Who am I?

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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the 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!

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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Pushing the boundaries

I once heard it said "that you don't know your limits until you've passed them!" Having taken time to think about the sentiment I find myself in total agreement, the logic being both wise and profound. During my life I have been happy to "run with the pack" - my early years of specimen hunting were conducted in accordance with the form waters of the era. If big fish were being caught, I'd be there, or there abouts. Same can be said for birding and particularly my Kent listing. If something was going down - I was there, generally front of the queue! Both scenarios have provided many fond memories, of great times, associated with this type of group obsession. Indeed, much of the enjoyment came from a sense of belonging, being in the company of like-minded souls. I cannot, honestly, say anything against either form of involvement, my own experiences were a blast. So what's changed?
It shouldn't take the IQ of Einstein to arrive at the very obvious answer - ME! I suppose it is a normal consequence of getting old that I should no longer seek approval from my peers? Or is there another angle to this change of heart? Could it be that I 'm pushing myself to see what else is out there to be discovered/experienced beyond the accepted boundaries of being part of the crowd. A bit late, perhaps, but better late than never!
My angling still revolves around catching specimen sized fish but, and this is now very important, I have to do so in a manner that enhances the experience. It is no longer paramount that I catch the biggest, any decent fish will happily suffice if caught using the tackle and techniques with which I am most comfortable. I certainly have no intentions of returning to the lunacy of having to compete with other anglers as well as the fish we were targeting. I've been incredibly fortunate, during my life, to have caught some fantastic fish and, even today, my PB list is still very respectable in comparison to those of many modern anglers. So with that as my cushion, it becomes quite easy to go off at tangents with my angling projects. Night fishing for pike, catching eels in winter or chasing a 30 lbs carp in a canal, with a sixty year old stick - got to be done because I'm unaware of any other anglers having  done so in the past? This doesn't mean I'm unique, as surely, there will have been other guys, with similar outlooks, seeking ways of breaking from tradition whilst yearning fulfillment. What it does mean is that I'm no longer one of the gang. I'm labelled a loner, an outsider, a loser, a non-conformist (been there - got the "T-shirt"), by those who are comfortably ensconced within the ranks of these wonderful pastimes. Every individual is fully entitled to an opinion and, recognizing that, is one of the great benefits of the aging process. I have no requirement to get embroiled in debate, or justify my actions, with anyone. I will simply go where my heart takes me.
Likewise my birding has gone off on a very weird tangent. Looking back at the wonderful experiences I enjoyed, as an active member of the Kent birding scene, it seems inconceivable that I've lost enthusiasm for the hobby. When Bev and I first met, long before we were a couple, she only knew me as a birder (twitcher!). It was full on 24/7 Kent listing - fantastic, adrenaline inducing, total lunacy and, here's the crux, absolutely pointless in as much as it did nothing more than satisfy an ego!
Patch watching is a great antidote to twitching, it allows you to get excited about very common species because they take on a whole new dimension when the limited habitats of a small area are included in the equation. I knew something was very amiss when I stopped my regular Newland's Farm patrols. Gavin Haig uses the term "phasing" to explain the loss of enthusiasm; it seems to capture the vibe. Like my angling PB list, the birding lists that I have accrued would still be very enviable to the next generation. I don't require test tube swinging lab rats, or a committee of ex-school teachers (check out the CV's of your county bird club committee) to tell me what I have, and haven't, seen. I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions as to what is, or isn't, included on any list I wish to maintain. Once again I find myself on the outside - Oh the shame! To have refound a way to make birds a part of my outdoor time, has been an uplifting experience. Two woodcocks were the unlikely catalyst but, I have to admit, that watching that pair of Whooper Swans, flying over Iden Lock, had me grinning like an imbecile. Probably a good job I was alone?
I have to continue to live my life in accordance with the rules I use to govern my existence. Family will always be number one, in any situation, but my desire to stretch myself, beyond the comfortable, has a part to play as life moves on. Once that bloody carp has been caught, who knows where my next challenge will take me? One thing's for sure it won't involve following any crowd.







Monday, 15 January 2018

Simple pleasures

Already a fortnight into the new year and I'm happy to report that things are coming along nicely in my little world. The year list is already on 67 species, many very common birds still to be seen, but it does include a "twitched" Iceland Gull and a very jammy pair of Whooper Swans. I would hope that my new found enthusiasm will see a year total, well in excess, of 250 species, given that I've already got two holidays, Mallorca and Kefalonia, booked. There could still be a couple of fishing trips to Scotland and France, so who knows how I might fare?

Not the view I had of that overflying pair down at Iden Lock!
I'm not feeling great about the local pike fishing, although confident that I can catch fish, at will, in the local drains, The Stour remains a conundrum that I need to spend more time with. Present weather patterns have the river all over the place and I simply can't be arsed with all that eel aggro. Time for a change of tack? I might just have a little flirtation with some perch before, once again, setting my stall for "that carp" I so desire. I was down at the local club venue, yesterday afternoon/evening, and managed a couple of small perch for my effort. Good fun, but I feel like it's a fools mission, the perch that I seek simply do not exist in these club fisheries - despite the match anglers tales! Sandwich Coarse Fishery, a nice little commercial set-up, does hold the fish I desire and will probably be the venue of choice over the next few weeks.

Some proper collectors items on show here? But only if you know what you're looking at!
I've changed my reels from the Mitchell 300's to a pair of ABU Cardinal 44X's, which, although not contemporary with the split cane Mk IV's, are still nearly 50 years old! I paid 22s/6d (in 1970) for my first one, via a Littlewood's catalogue - at sixpence a week! They are still as solid as a rock and a joy to use. Most of my Tring tench were caught using these reels - never let me down. I'm not too sure if I would be happy using them after carp, but I do have the option to switch over to Cardinal 66X's, which are far more suited to the task, if I don't want to revert back to the Mitchells? I've got a bait cupboard full of pigeon tonic, chick peas, pork luncheon meat, Spam and curry sauce, a freezer stuffed with Mackerel, Sardines, Herrings and prawns. It doesn't matter in which direction my angling is headed, I'm already ahead of the game.

A B. James & Son 1959 Earls Court boat show edition, Dick Walker, Mk IV split cane carp rod,
 an 1970 ABU Cardinal 44X reel and a chunky little perch - 1 lb 2 oz

What else awaits in 2018? I'll cross those bridges when I get there.



Sunday, 14 January 2018

C-R Shag - update

I have just received an e-mail from Mark Newell with the details of the bird (Green/white LCJ) I'd discovered, and photographed, in Ramsgate Harbour on 6th January.



Dear Dylan
Many thanks for your report and sorry for the delay in replying, it appears to have been a busy period for shags dispersing judging by the number of emails.


Green/white LCJ was ringed (BTO 1492670) on the Isle of May, Fife (56° 10′ 48″ N, 2° 33′ 0″ W) on 12/06/17 as one of two chicks.  It was seen regularly on the isle until at least 21st October 2017 with no further reports until your sighting.


I always enjoy this type of correspondence as I feel that I've done something useful? The teams of ringers have done their bit and I'm now part of the story of this bird by reporting my sighting. Mark added further information about the dispersal of Shags from this project with this additional news.

Perhaps coincidentally we have received a number of reports of colour ringed shags to the south of their normal wintering area with a bird inland in Cambridgeshire and two birds in the Netherlands.  All have been first winter birds which does fit the general pattern.

Amazing what can be learned by the simple task of reporting c-r birds to their project coordinators. EURING provides the database for all European ringing schemes and, as such, is an invaluable resource. 

I'm off perch fishing now, so it might just be a two post day?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Favourites - revisited

Something incredibly humbling about all this blogging stuff. Out there in cyber space is the rambling jumble of thoughts that make up my archive of "Of Esox & Observations" posts; nearly nine hundred offerings on subjects many and varied. One of the most rewarding aspects of this activity is when what you write triggers others to pass comment on your work. Unless it's particularly odious and spiteful, I am happy to publish the thoughts of others, no matter how different to mine. All very healthy within a world of free speech. Every now and again something is posted which makes me realise just how mad this whole caper is - a comment about something I wrote three years ago, something I'd long forgotten I'd posted!


Such an event has happened today and I found myself delving back to a post of February 2015 in order to reacquaint myself with the writing, and photos, that had been the catalyst to the comment.
Wow, how much has changed in just three years? Favourite was written during the doldrums of some dreary weather and inspired by reading John Everard's Barbel chapter in "The Big Fish Scene". To re-visit the topic today has to have a very different slant. Is it possible to up-date the original, probably not? So here's my 2018 offering -warts "n" all! John's observation that "the favourite species was the one currently being pursued" is as relevant today as it was in 1979!

PIKE

Absolutely no way that I could claim anything less than this magnificent species to be number one on my angling agenda, however set? For more than forty years this apex predator has been part of why I go fishing. I can make no guess at how many of these superb creatures have graced my landing net, but it will be many thousands! Once upon a time big was beautiful, not so today, I just love the challenge and un-blinking stare of a pike on the bank. Man, I've been very lucky!



BARBEL

A bittersweet experience which I have to acknowledge as being successful despite, never once, feeling like I'd learned anything? For two seasons, on the Kentish Stour, these fish provided the most extreme test of my angling nous. I smashed my PB and caught some wondrous fish, yet can't derive the pleasure I should, because I don't know why I caught them ? To have experienced such trials has to place these fish right up there at the top of the pile! In the background is my apprenticeship under the guidance of Fred Crouch - surely I couldn't have been that unreceptive?  Did I really learn nothing whilst under Fred's guidance? I find it amazing that I have experienced such success without once feeling that I deserved it. I'm probably being hyper-critical, but barbel have such an important role, within my angling journey, that I feel I've let myself down somewhere along the line. I take great pleasure from the fact that Benno was part of this adventure and he also caught some magnificent fish. Maybe that was Fred's influence? It made me a very proud man to place the net under his PB barbel.

This is not Benno's PB - a Kentish Stour barbel all the same and, as such, very a special fish.

PERCH

What's to say? When I stopped speccy hunting, in 1993, fishing for perch was a waste of time. The UK population being decimated by some devastating disease and any perch, over a pound, being covered in sores and suffering extensive fin rot. To have the chance, not only to catch perch, but very big and healthy perch, is a revelation. I still await my first three - but I've witnessed a few and they are magnificent fish. At some time in the, not too distant, future I hope to spend a prolonged period targeting this species.



CATFISH (Wels)

In the year of "Our Lord" 2018, there are catfish in excess of 100 lbs swimming in the waters of UK fisheries. Not something I find particularly pleasing, but a fact of life in modern Britain. That I allowed myself to get swept up on a whim, by Luke and Benno, shows that these fish still have a place in my heart. I didn't catch one, but the boys did and I was there - special times!


EEL (Anguilla anguilla)

Never did I think that I would spend a moment, of my life, writing about the merits of eel fishing? Just goes to demonstrate never say never! That winter project of 2015/16 provided the challenge and, ultimate, reward which I have never previously experienced. Eels had (have) always been a pest. Learning of their "global demise" was trigger to that project and under-pinned the satisfaction at my successful conclusion. March 12th 2016 is a date which will remain etched in my soul - a job done!


TENCH

I'd be hard pressed to convince anyone that that this species played any part in my angling - yet the accidental capture of a single fish, whilst perch fishing, blew me away. Transported back in time to the banks of Wilstone Reservior; yet to see an ugly one!


CARP

How things have changed over three short years? The species which I hold totally responsible for the demise of freshwater angling, within the UK, but now find myself caught up in the most engrossing project. Was it the gift of a B James & Son Mk IV split cane Dick Walker carp rod, or the fact that I found that carp could be caught from wild venues away from the mainstream? Probably a combination of the two? I now find myself embarked on a mission to catch a thirty, using sixty year old sticks and I'm absolutely loving it. I've already caught more carp than I had when I spent  time in 1983/4 chasing the fish of Stanborough Lake, in Welwyn Garden City. Having the freedom to pursue my dreams at very intimate and un-fished venues, within the crowded SE is rewarding enough. When I finally achieve my target, and I will, carp will very firmly be established as my favourite species - for a short while.


To have been able to use my angling skills, as developed over a lifetime, to outwit such stunning creatures has been extremely fulfilling. That these same fish are magnificent to behold, like carved mahogany, ensures that I will never fail to be happy whenever I manage to put one on the bank. Having taken that amount of effort to catch, under no circumstances do these fish not deserve a visit to a weigh sling in order to be correctly recorded (for my own records!) Guesstimation has no part in my angling.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Harbour recollections

I'd been back down to Ramsgate Harbour, for a quick wander before lunch, on the look out for C-R gulls. Over the years, this site has been the most reliable place to encounter these bangle wearing individuals and I've found Norwegian ringed Great Black-backs, Finnish Black-heads,  Dutch Cormorants, Lesser Black-backs from Suffolk, as well as plenty of Herring Gulls from the North Thames Gull Group program plus others from the RSPCA Malydams wildlife rescue centre. I'm in no doubt that it's because Ramsgate remains a viable fishing port, which keeps the high turnover of birds visiting the facility purely due to feeding opportunities it offers. Unlike the venue I came to know when I first moved to Thanet in June 2000, Ramsgate Harbour is now a hugely busy complex due to the massive industrial development of the wind-farms out in The Thames Gateway,  plus the venue is also the base for the pilot boats which assist the safe passage of commercial shipping in and out of the Thames Estuary and London Docklands. Birds and people sharing a very busy environment has the effect that birds show a higher tolerance to human presence, thus tend to be more confiding than in usual situations - great for any camera/binocular wielding, ring reading, birder.

A Norwegian C-R Great Black-backed Gull
Over the past couple of decades I have been privileged to discover some fantastic birds within the boundaries of this working harbour. Obviously, not every bird comes with plastic ornaments, but is every bird a candidate for such jewelry laden study?




I would like to think that my memories are based upon good experiences, good times, when the encounters helped enhance the time I spent wandering around this semi-industrial environment.
I've seen divers, auks, multitude gulls and even a flock of seven Sooty Shearwaters whilst stood on the fabric which is Ramsgate Harbour. Looking back is on a very pleasurable period of my life. I don't keep a Ramsgate Harbour list, but know it would be quite impressive - Osprey, Shore Lark, Snow Bunting, Little Auk, Iceland, Caspian & Western Yellow - legged Gulls, Black Redstart, Scandinavian Rock Pipit, Arctic Tern (in December), Kingfisher and Moorhen all being "Harbour Ticks!" over the years.


It is a fantastic place to visit, Ramsgate making great efforts to shake the "kiss me quick" stigma of yesteryear! The harbour is now focal to the whole vibe of regeneration and optimism. Natural history continues to be part of this process and I will do my best to remain positive about the future as the harbour evolves to encompass the requirements of the businesses that use it and keep it viable.

1st winter Iceland Gull with a 1st winter Great Black-back - not a C-R in sight!
This morning in Ramsgate Harbour.



Saturday, 6 January 2018

C-R reporting and me

Bev and I are both struggling to shake some type of virus/bug thingy which has left us in pretty poor shape. There does seem to be a lot of it about, locally, as quite a few guys in the factory and girls in Bev's darts team have also been suffering with similar symptoms.  Like a true soldier, I've not missed a shift, but have to admit that's because I'm far happier doing something rather than, moping about, indoors, feeling sorry for myself! If I'm well enough to go to work, then I can get outside, however, fishing wasn't an option because I couldn't cope with extended exposure to the elements! Choosing to get down to Ramsgate Harbour, to year tick the Iceland Gull, was a deliberate decision by which to, best, utilize my free time. What I couldn't have known was that I would stumble upon a C-R (colour-ringed) gull which would add to the the newly rediscovered enthusiasm for birds and birding. It only took an e-mail exchange with Paul Roper (North Thames Gull Group) to re-open another avenue of birding involvement. Reporting the sightings of birds with coloured leg rings (bands if you're from The USA) via the cyber network is a very simple, yet scientifically sound, method of data gathering and it's fun! Over the past couple of decades, colour ringing schemes have risen to the forefront as a method of avian movement recording as they no longer require a recapture, or a corpse, for the ring details to be recorded.


The first recorded sighting of a Canadian C-R Turnstone in Kent - yep! that was me.
I've been reporting colour ringed birds since first becoming aware of this ringing development in 2003. Over the years I have been exceptionally fortunate to have discovered some fantastic birds, complete with their coloured plastic bracelets and, by reporting them, made a contribution to the database that is human understanding of our natural world - so a very one dimensional perspective.
After seeing that Herring Gull in Ramsgate Harbour I knew that there was another C-R Herring Gull present by the Fuji factory in Pyson's Road. I made the effort to get over to record the ring details and, much to the amusement of that section of factory "lowlifes" who require a nicotine fix to make it through an eight hour shift, did just that! G4FT (click the code) is another bird from the North Thames Gull Project.

Crop full of "Kingsmill" this bird has been present beyond the factory perimeter for a few weeks.
I'm going to stick with this birding side show. Some of these projects have turned up outstanding information about movements of species and, even more importantly, the speed and distances which they are able to travel in very short time periods. I have already posted the links for the Herring Gulls  and will do the same for any other birds I am able to discover. Recovered enough to get out this morning for a session at Iden Lock on The Royal Military, I was on my way before 05.00 hrs. Only because I'd traveled all that way did I bother to stay. It was utter chaos. The water in full flood, carrying loads of colour and associated debris, the icing on the cake provided by the bloody eels! I stubbornly stuck to my task until 09.15 hrs before admitting defeat and heading back homeward. It was not a total waste of time as I recorded two adult Whooper Swans high overhead, heading north, just as I was packing up - result! Now, with time on my side, I thought it might be a good idea to call in at the harbour to look for the Snow Buntings (bloody twitcher!). Nothing doing, didn't even see the Iceland Gull but didn't feel particularly bothered. I was on my way back to the car I stumbled upon a C-R Shag, which was fishing the small channel between the Marina and Outer Harbour. Very active, it required the camera to ensure I recorded the ring details. A quick search through EURING provided the link to the project co-ordinator and, as such, ring details submitted.



Mark Newell will hopefully provide the information associated with this particular individual and I will attach the link when I have received the relevant details. LCJ - (click code for details when they show yellow!)

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Harbour insurance

With Storm Eleanor battering this corner of Kent it seemed like a good idea to have a quick visit to Ramsgate Harbour in order to "tick" the Iceland Gull that remains faithful to the slipway. Sure enough, present and duly added to the fledgling 2018 list. What else could be found? Great Black-backed Gull, Fulmar, Turnstone, Great Crested Grebe and Redshank also made their way onto the tally which has now reached a lowly 52 species. There were Snow Buntings present but, I failed to see them, instead spending some time photographing a C-R Herring Gull.


One of the birds ringed as part of The North Thames Gull Project; LG5.T (click the code)  was behaving impeccably by the harbour office. Back home within the hour - job done!