Who am I?
- Dylan Wrathall
- 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!
Monday 25 September 2023
Friday 22 September 2023
In a couple of days Bev and I are headed off to Corfu for a, well earned, break. Our holiday requirements are the same today, as they've always been. Bev needs a pool, a good book and sunshine, whilst I desire little more than some countryside to explore. Bev's number one accessory is factor 30 sun cream, all I want is my binoculars and camera kit, plus a tube of "After Bite" in case of getting bitten, or stung, by the invertebrate hoards which inhabit the Greek islands. Holidays are now the only time, in any given year, when birding becomes my central interest and I really enjoy myself because of this fact. I see what I see and have no chance of being "gripped off" because the simple reality that there are no other folk looking. I am at leisure to do things my way and those species I don't encounter can't be an issue.
|Short-toed Eagle |
I was all alone on a track in Kefalonia when this magnificent bird flew over my position.
It's the scenario which I now crave. Me, the birds and see what happens.
We're going back to Agios Gordios, a place we first visited in 2004 (?) and somewhere I have enjoyed some incredible birding experiences over the years. We last visited in June 2022, when we spent a week at The Irene Apartments. We're going back again, this time for a fortnight, and our bungalow will be providing a base for my nephew, Jake, and his partner, Jodie. They're both golf mad and are looking forward to having a stroll, interrupted by golf balls, around some of the courses local to Thanet. They don't like beaches and marriage is for "old farts" apparently? "So, Uncle Dyl, don't bother asking"
|The two Scarce Bordered Straws from last night's catch|
Tonight will be the last time I run the moth trap, until our return, and it will be rather strange not needing to creep out of bed, in order to switch off the light and store the trap, in the half-light of pre-dawn whilst we're away. The weather is certainly on the turn and this morning's catch probably didn't exceed one hundred moths in total. However, included in the mix were two Scarce Bordered Straws, two Clancy's Rustic, single Delicate, Pearly Underwing and Convolvulus Hawk-moth (No. 24). So not too shabby under the circumstances.
|Convolvulus Hawk-moth - No. 24 of autumn 2023|
I am hopeful that, via the use of Bev's I-pad, my blog will be up-dated every day whilst we're away, much as I'd managed in May out in Pefkohori. What won't be possible, purely due to my technological incompetence, is the provision of images to accompany these holiday offerings. Still, it is because of this inability on my part that, my blogging about the holiday will extend well into October, all things being equal?
Wednesday 20 September 2023
It wasn't until nearly 13.00hrs that I became aware of a window of opportunity that had presented itself to me. All of a sudden I wasn't required to do the school run and, with Bev out to lunch with her mate Christine, it was to good to ignore. I grabbed the rods and associated kit, loaded the van and headed over to Sandwich Coarse Fishery. A quick lap of Victory Lake, then an equally brief conversation with Kev, and I was on my way to the swim in the NE corner where the 45+ mph winds were absolutely piling into. Twelve sections of the "Bushwhacker" baiting pole proved to be quite a challenge under the conditions, yet with a bit of effort my rigs were positioned and it was less than fifteen minutes later when the left-hander was away. A lively, if rather predictable, scrap ensued before a lovely little Mirror of 10 lbs 8 oz was in the net . A quick photo session and the fish was returned before replacing my rig in the same spot.
Just over half an hour later, the same rod was in action again and this time it was clearly a far better fish. It was nearly ten minutes later when I drew my prize over the draw chord and the fish was mine. At 21 lbs 12 oz, it represents my fifth "twenty" of the campaign and, as such, that particular target achieved. I thought it had battled in the water, it certainly did its' best to beat me up whilst on the unhooking mat. I am very glad that my self-take technology is able to deal with these situations and I managed to secure a few decent images out of the thirty obtained.
At this point I decided to fish with just one rod, feeling sure that the right-hand set-up was actually detrimental to my cause. The rig back in position, it was nearly ninety minutes later when it rattled off again. This time is was a crazy battle with a "cricket bat" Common which refused to give up. Fortunately, once landed, this fish, of 11 lbs 2 oz, was far more cooperative and photographed then quickly returned with the minimum of fuss.
With the clouds thickening and the wind showing no signs of abating, it wasn't a difficult decision to call it a day. I called in to give Kev an up-date before heading homeward, very pleased with the result of this impromptu session.
Tuesday 19 September 2023
After the excitement of Friday/Saturday, last week, it is really no great surprise that it's all gone a little flat in the aftermath. I got back down to Sandwich Coarse Fishery, on Sunday afternoon, and blanked for only the second time in over six weeks. Likewise, the moth trap hasn't been particularly productive, but then again I have set a very high bar!
|My grand-daughter Emily with my 23rd Convolvulus Hawk-moth of the autumn.|
I have no idea how many of these fabulous moths have actually visited my garden, but do
know that the hedgehogs have taken at least another three!
There has been some superb, recent, blogging by Steve Gale, Gavin Haig and Ian Roberts pertaining to their own mothing exploits and I would recommend that anyone who hasn't seen these guys offerings do so via the links (just click the highlighted name - it will take you straight to the relevant blog). Steve and Gavin have been cyber buddies for many years now, whilst Ian and I do bump into each other on odd occasions when I'm fishing down on the Royal Military Canal. Either way, we share a broad spectrum of similar views about our involvement with the natural world which surrounds us. It is no surprise, therefore, that I am able to draw great inspiration from the writings of these guys.
|You know that Autumn is here when the Sallow clan turn up.|
Top - Orange Sallow, Middle - Centre-barred Sallow, Bottom - Barred Sallow
It is quite incredible how our mothing highlights occur at similar periods, thus quite obviously weather related, whilst the species involved remain a very weird mish-mash dependent entirely on geographical location and associated habitat. Gavin is the new kid on the block, in a moth sense, and his enthusiasm is infectious. His ability to use the written word to convey the sheer adrenaline rush of an exciting discovery is something which I, sadly, cannot replicate. Steve is the senior partner in the mix and his last two posts have resonated within my own experience with incredible accuracy. His well documented moth journey places him in a position where his opinions are based upon experience and, therefore, should be given the utmost respect. Because Ian's blog offerings are a compilation of records received from various sources, within a large catchment area, I simply use the info to get a heads up on what might be turning up around Thanet, if I haven't already recorded one? The other positive from my contacts with Ian is that I have a handy second opinion/confirmation of any moth id's that are causing me problems.
|Olive-tree Pearl - only a handful of records this year, so very welcome.|
There was a time when it really mattered what I saw and keeping accurate data was a key part of my involvement. Today? It doesn't matter a toss. I am happy to look and be entertained, not obsessed, by the creatures attracted by the 125w MV light. As individuals we all have the ability to choose the path which best suits our outlook mine, is now, very much that of the casual observer.
Saturday 16 September 2023
Every day is different and this certainly applies to the running of a garden moth trap. Each morning, you have absolutely no idea what might have been drawn to the light whilst you've been tucked up in bed. Here, in Dumpton, I have been getting a decent number of moth species which to moth-ers, situated in other parts of the UK, are considered rarities. The Box Tree Moth is one example, and I read that Dungeness Obs had trapped one! My best count, this year, is four hundred and three!! Likewise, The Delicate, Clancy's Rustic and Convolvulus Hawk-moths have been regular visitors which are now almost expected, if that makes any sense? Well last night it all changed. Sure I still had the mass numbers of Box Tree Moths and their associates yet two moths were trapped which stand head and shoulders above the other species. Dewick's Plusia is always a nice moth to discover and today's specimen, number three for 2023, was a very pleasant surprise.
|A Dewick's Plusia in all its' glory|
As nice as this discovery was, nothing could have prepared me for what I found on the very next egg tray. It was one of those "can someone pinch me, I must be dreaming" moments as I set eyes upon my very first Clifden Nonpareil. I've never seen one in the flesh previously, although have jealously drawled over images posted by fellow bloggers who've enjoyed the experience in the past. Now it was my turn and I don't think that anything I write will ever come close to describing how I felt at that moment.
|As I saw it when first turning that particular egg tray - WTF?|
I quickly grabbed a couple of egg tray shots before grabbing a pot and securing my prize. In the fridge it went, for a few minutes, whilst I finished checking the rest of the egg trays. Having no desire to mess it up, into the conservatory I went, camera and moth in attendance. After a couple of escape attempts, I managed to convince the moth to stay put on my cardboard sheet in order to get that image which everyone wants. The one where that magnificent blue-banded underwing is displayed.
It is now back in the fridge, awaiting release later this evening. No doubt I will be showing it to a few of my neighbours, because that's what I do whenever I get something unusual. Garden mothing, can you beat it?
Friday 15 September 2023
It had been exactly a fortnight since I last placed a baited rig in a fishery so I was determined to get out, this afternoon, no matter what the weather was doing. As it turns out, it was a lovely Autumn day with bright sunshine and a light Easterly breeze. An Easterly isn't my favourite wind direction but, I won't catch anything sat indoors, so off I went across to see Kevin at Sandwich Coarse Fishery. I did a quick lap of Victory Lake, there being a few lads on, yet plenty of empty swims for me to choose from.
|My swim, today, being directly opposite the one I'd fished on 1st Sept.|
The Lily-pad being thirteen sections of the "Bushwhacker" from this side of the venue.
A chat with Kev confirmed my swim choice and, having paid my ticket money, off I went to get the kit set-up. Same old routine with my baited rigs being positioned via the use of my Nash "Bushwhacker" baiting pole. The only bite came just ninety minutes into the session and resulted in a lovely Mirror Carp of 24 lbs 4 oz gracing the landing net.
I did experience some "occurrences" on the indicators after this capture but, feel sure that they were caused by a fish trailing line, not missed bites? Well pleased with this latest capture, I happily packed up and was on my way home by 18.30 hrs - job done!
Monday 11 September 2023
I do, sometimes, find myself wondering how many of my blog visitors remember when the majority of content posted revolved around my angling exploits? So how is it that recent posts have been so heavily orientated towards the moths that I'm encountering in my back garden? The answer is not particularly complicated, because of my inclusion of "observations" in the blog title. The weather has been ridiculously warm, with clear skies and high pressure dominating the scene. Hardly conducive to good angling conditions, unless surface fishing is involved. The fact that I got my September "double" done and dusted on the 1st ensured that there was no pressure to get out on the bank if conditions weren't particularly favourable - so I haven't! With the forecasters predicting a major shift, starting on Tuesday, in the weather patterns, I may well get the rods back in the van and head out for some further exploits. In the mean time, the Hedgehogs and moths provide the bulk of my wildlife fixes. Not too sure what's happened to Autumn migration for the birds, but they remain conspicuous by their absence.
Moths have been seen on a completely different level, they are attracted to the 125w MV light in their hoards. Obvious signs in the changing seasons have been provided by the occurrence of typical Autumn species like Centre-barred and Orange Sallows, Feathered Ranunculus and Black Rustic. One, less than annual, moth was particularly welcome when spotted this morning, a Bulrush Wainscot. Migrants remain rather thin on the ground. I counted six Clancy's Rustic, 3 Delicates, 1 Dark Sword-grass, 2 Silver Y's, a Convolvulus Hawk-moth and seven Rusty-dot Pearls, this morning, but they all paled into insignificance when I discovered an absolutely pristine example of Golden Twin-spot - get in!
As good as this moth is, as a garden record, the best was yet to come. I was examining the third to last egg tray and discovered the first garden record of Hoary Footman. This is a moth which Francis Solly had been so enthused by the numbers now being recorded at Sandwich Bay Obs. I'd seen that Sean Clancy had taken a couple at Saltwood, yesterday, via the superb Folkestone Birds website, so was aware they were now distributed further afield in East Kent. I didn't, however, expect to catch one the very next night!
|Hoary Footman - new for the garden|
Running a garden moth trap is an amazing source of entertainment but, it is not a particularly serious hobby, thus my records revolve around what I find interesting and nothing further. What I can't id, doesn't cause a second of lost sleep and that I choose not to publicise some of my captures has more to do with a desire to remain outside of a hobby where pinning and dissecting specimens remains an accepted part of conservation?
Sunday 10 September 2023
First it was that bat sp. which enticed me into the garden, after dusk, and subsequently the influx of Convolvulus Hawk-moths has had a similar effect. My camera skills have certainly been pushed beyond anything I'd previously attempted and I must add that if it were not for the wealth of advice and handy hints posted by experienced photographers on Youtube, I'd still be struggling. Well, a couple of nights ago, whilst awaiting the, non-appearance of, said Hawk-moths I watched a small Hedgehog do a lap of the wire netting that I use as a protective barrier for the moth trap. Obviously the Hedgehogs still get quite a few moths which end up on the lawn outside of this area, yet I am happy that the vast majority of moths attracted are drawn within the protected zone. By laying down on the lawn I was able to get in position to intercept it as it came snuffling into view.
Obviously, as a first attempt, it wasn't brilliant yet it did set me thinking about further efforts which might be possible with a bit of pre-planning. Last night, having got the feeding dish and the water bowl in position I made sure that the light from the MV bulb would assist my cause and got out onto the lawn in anticipation of the arrival of the spiny, moth snaffling, hoard. I didn't have to wait long for the first customer and quickly grabbed the first image of the night. I have to state that these animals are so confident when in the garden that they have little concern about my presence, thus allow very close approach.
With the first opportunity taken, I laid down on the lawn some six feet away from the feeding station and awaited the next visitor. I could hear my neighbour, Chris, getting very excited about the England vs Argentina rugby match so know that it wasn't very late when the same individual as I'd photographed the previous evening arrived and set about devouring the Baker's Meaty Meals & Tesco Kitten Biscuits which I provide as food. Because it is a dry offering, just as with the garden birds, provision of water is also a vital part of the routine.
I haven't seen a Convolvulus Hawk-moth around the Nicotiana plants for several evenings now, although have had two in the trap over this past couple of nights. Maybe the plants are getting past their peak attractiveness, or simply that the moths are no longer present in the numbers they had been previously. All the while the weather remains favourable I will continue to keep the camera kit handy in an attempt to record the after dark activity around our tiny sub-urban garden. Not always successful, yet certainly good fun trying out new camera techniques without any great effort involved.
Friday 8 September 2023
So yesterday I was bemoaning the garden mothing situation and now I'm absolutely buzzing! What's happened to cause such a drastic change of mood? About 8mm of micro moth, if you really wish to know the answer. Discovered on the second to last egg tray, this morning, I was almost certain I knew what it was the second I clapped eyes upon it. I had seen a photo, which I was sure had been posted on the Sandwich Bay Obs website, yet I haven't been able to find it again so it may have been somewhere else?. Any how, the camera was quickly in action as I sought to grab a few images to assist my id task when I got back indoors. I got shots of both sides of the insect which, when viewed, appear to show two different individuals. They are, however, the same moth just seen in different lighting situations.
The species was new to science when first discovered, in London, in 2003 and wasn't given a scientific name until 2007. Prays peregrina - aka The London Ermel is now on my garden list and has to be one of the rarest moths I've ever enticed into the Robinson Trap.
It seems crazy that such a tiny creature can create such emotion yet, I know that I wouldn't want it any other way. Simple encounters enjoyed by a very simple soul.
Thursday 7 September 2023
Down here, on the Isle of Thanet, it is absolutely "scorchio" with daytime temps in the mid 20's C and remaining well into the mid-teens overnight. The prevailing wind direction is from the East, or South-east, thus coming straight in off the European mainland. Absolutely bang on for moth migration, or so I thought? The reality has been rather disappointing if I'm honest. Sure there have been reasonable numbers of the expected culprits, yet not the slightest hint of anything more exciting. I've not seen, let alone trapped, a Convolvulus Hawk-moth these past two nights, so all very strange?
The odd Silver Y is discovered alongside a sparce selection of Small Mottled Willow (2), Dark Sword-grass, Pearly Underwing and Rusty-dot Pearls. Not one record of The Vestal, in 2023, and the Bordered Straw gang are conspicuous by their absence. What's going on? Ridiculous numbers of the resident species are typified by regular three figure counts of Setaceous Hebrew Character, Common Wainscot and Box Tree Moths. Other nice discoveries have included multiple Large Thorns, Beautiful Hook-tip, Sharp-angled Peacock and a, stunning, Lilac Beauty.
|Lilac Beauty - how I wish I'd spent a little more time attempting to record a decent image.|
The only exceptions to the lack of immigrant species have been provided by Clancy's Rustic and The Delicate. Seven Clancy's and thirteen Delicates being the best counts over these past three nights. Obviously, with the weather being as it is, there is no knowing what might turn up such is the fun of running a garden moth trap.
|The Delicate - a moth which was such a part of my|
journey into the after-dark art.
Daylight hours are proving to be equally unproductive, with just a handful of Common Buzzards providing any interest. However, as I was examining the contents of the Robinson Trap, this morning, a Grey Plover called several times as it moved south over the Newlands Farm patch. Just to finish off, the lack of moth activity hasn't meant that I've had nothing to point the camera at during the hours of darkness. A young Fox has started to come to the feeding station, although very timid at present, the Hedgehogs are absolutely fearless and always put on a show.
|And there I was thinking that Hedgehogs actually ate slugs?|
Monday 4 September 2023
What a palaver it's been this weekend. The christening we attended was in the beautiful Holy Trinity church in Thorpe Hesley, which is at junction 35 of the M1. We stayed overnight, on Saturday, in the Travelodge at Meadowhall (junction 34) and that's where the fun started. On Friday evening we'd attempted to book a room but the Travelodge website just kept sending us round in circles so, in the end, we decided to just drive up there and book a room when we arrived. Simple, you would think? Not a bit of it.
|A really nice, fresh, example of Convolvulus Hawk-moth|
We left the bags in the car whilst we went into reception, to see if we could get a room, only to be told that we had to do it online! You what? Two girls on the desk were unable to do anything more than provide us with a telephone number to the central booking office. So we stood in the reception area, talking to a guy in an office somewhere else, whilst the girls studied their screen so as to confirm our booking once the telephone antics had been completed. And we call this progress? You couldn't make it up. The christening and the celebrations afterwards were a wonderful experience. Plenty of laughter and catching up with friends and faces who we've not seen for a while. We said our good-byes and were back on the road, south, just around 15.00 hrs. I was expecting another nightmare journey, as we'd experienced on our way up, but it was plain sailing and we arrived back home little more than four hours later. Brilliant, I was able to get the moth trap out and water the plants before it got dark.
|Short-cloaked Moth which, according to UKmoths,|
flies in June & July?
Checking the egg trays, this morning, was quite rewarding. Three more Convolvulus Hawk-moths added to the tally plus a very late example of Short-cloaked Moth. The highlight, however, wasn't a moth. A Western Conifer Seed Bug was potted up from the outside of the perspex dome. It is a very irregular visitor to the garden, so most welcomed as I rattled off a few shots for the record.
|Western Conifer Seed Bug|
Not too sure when I'll next be out with the rods but, if the weather forecasts are correct, the conditions look absolutely spot on for moth migration over the next few nights. Watch this space.
Friday 1 September 2023
The way things are panning out September might just prove to be a hectic month for Bev and I. We've got a christening to attend on Sunday and it looks like Corfu might be on the agenda before the month's end? Knowing that the grand-kids are back at school next week, thus making considerable inroads into my free-time, I decided that today would be a good choice to seek out my September "double".
|My swim for this afternoon. That Lily pad is just seven sections of|
The Bushwhacker out into the pond, so a no brainer for one rod.
As it turned out, my prize was on the unhooking mat within forty-five minutes of getting my rig in the swim! I remained on the bank for a further five hours and missed the only other chance. Not to worry, it's another step closer to completing my challenge.
|17 lbs 6 oz of day ticket Mirror - job done!|
September's mothing got off to a decent start with two Convolvulus and a surprise Poplar Hawk-moth on the egg trays this morning.