Sunday, 31 July 2011

Another Higginson-Tranter Masterclass

With barely any change in strength, the wind remained at about 10 knots in the unfamiliar South Easterly direction, and at the time of leaving home (06:00) the sky was totally obscured by clouds. In the cemetery, Willow Warblers were showing all over the place with just a couple of Blackcaps and the Coal Tit (s) continued to sing from the huge ornamental fir trees.

Radipole produced nothing, and by the time I reached the Town Bridge to catch the first (07:27) bus to Portland the cloud cover had reduced to half. Still buzzing from yesterday's eye opener at the hands of 'The Fungal Punk', and knowing the Higginson-Tranter's were still at large at The Bill there was simply no way I was going to miss the chance of a second, enlightening foray.

By the time the Observatory was reached, John Lucas (Moth Monitor in the absence of the Warden) had already emptied the traps of a relatively poor catch, but he had kept a couple of specimens aside for me to photograph including Rosy Footman and

Common Emerald

Other members of the group were making a 'bit of a meal' over breakfast, but I was quite happy to watch Rosy Morgan (The Profs wife) remove a Sedge Warbler from on of the mist nets and after ringing it allowing a number of us to photograph it. There were also a few characters there who only appear on an 'annual basis' including Dan Pointon who I am always pleased to catch up with.

Finally, we were all ready to go with our first target being Down Shieldbug a tiny, tiny creature that only a trained eye would detect, but one was soon in the specimen pot and quickly released after good views.

Pale Flax and
this Eye Bright Species are both seen every year by me but shamefully I pay them scant regard, today was the exception as we all examined them via a powerful magnifying glass, you could have been on Mars!

Six-spot Burnet Moths were literally emerging around us as Dave pointed out yet another new species to me

Hoary Plantain followed by a brief explanation as to the difference between

Spear and
Dwarf Thistles

After our encounter yesterday with White-lipped banded Snail, today was the turn of a close relative Brown-lipped Banded Snail, at which point Dave sent up a loud cry of "BASTARD TOADFLAX". Most of us thought this may be the lyric of Dave's latest 'Punk' composition, but it is in fact a very small green plant which proved difficult (for me at least) to photograph.

The moment had now arrived where even Dave was stumped on a plant, the one on the right is Greater Centaury, but I bet he has the other sussed before bedtime!

We (um Dave) then found this Long-winged Conehead

and you couldn't help but marvel at the length of antennae on such a small insect, but it was now time to cut down to the sea-shore where we hoped to find Blue-rayed Limpet.

On the way we saw what has become an increasingly rare sight over the past couple of decades,

Spear Fishermen, a Scotsman left with his Spanish mate had seen a little success today with these Bass.

Dave & Simon started the search among the washed up Kelp at Small Beach

while the rest of us (Gill, Deborah, Patie & Katie) HELPED by keeping an eye on them. None were found, but it was thought worthwhile to publish this photo 'blagged' from Wikepedia.

Blue-rayed Limpet I will be making further searches in the future.

Dave shows Simon a fine example of Thong Weed while a little further along the coast

I found my own, in fact masses of it.

Time and, I think patience, was now getting a little short as the Punk transformed to Glam and decided to show us his Alice Cooper wig impression,

while daughter Katie demonstrated something far more special. She has been an accomplished Gymnast since childhood and made her first International appearance in the United States at the tender age of 9 years!

Additionally, she is about to embark on what her Mum Gill describes as a 3 weeks 'Martial Arts Boot Camp' in the Brecon Beacons, Wales

prior to her attempt to achieve a 'Black Belt' in Karate - no wonder I've been so nice to her all weekend. The Very Best of Luck Katie!

Despite the absence of the Limpets, there was one final bonus by way of the most unusual

Shore Clingfish also known as Cornish Lumpsucker.

Not needing to be immersed in water to survive, this one was found under a rock and was gently transferred to a small rock pool to allow these photographs before being return to its home.

There was also a Black (Shore) Crab, and finally we took a look at what is , Nationally, the rarest plant we saw today.

Portland Sea-lavender is easy to find along this stretch of sea-cliffs, but its rarity value comes when it is reveled that this plant is found nowhere else on Earth.

I think it safe to speak for everyone when thanking the Higginson-Tranters for sharing their wealth on wild-life knowledge, and particularly for sharing it with us. Hurry back!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Are You Going to Gooseberry Fair, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme

A mammoth milestone was reached today as far as this blog is concerned as the 150th country joined our readership. I am further 'tickled pick' to announce that the country is Cuba a destination Andy Lindsay and I visited back in the late 90's a visit we still discuss to this day. A huge welcome is extended to our new readers and hope you will extend an invitation to you friends to become readers too! Thank You & Welcome.

Believing the readership was let down by the 'poor' images of Scaly Cricket yesterday, we aim to redress that by publishing this superb shot taken by my friend and fellow Wildlife lover Bob Ford.

After a couple of overnight showers of rain, it was thought that any overflying birds may have been forced to land but on an early walk to the Portland Bird Observatory there was nothing to photograph at all. However, despite the continuing overcast sky and the novelty of a south easterly wind, rarely experienced here, the day was about to take a dramatic change for the better.

With the Warden on holiday the helm has been handed to Professor Peter Morgan while tenure of the Moth Traps is being ably overseen by fellow member John Lucas. If that were not enough of a 'boost' to the day some dear friends had also arrived on their southerly and annual migration who it is always a bonus to spend time with.

Front left is Dave the Fungal Punk (, with daughter Katie and wife Gill behind, John Lucas (studying Moths) right and Simon and Deborah Earwicker in the background.

One of today's prized finds was this Dor Beetle and this is where The Punk comes into play. Apart from his love of that music genre, he also has a wide ranging knowledge of most things wild especially Fungi, Insects and Flora.

After identifying this magnificent creature, he went on to turn it over and show us the parasitic small Spiders that live on its underbelly.

With such a gathering, now joined by new friend Patsie Keen (right), a guided 'nature walk' was inevitable, and with the opportunity of visiting the Gooseberry Fair in the village of Weston later on. Even I could identify the first Butterfly to show up,

Red Admiral, but that was about my lot as Dave started to point out

White-lipped Banded Snail

Strawberry Clover (the dying flower heads taking the form of that fruit),


Pineapple Weed (named from its scent),

Hop Trefoil,

and Ivy Broomrape.

There was also on of the Arion Species of Slug, with Dave pointing out the small dark patch on the neck which is a ;breathing pore' while later on Barleycrates Lane we uncovered

this Ants Nest. Under the same boulder was an insect he called a Devil's Coach Horse, which he described as 'vicious' (Sid I wouldn't be surprised knowing Dave) which was all too quick for me to photograph.

This Swollen-thigh Beetle Odemara nobilus was seen on Hedge Bindweed

While what he described as a Marmalade Hoverfly - Episyrphus balteatus was a brand new species to all of us.

Finally, reaching the end of the lane, he pointed out Pellitory of the Wall a strangely named but common plant, before we joined the revellers

at the Gooseberry Fare.

The whether stayed dry and not too sunny

as the 'Award Winning' Juno Bellydancers took center stage

much to the delight of an attentive audience,

putting on a fine display of their art under the direction of Michelle Moss (front left).

Next on were The Second Edition Majorettes Troupe from Portland,

who's ages ranged from 7 to 14

and delighted the crowd with a few of their polished routines. There were also many other attractions, with the visitors winning all the prizes on the Tombola etc, consequently none of them have been invited back. Saying our goodbyes to the 'Punks', Simon, Debbie and I enjoyed a pint of cider together before I too departed to the mainland. There is a chance that I'll see these people again before they leave, but if not here's wishing them Bon Voyage and Be back Soon!

and finally having been 'pipped to the post' with the £75,000 bottle of Chateaux 'dYquem, I have some great news for one lucky reader who buys Stephen Williams' next exclusive offer. Yours for the bargain price of £600,000, I am available for 'tasting' at the drop of a hat.

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Château d'Yquem Vertical – 1890 to 2007

Château d'Yquem stands alone at the summit of the wine world. As the only wine to be classified as Premier Cru Supérieur (Great First Growth), it is ranked above all other Bordeaux wines, including all of the most legendary reds. Known for its exceptional purity and longevity, d'Yquem is a wine of unmatched luxury.
In the words of Managing Director Pierre Lurton, who we recently interviewed at the château, d'Yquem is defined by how fresh and lively it tastes, decades or even centuries after bottling. It is, as M. Lurton noted, 'pure cashmere.' This unusual vertical collection was acquired from the pristine cellars of one of our top private clients. It includes:
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  • A total of 107 consecutive vintages (excluding 1894 and 1897), all of which are in excellent condition.
  • The perfect, 100 point rated 1967 and 2001 vintages, as well as 25 vintages rated over 90 points.
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View the complete collection »