Thursday, 11 March 2010

and A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Some of the c21 Carrion Crows described.

Being bisected by Longcroft Road, I have always considered the cemetery to be of the same, but discovered today that it is in fact the Melcome Regis Cemetery. Arriving there at first light, I was first met by the sweet sound of a singing Goldcrest followed by the cacophony of a number of rowdy Corvides. On closer inspection I found a 'murder' of an unprecedented c21 Carrion Crows, all in the same fir tree, the highest count by far for me at this site. Known to gather on Weymouth Beach, a favoured scavenging area, in large numbers this species is not considered gregarious, with some using the rule of thumb, if it's alone or just a pair it will be a Crow, any more and they'll be Rooks. Continuing the morning trend of locating birds on call or song, the next was a Blackcap in full voice which on my approach soon disappeared into an ivy bank.

Blackcap (male)

Continuing to Radipole NR, again song not sight was the order of the day with Little Grebe, Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail being the most vocal. A loan Dunnock close to the Visitor's Center was also making a contribution, but at least it was viewable. The only other record of note was another look at the fine Hooded Merganser, which has been with us for many months now, catching small green crabs close to the Gurkha Restaurant.

Dunnock, also called Hedge Accentor or Hedge Sparrow.

Taking the bus, more out of expedience than laziness, to Overcoombe Corner in the hope of finding at least one of the c3 Water Pipits reported a couple of days ago, I happened upon c2 straight away. They, like the Blackcap, were additions to the 'year list' but in similar fashion they also beat a hasty retreat making for yet another wait to capture this species with the camera. A walk to the top of Horselynch Copse, mainly for a photo shoot of the wood and Moor, produced Common Buzzard and Green Woodpecker, but with the 09-30 threshold for the 'bus pass' long past it was time to head for Dorchester and guaranteed Partridge.

Horselynch Copse

Alighting at Queen's Avenue, Dorchester it's just a mile and a half to Maiden Castle and a similar distance to Monkey's Jump, with the prospect of a few decent birds. Within sight of the car park there were at least c30 Golden Plover in the harrowed field to the left, (one or two showing 'black bellies' of summer plumage) plus another dozen the opposite side of the track. Close to the Martinstown road a small flock of Fieldfare preceded me down the hedgerow, while c2 high flying Peregrines selected the same target, both missing what had to be the luckiest Stock Dove in Dorset today.

Maiden Castle (photo blagged from Internet)

The largest and most complex Iron Age hill fort in Britain, Maiden Castle was first laid out in 600BC over the remains of a Neolithic settlement. During the following centuries the hill fort was extended and additional defences thrown up around it, including vast multiple ramparts enclosing an area the size of 50 football pitches. The site was home to several hundred people during the period 800 BC - 43 AD but in that latter yearn the might of the Roman Army became too much for the fortification, with the inhabitants moving to the new town of Durnovaria, modern day Dorchester.

Golden Plover


Walking the diagonal path across the field from Monkey's Jump to Poundbury I could hear the calls of a covey of Partridges, so I diverted from the path to investigate. That's when I noticed the farmer 'clocking' me from the road so beat a casual retreat and didn't see the birds. However, I did see c10 about an hour later when I picked them up from the butcher in town. I'll be quick to say that these are Hampshire 'farm reared' birds so nothing had to be 'blasted' to slake my hunger for these delicious game birds. Bon Appetite!

Peregrine Falcon

During conversation at last nights dinner, there were a couple of local facts came to light which I found interesting. The first from John Down concerning the 'isolated' house Swallow's Rest on the main A354 Weymouth to Dorchester Road. It had often intrigued me as to why it was there in the first place, but also how anyone could have obtained planning permission in the first place. Recently refurbished, someone has thrown a huge lump of money at this property, but it certainly wasn't always like that. For many years occupied but looking derelict it was originally build as home and workplace for the man who would light the indicator lamps on the train tunnel close by. Probably during that time there was no such thing as planning permission, or the importance of the job superseded it?

Swallows Rest on the A354

and secondly from Paul Harris, whose observation discovered that looking through the newly constructed footbridge on the crest of Ridgeway Hill, all you can see to the south is Lodmoor, the arch perfectly 'eye-browing' it. Unfortunately today the view was obscured by a heap of chalk and items of plant.