Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Men That Go Down To The Sea In Ships

January seemed rather slow in passing to me, but now it's over there's time to reflect on the most prolific first month 'birding' I have ever had. 2008 was the closest total with 157 species seen, while this year the tally reached 176. In addition 14 mammals were seen, including the Brown Rat that scampered across my path on the way home, so am looking forward to adding a few more during February.

A grey, dank start to the day but as yet no rain, however as indicated by this rainbow above neighbouring houses to the west, it wasn't too far away! As I keep an 'on going' Dorset Month List, the most obvious start to the month had to be the Waxwings frequenting the berry bushes just a mile or so down the road, where I arrived at 07-45 this morning. There was a full three quarters of an hour wait, during which time the light drizzle had started,

but that's when c4 birds flew in.

Unfortunately, only 3 were ever close enough together to fit the same frame

but nonetheless all were most obliging.

Veracious feeders, they were picking berries

at a great rate of knots,

sometimes doing a little flick into the air

and occasionally passing from one to the other, which is not unusual.

Unfortunately this 'passing' ritual was not photographed, but just about every other manoeuvre was

until seeming satiated, they then flew off.

Moving on to Langton Herring, I encountered a number of Pheasant, this one probably feeling 'lucky' a this is the last day of the shooting season, while further ahead there was a small covey of half a dozen Partridge. Expecting Red-legged as being the most common of the 2 much reduced populations, it was a real bonus to see they were in fact Grey. There was a moment when I considered one of them might be a Red-legged but have never witnessed the two species in a mixed party. If anyone has witnessed this phenomena I would be most interested to hear about it. It wasn't long before they disappeared into the wood, and as I approached Herbury Gore and the waters of the Fleet, there was much 'whistling' of Wigeon, 'cackling' of Brent Geese plus the high pitched 'calls' of a few Redshank, all of which were seen. However, I was here to witness a far scarcer sight than this, and after a very short scan of the Kale fields came across the huge bulk of c2

Great Bustards

Part of the Salisbury Plain project to reintroduce what is the heaviest flying bird in the world,

a few are now starting to range quite widely with a number having been recorded in Dorset airspace. Unfortunately, locating these birds coincided with the start of heavy rain which, coupled with their ever increasing distance away, didn't allow for the best of photographs.

Such great range belies the true size of these Turkey size monsters, but just briefly a Carrion Crow settle close to them looking like a Starling by comparison.

The project relies heavily on Russian wheat farmers, on the Steppe, to find nests with eggs which they sell to the programme

and while there have been fatalities, by and large all is going well.

and changing the subject completely, I was surprised to read this article in the latest edition of the Free Portland News. It has been several years since I have read a copy during which time it has grown from a 4 page 'flier' to a 72 page 'tome', so to find myself featured in it was quite a shock. Seems Charlie Richards, who quite rightly describes himself as a fellow 'birder' had recalled this incident and thought it worthy of publication, I must agree and at some stage intend sending a reply.

I hope this scan is readable, but by 'left clicking' on the article this will enlarge it, then by clicking the image once again increase its size further still.

What with this and yesterday's encounter with the Royal Omani Navy, it had me scurrying once again to the photograph albums, hoping that these pictures will be of interest to the readership?

This is the Ocean Salvage Tug 'Confiance' (a French word for confident, but has no other connection with that country other than the name) seen cutting across Portland Harbour.

Here she is again this time in Chatham Dockyard undergoing a refit. I remember first clapping eyes on her as she lay to a mooring buoy as part of the Reserve Fleet in Porchester Creek, Portsmouth Harbour, looking every inch forlorn for her 6 year stay there.

The moment I put may hands on her controls I realised she was just right and was so determined, as the Chief Officer, to get her 'shipshape & Bristol fashion', let's just say I was not the most popular bunny in the hutch! Confiance carried out many major tasks and in doing saved a number of lives, there are still those who approach me today and reminisce about all the hard work we put in to make her the smartest in the Fleet. My ex-wife once said to me that she considered I loved that ship more than her, and how RIGHT she was - that's why she's EX!

A 'Motley (but fantastic) Crew' back row l to r are Stoker Jack Locke, Stoker 'Taffy' Williams, Chief Stoker Dougie Baker, Able Seaman (AB) George Greenwood, AB Gary Cluet, AB Richard Brooks, front row l to r Chief Engineer Dennis Westcott, Captain Albert (Curly) Hanger, Me, AB Steve Garrnet, AB Jim Creasy, Bosun Stan Robers and Second Engineer Conrad McCautrie. Some of whom, particularly our Portland & Weymouth readers will remember well no doubt.

One of the smaller jobs we undertook was to free a 20 ton Mk 8 Naval Gunnery Target from around the West Shambles Buoy just a couple of miles off of Portland Bill.

In a heavy sea and rapid tide there was no other way except for 2 of us to jump onto the target

and bolt crop the 4" wire tethering it to the buoy.

This done and a new tow secured, it was considered far to risky for us to get off so had a rather cold and wet run back to port.

and by coincidence, this is the Royal Omani Naval Vessel 'Dhofar' being towed through the English Channel on a training exercise.

Finally a couple of late items, whilst referring to Phil Collins as an amassing drummer, I did of course mean amazing, but it did generate a little mirth for Andy Lindsay and Sheila Edwards so I got something right.

Also I attached my Year List to the Surfbirds web-site and seem to have perplexed one or two when describing myself as "Patriotically ENGLISH, even though they have stolen our identity". By this I mean we, along with the Scots, Northern Irish and Welsh, are the only countries in the world that do not have our 'Nation of Birth' on our passports. I for one strongly resent having to live under the collective banner of the United Kingdom - let's get out on the streets and make the Students Protests look like a Vicarage Tea Party - Power to the People!

and it is hoped that I can remember to change the header photograph every month????

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