Saturday, 29 January 2011

John Edward Masefield, OM, Poet Laureate

Cold, cold again this morning and with continuing full cloud cover it was dull to say the least. Between home and Portland, this small group of

Cormorants were the only subject worth an exposure. What is known as Chesil Cove on Portland stands at the north west corner of the Isle formed by the curve of the south east end of

Chesil Beach. On this shingle barrier the pebbles are naturally sorted size-wise by the action of the sea. At this end lie the larger stones with the pea size ones 18 miles away close to the village of Burton Bradstock.

In the opposite direction the West Cliff of Portland, with just around the point Clay Ope, the highest point Blacknor and off-shore Tarr Rocks.

On the promenade, built as a defence against the ferocity of the sea, is the Cove House Inn, a popular 'watering hole' for visitor and local alike. On a warmer day, what better place to sit enjoying a pint of cider and a steak sandwich?

The point of the visit today was to see a Black Redstart reported in the area yesterday. Unfortunately, it must have heard I was on my way and if still there it was certainly keeping a low profile. Other birds on offer included this


a lone Pied Wagtail and by way of a big bonus

this Red-necked Grebe

also lingered from yesterday albeit at great distance.

The word Ope is an archaic or poetic word for 'open', but hereabouts more particularly 'open to view, hence place names on the Island such as Church Ope, Clay Ope etc. Today was the first time I have encountered this road sign at the end of a blind passage, no chance of any kind of view here, and maybe it's a 'pun'?

From here on in the day turned out to be more about people than birds (although there were a few more common ones to be seen) as Terry and Isobel Why stopped at Southwell and gave me a lift to the Bill. Terry and I were school friends, and while I chose to join the Royal Navy directly from there Terry took a few years before catching up with me. I do believe he made a 30 career of it. Leaving their company, there was a telephone call from my longish lost Ecuadorian friend Byron Palacios, we have agreed to get together for a beer next month. Finally, at the Bird Observatory there was an unexpected visit from another firm friend, this time PBO Chairman Edwin Welland who was on his way home back to Hampshire. His intent was to try to see the White-tailed Sea Eagle at Hordle just across the Dorset border which, via a text, he tells me he did - well done Matey!

Oystercatchers off the Bill

Kestrel at the Coast Guard Cottages

The Serco Denholm work-boat SB Navigator rounds Portland Bill. SD are the company that took over from the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service when the service was privatised. I spent a number of years with the RMAS and forerunner the Port Auxiliary Service (PAS) pushing similar vessel about. When I see such vessels, as is often, I am reminded of the last verse of this epic gem penned by John Masefield, a poem which was later put to music. I was privileged to sing this song along with the Bramcote Hills Boys School Choir at the Royal Albert Hall, Nottingham.

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory, apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds, emeralds, amethysts,
topazes, cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal, road-rails, pig-lead,
firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

A Roman Quinquireme
Nineveh was an ancient city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in ancient Assyria. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq.

Ophir is a port or region mentioned in the Bible, famous for its wealth. King Solomon is supposed to have received a cargo of gold, silver, sandalwood, precious stones, ivory, apes and peacocks from Ophir, every three years.

and the female Blackcap still enjoying the groceries supplied by the Warden at the Obs.

finally, my remiss yesterday was not welcoming Peter Storrs and his wife to the Blog readership. I have seen them around the town on a number of occasions but we were able to talk on the bus at this meeting. Peter informed me that his wife has always wondered where my hat comes from, so I was delighted to tell her Mongolia. Looking forward to seeing you both again soon, hoping for a longer chat.

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