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!

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