Sunday, 23 October 2011

Snowblind - Genesis

A note for any readers visiting this site via the links on the
Portland Bird Observatory website.
As 'birders' you may find interest in the posts of Tuesday 4th October and 14th July 2011
(via the Search Engine) ref

'dark phase' Long-tailed Skua!

Dark clouds predominated again this morning but failed in the main to keep the sun at bay, and with the wind a little fresher and firmly in the southern quarter the chill had disappeared. Taking a look at the Birding News from yesterday there was a possibility of seeing 3 quality species if indeed they had not continued their migration, so a little local 'twitching' called for. Distributed fairly widely, for the car-less logistically the venture was going to be a little difficult, but faint heart and all that........

A bus from town to Foords Corner left a walk of about 2 miles to the Army Bridging Camp perched on the edge of the Fleet at Wyke Regis, where the first target was said to be 100 yards along the perimeter fence. My first pass didn't reveal the bird, so I walked on a little further but turned back after just a short distance to find Brett Spencer approaching from the opposite direction. This raised the confidence level somewhat as I have 'birded' with Brett on many occasions and know him to have a pair of the sharpest eyes in the business. Still some way off, he started pointing in the direction of what was the sort after

Snow Bunting.

Not at all a frequent visitor to the County, there are usually just a handful recorded annually,

with numbers sometimes increasing during periods of severe winter weather.

A great start to the day, as this was the first time I've photographed this species in the home county, but now came the return walk and another bus ride onward to Portland. Luckily for me, at that very moment Paul & Jill Rendell (fellow birders) turned up to see the bird with the intent of following my own course. A lift to

East Weares, Portland was useful, to say the least, where we all took time to survey the fantastic vista. Not a part of the Island that I frequent very often these days, it is a fantastic vantage point to view Chesil Beach (left of picture), the National Sailing Academy & Osprey Quay (centre) and part of Verne Common.

Also from here most of what used to be the Portland Naval Base, now Portland Port, can be seen where lie 2 World War II 'Phoenix Units' also known as a 'Mulberry Harbour'. These were deployed during the D-Day landings in France, floated into shallow water and then effectively sunk forming berths for shipping, loading and unloading platforms etc.

It was interesting to note the diverse types of marine craft secure alongside the Queen's Pier, including a Pelagic Trawler (bottom left) looking now to be converted for 'scientific trials' work of sorts. Ahead of her, a Jack-Up Work Rig, complete with 'heavy lift' crane and 4 legs that would be lowered to the sea-bed forming a stable platform. Opposite, a medium size Cargo Freighter.

Still utilised in part by the military, in the deepest corner of the harbour one of the redundant Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) 'Round Table Class' Landing Craft Logistics (LCL) vessel, fondly referred to as 'Sir Boats' each being named after King Arthur;s Knights. This one, the name of which I forget, is used as a training area for Special Forces.

Continuing the RFA theme another 2 of that services ships were secured alongside the Coaling Pier Deep Water Berth this being RFA Argus formerly the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The ship was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands conflict and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship, replacing RFA Engadine once a familiar sight at Portland. In 1991, during the Gulf war, she was fitted with an extensive and fully functional hospital to assume the additional role of Primary Casualty Receiving Ship. In 2009, the PCRS role became the ship's primary function.

The RFA Orangeleaf while most certainly capable of carrying out a multi-functional roll is ostensibly a Fleet Fuel Tanker, primarily used to refuel ships at sea.

Eventually arriving at the Admiralty Cemetery the search began for the second target bird, an equally rare Pallas's Warbler, but thus far the news was not what we wanted to hear. A group of about 10 had already been searching for quite a while with no success, but many eyes make light work! While there, I took the opportunity to look around the graves and found that of

Captain George Hayhoe CBE, RN a Submarine Commander during my own time in that fine service. I feel sure he was the 'Old Man' on HM S/M Tiptoe when I undertook my 'part three' training on her. In the meantime there seemed to be some bird activity with Chaffinch numbering over 100, 5 Redwing, 2 Goldcrest, an unknown number of Siskin and this single

Merlin which arrived at the most inopportune moment. Europe's smallest 'bird of prey' is a fast flying Falcon which is difficult to photograph, but with the added hindrance of being in the middle of 'watering my horse' as it landed on a stone gate post at a distance of no more than 6 feet, I was not able to take advantage!

Containing my predicament as it flew into a nearby tree, there was a second chance but 'point blank' would have been much better.

Also in the area were a small feeding flock of

6 Long-tailed Tits but, sad to report, the Warbler remained unseen. On the way to the third and final 'goodie' a Yellow-browed Warbler, close relative of the Pallas's, a

Sparrowhawk flew overhead, while one of quite a number of

Skylark was captured on the ground. A short search was carried out at the West Weares but like its cousin the Y-b W remained undetectable.

There are a couple of notices to follow that may be of some benefit to local readers, as they were to me (The Bus Pass Birder) when sent by my friend Janet Read.

Buxton Road (northbound) closure

Monday 31 October 2011 - Monday 12 December 2011

Road Works

  • Area: Buxton Road, Weymouth
  • Cause: Wessex Water repairs
  • Responsibility: Wessex Water
  • Duration: approx 6 weeks

Service 1 will be disrupted from Monday 31st October for approximately 6 weeks while Wessex Water work near Bincleaves and Buxton Road junction.

The roads will be closed northbound (returning to Weymouth) and as a result service 1 will be diverted at Foords Corner and will travel via Portland Road and Wyke Road for the duration of works.

Bus stops in Portland and Wyke Roads will be observed on the inbound journey.

Customers are requested to use these bus stops until the works are complete.

Insignificant, unless you were one of the regular revelers at the vibrant Cornopian Public House which was years ago the house on the left with the yellow blooms, this is the site relating to the following notice. As the bridge progresses over the next 20 weeks I'll bring you updates.

Rodwell Trail Bridge Improvements

Monday 24 October 2011 - Saturday 31 March 2012

Road Works

  • Area: Newstead Road, Weymouth
  • Cause: New bridge
  • Responsibility: DCC
  • Duration: approx 20 weeks

Newstead Road will be closed to Northbound traffic from Monday 24th October 2011.

Services 3, 5 and 8 towards Abbotsbury Road will be diverted from North Quay into Westwey Road (stopping at the Law Courts bus stop for ASDA), left into Abbotsbury Road and will continue on route from The Rock junction. Bus stops at ASDA and The Rock, outbound, will not be served for the duration of the works.

Services towards Weymouth town centre are not affected at this time but it is expected that Newstead Road will be closed completely at the beginning of February. Details will follow nearer the time.

Landmark sculpture for Weymouth

Work is underway to construct a landmark sculpture for Weymouth.

Richard Harris has created the sculpture titled ‘Jurassic Stones’. The picture above shows an artist impression of the sculpture. The idea of incorporating art in the development of the relief road was proposed in the Weymouth and Portland Commissioning Plan for 2012. The project has received funding from Arts Council England.

The sculpture will be created using boulders which were revealed in Southdown Ridge when work began in preparation for the new road. Subject to weather, the sculpture is due to be finished in December.

This landmark shouldn't take anywhere near that time of bridge construction, so hopefully there will be another picture, of the completed article, before too long.

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