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!


Sunday 31 March 2024

I wasn't expecting this

 Easter Sunday and "British Summertime" kicked in overnight, thus the body clock will be in disarray for a short while? I've just been outside to check the moth trap and have discovered a crazy butterfly on the egg boxes. A Speckled Wood, no less, my sixth butterfly species of 2024 had decided that a cool, clear night, with a gentle Easterly and temperatures down to 7C would be a good time to have a fly around. My earliest record of this species, without question. This type of encounter is exactly why running the garden MV trap is so much fun - you just never know what might turn up next?

Happy Easter!

Friday 29 March 2024

Looking ahead to retain focus

Under no circumstances do I have any desire to wish my life away yet, with the current situation, find myself making angling plans for April and beyond. I have absolutely no problem with getting the Easter break out of the way before returning to the waterside. My C&DAA membership is due for renewal at the end of the month and, having chatted with Benno, will get it sorted. It was at the March PAC gathering that Tom Lane, a proper good guy, asked if, after Pike season had ended," would I be Carp fishing again?"  A perfectly valid question from an angler who, despite his tender years, is far more accomplished in their pursuit than I. My negative response needed quickly amending, as there is no way I could possibly go through a, river, close season without casting a bait in their direction. So yes, I will do some Carp fishing, probably focussing on Victory Lake, at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, but my real hope is, after June 16th has dawned, to have a serious attempt for those Tench which I spotted in Black Dyke. A couple of other distractions might be provided by Perch and Eels, although no serious thought has been entered into as yet. Obviously, how Bev's medical situation develops will have a massive impact upon anything I am planning, thus the requirement to remain flexible will be fundamental over the next few months.

So at present, I am only thinking about what might be possible before June 16th and Carp will definitely be the species which will provide the challenge. Ten weeks, or thereabouts, should allow me plenty of opportunities to get to the bankside whenever the conditions are suitable. Day ticket Carp fisheries aren't my favourite venues yet, somehow, Sandwich Coarse Fishery suits my short session approach and has the stock which provides the realistic chance of a "thirty". Added to this is the relatively short distance from our front door ensures my ability to get back home, should Bev need me, within twenty minutes! 

My first "twenty" from Sandwich Coarse Fishery

I do have a "Plan B", in the locker, which can only come into play once we understand what direction the medical situation will take?  I haven't caught a Carp from the RMC since 2015 yet am well aware that small gang, of very talented guys, are catching some stunning fish from the canal. Not too sure that I will be able to give the venue proper attention, due to the distance involved and the resultant inability to conduct a pre-baiting program, yet it is a place which offers the "unknown" potential that I find so intriguing.

My best, split cane caught, Carp from the RMC (23 lbs 5 oz) 

Is ten weeks enough time for me to add another five "twenties" to my tally? I am currently re-reading Kevin Maddock's, 1981, "Carp Fever". Kevin and I never did see eye to eye, as he was a tunnel visioned technician, whilst enjoyment of the angling experience was far more important to me. We never Carp fished together, it was the advent of the Catfish Conservation Group which lead to our paths crossing. In my defence, I was young, vocal and very head strong. Kevin was up there to be shot at? Anyway, the target setting mentality used by Kevin, during those times, certainly now resonates with my angling journey in 2024. I'm now reading Carp Fever with a very different perspective on what Kevin had written all those years ago.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Not a lot happening

Bev and I had an appointment with the nurse at East Cliff Medical Centre, this morning, where she removed the dressing and was able to confirm that the healing process is going as well as could be hoped. Bev still has quite extensive bruising around the scar tissue, but this has to be expected at our time of life? No replacement dressing was applied, so that's a very positive sign of progress. When we returned home, after a detour to Copper's at Preston Garden Centre for a spot of brekkie, there was a letter from the surgeon confirming our follow up consultation on 26th April. At this meeting we will learn of what happens next, so we've got four weeks to get back into some form of normal routine. I have no intentions of picking up the rods again until after the Easter break has passed, so will continue to potter around in the garden when conditions allow. I managed to add Jay (No. 41) to my 2024 garden list, on Tuesday, when three birds flew south over the bungalow. Hedgehogs are nightly visitors to the feeding station, yet the mix of strong winds and rain has made it very difficult to get a decent chance for some photos. On the one occassion I did get the camera kit readied, the Hedgehog that turned up had a distinct preference for the Fox bowl over the normal fare on offer.

These same conditions are also playing a major role in keeping the moth activity to a minimum. This morning did, however, provide a nice surprise in the shape of two Esperia sulphurella (Sulphur Tubics) which are my earliest garden records by some margin.

Gale force winds are predicted for tomorrow, starting just after midnight, thus I won't be wasting effort, or electricity, running the trap tonight. However, in the run up to this next storm, there appears to be a window of opportunity allowing me to play around with the Hedgehog photography kit. Watch this space!

Sunday 24 March 2024

Brambling - day two

 Although it's nowhere as intense as that first, 2020, "lockdown" scenario, my garden listing has certainly become quite a feature of my everyday routine. The one thing which has impacted upon this activity is the camera kit that I now own. Image quality is completely off the scale when compared to my results with the Sigma 170-500 mm lens on a Canon EOS 400D. I was up before 06.45 hrs and, after the regulation coffee, took a wander around Newlands Farm in the search of Ring Ouzel or Wheatear. I failed dismally, the best I could do was a single male Blackcap, a Linnet and a couple of Skylarks! I'd topped up the garden feeders before I left and, on my return, was rewarded with a pair of Goldfinches on the sunflower hearts. This being quite a result, in 2024, just the second garden sighting of this species.

The second coffee of the morning was sitting beside my laptop, as I looked out of my study window towards the feeders. House Sparrow numbers are very buoyant, probably peaking around fifty individuals, whilst Chaffinches are also very numerous. It was whilst I was watching a group of five females that I became aware of the female Brambling in the same Buddleia bush (tree?) Pretty sure that it is the same individual as was present yesterday, I spent quite a while attempting to grab some better images of this bird in much improved light conditions.

Nothing much else occured during my time watching the feeding station. A pair of Greenfinches dropped in, but couldn't get onto the feeders due to a raucous gang of twelve Rose-ringed Parakeets dominating the scene. If anyone has ideas to prevent these, colourful, birds from using the feeders I would love to hear from you. Yes I know they are an alien species with no legal protection yet, my air rifle isn't an option in this situation. 

An absolutely beautiful little bird and most welcome at the feeding station

Saturday 23 March 2024

Garden exploits and encounters

 With Bev slowly starting to get over her operation I have found myself plenty to do pottering around in the garden. Hanging baskets, and the vast majority of my planters, will have to wait until after the Easter break before they get any form of attention. At the moment, the only three garden plants which I care about are my Buddleia trees, of which there are three, the Red Valerian and, of course, Nicotiana. Why? Because they are the three most attractive plants for moths, especially Hawk-moths, and therefore are an essential part of the garden flora. To be fair, the Buddleia and Valerian look after themselves, my task is to keep them in check. The Nicotiana require a little more effort in order to ensure that they are in fine fettle come the late Summer/early Autumn when moth migration tends to be at a peak. I have four planters specifically for these flowers, yet it is the one directly outside my study doorway which is of prime concern. Quite a few of last year's plants have successfully overwintered and are already showing signs of new growth but, just to ensure a plentiful supply of, heavily night-scented, nectar I have scattered a very liberal number of seeds to help boost the odds.

Red Kites - not in Aston Clinton

As I mentioned in the previous post if I'm in the garden my camera and binos will be close to hand. Today saw me add two more species to my tally which now stands at forty! With Spring raptor migration now well underway it was no great surprise to spot two Red Kites when the local Herring Gulls went into full frenzy mode. The female Brambling, at the feeding station, was a little more of a surprise as they are not quite annual garden visitors. 

Hedgehogs are nightly visitors to the feeding station, yet I haven't seen, or heard, a Fox in a good while. I will make an effort to grab some images of the "spiny critters" if the conditions allow. The moth trap hasn't been particularly busy, although an Agonopterix arenella (Brindled Flat-body) did require me to take a look at my Micro Moth field guide and visit Kent Moths to confirm the id.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

MV time?

 It's Bev's birthday, today, so what better way to celebrate such an occassion than with a visit to QEQM Hospital, Margate, for an operation? You couldn't make it up, but there you have it! We were parked up and inside the Day Surgery unit for 07.30 hrs where the highly committed team were on hand to provide the first class treatment for which our NHS is rightly famed. The team plied their magic and, after a spell in the recovery unit, we were back home before 13.30 hrs. We've now got to wait for three, or four, weeks before knowing what happens next. In the meantime, Bev and I are expected to be able to go about our normal routine with little disruption. There's absolutely no way that I'll be out on the bankside over the next couple of weeks, but there is much to fill the time whilst I await that next trip out with the rods. Garden planters need sorting, the lawn trimming and some jet-washing of the patio and off road parking area, just for starters! 

To be fair it all needs doing so, an enforced period of non-angling, is not time wasted. Because I will be in or around the bungalow there should be plenty of scope to improve upon my pitiful garden listing effort, thus far in 2024. Spring is upon us and with this comes heightened expectation of migrant species putting in an appearance. One thing is for sure, if I'm out in the garden my camera kit and binos will be close to hand should the gulls alert me to any raptors passing by. What this situation has also provided is the excuse to fire up the 125w MV moth trap again. Under no circumstances will my mothing be anything other than a dalliance with these wonderfully diverse insects. I don't keep lists, nor worry about those individuals which avoid specific id. No, it's just something I do for the sheer joy of "because I can" It's illuminating the garden, as I type this, for the first time this year. It will depend upon whatever else I have to blog about as to how many of my results will end up in cyberspace. It's my garden, they're my records and of no importance to anyone else - end of!

Sunday 17 March 2024

A surreal weekend

 With Bev's operation being imminent, I decided that we needed to get away for the weekend in order to avoid the situation of dwelling upon the impending medical procedures. A couple of phone calls, on Friday, ensured that we were able to do just that. First I spoke with my youngest brother, Sye, who along with his wife, Yve, were more than happy for us to visit them for the weekend. The second call was little more of a gamble. I rang Simon Walker, Dick's son, to see if we could meet up and take a look at the tribute display for his dad in the North Herts Museum, Hitchin. Unbelievably, this also resulted in arrangements being made which ensured it became a very special experience for us all. So Bev and I headed off, via the M2/M25, to Aston Clinton where Sye & Yve reside. This was our base for the weekend, although we didn't spent much time within the walls of their lovely home. We arrived just after 11.00 hrs, on Saturday, and between the usual banter, I managed to spend some time out in their garden grabbing a few shots of the local Red Kites. In Aston Clinton these majestic raptors are the equivalent to Rose-ringed Parakeets on Thanet; they're bloody everywhere! Light levels and generally gloomy conditions did nothing to assist my cause, yet I'm happy enough with what I managed to achieve. 

We get Parakeets - Sye & Yve have to poke up with Red Kites

The plan for the afternoon was for Bev & Yve to drive across to the garden centre in Tring for a coffee, cake and general perusing, whilst Sye & I headed to Hitchin where we were to rendezvous with Simon for a museum visit.  It was a good plan. The girls had a great time and were able to chat about stuff which I find quite difficult. Sye and me were to experience one of the most memorable afternoons of our lives? We drove to Simon's house, in Hitchin, where we were able to get parked without any issues, before being chauffeured to (and from) the museum by his lovely wife, Janet. I have to admit, here and now, that I've just had to get in contact with them again because I couldn't actually remember her name - much to my shame! Anyhow, we spent a very pleasant time in the museum, first viewing the tribute to Dick Walker which is absolutely bang on. A Hitchin lad and a local hero, although his influence obviously goes far beyond this parochial perspective. Sye and I were impressed by the display put on by the museum, and yet got just as much pleasure when, after looking at the posters and artifacts, we were able to sit down with Simon and just chat about what his father meant to him and us, over a coffee in the museum cafe area. 

The Heron Bite Alarm which set this whole series of events in motion - crazy!

Then, this morning, despite the drizzle Sye and I had a quick drive across to Wilstone Res. for a wander and a reminisce. It was all rather weird, not too much has changed, from a physical point. A bit of "health & safety" adjustments to the steps meant that they now have railings, but that was about it. We chatted about odd moments, as we passed various points along the concrete banks, yet both agreed that it could never be the same place, for us, to fish again because the characters of yesteryear are no longer part of the scene. Great memories of a stunning venue, yet the magic has faded with the passing of time.

The Wilstone Pier 17th March 2024 - it can never be the same without Alan Wilson's bivvy 
pitched on the end?

Wednesday 13 March 2024

My wish granted

 I was out on the flatlands, this morning, and had my two rods fishing just after 06.00 hrs. It was less than an hour later when the right hand alarm announced that a Pike had taken my bait. Not a particularly noteworthy scrap, but resulted in the "double" I had hoped for gracing the bank for a short while. At 16 lbs 15 oz it was a recapture of a fish which I'd caught in November, but that didn't reduce the pleasure of landing it today. 

A really nice looking Pike and yet another demonstration of the
benefits to be had from adding a polarizing filter to my camera kit.

Although I hung it out until after 10.30 hrs, that proved to be the only action of the morning. I'm not too sure where I'm headed tomorrow, for the final session of the Pike season, but know that even if I blank there can be no complaints about my 2023/24 catch returns.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

I should moan more often!

I'll start with the news that this morning's, pre-op, consultation meeting went very well and we came away reassured about the next stage in Bev's treatment. As we are not back for any more medical procedures before Monday 18th March, I will be able to get two more Pike sessions in before the season closes. With that out of the way, last night's PAC gathering was a very enjoyable event, with all the usual banter between the gang. I managed to exchange a few opinions about my own angling experiences and also give my view on the record status of that stupendous, 47 lbs 5 oz,  Pike which came out of Chew Valley in February. As my opinions have no impact upon those empowered to make such decisions, I won't bother mounting the soap box on this occassion. For me Tommy Morgan's fish, from Loch Lomond, still remains the one to beat.

So there I was, yesterday, moaning about how difficult my garden listing efforts had proven to be and what would you know? As I parked up on the drive, after returning from the PAC meeting, I was greeted by the sound of calling White-fronted Geese somewhere overhead in the darkness. A right result; not only a garden tick but also the first record for my Newlands Farm patch. Then, after getting back from our very expensive, post hospital, coffee morning (I wrote off a tyre on the way home which added another £58 to the bill) there was a male Blackcap on the fat-ball feeder. It made fairly regular visits, despite the constant rainfall, and I eventually managed to grab a few shots which are blog worthy.

Knowing that Pike fishing the RMC is a non-starter my options are rather restricted for these final two sessions. Black Dyke could see a further effort yet, I hanker after one more "double", the drain where my season got started seems to be edging the thought process at present. 

Monday 11 March 2024

Struggling on

 Is there no end to this cycle of abysmal weather? Friday/Saturday we were battered by gale force easterlies which provided some reasonable photo opportunities, down in Broadstairs, whilst I awaited the garage folk to change the front brake pads on my van. On the Saturday morning I endured a completely uneventful session out on the flatlands for the first time this season. Then, to add insult to injury, we had some more rain on Sunday, just to ensure the R. Stour and the RMC remain a filthy dirty, unfishable, mess. Happy days!

My garden bird list is proving to be a testing exercise, at present, Redwing, Song Thrush and, most annoyingly, Ring Ouzel have escaped 100% positive id. In those far off days, of youthful exuberance, I'd have probably ticked them off without a second thought. Certainly much older, although unsure if wisdom has been part of the process, I realise that such unimportant trivia doesn't have a place in my enjoyment of the wildlife encounters which come my way. I didn't get a positive id, so just move on.

With Bev's cancer treatment now imminent, I will be over at our PAC meeting, tonight, for the final time this Pike season. Some exchange of opinion about a couple of subjects would be very much appreciated, from my perspective, as I have several nagging doubts about my bait presentation choices since embarking upon the Black Dyke project. Second opinions are always welcome, especially from this bunch of extremely talented Pike anglers. The way things are panning out, it would seem that I will be out with the Pike rods on both Wednesday and Thursday, mornings, to see an end to the 2023/24 season. If I blank, there can be no complaints about how my campaign has gone. Nineteen "doubles" and two "twenties" providing yet more evidence that my decision to retire wasn't so bad after all? 

Wednesday 6 March 2024

The first Buzzards

Today's been a right "pick & mix" of events. I started off down on Black Dyke where, armed with a couple of split canes, I was on the hunt for a Tench. Crazy as it might seem, the recent sessions have provided me with ample evidence that there are some very sizable fish in this venue. This morning's effort wasn't able to confirm my suspicions, yet I didn't a blank as I managed to catch a very small "wild" Carp of a couple of pounds, or so. Packed up and on my way home, just after 10.00 hrs, Bev and I had a meeting with the cancer nurse booked for 14.00 hrs over at QEQM Hospital, Margate. With the sun beaming down from a lightly clouded sky, the local gulls were very agitated as the first signs of Common Buzzard movement began. I counted seven in little more than ninety minutes, four singles and a group of three, 

Quite high but, straight over the bungalow,
I clicked away merrily

I even managed to add a Raven to my 2024 garden list when one came through, heading south, before deciding it would be a good idea to irritate a Buzzard. Only when the two species are together can you appreciate just how big a Raven really is?

Our hospital appointment was a very good experience as we were given more details about the sequence of events which will take place over the coming months. Everything we heard was positive about a successful conclusion to the treatment, yet honest enough to include the possible side effects that some of the drugs/treatment might cause. I might only get one more Pike session in before the season closes but, under the current circumstances, it really doesn't matter a jot!

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Sad little seal

Thanks to the guys at our independant garage, in Broadstairs, both the van and our Mazda CX3 received their annual MOT certification today. My van requires a new set of front brake pads, as an advisory note from the process. It's booked in for Friday morning to have this sorted out. So another year's motoring is secured with our current vehicle choices. The sequence of events was to provide a window for me to take a slow stroll along the coastal path between Broadstairs and Dumpton Gap.My search for a "Scandinavian" Rock Pipit seems to be an exercise in pointless time wasting, yet not without reward? My walk back along the coastal footpath, between Broadstairs and Dumpton Gap provided the opportunity to grab a sequence of images of a "ringed" Rock Pipit, which I'd first seen in early December, and secure the BTO code.

I've sent the ring code to the BTO, via Euring?
I will update any info when I am able.
It seems that AI can deliver almost instantly? This bird was ringed in Broadstairs,
 on 30th October 2020, thus is a resident.

It was just as I arrived at the Dumpton Gap pathway that a guy informed me that there was a "baby" seal on the beach, if I wanted to get some images? The positive being that a Marine Animal Rescue guy was already present, I had a quick chat which was pretty informative. It was a Grey Seal pup. and would need to be tested for weight and body temperature before any decisions could be made?

A very poorly little seal.

Back out with the rods tomorrow, let's hope for a tight line! 

Sunday 3 March 2024

Coffee & Cake

 If ever Bev and I are at a loose end, then a drive around East Kent is a very nice way to waste away a few hours. Coffee and cake being the prefered option at the majority of destinations we head for. It doesn't matter if it's Copper's at the Preston Garden Centre, Poppies at Petham, the wonderful Fifth Trust Cafe at the Elham Valley Garden Centre, we enjoy them all. However, there is one place that is very dear to our hearts, where the view from the cafe is absolutely outstanding, and that is the "Battle of Britain Memorial Site" at Capel le Ferne, just outside Folkestone. This place is a superb tribute to those folk who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the UK remained free during those horrific times. There are many exhibits, both inside and out, where it is possible to spend a quiet minute just thinking about the horrors that these individuals must have witnessed and experienced during this savage period of our history. The Winston Churchill quote "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" is inscribed upon the wall as you drive into the site and resonates within as I wander around the site. It is a very special place and highly recommended if ever you're in the area.

You might have already worked out that we were there today, hence my reference, but that was just part of why I wanted to get down to this part of the county. Coffee and cake consumed, I had a wander around the area in order to grab a few images, whilst Bev remained in the cafe for coffee number two! It was an hour, or so, later that we were back in the van headed off towards the RMC. I wanted to see if there was any chance of casting a baited rig before the end of Pike season. The flooded fields, out across Romney Marsh, as viewed from the road leading down into West Hythe, told me all I needed to know. The reality being confirmed when we pulled up at Gigger's Green to survey the filthy water flowing under the bridge. I won't be back until next winter, I guess. 

With just ten more days of the current Pike season remaining, it would seem that Black Dyke is going to be where I am to conclude the efforts. One more "double" would be nice, something bigger would see this Pike season elevated to "very special status". I'm back out tomorrow, with a couple of ideas up my sleeve. Only time will tell if my thought processes are on the right track? The van and Bev's car are booked in for their MOT's on Tuesday, we have a hospital visit on Wednesday, time is rapidly passing and I will just have to fit in my Pike fishing whenever possible. 

Saturday 2 March 2024

We have a plan

Bev and I had our meeting with the surgeon and cancer nurse, at QEQM Hospital, Margate, yesterday. The outcome is that we now have an idea of what, and when, to expect the surgery and follow up treatment. What we didn't get, due to some uncertainty surrounding another patient's treatment, was an exact start date. All we know is that the earliest date will be 20th March, thus I now know that Pike fishing can continue right up to the 14th! We are going back, on 6th March, to have further discussion with the nurse, who will explain in more detail, what we will have to deal with as treatment progresses. Obviously, much of the timescale will depend upon how Bev reacts to, and copes with, the medical procedures involved. 

I went back down to Black Dyke, this morning, landing just one small "jack" for my efforts. The gale force winds, howling across the flatlands ensured I didn't stay much after 09.00 hrs. This followed a brief conversation with a lady, out walking a couple of magnificent Red Setters (almost certainly show dogs, judging by their prancing stance and gleaming russet coats). After exchanging the regulation "Good Morning" she said "you're brave". My reply went along the lines of "No; the word you should have used is "stupid". She laughed and agreed, all the persuasion I required to call it a day.

As I had said in an earlier post, I am going to keep a garden list whilst we deal with Bev's medical situation. I decided that it would start when we did the RSPB's "Big Garden Birdwatch" on January 28th. So far I have amassed a total of just thirty two species, yet have some glaring omissions which should easily be added once I finish the Pike season and set about getting the garden planters on the go and firing up the Robinson MV Moth Trap.for the first time this year. The feeding station is attracting good numbers of birds, with both Chaffinch and Greenfinch being daily visitors. Something quite interesting is the number of ringed birds turning up. Absolutely no way I can read these BTO-type metal objects, but would be interested to know if there is any ringing going on in the local area? The closest two ringing schemes, I am aware of, are at Sandwich Bay Obs and Reculver.