Wednesday, 26 January 2011

To the Crews of HMS Bee & Ocean

Barely 30 seconds after pressing the 'publish post' button on yesterday's Blog, than I received a phone call from Paul Harris announcing "Waxwings at Canterbury Close"! No more than a mile from my house and in the heart of a large housing estate, with still some daylight left I got over there as quickly as the traffic would allow. Of the 'birding fraternity' it appeared that Luke Phillips had pipped Brett Spencer to the post in finding these infrequent visitors, but with a little quizzing it turned out that Luke had in fact been alerted to the birds by local residents.

Johnny & Janet Read, who describe themselves as avid readers of this Blog ("we never miss a day" John told me) were in fact the 'finders' of the c3 Waxwings as they looked from their kitchen window onto a very small, but heavily berried, Rowan (Mountain Ash) Tree across the road, where they were feeding.

Under a rain filled sky (soon to shed its load) and a cold northerly breeze, I met the Read's this morning more or less still under the cover of darkness. I chose to conduct mt vigil, awaiting the birds, in the comfort of the car but fortunately didn't have to wait long as they soon landed atop a huge tree close by.

Waxwing - Showing only in silhouette, the light was not conducive with clear photography, but at least they were still here and added to the Year List.

Remaining in the tall tree for about 10 minutes, there seemed little doubt that eventually they would fly down to feed,

which they did allowing a few

reasonable images given the conditions,

as the light improved slightly and the rain set in!

This done, I continued my duty to inform others, mostly by text, at which point they flew away. However, this had been the pattern of their behavior since arrival, returning within an hour or so to the food source. Another report, this time on the Rare Bird Alert web-site, was of a Black Redstart at Newton's Cove, under normal circumstances just a 5 minute drive from where I stood, but given the extensive roadwork diversions plus school and work traffic this took a full half hour.

The 'Cove' extends from the Nothe Fort (built in 1872 to protect Portland Harbour, which was then becoming an important Royal Navy base, and played an important role in World War II when the harbour was used as a base by both British and US Navies. In 1956 the fort was abandoned and in 1961 purchased by the local council. It is now a museum featuring models, World War II memorabilia, original cannons and guns plus British and American WWII vehicles) to the east,

along a small tract of woodland, private hoses and the new Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) complex (grey pitched roof)

and bordered on its west bank by part of the Portland Harbour breakwater. (Old stomping ground Ginge?)

The breakwater extending south, including one of two experimental torpedo firing ranges and the Isle of Portland in the background.

Despite an hour long search, there was no sign of the Black Redstart but other birds to be seen included Long-tailed Tit, Turnstone, Oystercatcher


Black-headed Gull

and c13 Great Crested Grebes.

Whether this plaque is new or not I don't know but found it very interesting.

Time now to give the Bill some coverage, and couldn't have arrived at the Observatory at a more opportune moment. Having time only to put the kettle on there was a call from the veranda of

Sooty Shearwater, a single unseasonable bird lingering a good distance off-shore - another Year Tick.

Luckily for me, Martin Cade the Warden allowed me the use of his telescope which afforded very good views of this my favorite bird 'in flight' - 'majestic' he called it, here, here! These photographs are from the archive, today's arrival being far too distant.

Down at the Lighthouse and through the sea mist the shape of a large 'war canoe' could just be discerned, Martin and I agreeing it was most likely HMS Ocean the Royal Navies largest warship.

In addition there were still many hundreds of mixed Auks (Razorbill & Guillemot) flying back and forth, and there were also

good numbers of Gannet (did you ever wonder where they might have got the idea for the design of Concorde?).

The Great Britain Year List now totals = 172

Finally, the highlight of my day was the great pleasure of taking my dear friend Roy Henderson, best part recovered for a recent operation, out for lunch. He suggested Coffee Corner in the Easton Shopping Arcade, neither of which I had heard of, and what a suggestion it was. Staffed, in the main, by people with some disabilities it was an absolute 'eye-opener' as the reasonable priced food was of extremely high quality and plentiful, service impeccable and everyone working at breakneck pace. The seriously bad news is that this magic little eatery is closing down at the end of the month, due to excessive rent hikes, but on the up-side, all employees are to be transferred to another (Outside) Catering business.
We wish each and every one of you the Best of Luck in your new venture.