Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Young Ones - Cliff Richard

There had been a promise of overnight rain, which came to naught, but the sky was overcast as I headed for Radipole at 06-00. On the way there were c2 Goldcrest singing in the Melcombe Regis Cemetery, with only a few dozen Swifts of note at the reserve. On the walk to Lodmoor, I noted the House Martins were still feeding young beneath the eves of the flat-lets with the now usual chorus of screeching Common Terns as I entered the Moor.

Not sure about this, could it be Self Heal?

Shelduck and brood.

Common Tern colony, almost covered in young birds.

On both islands there were young Terns everywhere, indicating excellent breeding so far this year, but there is a conundrum I just cannot figure. It's not unusual to see small numbers of these Terns flying off the reserve, gaining high altitude and heading to the west. Similarly, they are seen passing over Radipole and my house presumably to the Fleet as returning birds can be seen carrying 'fish'. The question is, why would they prefer to travel 3+ miles to achieve what their fellow colonists do just 400 feet away from the nests?

The hedgerows are now smelling sweet with Honeysuckle.

2 of the 3 Oystercatcher juveniles, almost full grown and feeding well.

Young Bearded Tit, one of c12 birds seen today.

How predictable, more (totally unnecessary) strimming at Lodmoor. Despite the finding of probably one of the rarest varieties of Orchid in Great Britain and the paths being 4 feet wide, they still have a compulsion to cut 2 feet into the reed-beds - Nature Lovers my arm!

Juvenile Black-headed Gull

My first returning Mediterranean Gull (foreground) of the Summer, with adult and juvenile Black-headed Gulls.

Many of the young Mallard are gaining weight.

Most of the Wildfowl on the Moor are looking scruffy as they moult their feathers. This female Tufted Duck doesn't look too bad!

Branched Bur-reed,

just like the one they used to have at Radipole Lake.

Blooming plant were covered in insects and the odd arachnid.

The Spider and the Fly, it's behind you.

News came through at mid-day of a Gull-billed Tern, a real rarity for Dorset, at Abbotsbury but I was 'wrong footed' and couldn't get out there. However, unless something dramatic happens before dark, I'll be on the 05-15 bus tomorrow.

Gull-billed Tern, unfortunately not the Dorset bird. This photograph was taken near Darwin, Australia in 2008.

and finally.

As I arrived home, mid-afternoon, laden with shopping a huge Raptor passed overhead and purposefully to the south. It was an Accipiter about the size of the pursuing Herring Gulls and while I did get my binoculars to bear I could see nothing, except its size, that might confirm a Goshawk.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Ceylonese Summer

Don't know how I managed to omit this photograph yesterday, but readers must be getting used to that. Here are a pair of Large Red Damselflies, with one having the other by the 'scruff of the neck'.

Hugh left, Janet behind tripod and my mate from Weymouth, Alex with dreadlocks all becoming 'twitchers'!

Hugh & I enjoying a cup of Chi.

It's been a full day in the galley for me, punctuated by attention to a few outstanding items, as my friends Hugh and Janet arrive from Christchurch at 19-00 for dinner. We met while on a tour of Sri Lanka in 2006, and have remained firm friends ever since. On the strength of that, there follows a series of photographs of that trip.

Asian Openbill

A supposedly rare Black Bulbul

Black-necked Stork

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Brahaminy Kite

Changeable Hawk Eagle

Malabar Pied Hornbill

Painted Stork

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Sri Lankan Junglefowl

Little Praticole

Stork-billed Kingfisher

Yellow-wattled Plover

Leopard, the King of them all!

Unfortunately, I am not able to publish my latest RSPB findings at this time, save to say I have written to Sarah Alsbury and have received, in part, an inadequate reply, a promise of viewing the legal documents associated with the ringing of the Little Terns plus an invitation to meet Dante Munns the RSPB Dorset Area Manager. Certainly a step in the right direction, and an opportunity that will not be wasted by me! Watch this space.

and finally, I can report from the RSPB's Luke Philips that it was not he who found the 'rare' Orchid reported over the past 2 days but a RSPB Volunteer Botanist. Thank you Luke, the pint remains in place.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Linden Lea - William Barnes

However I forgot to post this photograph yesterday, I'll never know being not only my favorite from the Dorchester group, but also the most evocative!

This is Queen's Avenue on the southern edge of the town, and complete with its double row of mature Linden (also called Lime and Basswood) Trees you would have to go a long way to view a finer 'Avenue' than this. Probably my favourite tree in the forest, we had 2 monsters outside of the Hut where I spent the last 2 years of my childhood on Nottington Lane, but the name Linden was familiar to me long before this. As the solo soprano in the Bramcote Hills School for Boys (close to my home in Chilwell, Notts) Choir, we/I sung the song 'Linden Lea' at the National Inter-Schools Championships at the Royal Albert Hall, Nottingham, which we won. Originally a poem, written in the Dorset dialect, by William Barnes it was adapted to music by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

Within the woodlands, flowery gladed,
By the oak trees’ mossy moot,
The shining grass blades, timber-shaded,
Now do quiver underfoot;
And birds do whistle overhead,
And water’s bubbling in its bed,
And there, for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

When leaves, that lately were a-springing
Now do fade within the copse,
And painted birds do hush their singing
Up upon the timber tops;
And brown-leaved fruit’s a-turning red,
In cloudless sunshine overhead,
With fruit for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

Let other folk make money faster
In the air of dark-roomed towns,
I don’t dread a peevish master;
Though no man do heed my frowns,
I be free to go abroad,
Or take again my homeward road
To where, for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

Today could have been described as 'a little dull' on the bird front, but the beauty of wildlife watching is no such thing as a 'dull moment'.

Already quite a number of Oedemera nobilis were visiting the flowers of Great Bindweed. This insect, one of 7 in the family, has no 'common' name but given its beauty it should have!

Oedemera nobilis this one is a male.

Large Skipper & Meadow Brown on Greater Knapweed, and

"If you go down to Fancy's Farm to look for Butterflies, Flutterbies, open your eyes, full of surprise" (Willow Farm - Genesis).

Sue (nee McColm and niece of Roger a former 'ship-mate of mine) & John Illsley, with young helper (slave hee, hee) Jack Ayles, surrounded by some of the diverse animals on their 'Open Farm' at Reap Lane, Southwell, Portland.

'Genesis' may have composed these words above for part of their opus Supper's Ready (from the Foxtrot album), but the words fit perfectly for the farm. Open on a Sunday, it is easily reached via the No1 (First) bus which leaves Debenhams, Weymouth about every 15 minutes, alighting at the 'second' bus stop on Reap Lane and walking back on yourself up the track leading to the West Cliff.

Hebridean Sheep

John assured me that all 4 of these Alpacas are males, so we'll put it down to 'male bonding'.

I was given the 'Cook's Tour' this morning and enjoyed every second of it, so get up there and see it for yourself.

This is the horse I reported savaged by a dog last week. The wound, top inside of the front right leg, can just be seen and I'm please to say quickly healing. Let's hope the dog is alright - BANG!

Red Campion now in bloom.

A visit to the supermarket on the way home, I bumped into the Omani National Sailing Team. All here for training and I suppose some acclimatisation, they are all working hard to gain a coveted place on the Olympic Crews. A deft salam ali koum (peace be with you) and next thing we were swapping stories of Muscat, Salalah, Dhofar and Masirah. I wish the team Good Luck and welcome them to Weymouth & Portland.

Yesterday's Bee Orchid is reproduced again here as I receive some words of wisdom from Luke Philips of the RSPB. It is fantastic to be put right on these post items and photographs, as once again I admit to being no expert on many of these things, but sure as hell love their beauty!
Thank You again Luke.


The orchid is the atrofuscus variety which was first discovered at Radipole a few years ago (2006 is ringing bells?) but it's before my time here in Dorset. The first was out a few weeks ago roughly 8 foot away from the really nice one that's out now. I am fairly sure it was the first Dorset record of this variety and it was first discovered in the UK as recent as 2001 in Sussex. Hope this is of use and it certainly is a great specimen!

Luke Philips

and on the subject of the RSPB

There is yet another most disturbing report emanating from the Little Tern colony at Ferry Bridge, which if proven true will be the worst case of Wildlife disturbance so far during what has become known as my 'campaign', and will likely involve a prosecution by the Police? I have so far presented some of the facts uncovered to:-

Sarah Alsbury
Operations Manager
Ryan House, Sandford Lane, Wareham,
Dorset, BH20 4DY
01929 555987

which I intend publishing via tomorrows post, hopefully accompanied by her reply.

This is her reply to both Edwin Welland (Chairman of the Portland Bird Observatory) and Paul Harris local Wildlife Lover when stating disagreement of the 'ringing' the Little Tern chicks.
I must point out that the concerns, in his case, were those of Mr Welland alone and not those of the PBO.

Dear Mr Welland,

Thank you for your email dated 22 June to Nick Tomlinson. It has been passed to me as the Project Manager of the Little Tern Wardening Scheme.I appreciate your concern and would like to assure you that the decision to ring some of the chicks was thought through carefully. The wardening team have worked tirelessly to give the little terns the best possible chance of breeding successfully, including watching through the night. They would not do anything that they thought would jeopardise the colony.

The issue was discussed within the RSPB, Don Moxom of Ilchester Estates (a joint partner of the project) and experts in the field. This included Dr David Norman one of the most experienced ringers in the country and very experienced with little terns. It was decided to go ahead because
a) the retrieval of ringing data provides very valuable information, which can aid our understanding of the colony and assist with future conservation efforts, and b) the ringing was planned in a way that did not risk the welfare of the colony. This was done in the following ways:

1) The ringer is a very experienced A ringer and has been ringing (under licence) the terns at the colony for many years.

2) We planned the operation very carefully - we have mapped and marked all the nests and the location of chicks was plotted before entering the colony each time.

3) The time chosen was a warm sunny day. Brooding birds do not sit tight on the eggs but fly up constantly to show off gulls etc. Therefore, on a sunny day for a very short period of time, we are sure that the eggs would not have been affected. If any predators were around, they were deterred by our presence and the terns settled back quickly.

4) Individual chicks were chosen and the ringer was guided to their position by the warden stationed outside the colony via mobile phone thus reducing searching time to a minimum.

5) Once a chick had been ringed the ringer quickly withdrew from the colony. Each incursion into the colony lasted approximately 2 minutes and timing was logged.

6) In all 5 chicks (out of 10) were ringed with large amounts of time between each. The whole operation was done over about a 3 hour period.

I trust this allays your concerns - let's hope for a successful season this year.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Alsbury

and finally:-

Tommy Capello or Fabio Cooper? either way a CLOWN in the view of many an Englishman.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

A Day in Durnovaria

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow don't be alarmed now, it's just a Spring-clean from the May Queen, Yes there are two tracks you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road your on! - Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin.

Well there was certainly a bustle in a hedgerow at Radipole yesterday afternoon, as Bowie and I raced down to investigate an unusual Orchid reported to us earlier by Paul Harris. Finding straight away the colony of Bee Orchids, partly strimmed down by the RSPB last year, it was some while before we were able to detect our 'target', but once we did WOW, what a specimen!

It is still not certain what it is, but this variety of 'Dark Morph' Bee Orchid is, as far as is known, only the second specimen found in Great Britain. Lorne (Bowie) Edwards, being something of an authority on the subject, is going to make further investigations and keep me informed of any findings. For now the reader will have to be content with a few photographs.

The nominate race of Bee Orchid, fairly common throughout Great Britain.

Detail of the same flower, note the 2 yellow dots, yellow bib and the white bordered blue extension.

The Dark Morph variety of Bee Orchid,

and flower detail lacking the pattern as described above.

Durnovaria is the Latin form of the Brythonic name for the Romans town Dorchester, both County and Market town of Dorset. Today I decided to take our overseas readers, and those here in England not familiar with the charms of Dorset, on a short tour of this very special place. Dorchester is thought to have started its existence as a Roman Garrison Fort, with the first habitation many, many years before centered on the Iron Age Hill Fort of Maiden Castle. As early as 1800 BC, the area was used for the production of crops with the so called 'castle' being built around 600BC. In about 450 BC it was extended to such a size that it became, and still remains the largest 'earth works' in Britain, with some authorities claiming the biggest in Europe? In the 1st Century AD the Romans arrived, and as has been asked so many times "what did they ever do for us"?

I started my wander at the western end of the town, at The Keep which some call Dorchester Castle. This has, in its time, served as a fortification, Army barracks and is today a Military Museum.

At Top O' Town I took this shot down High West Street, once the main east / west arterial road from London to the West Country, and now the heart of the town, before moving on to view

this beautiful monument to both the town's and the counties 'favourite son' Thomas Hardy. Born in 1840 at Higher Bockhampton, a picturesque and tiny village, to the east of the town, he died some 88 years later at Max Gate at the edge of Dorchester. Both houses remain a Mecca to many thousands of Hardy lovers each year.

The Parish Church of St Peter's lies on the main street, while behind

are the Chapter House, associate cottages and another church now in ruins.

In St Peter's church yard is another monument to a 'former father' of the county, William Barnes (1801 - 1886) poet, writer, minister and philologist.

Directly opposite is what could also be described as a monument, but to a man far less humane than the previous 2 mentioned. George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, (1645 - 1689) also known as the the 'Hanging Judge', was Lord Chancellor and Lord High Steward to King James II. He presided over what became known as the "Bloody Assizes" in the autumn of 1685, at which harsh sentences were handed out to the Duke of Monmouth's followers after the Monmouth Rebellion. Nearly 200 people were hanged, and more than 800 transported to the colonies as indentured laborers. Jeffreys held the assizes in the Great Hall of Taunton Castle, current home of the Somerset County Museum. The building, now the Judge Jeffreys Restaurant, was his lodgings during the months he sat at the court.

Jeffreys, the 'Hanging Judge'.

Dorset County Museum. containing among other artifacts, Thomas Hardy's study as it stood at Max Gate.

The Corn Exchange

The Town (water) Pump, the central point of the town.

A typical Dorchester street scene.

Part of the River Frome system in the town.

With some of these images, especially this across a cow dotted water meadow, it is difficult to believe that none were taken more than 50 yards from the town itself.

Grey's Bridge (across the River Frome) is the eastern gateway to the town, and if you think you might like to damage it,


High Street, Fordington which is now an adjoined part of the town.

The village church, indicating just how wealthy and prosperous these ancient hamlets must have been.

And next door the Vicarage, once the home of my first love Sue Lloyd. Namesake of the actress and model of the time (1962) she was no less effervescent and beautiful. The architypal 'hippie', even before they were invented, Sue and I enbarked on many early musical forays, enjoying the likes of (a very young) John Mayall, Alexis Korner, Howlin' Wolf and BB King.

Here is a view of that quaint and probably quintessential English pastime, the Car Boot Sale. Members of the public turn up in their cars at the Dorchester market site (and elsewhere), usually a venue for the sale of anything from a carrot to a hacksaw, to sell their unwanted items contained in the boot (trunk as the Americans would say).

Onward to Maumbury Rings a late neolithic Henge, dating from c2500 BC. The earthworks was used by the Romans as an amphitheater and is occasionally use today for Rock, or other types, of musical concerts.

Given an age of over 4500 years wouldn't you think today's toerags would at least leave it clean and tidy? On my visit, there were dozens of items of littler, while an empty rubbish bin sat redundant less than 20 feet away!

By clicking on the photograph then clicking on it again, the magnified image should be readable.

On the way home, I was blessed by meeting not one but two young and quite separate Asian gentlemen followed by some interesting conversation. The first was from Sri Lanka and given that both may visit this site, the following photographs are dedicated to them and their families and friends. Good to meet you both.

For Sri Lanka, where I visited just one year after the tsunami.

Sigiriya Rock, a bit of a climb but what a view.

After the giant wave, helping? local fishermen.

Waterside scene.

The other chap was from India, so a couple of shots from my visit there.

A male Indian Peafowl.

Indian 'Mugger' Crocodile.

Indian Roller