Tuesday, 30 November 2010

You Can Tell It's Pantomime Season

because every thing's On Ice!

It would be unusual to record Common Buzzard 3 days on the trot in, or over, the cemetery so it was no surprise I didn't see it / one there this morning. However, with little else to report from that site it wasn't long before one was seen alighting on the western path of the Buddleia Loop at Radipole , seemingly recovering an item of carrion. With an even harsher frost last night, accompanied by clear skies filled into the early hour by calling Redwings, it was also obvious the lake would be even more frozen today.

At the north end, this gangling Grey Heron was stood where there might usually be up to 4 feet of water,

while to the south and right up to Westham Bridge the ice formed a platform for all of the Gulls plus other birds. It's worth mentioning that, as usual, Joe Public is there once again, 'mob handed' feeding all of these hungry creatures - Well Done!

It also didn't take long for my prediction of yesterday to be realised. As I though, it wouldn't be long before someone took advantage of a 'free bed' in the newly painted seafront shelters (Feral Pigeons).

With the Moon at half phase, top of the tide would be around mid-day so it was always going to be worth a stop at Ferrybridge on my way to the Bill. Talk about speaking too soon, it was dead except for just c2 female Goosander and a much reduced group of small Waders, but there was something caught my eye close to the 'high water mark'.

What appeared to be a roosting Cormorant, in the most unlikely of locations,

These 'diving birds' do hunt in the shallows here at the right state of the tide, but to find one perched so far up the beach is strange to say the least.

I was able to approach to within touching distance, where I could see its 'eye shield' flicking, but there was undoubtedly something wrong as it didn't even raise its head. It was also of note that Radipole was considered 'balmy' by comparison to where I now stood, exposed to only a breeze, but biting for all that!

Greeted at Sweethill by a small flock of flying Lapwing, it wasn't long before more were encountered on the Bill fields.

A little further south, past Sweethill Farm, this Black Redstart seemed content feeding on small insects close to a water trough, while this

Dunnock was finding sustenance at the edges of the cart track. Unfortunately, I was a little too slow to capture an image of a pristine male Stonechat close by. At the Observatory things had been fairly quite during the morning, but my Lapwing total increased to c17, a Grey Heron was behaving a little strangely at Reedy Ditch as a variety of Tits and Finches fed in the garden on seed and apples provided by the Warden. Given the recent outbreak of a killer virus it was pleasing to see so many

Greenfinch both in the Obs garden and the fields across the road, courtesy of Richard Newton. The afore mentioned apples were, in part, a lure for one or both of the female Blackcap seen feeding earlier in the day, but that was not to be! Coffee and corned beef bun consumed it was time to head for home and on the way came across this

Golden Plover in a nearby field.

Bowie and I did see about 2 dozen at Warmwell roundabout on Sunday, but in flight there was never a chance of photographing them.

Walking Weymouth's inner harbour side, this Cormorant looked a whole lot healthier than the one previous, and needing the ID practice it was best just to 'snap' away.

and finally, it's about this time of year that the promenade between Greenhill and Weymouth becomes strewn with the

empty shells of Slipper Limpets.

Alien to our seaways, they are said to have arrived originally on the hulls of ships from the United States during World War II. Carried by Gulls and

Carrion Crows from the beach, I spent a little time studying just what these birds gain from the seemingly empty shells and was reminded of a similar encounter with opportunist aves some years ago. In the 90's my youngest daughter Lisa and I embarked on what turned out to be a magical overland journey from New York to San Francisco, taking in some of Canada and Mexico on the way. At our destination, I was bent on enjoying the 'hippy' culture while Lisa had food on her mind. Fortunately, Fisherman's Wharf on Frisco's Bay Coast caters for both where we ordered huge portions of Shrimp. Discarding the shells after removing what we thought was all of the meat, we found Common Starlings (imported from GB) had devised a technique of prising the remaining morsel from the extreme tail-end.

This appears to be what our own birds do here. In the absence of 'live' shells, which they take aloft and drop from a great height, the Crow in the picture can be seen teasing out that final bit of flesh from within.

The down side to this story is that what may be rewarding for the birds may not be so good for the rest of the wildlife of Weymouth (and elsewhere) as the imported Limpets immediately started to decimate the other Mollusc populations, not least the highly prized Atlantic Scallop.

This is the second largest Scallop I have ever seen (and have to say eaten) given the size comparison to a 75cl wine bottle, and until shown differently consider it the 'Mother' of all Scallops.

This then, a full quarter size bigger, must be the 'Father' of all Scallops. The reason for showing these is to highlight the damage done by the Slipper Limpet, which literally 'drills' its way through the shell, no matter how thick, to attack the flesh.

An enlarged image shows the holes made by the Limpets, which were still drilling when these were caught, over time these thinner shells have disintegrated and fallen out of the drill holes.

These scallops were caught while engaged in diving operations off Masirah Island in the Gulf of Oman in 1976, just half of one was enough for a 'starter' - bon appetite!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Cool For Cats (and Birders) - Squeeze

To start today, a correction to yesterday's post is in order, as I labelled a fairly obvious Cormorant as a Shag and have to thank the Dorset County Bird Recorder, Kevin Lane, for pointing this out. I am always happy to receive such corrections or other comments for that matter so long as they are constructive - thanks Kevin!

As yesterday, I was met at the cemetery gate by the 'local' Common Buzzard but content today simply to fly over. Within, judging by the quantity of bird-song, the small bird community seem to be doing OK despite the harsh weather. Again, the ground was shrouded with a sprinkle of white, this time frost, much more of the water in various places seemed to be frozen but the sun continues to shine in an all but clear sky.

Common Buzzard

Along with more extensive frozen water, both Buddleia Lagoon and the main lake from north of the Visitor's Centre through to Westham Bridge were solid, it seemed that Wildfowl numbers had increased. I discussed this with RSPB Warden Luke Phillips who suggested numbers were about the same only the harsher weather had forced most of the Ducks into less open water. Either way, it was much the same there as previous days with both Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail being most vocal, Pochard and Tufted Duck being most numerous, while single Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting and Hooded Merganser added that bit of extra interest.

Grey Heron and

Shelduck, both ever present, the latter now numbering over 40 individuals but the best was to come. I walked with Luke to the car park, where a phone call from Daragh alerted us to a Great White Egret on Lodmoor. At the same time as nailing my sprinting blocks in Luke shouted

Glossy Ibis on the ice. Quickly checking it out followed by a rapid burst of Canon (camera) fire I

then returned the call to let Daragh know. All a little too late I fear as the bird

took to the wing and headed off to the north. It did appear to loose altitude above the north pool, still on the reserve, but I was only prepared to wait long enough to get a few shots in silhouette. A welcome addition to the year list, the Glossy Ibis is becoming a more frequent visitor (or resident) to Great Britain but of the very few I have seen in Dorset (the first in 1977 when it was considered a 'great rarity') September is the only month they have shown for me.

My arrival on the sea-front coincided perfectly with an east bound number 4B bus which dropped me just 100 yards from the Lodmoor entrance, even a taxi wouldn't have got me there quicker. Unfortunately, this stroke of luck was all in vane as a second call from Daragh informed me of the GW Egrets departure just one minute before. Have I said 'B*s*a*ds' today? However, there was still plenty to see on the moor with a good number of

Shoveler feeding close to Edward's Folly (the viewing shelter built by Lorne/Bowie Edwards, the twin structure at Radipole being Slater's Folly as Martin Slater was the Warden there at time of construction)

2 of the c9 Black-tailed Godwits having a scrap,

while a third mingled peaceably with the Teal.

The Long-billed Dowitcher (left), seen here with a Dunlin for comparison, is still in attendance and very good value.

Walking back along the promenade, it was great to see the refurbished Victorian shelters back out of 'moth balls' and gleaming in the bright sunlight. I'm not even going to mention 'dropouts' and 'litter / graffiti louts'! Whoops.

It was a bracing walk to Ferrybridge, warm in the lee of the built up area but bitterly cold when exposed to the north easterly wind, even though it was barely raising the wind-sock. However, the sight of presumably the same c3 female Goosander as yesterday soon drew my attention elsewhere, as did a distant juvenile Little Gull flying south along the Fleet. This was followed just a few moments later by a slightly 'oiled' adult Kittiwake, neither of which are frequent here, both disappearing over the Chesil Beach into West Bay. These 2 Gulls increased the tally of 5 here yesterday to 7 today, while a little further along the sea wall this small group of mainly

Mediterranean Gulls also included a few Black-headed and Common Gulls. All else of note were c13 Little Egret, c5 Little Grebe, about 2 dozen Red-breasted Merganser and the usual combination of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone.

Finally, I'd like to welcome as our 111th country / region to the readership, Armenia, a country I knew very little about up until last night when it appeared on the screen. Since then I have checked it out via various websites and added it to my 'Must Visit List' which is still extensive -


drill down 2 0.02% Macedonia
drill down 2 0.02% Armenia
drill down 2 0.02% Azerbaijan
drill down 1 0.01% United Arab Emirates
drill down 1 0.01% Georgia
drill down 1 0.01% Bolivia
drill down 1 0.01% Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
drill down 1 0.01% Reunion
drill down 1 0.01% Jordan
drill down 1 0.01% Aland Islands
drill down 1 0.01% Anonymous Proxy
drill down 1 0.01% Maldives
drill down 1 0.01% Guernsey
drill down 1 0.01% Nepal Nepal
drill down 1 0.01% Malaysia
drill down 1 0.01% Saudi Arabia

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Two Ways To Get 'Tanked Up'

I was up at the crack of 'ten thirty' this morning, never realising anyone could stay in bed that long, but it was Bowie and Sheila's fault! Having reported that little happened after issuing yesterday's post there was a mid-evening phone call inviting me round to there house for yet another drink. It was a late finish, but I did go home with Otis Redding, in fact 'The Best of' him, and while not big into Soul several tracks (Try A Little Tenderness, Hard to Handle, Mr Pitiful etc) feature in what still remains one of my top 3 favourite films, the 1991 Roddy Doyle penned

'The Commitments'.

So, after the morning caffeine hit I made my way, via the cemetery where there were a few Redwing and the first Common Buzzard I have ever seen 'landed' there, to Ferrybridge. Almost immediately what were initially thought to be c4

female Goosander
close in and almost under the bridge on the Fleet side

both feeding and preening, were in fact just c3 as the forth was a

female Red-breasted Merganser, similarly one of the 3 Great British 'Sawbill' ducks, the third being Smew.

On the sea were 5 species of Gull with Great Black-backed Gull not photographed,

Herring Gull

Black-headed Gull (the one in the foreground obviously hasn't been watching the weather forecast as it is still in 'summer plumage').

Common (back) and Mediterranean Gulls of which there were c6 and c87 respectively.

As the tide started receding a couple of dozen each of

Dunlin (middle) and Ringed Plover flew in to feed as did c3 Little Egret and half a dozen Turnstone. At the Fleet Visitor's Centre, which I hear on the grapevine is due to be extended, c5

Skylark were also feeding on the small grassy area, while strangely this

Carrion Crow appeared to be eating chipboard? Crossing the bridge to head for home, a

Cormorant obliged me by flying directly below the pavement.

At home, I hadn't even downloaded these photographs before Bowie phoned to ask if I was interested in trying for both Jack Snipe and Great Grey Shrike. Despite having seen the latter just a few days ago the answer was an immediate yes, so off we set initially for the Waddock Cross watercress beds. Unfortunately, the Jack's were not found but from almost under our feet this

(now distant) Green Sandpiper flushed

not allowing much of an image. However, a beautiful

Grey Wagtail was far more obliging

as it plucked 'live' food from the cress. A little further on at the Bovington Tank Training Range, part of which has now been given over to duel use in training and a Nature Reserve, we searched, again in vain, for the Shrike.

Indicating the former use of this heathland area, one of three abandoned tanks seemingly left where they ran out of petrol?

and a few Fungi (from 2 Fun Guys) for Dave the Fungal Punk to muse over.

and finally, this was the view as we drove back over White Horse Hill at Osmington, the Sun setting between the horizon and the southern edge of a weather front tumbling in from the north.