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 31 May 2024

Unparalleled levels of customer service

 It was just before midday when I took delivery of my latest acquisition from Les Shaw's superb Classic Vintage Fishing Tackle business. Today it was a pair of aluminium spools (modern copies, not original items) for my ABU Cardinal 44X's which I'm going to use for the upcoming Tench project. Just as with my previous experience, Les has been an absolute star with  his helpful advice, via email exchanges, and genuine desire to deliver premium customer service. 

It all started when I was looking for some replacement spools for my ABU Cardinal 55's. Les was able to provide me with two aluminium replicas, which are very slightly heavier than the "plastic" originals, yet of such high quality as to be far superior. At the time, I'd also enquired about replacement spools for the 44X's, only to be told that what he had at the time, might be a tight fit for older versions of these reels? Such honesty is so refreshing in a time when chasing the dollar rules the waking hours of so many individuals. 

However, with the new "traditional" season fast approaching and a desire to get back into the spirit of those, long passed, Tring times I dearly wanted to get the Cardinal 44X's out of the cupboard and back onto the bank. So it was an email exchange with Les which convinced me that what he was offering would be perfectly suited to my task and the transaction was confirmed. I had to visit Benno, as part of this process, as he has a Paypal account so was able to do the computer stuff on my behalf. Yes I did give him the money! What followed was extremely surprising, yet was just another demonstration of Les's commitment to his customers. I received an email saying that my spools had been packed and were being delivered by the Post Office via their parcel tracking system. Les provided me with all the relevant details and "Bingo" the parcel arrived twelve minutes earlier than the Post Office had predicted!

The quality of engineering and finish on these spools is, quite simply, off the scale in comparison to most modern tackle. When I purchased these reels, around 1970 whilst still at school, they cost me 22/6d each (that's twenty-two shillings and sixpence in old money or one pound, twelve and a half pence in modern parlance) and I got them via a Littlewoods catalogue which allowed me to pay a shilling a week! Those were the days - eh? 

I would like to make it very clear that I have no affiliation with Les, nor his business, and this post is purely to highlight the incredible service provided and not because I receive any special treatment.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Simple enjoyment

I didn't feel too sparkling yesterday evening so didn't bother running the MV moth trap overnight. It might have been an error of judgement but I'll never know. Feeling so much better this morning I spent quite a while in the garden, pottering around with some planters, whilst keeping an eye on the avian activity around the feeding station as I did so. Obviously the binos and camera kit were close to hand and I played around in an attempt at obtaining some images which might be worthy of posting on the blog?

Goldfinch at the bird bath

The local breeding male Blackbird complete with, very obvious,
grey secondaries and tertials on the left wing (only!)

I'd told Bev that I was going down to Pegwell Bay NNR, in the afternoon, to watch the incoming tide which was due to peak at 16.25 hrs. I left our bungalow at 14.00 hrs and was scanning the rapidly disappearing mud, out in the bay, before 14.30 hrs. Just as well really as, before 15.30 hrs, it was completely under water and because of this was back indoors before high tide actually took place. Nothing exciting to report. Two summer plumage Dunlin, five Ringed Plovers, a Whimbrel which called a couple of times yet, for the life of me, I failed to set eyes upon. A pair of Shelduck, with eleven ducklings in tow, was a nice surprise but I have to admit that it wasn't as productive as I'd hoped. The session was saved by a very confiding Little Egret, feeding in the Garage Pool, which posed beautifully in the bright conditions. 

Just after 17.00 hrs I had to drive across to Benno's gaff in order to purchase a couple of new aluminium spools for my ancient ABU Cardinal 44X's. It was purely because Benno has a Paypal account, nothing else. These new spools, which are for use in the up coming Tench project, are from Les Shaw's superb  business and will certainly feature in  a blog post very shortly because of the incredible level of customer service Les provides.

P.S. The MV trap is on tonight!

Tuesday 28 May 2024

Dumpton odds & sods

 I've not been up to much recently due, in part, to Bev's ongoing medical situation and grand-parenting duties. Therefore I am very grateful that our bungalow is situated in such a good location for wildlife encounters. The first broods of Starlings, Blackbirds and Robins are now becoming more independent and seen frequently around our back garden. 

The moth trap continues to provide me with plenty of id conundrums, particularly with the micro species, yet is a very enjoyable way of starting my day as I examine the visitors to the egg trays. I've now managed to capture four Hawk-moths which have been four different species. I adore these insects purely because they demand attention and are a great way of persuading the local neighbours to lay off the use of garden pesticides. 

My first Fig-leaf Skeletonizer, of 2024, showed up on the outside of the MV trap, this morning, although there are no signs of leaf mines on the Fig Tree which overhangs my garden from Mike & Leslie's next door?

The only other sighting, of any note, was that of an adult Red Kite in full breeding plumage drifting over the Elham to Barham road as I drove home this afternoon. At this time of year the usually encountered Red Kites are, migrating 2cy(?) birds, in very heavy wing moult.

Saturday 25 May 2024

Minster Marshes

Early this morning, I took a very leisurely stroll around the marsh between Minster SF and the railway line following the footpath besides the River Stour. Certainly not the most prolific of outings, yet there was still plenty of interest as I meandered along the route. Birds, for the most part, were conspicuous by their absence but there was still a few bits to point the binos/camera at. A Little Owl was perched on the gate post of the pumping station, but flew off into the SF before I could raise the camera. Two Cattle Egrets were feeding amongst the cows over on the Ash Levels, where two Common Buzzards were perched on telegraph poles. It was a couple of Little Egrets, on my side of the river, that allowed me to play around with long lens with some rather pleasing results.

This combination wasn't quite so well suited when I started to get images of some of the invertebrates which I encountered on my wanderings. Very much a case of "horses for courses", so I am still happy enough to use them for blogging purposes. A dedicated macro set-up would obviously capture far superior images.

The first subject was a nice surprise, in the form of a Mother Shipton (moth) which I disturbed from the long grass beside the footpath. After this encounter I actually started to seek other insects and an assortment of damselflies provided the subjects for me to point the lens at.

(Not a) Common Blue Damselfly - female
Please see Marc Heath's comment for an explanation of the id errors.

Banded Demoiselle - male 

Banded Demoiselle - female 

Azure Damselfly - male

I think that my id's are correct but, will happily be corrected by those with better knowledge about such creatures. Half term next week, so I won't be casting a bait into Sandwich Coarse Fishery because of the number of other folk who will be on the bank. A trip down to the RMC might be possible, but I will have to wait and see.

Thursday 23 May 2024

Planning ahead

With just over three weeks before the start of a new, "traditional", season I'm already thinking about my Tench project which will be the main focus of the angling efforts between June 16th and the start of my next Pike angling foray. What this means is that, if I'm to be successful in my close season Carp campaign, I need to land four "twenties" in what little time remains. Not beyond possibility, yet probably a step too far under the current circumstances? Still, it's always worth trying, as opposed to admitting defeat and not casting a bait into the water. 

Not my PB but, at 8 lbs 6 oz, it was my first proper Tench from Wilstone during
that period when the venue dominated UK Tench fishing

As  yet I have no weight target for this Tench campaign, I'll just be happy to catch a few. However, given this as a starting point, I am aware of rumours suggesting that there are some very large specimens swimming around in the two venues I'm going to concentrate my efforts upon. A new PB would be something I'd love to achieve yet will, realistically, be more than happy if I can tempt a seven pounder. I've not caught a Tench of this size since 1993 whilst still a member of the Tring.syndicate. I think that the best aspect of this next chapter will be the very simple fact that there will be no competition from other anglers? Obviously, I don't have any unique access advantage, so accept that other folk will also visit these venues during the summer period. What I am fairly confident of, however, is that they will be Carp anglers and, therefore, not a major problem to overcome?

I have formulated a few ideas about my baiting strategy and will see where it leads me as the project evolves. It's going to be very close range fishing and I'm very tempted to use my ABU Cardinal 44's for the very reason that they were the reels I originally used on Tring back in 1981. They didn't let me down then, so am confident that they'll perform perfectly when required. Failing that I have a pair of Cardinal 55's which are also well suited to the task albeit slightly bulkier in design. My good friend, Gareth Craddock, has offered the following advice, having already conducted a campaign of his own out on the flatlands. "Rake, bait and wait" is the summary of his thoughts and certainly something I will take into account as my own adventure unfolds. 

One, of over one hundred, 7lbs plus Tench I landed from the Tring complex between
June 1981 and March 1993

I would really love to begin the campaign as I had done at Wilstone Res. Tring way back in 1981. Bread/maggot cocktails and worms being the starting gambit, during those halcyon days, so why not give it a go in 2024?  Swim feeders and a bait dropper will feature highly in my bait application purely because it has worked for me in the past. It will be a very similar journey to that of the Stour Barbel caper, which was so ultimately rewarding, of 2013/14. What I can't guarantee is that I won't get distracted from the quest by other species such as Perch or Eels. What won't happen, however, is my deliberately targeting the Carp because of accidental encounters. I've had my fun with them and now seek fresh challenges to further my angling experience. 

My PB Bream, of 11 lbs 2 oz, taken way back in September 1992

There are a couple of other species which I'd love to deliberately target, at some point in the future, they being Roach and Bream. I think that the last time I deliberately went Roach fishing was on Startops Res, Tring, during that ridiculously hot summer of 1976. My only "double figure" Bream (two) came from Brogborough GP, Beds, in 1992 and were probably the most difficult targets I managed to achieve during that part of my angling adventure?

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Split cane mayhem

 I actually managed to grab a short, four and a half hours, session down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery this morning. I'd decided that it was about time the 1959 B. James & Son, Dick Walker Mk IV's got an outing so, fitted with my ABU Cardinal 66X's, off I went in search of enjoyment. That I was spoilt would probably be a massive understatement - it was total carnage. My baited rigs were in the fishery by 07.30 hrs and it only took an hour before the right hand set-up saw some action.

The rod is sixty-five years old, the reel is almost new being just forty-nine.
It might well be "Old School" but the enjoyment level is off any scale I've experienced.

Although the rod might have been built sixty-five years ago as a one and a half pound test curve, compound taper, Carp tamer. The truth is that in 2024, they have all the backbone of a stick of liquorice, and yet still retain that ability to cope with the lunges of any Carp I am likely to encounter on my waters of choice. That fish provided an adrenaline rush, and some, before being drawn over the net chord. A Mirror of 25 lbs 8 oz, absolutely brilliant and the largest fish I've managed to capture using the rod that my family gave me as a 60th birthday present. 

I know that it's a silly hat, but there you go, it's on my head not yours!

The rain then started to fall and, with it, I had another two bites (on the same rod) before 09.30 hrs. The first was a Common of 10 lbs 1 oz, then another Mirror of 14 lbs 12 oz. It was surreal, as the rain intensified, the fish simply switched off and I spent the next two and a half hours, under the brolly, looking out over a completely bleak scene. That's why angling is such a wonderful hobby. There's no way that a human brain will ever be able to tune in to that of a fish, thus we just have to enjoy the successes when they happen and attempt to gain a little insight into fish behaviour. Whether this knowledge is transferable between fisheries, is up for discussion, but any learning experience has to be utilized  within that bigger picture. Just for the record, for anyone interested? My last five bites at this fishery have all fallen to Chick Peas, my 15mm Wafters and Pop-ups have not registered a murmur during this same period.

Saturday 18 May 2024

Worth a walk

 I headed across to Worth Marshes RSPB reserve, on Friday morning, and certainly enjoyed my time wandering around this site. I suppose that bumping into Neil and Andrew, who were also on the reserve, was a real bonus as we chatted about the local birding scene and some of the recent sightings that they'd discovered within the SBBOT recording area. Whilst Andrew and I were quite happy chatting about cameras and their role as recording devices, Neil and I, as is expected, just talked "bollocks!" for the most part. Lots of birds to keep us entertained, as we slowly made our way around the area. 

I actually managed to add another three species to my year list in the shape of Greenshank, Little Ringed Plover and "limosa" Black-tailed Godwit(s) - all thirty three of them. There are already a good number of young Lapwings on the various flooded fields and they will soon be joined by Avocets, as there are several, incubating, pairs present on the reserve. 

Andrew did say that he thought it would be a decent morning for raptors, although I only spotted three Common Buzzards and a couple of, resident, Marsh Harriers whilst on site. After I'd left, true to form, they had a Honey Buzzard fly north. I also managed to spot my first Small Heath and Wall Brown butterflies of 2024 as I walked back towards the van and actually added Painted Lady later in the day when I spotted one in a garden along Vine Close as I was walking up to the local shop. Back at the van, a lone Stock Dove was drinking from a pool in the car parking area, so it was a case of point and press for a token image.

Just to finish up the post, the second Hawk-moth of the year was discovered on the egg trays as I examined the contents this morning. With the exception of a few Silver Y's, there is still little evidence of insect migration at present. Given the gradual improvement in the weather I am hopeful that this will change very soon, but in the meantime, will happily settle for encounters with stunning creatures like this Eyed Hawk-moth today.

Tuesday 14 May 2024

A Grove Ferry/Stodmarsh NNR circuit

The weather in East Kent, today, has been abysmal. Grey skies and intermittent light rain being the sum of it. Bev had a luncheon engagement arranged with one of her best mates, thus, despite the conditions, I decided that a lap of the Stodmarsh NNR would be worth a bash. I parked in the Grove Ferry gateway, just after 10.00 hrs, and spent the next three hours taking a very leisurely stroll around the reserve. Being well aware that two Purple Herons were present, I deliberately avoided going anywhere close to the Reedbed Hide and by doing so encountered just five other people during my time wandering the reserve.

Great Crested Grebe from the Marsh Hide

It was a very productive session, for me, as I added another four species to my year list whilst at Stodmarsh, then a fifth after a short drive across to Trenley Park Wood. To kick it all off, I heard four different "booming" Bitterns whilst on my stroll, yet have been reliably informed that there are actually five males holding territory at the site. My next addition was a singing male Garden Warbler which, despite allowing great binocular views, wasn't prepared to pose for the camera.

Adult male Marsh Harrier from the David Feast Hide at Grove

A small gang of Common Terns were active around the nest raft out on the main lake and I managed to finally tick off Bearded Tit just as I made my way back towards the Grove Ferry ramp. Good numbers of Marsh Harriers and Hobbies were present, with at least six Cuckoos seen/heard around the area. I was very surprised by the number of Little Egrets feeding around the Ox-bow area, there being no fewer than sixteen individuals present, possibly more?  I have to admit to being slightly disappointed  by the lack of Turtle Dove, Garganey and Nightingale encounters around my circuit but can certainly use this as an excuse to get back soon for another bash. Nightingale didn't avoid my efforts today, as the drive up to Trenley Park Wood was to provide me with several singing males right next to the parking spot.

Monday 13 May 2024

The first Hawk-moth of 2024

As I'd eluded to, in the previous post, garden moth trapping has certainly been a struggle, thus far, in 2024. Last night it all changed and this morning's inspection of the egg trays was to see a massive improvement in the numbers of moths attracted overnight.  Nothing to get excited about, in terms of rarity, but still very enjoyable as I examined the contents this morning. Pride of place went to the Lime Hawk-moth, but there were plenty of back up species to be enjoyed. 

Absolutely pristine

Conditions for tonight look excellent, if the BBC weather forecast is to be believed? I just need to ensure that I get the trap switched off before 05.00 hrs because of the predicted "monsoon" I have to admit that mothing, just like birding, isn't particularly important in my world, yet I know that I'm far happier to look and be amused, than not bother at all.

Figure of Eighty - common as muck, yet still nice to get up close and personal.

Sunday 12 May 2024

Out and about

 As I'd mentioned, in an earlier post, the desire to learn more about what my camera kit is capable of has ensured that I've attempted to get outside whenever the opportunity presents itself. Serious birding isn't what it's about, I just want to discover what image quality can be obtained by utilizing some of the tips, tricks and handy hints, that are provided by YouTube offerings. I am still keeping a year list, despite knowing that it will struggle to pass 150 if Bev and I are unable to go abroad for a holiday this year. 

Still I am very happy, about this situation, because my angling targets are of much higher priority at this point in time. On Saturday morning I took a drive across to the flatlands to have a look at a couple of drains where I am planning to spend time in pursuit of Tench. So it was a very simple decision to continue my morning's wanderings by taking a look at the RSPB Worth Marshes Res. I probably messed up an in flight sighting of Purple Heron, but due to the angle of the sun and extreme distance involved, couldn't be 100% confident with my id. A couple of Hobby were the only addition to my list, but Grey Plover (7), Little Egret (5), Ringed Plover (40+), a Whimbrel plus umpteen Lapwing, Avocet and assorted wildfowl made it a very pleasant excursion.

This morning saw me take a stroll out on Minster Marshes. This is possibly the first visit for nearly ten years? All I can say is that things have certainly changed a lot and, as with Stonelees LNR, the presence of Nightingale and Turtle Dove is nothing but a memory within the sewage farm complex. I took a stroll along the bank of The Stour, towards the site of the old Richborough Power Station and was very impressed by the habitat which has been allowed to develop within the flood plain. It was, however, across the river, out on the Ash Levels that the most interesting birds were seen. Three Cattle Egrets were feeding alongside a herd of "Red Poll (?)" cattle along with a few Yellow Wagtails which were another year tick for me. Then it just got a bit surreal as I spotted a Common Crane flying along the distant power lines, headed toward the old Pfizer site and then heading north towards Pegwell Bay. It was so far away as to be impossible to get an image, yet the binos were perfectly capable of allowing me to be confident of this identification.

A pair of Ravens have taken up residence in the old Peregrine nest box and a female Marsh Harrier was watched hunting over the Minster Marshes as I started to make my way back towards the van. Then to give me one final chance to point the camera, an adult Grey Heron flew past me, in the superb light, so I couldn't help myself - point and press!!!

Garden mothing has been an absolute struggle. I don't think that I've managed double figures on more than three nights since deciding to switch it on. Surely things will only get better as overnight temps start to improve as May heads towards June?

Toadflax Brocade

A Cranbid sp. - Common Grey being my best guess!

Friday 10 May 2024

Whitethroats save the day

I was late switching off the garden moth trap so decided that, after the obligatory coffee fix, I would take a stroll around Pegwell Bay armed with the binos and camera kit, rather than get back into bed. With the sun shining brightly from a, virtually, cloudless sky it was certainly a very pleasant way to waste away a couple of hours.. If I'm brutally honest, birding was a real struggle with summer migrants very obvious by their abscence. The one species which did buck this trend was Common Whitethroat, of which there were many seen along my walk.

A pair of Cuckoos were present on arrival, but a guy was using a mechanical mower to keep the various footpaths clear, and they spooked because of the activity. A few Reed Warblers were chuntering away in the reedbeds along the coastal path, yet only one Sedge Warbler was heard singing near the Stonelees LNR gateway. A few Chiffchaff and Blackcap were also encountered, but that was very much the sum total of my passerine encounters. A couple of Whimbrel were calling out on the exposed mud in the bay and a pair of local Carrion Crows gave a Common Buzzard a hard time as it flew over the salt-marsh from the Sandwich Bay side of the estuary.

The most unexpected sighting of my foray was a good number of Green Hairstreak, butterflies, which were present in Stonelees LNR, as I made my way towards the seal viewing point. Not a single hirundine, or Swift, nor any terns were noted. As for Nightingales and Turtle Doves? Those days are long gone it would appear.

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Can garden birding get much better?

My choice of title is due to a crazy fifteen minutes I've just experienced, pointing the long lens through the conservatory windows. A male Ring Ouzel has been hopping around the lawn, searching for food, allowing me some amazing views as well as photographic opportunities.

Yesterday afternoon saw me capture some shots of another unusual bird, actually perched on our neighbours roof as opposed to flying over. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull posed beatifully in the late afternoon sunshine. Quite possibly a local breeding bird which has been displaced by the work being undertaken on the Bookers roof over at Pyson's Road Industrial Estate?

It's now fast approaching 17.30 hrs and returned from a Tesco foray, sorted out the school run and other nonsense, have had some more time to go through the Ring Ouzel images (all 154 of them) which I obtained this morning. So, as an update, here are another three photos just to add to the blogging output.

The cable, laying on the lawn in the middle image, is my power supply
for the garden moth trap.