Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Woodman Spare That Tree - Please!

With rain predicted, and some having fallen overnight it was very much a case of 'get out and enjoy it while you can'. This plus full cloud cover had made for far milder conditions and with the wind no more than a gentle breeze I was out there! In the cemetery, Redwing and Blackbird continue to congregate in the fruit tree, but the bird highlight was a silent male Blackcap and a vocal Coal Tit atop the same fir tree. The sound of rushing water was next to be detected, and on investigation it looked every bit as though someone had pulled the pipework away from the inside of the Council tool shed with a full bore of water spurting everywhere. I reported it.

Things were fairly quiet at Radipole, the best being a couple more singing Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail but there were also 6 species of Gull including c42

Mediterranean all having a wash and brush up. This adult has nearly attained full 'summer plumage' while

this one seems to have just started the transformation.

Med & Black-headed Gulls

Herring Gull

Black-headed Gull. The other 3 were Great and Lesser Black-backed and Common Gull.

A male Teal passed close enough for a shot, but it was now time to walk the sea-front to Lodmoor. On the beach there I met up with Daragh Croxson who was able to direct me onto a Red-throated Diver in the Bay, before we moved to the Country Park to look for among others,

Brambling, here on the right. Very flighty, this is the nearest we could get. Here too were a good number of Redwing, far less Song Thrush, a couple of Mistle Thrush plus maybe as many as 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Rook was also seen on a telephone wire, and if you believe the 2010 RSPB local Reserves Report, we were extremely lucky to do so. In their pamphlet they describe this common and numerous Corvid as an infrequent and rare visitor to the area???? While on that subject it is also of note that they have included a record of Common Swift in February (earliest ever in Dorset by a Royal Mile) and a skein (the collective noun for Geese in flight) of Red-breasted Geese. My prediction, these 2 species will hybridise around about Christmas Day this year! To complete the RSPB knocking (but only for today) I would love to know why they found it necessary to 'MURDER' what, on the face of it, looked to be a perfectly healthy Sycamore tree on Beachdown Way. In the past I have personally recorded Goldcrest, Firecrest, Yellow-browed Warbler and both Pied and Spotted Flycatcher in what 'was' the only mature tree along that path.

Woodman, Woodman, spare that tree! Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me, and I'll protect it now.
'Twas my forefather's hand that placed it near his cot:
There, woodman, let it stand, thy axe shall harm it not!

That old familiar tree, whose glory and renown
Are spread o'er land and sea, and wouldst thou hew it down?
Woodman, forbear thy stroke! cut not its earth-bound ties;
Oh, spare that aged Sycamore, now towering to the skies!

When but an idle boy I sought its grateful shade;
In all their gushing joy here too my sisters played.
My mother kissed me here; my father pressed my hand
Forgive this foolish tear,but let that old tree stand!

My heart-strings round thee cling, close as thy bark, old friend!
Here shall the wild-bird sing, and still thy branches bend.
Old tree! the storm still brave! and, woodman, leave the spot:
While I've a hand to save, thy axe shall harm it not.

George Pope Morris - 1830

Just couldn't resist this Moorhen, and as the rain started I decided to call it a day just as this

Black-tailed Godwit flew in

and began to feed quite close to the path.

Calling in briefly for a pint in the Swan, Weymouth, I bumped into a couple of Mates not seen for a while. Chas and Dale are former publicans at the George on Reforne, Portland but first met when I was still a member of the Warrant and Chief Petty Officer's Mess at HMS Osprey. It was great to see you both again, good luck in Germany Chas and I still can't believe your a grandma Dale!

and to continuing the Omani theme of the last couple of days.

For much of 1976 I was lucky to be part of the Dive & Salvage Team working at the Marine Division on Masirah Island, Oman, certainly one of (if not the) best jobs to come my way. Mainly inspection and refurbishing the navigation and mooring buoys this was a contract directly for the Sultan, but as a convenience we were accommodated at the Royal Air Force Camp. Temperature alone precluded any work outside of the hours 07-00 to mid-day, so there was plenty of time to pursue the multitude of recreational facilities including 'birding'.

The DUKW (colloquially known as duck) is a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck that was designed by a partnership under military auspices of Sparkman & Stephens and General Motors Corporation during World War II for transporting goods and troops over land and water and for use approaching and crossing beaches in amphibious attacks. The designation of DUKW is not a military acronym – the name comes from the model naming terminology used by GMC. The RAF on Masirah Island had one of these contraptions, but were at a loss to ever launch it for want of a driver with a Marine Ticket. Between us we had 3 such qualifications and while we were on the island it barely ever left the sea. Each member of the RAF was on a 12 month posting to the base, and were ever eager to show visitors and guests around their own, sand filled, department.

High jinx were a huge part of such a posting, and the pilot of this Hercules Transport plane rued the day, as a new boy, he complained of not being able to see the aircraft directional landing 'bats'. With these giant copies, and under close supervision, I was allowed to land the aircraft and direct it to its stand.

This little fella was being 'stoned' by local children so I saved its life - it was by no means singular in the 'stoned' department!

We were also invited to fly on tactical missions, this one was a run down to Salalah in the desert, part of which was a 'beat up' landing at each end of the flight. A simulation of running into enemy mortar fire whilst landing, the plane would touch the deck then at the steepest angle and highest speed possible beat it out of there. Sitting in the co-pilots seat with that much G force was an indescribable sensation.

Local children, whose homes left a little to be desired, but being so close to a military base their families enjoyed plenty of job opportunity plus free medical care etc.

Fishing was a huge part of the recreation and with the 'duck' we could get off-shore to some very productive wrecks where

Grouper, Snapper and these Bull-head Bream were plentiful.

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