Sunday, 8 May 2011

'True' Friends & Family - Great To Have Both!

Yesterday afternoon's meeting at the Oasis Cafe at the end of Preston Beach just outside Weymouth was a resounding success, but turned out to be much more than just a quiet family get together.

For starters, I got to see my grandson Lee, who will be 15 at the end of this month

and of course my lovely (eldest) daughter Julie.

Son 'out law' Nigel was also in attendance so all in all I would have been delighted to simply share a meal with them. It had been my intention to telephone my longest standing friend in Weymouth, John 'Sooty' Stockley , to wish him a happy birthday later in the day, but he and wife Gill beat me to the punch by turning up here! As ever it was great to see them both, and conversation soon turned to this time last year when his 65th birthday party was held at the Eldridge Pope Brewery shooting lodge at Wrackleford just north of Dorchester.

An occasion to remember as I was designate 'Sommelier' for the day and started my duties by serving 'pink champagne'.

There followed a sit down dinner for 50, cooked 'on site' by family friends.

Then time for a chat with Sooty,

a pose by the fire with Ille (we think of you often Ille, love to ALL in Estonia)

followed by some serious Rock 'n' Roll from Stompin' Dave & Co.

A family photo then, as all good things do, it came to an end. Hope you have a great day Sooty, Gill and Family, we are thinking of you!

Where did that year go?

As a rider, we also saw one of my ex-shipmates Captain Tony MacKinder, who I worked with on among other jobs the salvage of the Libyan freighter Ebn Magid, which has featured previously through these pages. Half an hour later we really did have to go so parted with a few 'sea stories' ringing in our ears.

In the meantime my 'birding' friend Jo Lawrence had arrived from Chatham for her annual weeks visit, so once again I could put her right about everything to do with our hobby. Waking me up to inform me of her arrival, we agreed to meet at 07:00 this morning on the Radipole car park. At 07:05 precisely I receive a text from Paul Harris informing me of a Night Heron on the reserve but there is no sign of Jo. As a 'true gentleman' and with a Year, Month and Location 'Tick' in prospect I simply abandoned her, but texting of my intent.

(Black-crowned) Night Heron juvenile at the Buddliea Loop, Radipole where I met up with Brett Spencer and Ian Dodd who had seen nothing of the bird. After a short search I caught sight of it flying just above the bushes at the waters edge, but neither of the others were well placed to see it.

After a few minutes it appeared again and this time photographed in poor light allowing only silhouette shots. Alerting other local birders as it vanished once again, I again located it from Radipole Park Drive, perched on what looked like a log at the waters edge. There were those approaching it from the other side and far too close, but my gesticulations came to naught as it 'flushed' and flew off once more. If that were not annoying enough, there followed a period when it was being disturbed far too often, but by that time Jo had joined me, seen the bird and we were off, but not before watching a Hobby circling directly above us.

My first Mallard Ducklings of the year at Radipole, while

this Mute Swan seems quite content and undisturbed nesting close to the Gurkha Restaurant. Taking the short walk to Westham Bridge, Jo was able to add the Hooded Merganser to her list before heading to Portland where there seemed, once again, to be few birds around and no news of either the Bee-eater or Red-backed Shrike having been relocated today. Nearing the Observatory we were told that the

Red-backed Shrike was

being seen well, albeit at some distance,

feeding at Culverwell. This made for a 'hat trick' of 'Year Ticks' for both of us,

while at the Obs there was yet another treat in the shape of a most colourful Moth a Cream-spot Tiger. After a short sea watch which produce just the usual fare, Guillemot, Razorbill, Shag, etc, all great value for the usually 'land-locked' Jo we decided to return to the Obs seeking information about the Bee-eater. On the way we called into the local pub to ask the Landlord if Jo might park on his property if she decided to do a longer sea-watch later in the week. He was busy with a house full of Sunday diners, but was happy to let her park there and not to hinder him we said how lovely the 'carvery' looked and took our leave. We only got to the end of the said car park when we looked at each other and agreed we should be staying for lunch. We don't do advertising on this Blog, but when we see something worth passing on to the readership that's just what we do!

The Pulpit Inn at Portland Bill has to my knowledge consistently produced fine food at a sensible price and is worthy of a visit at any time of the day/week.

However, the Sunday Roast takes the prize as the best of the lot, so go and meet Mine Host Danny Fox (above) and his welcoming crew and Bon App├ętit.

Finally, we heard that the Bee-eater had been seen in the Blacknor area of Portland, so went in search without any luck, but did get a closer look at the refurbished Blacknor Fort which my mate Merv tells me should be habitable in the next few weeks.