Thursday, 29 April 2010

Every Move You Make, Every Step You Take I'll Be Watching You!

It has become a bit of a 'migration' event for Dave Penney, my old rig mate, and I to have a days birding in Dorset to improve both our year lists. Our day had been planned for quite a while, and as luck would have it coincided with Jo Lawrence's birding week centered on Weymouth.

Dave arrived at my house spot on the planned 05-00 in a shroud of dense fog and the realisation that this may not be the best day we have ever had. Coffee and toast were served just before Jo arrived at 05-30, declining the refreshments while we agreed sighting or sound would count towards the list, and at least 2 of us had to see or hear the bird for inclusion. With that we got underway, thinking that 100 species would be an achievable target, and headed for the Bill for a short 'sea-watch'.

The fog persisted all the way to the lighthouse from where we could hardly see the coastal rocks let alone any bird life. We had, by that point, clocked up a paltry 'two dozen' species before beating a hasty retreat back to Weymouth, making for the wooden bridge at Radipole. Once there, the obvious contenders entered the log, including good views of both Sedge & Reed Warbler, the latter being the first I had clapped eyes on this year.

Bahama Pintail

Opting to park at Weymouth Bay Avenue, we were soon in the heart of the reed-bed area and starting our circuit of the Lodmoor Reserve. Green Woodpecker, Swift and Grasshopper Warbler were the highlights here, with the unusual being produced by a Bahama Pintail an 'escapee' that has been on the moor for some while now.

Through the mist on the western path we caught sight of this pair of Roe Deer, which were caught on one side by a dog walker and on the other by us. Seeming very reluctant to dash into the marsh, we cut them some slack by diverting down the pedestrian track.

Grasshopper Warbler - showing well for this species and reeling at the top of its voice.

By the time we reached Oakers Wood we had clocked up 60 species, but unfortunately I was the only one to see a single Grey Wagtail fly across the now empty 'beds' at Waddock Watercress. There also we were approached by one of the office staff who asked that we should contact the office before entering the property. I have had many conversations with the Managing Director here, being assured that visits by bird watches was no problem. I can only think that with more mechanised plant operation on the sight, and maybe the Health & Safety Executive they need to tighten up procedures - no problem!

Jo & David in Oakers Wood

In the wood Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Jay fell quickly to the log, and by the time we reached Great Plantation the list had grown to 66. Here, the much hoped for Turtle Dove and Hobby were absent, but we did get Willow Warbler, Yellowhammer, Goldcrest and Siskin before heading for Arne (Marsh Tit) and Middlebere.

Sloe Worms

At Middlebere we hit a minor 'purple patch', notching up Tree Pipit, Marsh Harrier (female), Little Egret, Black & Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Grey Plover and maybe surprisingly a couple of Pintail.

This Jay on the Middlebere Track is my first image of this species.

On our way back we encountered this small group of Roe Deer, with this time no fog to obscure our view.

While in the hide we had heard several calls from a distant cuckoo, but walking the path probably the same bird flew over our heads, as did an Osprey while a male Bullfinch was content to sit in a bush showing off his best Spring plumage. Ovens Hill had paid dividends on Tuesday, so we returned again today to find a female Dartford Warbler.

It was now time to revisit Portland, and a stop at Ferry Bride produced c4 Bar-tailed Godwitc7 Little Tern, c2 Sandwich Tern and a single Wheatear bringing the day total to 94.

Turnstone in

summer plumage.

On Bill Road we found a perched Buzzard, and decided how strange it was to have to return to Portland to see the first, and only, of the day. At the Obelisk all the common sea birds fell easily while the final addition to the collective list, Peregrine, brought up a combined total of 103. We had a fairly hard and long look for the Short-eared owl, without success, in Top Fields, but our day was done. A curry and pint in The Swan seemed an apt way to end the day, while my 2 mates headed for the homes (Dave to Towcester, Northants and Jo to digs on Weymouth's quayside) I got back to Bloging. The final tally for each of us - Jo only 'dipped' on the Grey Wagtail so ended up with 102 including 3 'year ticks', Dave (not counting calls) totted up a respectable 94 with the Gropper added to his 'life list' plus 6 for the year, while I had the full 103 x 2 'year ticks'.

RSPB Revisited

Only those who don't know me would have even considered that the concerns about the so called management of our local Nature Reserves have been forgotten. Honest, as ever, I have to admit to a short period in the wilderness, but leaning on the advice given by a former mentor I continue even to a bitter end. "Battles are won during the endless hours in the trenches, not when the whistle blows" he had said, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have rubbed shoulders with those issuing such 'pearls of wisdom', and wise enough to have listened. The message to the Royal Society for the 'Protection' of Birds is, 'I am not going away'. Well, physically I am, but you will have to watch these pages to learn more about that!

Considering contact with the RSPB Head Quarters pointless (history tells me this) I have been actively exploring any other avenues where I might find support. The 'Dorset Echo' has not only been ineffectual but down right rude in not returning my calls, even when offering them concrete evidence on misappropriations at the Radipole Reserve particularly. The Wildlife Trust, in my view another 'toothless quango', opted for the "we don't deal with Sites of Special Scientific Interest" (surely there's a responsibility on all of us?) and dropped me like hot ... .... .. - (Morse for beginners £2.50). I wish I had the strength to transpose the full dialogue but don't wish to put the readership to sleep.

Trying yet another thrust, it was a pure quirk of luck that got me in touch with a 'high official' of yet another 'high powered' organisation. For now I'll keep detail to myself as it seems I have captured the ear of a 'serious players' and do not wish to not jeopardise a position of advantage.

The listener was shocked (appalled may be a better description) to hear that after my initial support for Nick Tomlinson as Reserves Manager, my mind was completely changed during an afternoon stroll. Walking the Fleet after a hearty New Year dinner in company with some of my family and local other local wildlife enthusiasts, Tomlinson slipped his dog's leash allowing it (uncontrollably) to plunge into the water, attack a group of c5 Mute Swans, putting them to flight. With consideration for our friendship my reaction was restrained, but the incident was laughed off as a joke. There have followed a catalogue of indiscretions and poor management decisions.

I still maintain the Sand Martin Wall at Radipole was ill timed, but as it is now fiat accompli it continues to gets gets my full support, but there are still a number of serious questions to be answered.

Why was Nick Tomlinson so 'adamant' that it would be built during the first 3 weeks of April, I have it on top authority that the funding would not have been withdrawn!

Why did Tomlinson allow a whole colony of Southern Marsh Orchids to be grubbed out when re-furbishing the Radipole dike system.

Given the weather conditions on that day (easily proven via Google) why was a RSPB employee let loose in a reed-bed (part of a SSSI) with a box of matches, causing untold environmental damage at a cost to the Tax Payer of a reputed £250,000.

Why is strimming verges so critical during the 'breeding season', damaging , to name but one, a number of Bee Orchids. The pathways around our reserves are already of motorway proportions.

How can he reconcile letting his dog loose 'off lead', along with other RSPB employees who choose to do likewise, when posting signs to the contrary.

I extend a further invitation to Nick Tomlinson to visit my home to answer these questions.