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!


Thursday 31 August 2023

Supermoon, moths and some birding

 Via the wonders of the internet I had watched the August Blue Supermoon rise above Delhi some fifteen (?) hours before it did so on Thanet. I'm fairly sure that there was some religious connotations involved in the Indian event, yet it was just a "full moon" here in the UK. Having kept a close eye on the weather, I knew that there would be a fair chance to obtain a few shots if the clouds stayed away. As it happens, it wasn't until gone 23.00 hrs that I finally managed to grab a few images.

It wasn't time wasted, however, as I had one eye on the Nicotiana flowers and managed to secure a few photos of the Convolvulus Hawk-moths which turned up for a feed. Because of the limitations of my equipment, the fastest shutter speed I could use was 1/400 th sec, but it certainly helped obtain the best shot thus far. 

Obviously there is the light from the MV moth trap to assist my efforts but, the real game changer, has been the acquisition of a Core work light. At full power it has 1,150 lumens available, but I choose to use it at half power (probably 600 lumens?) which still allows my camera/lens combo to auto focus on any subject I point at. I purchased the device to help with my nocturnal angling photography and, at £20, it is perfect for the task and £35 cheaper than a Ridge Monkey branded alternative! As it is not specifically designed for the angler, or photographer, there are no threaded points to attach it to a tripod or bankstick. An issue which is easily overcome with a bit of thought.

Not a photo I've taken, just a copy of a "Flea-bay" image
It might not be very "Carpie" but, who cares, it works a treat.

A few Silver Y's, Dark Swordgrass and Pearly Underwings add evidence of continued moth migration, yet it was a handful of residents which provided the bulk of my enjoyment when examining the egg trays this morning.

Orange Swift

Maple Prominent

Canary-shouldered Thorn

With a big tide, due around mid-day, at Pegwell Bay NNR. I took a drive down there to see what was about. I arrived around 10.30 hrs and already the water levels had risen to cover the bulk of the exposed mud. The Garage Pool held six Black-tailed Godwits, 70+ Redshank and a Common Sandpiper and, on arriving at my chosen viewing spot, just south of the public hide, I was able to add Kingfisher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Curlew, Sandwich & Common Tern without any real effort. Three self-found year ticks were obtained in the shape of Spoonbill (2), Little Tern and a imm/female Eider. Twenty-seven Little Egrets was the highest count I've ever made at the site but, is surely just a sign of the times, not a particularly noteworthy total. 

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Nicotiana action

For the past couple of evenings I've been outside, camera in hand, attempting to record flight images of the numerous Convolvulus Hawk-moths which come to feed on the Nicotiana flowers. Plenty of room for improvement, but I do seem to be headed in the right direction?

It is impossible to provide an accurate count of the number of individuals involved, although I have now had six potted up in the fridge since the first sighting. It is not unusual to have three feeding simultaneously on the two patio planters and, I assume, the same level of activity will also be happening out at the front of the bungalow where there's even more plants available. 

I've been playing around with various camera settings, yet feel that increased shutter speed has to be the next piece of the puzzle which needs addressing.

Monday 28 August 2023

Convolvulus time

With the first, garden, Convolvulus Hawk-moth, of 2023, turning up on Friday night it always seemed that this individual would be the start of something much bigger. I know that Sandwich Bay Obs have already recorded several examples of this stunning moth, yet also knew that Ian Roberts and his gang hadn't seen any within their Folkestone/Hythe patch. It can be no coincidence that Ian then reported the first Convolvulus on Saturday, followed by a second on Sunday! I didn't have any joy on Saturday night, yet Sunday was action stations all the while I was watching the garden. I netted one and potted a second, which was resting on a fence panel. There were several others spotted coming to feed on the Nicotiana plants on the patio right outside my study doorway, but they avoided capture. It wasn't until I checked the contents of the Robinson MV trap, early this afternoon, that I discovered a third on the egg trays within. 

One, of four, planters containing Nicotiana (Tobacco) plants.
Convolvulus Hawk-moth magnets!

The weather looks pretty settled, well into next week, so I remain hopeful that the total will rise with the passing of time. 

Plenty of other species to keep me entertained, or frustrated, by their presence. This year has certainly provided me with many situations where I'm completely out of my depth, yet the learning opportunities have been just as enjoyable because of this fact. Hopefully, I'll keep looking and learning?

Small Square-spot

The Old Lady

Saturday 26 August 2023

The camera does the talking

I spent a few hours, this morning, down at the "Carp Puddle" just to use up the particle mix which I had left over from the session earlier this week. Six fish fell to my simple tactics. Nothing to get excited about, yet still very enjoyable purely because a bent fishing rod is always better than a straight one, sitting on a pair of rod-rests. I'd got down to the venue, very early, shortly after turning off the moth trap. It had been a rather productive night, mainly thanks to the camera, which I'd been playing around with. 

The moon was just too good an opportunity to ignore. The EOS 70D, plus some Youtube tutorials, meant that my efforts were much better than anything I'd managed previously. As I already had the kit to hand, it was a no brainer when a Hedgehog turned up at the feeding station.

It was whilst I was watching the Hedgehog that I became aware of a large moth flying around the Nicotiana plants. Twice I grabbed the net and went into the garden only to discover the moth settled on a fence panel, illuminated by the MV light. The first Convolvulus Hawk-moth of 2023, it was quickly potted up to be photographed later. 

The final image was obtained whilst down at the "Carp Puddle"and might just be the first record of Willow Emerald within the Thanet boundaries? 

Friday 25 August 2023

Carp fishing - the current state of play

When, in the early 1990's, I told Eddie Turner that I was no longer prepared to use live baits for Pike fishing he did nothing more than offer the advice to "ensure your (dead) baits have an edge". What he meant was that, if I was to remain successful, I would have to do things differently from the other "chuck & chance" dead bait anglers. The advice was good and I've certainly continued to capture more than my fair share of decent Pike since taking that decision. So what has that got to do with Carp fishing? Well, when Carl & Alex were still on Youtube as a double act, there was an offering in which their Dad had said something along the lines of "If you do the same as everyone else why expect your results to be any different?" To top it off, their Dad isn't an angler, so it's a very astute observation by an outsider looking in. Two totally different situations, yet the same conclusions, and something I am constantly aware of. I had a 48 hrs session booked on Sandwich Coarse Fishery, Victory Lake and  therefore, used my "sun-downer" sessions to gain a feel for the venue. 

A pretty Mirror Carp of 15 lbs 12 oz

It's a very popular commercial, day-ticket, fishery frequented by anglers of varying experience and ability. Nothing I have witnessed surprises me, any more, due to the ridiculous amount of Youtube content being churned out by "celebrity" Carp anglers and their sponsors. Victory Lake is probably two acres; three at a push? There are folk chucking 4 oz leads with 3 1/2 lbs t/c rods and "Big Pit" reels - really? Bivvies the size of a Billy Smart's Circus bigtop and kilos of boilies which are introduced via catapult or spomb/spod at regular intervals (we're talking every hour!) Absolutely no point in me moaning, I pay the money and make my choices accordingly. 

A long, lean and very hard fighting Common Carp which tipped the scales at 17 lbs exactly!

Knowing that this is what these Carp are faced with, every day during the peak holiday season, it isn't too difficult to come up with an approach which differs significantly from the norm. My results have demonstrated, very clearly, that particles are worthy of further experiment.Thus far into 2023 I've landed a "double" in every month, with the actual total standing at thirty-six doubles & three twenties. My revised target of five "twenties" and fifty "doubles" doesn't seem so far out of reach now. By the end of August I will have a much clearer picture of the situation and also be able to gauge my chances of a successful conclusion, in the knowledge that a new Pike season is rapidly approaching. That said, my Pike fishing doesn't really kick in before the first frosts and, the way climate change is impacting the local seasons, might not be until after Christmas? So Carp fishing will remain at the forefront, of my endeavours, until such time as I, or the weather, decide otherwise.

My third twenty of the campaign. 22 lbs 6 oz of Mirror held by a bloke who
should know better. Look at the state of me, sleep deprivation and old age playing a key role.

Well, as the saying goes, "There's no fool, like an old fool" and sitting here at the laptop those words are resonating around in my head. Man I ache! Two nights under the Groundhog shelter have certainly taken a toll on my arthritic body. I hadn't done an extended session since Loch Awe in May 2019 and now know why. If I'm honest, forty-eight hours was too long for me. A simple overnighter would certainly be far more suited to my angling situation these days. Again, it's a lesson that I will use as I move forward and hopefully one that ensures I put maximum effort into the time spent at the waterside.

The angling I've experienced, thus far into the project, has been superbly enjoyable. I realise that my results are nowhere close to those of other, far more serious, Carp anglers. All I will say, in my defence, is that my evolution as a catcher of Carp is certainly headed in a positive direction. I did have to use a new photography technique which enabled me to use the autofocus facility on the EOS for my night shots. I will put together a seperate post explaining what I did to achieve this at a later date.

Saturday 19 August 2023

Storm Betty mothing

Under no circumstances did I think that the garden moth trap would produce anything exciting, given the fact that the forecast was "Storm Betty" Overnight thunderstorms with accompanying heavy rain and gusty winds. The only positive was the fact that temperatures would remain around 20 C, so not conducive for a good night's kip? I stayed up until 23.00 hrs, watching the Hedgehog activity around the feeding station, whilst noting that Jersey Tigers were very numerous around the MV light. The rain arrived just around mid-night and then the fireworks started some ninety minutes later. Between 02.00 -03.00 hrs, the rain was absolutely torrential yet had stopped well before 05.00 hrs. I turned off the trap at 05.45 hrs and was confronted by a scene of total mayhem. There were moths everywhere I looked on the outside of the trap, on the lawn and also the fence panels. A Beautiful Hook-tip was spotted, yet took flight as I went to grab a pot. I counted seventeen Jersey Tigers scattered around the area - just crazy! With the trap covered, I went back to bed hoping to get a couple of hours sleep - which I did!

When I got around to examining the contents of the trap it was amazing. Moths were present in huge numbers. Micros were conspicuous by their absence, yet macros had been very active during the storm conditions. There were a further twenty-six Jersey Tigers (making a total of forty-three), three Gypsy Moths, two Dark Crimson Underwings plus numerous Silver Y's, Dark Swordgrass, Straw Underwing and a lone Garden Tiger. Other odds and sods included a Bloxworth Snout, Olive-tree Pearl and a Fig-leaf Skeletonizer. Not got a clue as to the real number of moths attracted, as the activity of examining the various egg trays caused numerous individuals to escape scrutiny.

Fig-leaf Skeletonizer

Olive-tree Pearl

Bloxworth Snout

I can't recall another night when the garden moth trap has attracted this number of  individuals in these storm conditions. It just goes to show how little I know about these fascinating insects!

Straw Underwing

Wednesday 16 August 2023

A mad twenty minutes

 As part of my continuing attempts to obtain a decent image of a Bat sp. flying over/around our garden I have been setting up the moth trap, Fox and hedgehog feeding stations around 20.30 hrs. This ensures that I am able to have the camera kit, ready and waiting, as darkness approaches. The camera is mounted upon my tri-pod and focussed around 5m into a clear area behind our Budlehia and next door's Hawthorn bushes which provide a sheltered spot where the bats seem to favour. Well that's the theory. Last night they weren't playing ball. Four times the Magenta 5 Bat Detector alerted me to the approach of these nocturnal creatures and four times they flew straight past me and continued along the hedgerow, never to return! What did happen was even more strange than if I'd have managed to capture my trophy shot! Hedgehogs are doing well in the local area and it's not unusual to see six, or eight, in a single evening as they come to the feeding station and scavenge the lawn around the moth trap "fence". It was just 20.50 hrs and the first one came snuffling out of the undergrowth, completely oblivious to my presence. It actually wandered up to me and licked my foot, I was wearing flip-flops, before deciding that something wasn't right and moving off towards the neighbour's garden. Absolutely crazy, because not ten minutes later another, much smaller animal, walked through the legs of the tri-pod and did exactly the same thing? However, this individual was on a mission and made it's way across the lawn and over to the feeding bowl. By 21.10 hrs, I knew that my chance of a photo had passed, so started to pack the kit away when I became aware of a sizeable moth flying around the Nicotiana plants right outside my study doorway. Camera kit safely indoors, I grabbed my net and went outside to see if it was still present. It was, and certainly not the Hawk-moth sp. I'd expected. Quickly netted, it turned out to be another real good'un! A Dark Crimson Underwing, in pristine condition, was quickly potted up and placed in my fridge prior to getting my photos this morning!

Dark Crimson Underwing

Although my mothing is nowhere close to being serious, I am certainly getting some outstanding species in the garden this year. Surely that first Striped Hawk-moth can't be too far away? 

P.S. I'll be back outside, this evening, doing exactly what I'd done yesterday. If the Hedgehogs repeat their antics I will, hopefully, have a second camera handy and capture a record shot?

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Bath time

With my first coffee, of the morning, in hand I wandered into my study and opened the back door just in time to watch a Sparrowhawk land on the bird bath at the bottom of the garden. Coffee quickly placed on the desk, I grabbed my camera and pointed it at this most welcome visitor. The sun was shining brightly, illuminating the whole area very nicely. It was probably five minutes before it decided to head off along the gardens in search of breakfast.

The moth trap was very busy and I've got a couple of noctuids which are causing me a few id issues. I'm sure that I'll get there eventually? The highlight of the, egg tray, examination was the discovery of another new species of Knot-horn. 

Gorse Knot-horn - Pempelia genistella

Gorse is not a common species anywhere locally, the closest location I am aware of is Weatherlees, down near Pegwell Bay NNR and the Sandwich Bay golf courses across the River Stour. So this moth turning up in the garden does pose the question of migrant potential I guess? Whatever the reality of the situation, it is certainly a smart insect when seen up close.

Monday 14 August 2023

The August "double" - in the bag!

Under no circumstances will I ever be perceived as a "Carp angler"purely because I refuse to embrace the tunnel visioned obsession of the modern day, myopic, crew who really think that the only species worthy of capture is an introduced alien! What it won't do, however, is prevent me from enjoying the time spent in their pursuit. Carp are superb, sporting, fish which now grow to weights that are off the scale. In the 1980's a set of Avons were perfectly suited, they went up, in 1oz divisions, to 32 lbs! In 2023, scales need to be able to register weights in excess of 60 lbs to be included in the kit of the keen Carper. I own a set of "Flyweight Mk II" Ruben Heatons which will max out at 40 lbs. I can't foresee a situation where 40 lbs isn't well within the limits of my angling endeavours inside the East Kent area. To be fair, thus far into 2023, a set of scales which topped out at 15 lbs would have been more than enough for the majority of the Carp I've landed. Today I went back down to Sandwich Coarse Fishery for another "sun-downer" session. Within an hour of getting my baits in the water I had been beaten up by a very powerful fish which actually snapped my 12 lbs mono, by bolting through a lily-pad right under the rod tip! Less than an hour and twenty minutes later, the same rod was away again, and this time I was able to maintain the upper hand and eventually guide a superb Mirror, of 22 lbs 4 oz, into my landing net. 

The couple who are in the background actually watched me land this fish.
They are on holiday at the Sandwich Coarse Fishery site, having driven their caravan down from
darkest Rochester! 

The August "double" and there's still another fortnight to go before I have to worry about a September version. There's certainly plenty more opportunities to exploit before the calendar says otherwise.

Sunday 13 August 2023

Garden Willow Warblers

Autumn migration is now well underway and the rear hedgerow, which borders the Newlands Farm fields, is being used by a succession of Willow Warblers (& lesser numbers of Chiffchaffs) as they embark upon their southward journeys. For whatever reason, be that weather and/or light conditions, I have struggled to get any images of these neat little birds. When Bev and I were in Deal, a couple of days ago, I purchased a copy of the 3rd Edition Collins Bird Guide. I did so for no other reason than to keep abreast of what's the current state of play with various splits in several areas of bird id which have evolved over the past twenty years. I didn't think that I'd require any of this latest thinking, to separate Chiffchaff from Willow Warbler, yet must admit to being very impressed by the detail of the illustrations, in this latest version, that aid the field id of these two species.

Primary projection?
Willow Warbler at the top, Chiffchaff on the bottom

My 2nd Edition is a hardback copy which I purchased as soon as it was published, had never been opened since placing it onto my bookshelf , until last year. I got images of a Cory's Shearwater from a yacht off the coast of Kefalonia which, after conversation with Andy L. transpired to be a Scopoli's and, as such, a lifer! A species which isn't mentioned in the 1st edition as it hadn't then been split. My original paperback copy, 1st edition, remains my first choice of field guide whenever we travel abroad, purely because it is so dog-eared that further wear and tear won't make any significant difference to it's condition. The information contained, within the tatty covers, remains perfectly applicable in 99% of situations I'm likely to encounter on my holiday jaunts. Anything which requires further research to clinch an id can wait until we get back home.

Having got today's supermarket visit done and dusted, well before 11.30 hrs, I had plenty of time to play around with the camera kit out in the garden. The steady stream of high clouds, drifting across the skies, didn't make conditions particularly brilliant for getting images of the garden visitors but, the camera being far more talented than the long-haired clown holding it, some reasonable shots were obtained.

All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable session, standing out there in the back garden. A couple of Common Buzzards drifted south but that was about the sum of it. 

Friday 11 August 2023

Mixed bag - take two

 Autumn is getting closer by the day and the birds around the garden and Newlands Farm, beyond, are certainly pointing towards this inevitable passage of time. Over the past week I've seen Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and good numbers of Willow Warblers in the garden and yesterday managed to pick out a juv Yellow-legged Gull which was anting over the farmland. Weird thing was that I saw another one, this afternoon, on the beach at Deal where Bev & I had gone for a wander and a bite to eat. It seems crazy that they were only split from Herring Gulls twenty-odd years back. I usually get my fix of these smart gulls when I'm holidaying around the Mediterranean, but it does prove the worth of using these experiences to hone your id skills when the opportunity presents itself.

A "Med Head" - something I picked up from the gull watching crew at
Brogborough Lake, Bedfordshire.
Even before they were officially split, these hard-core Laridophiles had got it sorted.

I've not seen a Swift since August 1st, and a couple of Swallows passed over the garden, heading very deliberately southward yesterday whilst on Monday the first Grey Wagtail of the "autumn"? flew in a similar direction along the Vine Close gardens. 

So there I was, seeing a bunch of Willow Warblers dipping into the birdbath and thought that
it would be silly not to grab the camera and give it a bash. First bird which popped
up was a bloody Chiffchaff - the first of the autumn for the garden!

Mothing continues to provide first class entertainment and learning opportunities aplenty. Gavin Haig commented on my previous post, mentioning the fun provided by micro moth id challenges. All I can say is that I get more splinters, from scratching my head, than laughs! It is a slow process, that's for sure, but none the less rewarding because of the effort involved. Bottom line is no-one dies if you make a complete pig's ear of an id, so keep pushing the boundaries and see where it takes you.

Pebble Prominent

Gypsy Moth - proper moths these two. No head scratching over miniscule detail which
just might provide the clinching id feature. 

The Knot-horn gang are definitely becoming my favourite family of micros, just because they are at the top end, size wise, of this group. Last night provided a couple more which were new for the garden? The New Pine Knot-horn was massive and, as such, fairly straight forward to get id'd. The Marbled Knot-horn is less clear cut and I am very happy to be corrected if my conclusion is erroneous ? I haven't received any comments but now feel sure that the moth is actually a Grey Knot-horn and have amended the post accordingly.

New Pine Knot-horn - Dioryctria sylvestrella

Grey Knot-horn - Acrobasis advenella

The final moth is very much clutching at straws. It is a very well marked Tortrix, yet doesn't fit, exactly, any of the illustrations in my Micro Moth Field Guide. I've settled on Spruce-bud Moth but am perfectly happy to be corrected. Once again my fellow Blogger Stewart Sexton has come to my rescue. The correct id is Vagrant Piercer, an increasing regular migrant species here in East Kent

Vagrant Piercer - Cydia amplana

Nine Jersey Tigers, yet only a single Elephant Hawk-moth last night. The seasons are a changing and that isn't up for debate?

Wednesday 9 August 2023

They're back

 It was a couple of weeks back when I dropped my pair of Duncan Kay Carp rods off, at Camo's, in order for Mark Plank to pick them up and give them an overhaul and new cork handles. Today I made the same journey in order to see the fruits of this exercise. Wow! What a magnificent job Mark has done. 

The original advert in the 1984 "Carp Catcher Book"
My choice being the very top of the list. 1lb 10oz t/c - why?

I'll start at the beginning, cos it's always the best place. Ian Crawley, then proprietor, of Leslie's of Luton (St. Alban's branch) built me a pair of these rods way back in summer 1983. I think it would be true to say that they've remained the mainstay of my rod choice ever since? I used them for Tench at Wilstone, Catfish at Claydon/Tiddenfoot, Zander in Fenland and Carp at Stanborough. Nothing to say which could be negative about these iconic rods in any of the scenarios.

Pike fishing out on the flatlands - 2011/12

A Duncan Kay in action at Stanborough - Sept 1983

Complete with "Duplon" handles and Shimano "Carbomatic GT 4000" reels on the 
banks of Wilstone Res. circa 1985

However, in 2023, they were certainly looking a bit battle weary and Mark has the skill-set to give them a bit of TLC.  Cork handles were always going to be the priority but! When Ian "Creepy" Crawley had built them for me, way back in 1983, the Fuji reel fittings had been upside down? Mark was unable to get original Fuji versions, so had to use "The Tacklebox" alternatives as replacements. The only, obvious, difference being that these new reel fittings are made, entirely, of black plastic, none of the steel/aluminium of the originals.

Brand new cork handles but with "Tackle Box" 
reel fittings because the Fuji option is no longer available.

I'm really looking forward to getting back on the bank and putting these wonderful rods through their paces. I actually own three of these rods due, entirely, to my brother Simon, giving me one of his pair, which were built at the same time as mine, because he'd broken the other one. The only time I ever use three rods is when I'm Pike fishing, so it isn't too sad that that the three Duncan Kay's aren't identical.  Duncan remains an iconic personality who was pivotal in the development of modern Carp angling. That photo of "The High Twenty" summarises everything he stood for during my "big fish" apprenticeship period. 

One of the most iconic images of the era.
Characters like Duncan Kay don't come round that often - he is an absolute legend

I do wonder how many of todays Carp anglers actually know who Duncan Kay was? Even more, I wonder how many of these rods are still in existence?