Friday, 5 March 2010

Return of the Bus Pass Birder

Today's weather was just about 180 degrees different to yesterday, with the wind in the west, clear blue sky replacing dull overcast and the sun shining brightly. All that remained from previous days was the chill, and while my pond was covered by a thin veneer of ice at Longcroft Cemetery the frost had already gone. Although this beautiful, wooded area in the middle of suburbia is offering up its treasures slowly and singularly, a Coal Tit was seen this morning thankfully having survived the cold spell.

Moving on to Radipole and stopping for a chat, one of my company called "Bittern" but too late for me to see it drop into the reeds. Arriving at North Hide, the Ducks at this time of year never cease to amaze me in resplendent colours, and searching among the Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall etc found a sleeping bird of more interest. It took a full 15 minutes before it raised its head, allowing me to identify it as a male Pintail. This really is a cracking bird and all too infrequent these days at the reserve. Later, while standing in what I refer to as Edward's Folly (the shelter built by my friend Lorne 'Bowie' Edwards) the Bittern obliging left cover, gained an altitude of some 40 to 50 feet and flew right over my head.

Male & female Pintail (photo blagged from the Internet) to give our overseas readers a chance to see this fine Duck.

Bittern - not the best of photographs but an image nonetheless.

With 3 'year ticks' in the notebook I caught the bus to Ferry Bridge, to catch the falling tide, to be reminded of just how cold it still is in such an exposed place. Already an hour into the ebb, a few Brent Geese had already arrived to feed on the Zostera Grass with the only other avian activity being 27 Mediterranean Gulls and double that number of Black-headed Gulls. Here, a fellow 'birder' told me how obliging the Firecrest at Easton, Portland had been this morning, so hoped onto another bus to pursue it. A hour without sight or sound of this tiny bird was enough, so on yet another bus headed home. The Year List currently stands at - 84.

After yesterdays depiction of the first lighthouse to built at Portland Bill, today's photo is of the other two. The all white structure left, originally opened in 1769 and subsequently rebuilt several times, has also had a chequered history. Starting with a 'coal burning' lamp, this was replaced during one of the reconstructions by an Argland Lens the forerunner and basic design of all lenses in use today. Once redundant, it was for a time utilised as a private dwelling, then in 1961 opened by Sir Peter Scott as a Bird Observatory.

The present 'active' light was constructed and opened in 1906 with the tower standing at 41 meters. It was automated in 1996 (in line with all lighthouses around the coast of UK) and shows a 'group flash 4' warning to mariners every 20 seconds, can be seen at a distance of 25 miles on a clear dark night and also sounds a 3.5 second blast every 30 seconds during periods of low viability.