to his memory prior to the mid-night chimes..

Wednesday 14 June 2023

And relax!

 Migration within the natural world is a fascinating phenomenon which has kept scientists and casual observers, alike, intrigued throughout history. Via the wonders of modern technology, David Attenborough has been able to allow us a ringside seat to witness herds of Wildebeest, Antelopes and Zebras make their way across the African plains yet, even from my own back garden it is possible to marvel at this spectacle. Could be something as simple as Wood Pigeons moving en mass, or the sights and sounds of a passing skien of wild geese. For those of us inclined to look at such things, they are a wonderful reminder of the constant changes in the wildlife dynamic which surrounds us. 

Green Oak Tortrix - the main protagonist in the recent influx

This past week has seen an arrival of moths on a scale that is way beyond my comprehension. The Green Oak Tortrix movement seems to have passed it's peak, yet the tiny Diamond-backs are still very numerous on the egg trays of the garden MV moth trap.If my modest garden is capable of attracting these insects in their thousands, just imagine how many tens of millions must have been involved within the bigger picture? Absolutely mind-numbing, well it is to a simpleton like me! What caused it to happen? Where are they now? Surely the local House Sparrows haven't eaten them all. 

Diamond-back - very much second fiddle thus far

Running the garden trap is purely for my own entertainment. What I can't id, then so be it, I certainly won't be losing any sleep over such issues. Mothing is a wonderful aside to my other interests in the outdoors and the creatures which share my space. Keeping lists, counting individuals is absolutely fine, if it floats your boat. For me it is all about looking. Mothing's not my job or an obsession, just another manifestation of my curiosity for seeing what other life forms inhabit my world. That there are occasions when moths have travelled incredible distances to end up in the garden is further justification for me to keep tending the plants to enhance my chances of further events like those of this past week. 

An absolutely immaculate example of
The Delicate. Migrant or local origins? Who knows or cares?

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Closure, or just see you later?

 It was 2nd August 2016 that my Dad passed away, peacefully, in his sleep and so, as a direct consequence, meant that I (Dylan the long-haired twat) inherited "head of the family" status. Today, at 11.00 hrs, nine, of the ten, remaining "Wrafties" assembled at St Nicholas Church, in Ash, to finally get Dad's ashes interred. The Rev. Nigel Hale conducted a lovely, simple, service and we, as a family, are now able to draw a line under this part of our journey. Today would have been Dad's 96th birthday, so it was quite a special event. Because of Mum & Dad's devout christian values, Tim, Sye and I were completely happy to allow Nigel to conduct the service with the all religious content without any objections. Why had it taken us so long, nearly seven years, to get Dad's ashes buried next to Mum's? Laziness, logistics, covid-19 and any other excuse you can think of. All that really matters is that it's done now and we can move on, plus I don't have Dad's ashes stuffed under my side of the bed any longer.

Mum & Dad 
Inspirational founders of St. Faith's at Ash - they have certainly left a legacy to be proud of.

From the church we drove across to The Crown, at Finglesham, where the family enjoyed a fabulous few hours reminiscing and generally catching up. A superb meal was enjoyed and the whole experience proved to be one of thorough positivity. We talked about the wording for the plaques that will be placed within the St. Nicholas churchyard and also planned further meet ups to sort out a headstone for Dad's brother, Bill, and their Mum (Nanny Sue) & Dad (Granddad Will) at the cemetery in Ealing. Give it another seven years and we'll probably have got that done too! It's been a pretty good day, if you ask me!

Monday 12 June 2023

MV mayhem

The invasion of Thanet by hoards of Diamond-backs and Green Oak Tortrix (they're moths) continues apace and this morning I was greeted by sea of green as I switched off the trap at 05.00 hrs. Absolutely no chance of anything approaching an accurate count as there were hundreds on the outside of the trap which were disturbed by my presence. If I were pressed for an approximate number, then in excess of 1,000 would be my guestimate, but it could well have been twice that number? The local House Sparrows are having a field day as a direct result of these insects being attracted to the 125w MV light. The tortrix's out numbered the Diamond-backs at a ratio of 5:1 (approx) so they were also very plentiful. 

Bramble Shoot Moth

A good number of additions to the garden year list included the likes of White Satin Moth, Square-spot Rustic, Dark Arches and Small Dusky Wave. The micros were also well represented and my camera was called into action on a regular basis as I checked the egg trays. Seven Silver Y and three Pearly Underwing were the only other migrants, but I did manage another Lime Hawk-moth which is very pleasing.

Dark Neb

Running the garden moth trap is very much akin to "scamping" down at the local carp puddle. It is not something which I take particularly seriously. What I do, or don't, identify is of no concern to anyone else. The effort involved is purely for my own enjoyment and nothing more.

Sunday 11 June 2023

A Starling!

It certainly says something about my birding when a Starling takes centre stage. I'd spent the morning out on the flatlands, baiting a few spots and doing a bit of birding whilst on my wanderings. Really nice to bump into a few "old school" birding pals who were "twitching" a Ring-necked Duck! How very sad? I didn't, however, seek that American import but, instead, was very happy to espy three,  of four, Black-winged Stilts which were present at the location. Adult Mediterranean Gulls, Avocets, Hobby and Sedge Warblers vied for photographic rites, whilst Norfolk Hawkers, Hairy Dragonflies and umpteen other inverts provided constant distractions along the way.

With my chosen areas given a healthy supply of freebies, I slowly made my way back towards the van. It was a beautiful morning with a scorching sun beaming down, from a cloudless sky, but alleviated by a gentle easterly breeze. Life's very good on days like these! Almost back to the stables, where the van's parked, I spotted a very strange - looking Starling. Camera quickly called into action, I rattled off a series of shots in the hope that I'd be able to confirm my suspicions when I downloaded the images onto my laptop. 

All dark bill and complete lack of contrast between wing and body colouration, this is 
a Common Starling and not the exotic cousin I was hoping for.

Sadly my hunch was mis-guided, at best, and the bird involved nothing more than a leucistic, juv, Common Starling. Still it's these experiences which enhance the learning process, no matter how long you've been involved. Garden mothing has taken on another dimension over these past couple of nights. Green Oak Tortrix and Diamond-backs have occurred in ridiculous numbers. Three to four hundred of each on both nights. Plenty of other moths to provide diversity and garden year ticks, yet micros, geometers and Hawk-moths are conspicuous by their absence. The best moth, by a country mile, last night was a Red-necked Footman which ensured my day started on a natural high!

I photographed this moth using a white envelope as the background. In future I might try a
 blue/grey option to gain a better appreciation of the colours involved.

Friday 9 June 2023

Ready and waiting

 It wasn't until "lockdown" 2020 that I ever paid much attention to gardening, beyond cutting the grass and pulling weeds from the block paved, off road, parking area at the front of our bungalow. The realisation that a garden can be well presented, yet not a full time occupation, was a wonderful upside to the woes of the pandemic. I'm not, never will be, a gardener, know "jack shit" about plants and associated stuff, yet am still able to gain immense satisfaction from looking at the scene and appreciating it for what it is. Flowers are pleasing on the eye, even when you haven't a clue as to their id. So there, in a nutshell, you have my slant on gardening! 

Convolvulus Hawk-moth feeding on Nicotiana outside my study door.
This is why I now pay so much more attention to the plants in my garden

What I learned during 2020 was that it is far easier to maintain a garden, once established, as opposed to fighting it because of a lack of effort. 2023, and I'm in a rut. The only plants which needed attention were those which also attracted moths! Red Valerian, Nicotiana and Buddleia being all that mattered to me until we went up to Sheffield! Sitting in Jayne's back garden, engaged in the usual banter, made me realise how much I'd taken my foot off the gas. No hanging baskets, wall or patio planters, had been prepped and I knew that it was something that needed rectifying. I've lost count of the number of compliments caused by the display of colour which adorns the front of our bungalow, thus readily visible from the Vine Close pavement, during this past couple of years. Why had I not carried it on?

Now back from Sheffield, Bev and I took a drive across to Elham, yesterday, where the Vineyard Garden Centre (aka The Fifth Trust) offers plants, at fantastic prices compared to other Kent garden centres, due to their charity work involving adults with learning issues and other disabilities. Please feel free to click the link, it's in yellow, to discover more about the incredible work done by this superb initiative. Bev and I pushed the trolley around the garden centre, picking up whatever plants took our fancy as we passed. Petunias, Begonias, Fuchsias, Lobelias and so much more, were placed inside the wire basket, on wheels. The plants we purchased have been enough to fill four hanging baskets, three wall mounted planters and four patio planters for the princely sum of £43.55! You certainly won't match that at a Wyevale? Of course I know that June is very late to get this sort of stuff underway but, knowing how much negative influence has been applied by the constant low temperatures caused by the incessant NE winds, feel that it will still be worth the effort. Bottom line has to be "if you don't try - you'll never know?"

A day later and I feel much better about the 2023 gardening efforts. Indeed, having got the ball rolling I now find myself with un-used planters which will require a further visit to Elham in order to purchase even more plants. Funny old life, isn't it? Prior to lockdown, under no circumstances could I foresee a situation where gardening would feature, at all, in my priorities. Now retired, it is already part of the daily routine and a source of great satisfaction when things go to plan. 

The frustration caused by this current weather situation doesn't mean that I won't be ready and waiting when conditions change and insect migration becomes a possibility again. The food sources, and a 125w MV Robinson Moth Trap, await any moths arriving on Thanet from Europe or further afield? Quite how things pan out in 2023 is in the lap of the gods, hopefully with a bit of green fingered input I will be able to sway things in my favour?

I'm still buzzing about the Gold Swift which turned up. It's, apparently, the first Thanet record (although it ain't getting reported by me) so really quite weird given the current weather pattern. Dylan and gardening - who'd have thought it?