Archive for January, 2019

Portland Harbour from Sandsfoot Castle

A lovely sunny winters day and I started out at SandsfootCastle looking for Divers. As on Tuesday, there were Great Crested Grebe andBlack-necked Grebe but no divers.

I then walked the Rodwell Trail (the route of the oldWeymouth-Portland Railway line) and added some common birds such as Wren andGreenfinch.

Sandsfoot Castle from the Rodwell trail

At Ferrybridge, a large group of Red-Breasted Mergansers and Black-headed Gulls had obviously located a shoal of fish and were feeding frantically. On the high tide roost there was a party of 30 Brent Geese, whilst on the Fleet, there were only some gulls and a small party of Red-Breasted Mergansers.

The Fleet at Ferrybridge

After meeting Sue for Lunch at the excellent Chesil Beach Cafe, we went to Radipole RSPB reserve to have another look at the Ring-necked Duck and see if I could get some photos, but alas it was asleep tucked into a bank of reeds. However, whilst we were standing there watching it a Yellow-Browed Warbler flew into the reeds in front of us and flitted from reed to tree and back again, calling repeatedly, in the frantic way that seems characteristic of this species.

Yellow-Browed Warbler
Photo by Dave Curtis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/davethebird/)

Brant Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Black-necked Grebe [sp] (Podiceps nigricollis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Osmington White Horse

Posted: January 30, 2019 in Dorset, History, UK
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The Osmington White Horse is a figure cut into a limestone hill just north of Weymouth. It dates from 1808 and is of George III riding a horse and celebrates the monarch who was a regular visitor to the town and referred to it as ‘ his first resort’.

The figure was restored in 1989 as part of a TV programme although the restoration subsequently drew much criticism for changes made to the figure and in 2011 pranksters added a horn to the horse making it appear as a unicorn. Subsequently, another restoration was performed in early 2012 as part of the town’s preparations for the Olympics (Weymouth was the venue for the sailing events) which returned it to its original likeness.

Naturelog: 16 January

Posted: January 29, 2019 in Birds, Dorset, Natural History, UK
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A dull, overcast and wet day which didn’t bode well for birdwatching so Sue and I set out in the car. Our first stop was at Portesham village, a known area for Western Cattle Egret. As we drove along we saw some white birds in a field. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop until some distance later when we pulled into the entrance of the Sewage Works and was able to look back with the telescope and confirm that they were Cattle Egrets.

Cattle Egret
Photo by Doug Greenberg (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dagberg/)

Our next stop was Lyme Regis Harbour and our target birds Black Redstart and Purple Sandpiper. As we walked along the harbour wall we saw 3 Rock Pipits and a few Ruddy Turnstones but there were no roosting Purple Sandpipers. I scanned the sea out from the harbour and was surprised to find a Red-Necked Grebe, a number of which winter on this part of the coast.

Lyme Regis
Rock Pipit
Photo by Steve Herring (https://www.flickr.com/photos/steve_herring/)
Red-Necked Grebe
Photo by Dave Inman (https://www.flickr.com/photos/79254232@N08/)

The rain was now coming down hard and so we retreated for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Afterwards, with the wet weather not abating, we decided to call it day and head back to our cottage in Weymouth.

Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Red-necked Grebe [sp] (Podiceps grisegena)
Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull [sp] (Larus canus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Eurasian Rock Pipit [sp] (Anthus petrosus)

Sandsfoot castle

Sandsfoot castle

Sandsfoot castle was built in Wyke Regis on the north side of Portland Harbour by order of Henry VIII, fearful of attacks by Spanish and French forces. It was built at the same time as Portland Castle on the southern point of the bay and was completed in 1539. It is said that much of the stone for the castle came from the dissolved abbey at Blandon near Wool.

Looking from Sandsfoot castle towards Portland castle

Looking from Sandsfoot castle towards Portland castle

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During the English civil war it was held by the Royalists until 1644, when following a siege it was captured by the Parliamentarians, who used it as a storehouse. It continued in this role until around 1691, when coastal erosion was threatening to undermine the cliff on which the castle stands. This was addressed by the building of the Portland breakwater in 1849, but by this time the castle was in a dangerous state and had been abandoned.

DSCN1299a

 

It was purchased by Weymouth Council in 1902 for the sum of £150 and Tudor gardens were laid out on the adjoining land and a public park created. It was not until 2009-2010 that in a joint project with a local community trust that funds became available to carry out the works needed to allow public access to the castle buildings.

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Started the morning at Sandsfoot Castle on the north side of Portland Harbour.  There are a distant pair of Black-Necked Grebe in the harbour and a small raft of Red-Breasted Merganser. In the gardens around the castle there are a large flock of House Sparrows.

View from Sandfoot Castle looking towards Weymouth

Sandsfoot Castle was built in the reign of Henry VIII to protect the entrance to the harbour.

View from Sandsfoot Castle looking towards Portland

Walking west along the north side of the harbour, there are more Red-Breasted Mergansers. I reach Ferrybridge and check the high tide roost but there are no waders or geese only gulls and a Meadow Pipit.

Bowleaze Cove

In the afternoon, Sue and I went to Bowleaze Cove looking for Short-Eared Owl which winters in that area. We didn’t see one but did see two Kestrels and a Buzzard. On the sea was a raft of 20 Mediterranean Gulls. 

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Black-necked Grebe [sp] (Podiceps nigricollis)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

Naturelog:14 January

Posted: January 24, 2019 in Birds, Natural History
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Today’s location was the RSPB reserve at Radipole Lake. This area of reed-bed and open water is just upriver of the mouth of the River Wey. It starts in the town and follows the river north from there.

My first location is the main channel, where a Ring-Necked Duck has been wintering. This American bird is one of a handful that have made their way across the Atlantic to the UK this winter. I was fortunate to see one only last month in Kent. After some searching I find the bird with a group of Tufted Duck (a close relative) and although I get an excellent view sadly it is by looking through a bank of reeds and so impossible to get any photographs.

Ring-necked Duck.
Photo by Alexandra Mackenzie (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mizmak/)

Having seen the star bird on the reserve, I make my way to the reserve centre to see what other birds are around and to get a hot drink as it seems rather cold this morning. From the window of the centre, a Water Rail is seen flying from one reed-bed to another. A single Mediterranean Gull is amongst the commoner gulls roosting on the perches around the centre.

Great Cormorants

Walking through the reed-beds it seems very quite apart from the occasional song of the Cetti’s Warbler. On some open water there is a group of Great Cormorants along with Common Pochard, a pair of Gadwall and a large flock of Tufted Duck.

Tufted Duck

Continuing on to the North screen, there is a group of Eurasian Teal along with a single Little Egret. At least 3 Western Marsh Harriers are seen over the reed-bed.

Mute Swan
Mouse
Northern Shovellor

Turning south again and retracing my steps towards the river mouth and harbour, I choose this time to walk down the western side of the river. A Grey Wagtail and 3 Little Grebes are welcome additions to the day’s list before seeking out another hot drink.

Little Grebe

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)

This North American wading bird is a relative of our Redshank. It breeds in Canada and Alaska and winters on the Gulf Coast of the USA and in south America.A few get blown across the Atlantic and winter in the UK and Europe.

This bird has been wintering at the RSPB reserve at Lodmoor, just outside Weymouth.

A morning walk around the RSPB reserve at Lodmoor. making my way along the northern edge there are some common waterfowl on the pools in the reed-bed.

On the west scrape I find a Ruff and a large party of Lapwing. One bird however is drawing a lot of attention. It is a Lesser Yellowlegs, so called because it is the smaller of two similar species, the other being Greater Yellowlegs. This American Wading bird has been wintering here for some weeks now. It is a very obliging bird.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Moving on down the west scrape I find Common Snipe, Dunlin and Little Grebe along with a party of Mallard who seem to think everyone is going to feed them. I arrive at the the southern scrape and find a Little Egret, a Grey Heron and some Common Snipe.

Common Snipe

On my way back to the cottage, I cross the middle of the reserve on Beachdown way, which bisects the reserve from south to north. There has been a wintering Yellow-Browed Warbler on this path and having got some information from a local birder on its favoured location, I sit down to wait. After about 20 minutes I hear its distinctive call and then see the bird fly from a tree. Then there is silence. About 10 minutes later it started calling again and I can see it madly dashing about in a tree in front of me. This seems to be a characteristic of this species. I get some good, if fleeting views.

Yellow-Browed Warbler.
Photo by Dave Curtis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/davethebird/)
Eurasian Robin
Grey Heron

In the afternoon Sue and I went to the Chesil Beach observation point. The tide is out so there is not much close into our position. Out on the water, I can see a couple of Red-Breasted Merganser along with gulls and Cormorants.

The Fleet at Chesil Beach

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruff (Calidris pugnax)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
Mew Gull [sp] (Larus canus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Bearded Reedling [sp] (Panurus biarmicus)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Eurasian Bullfinch [sp] (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Naturelog 12 January

Posted: January 21, 2019 in Birds, Natural History
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As we did last year Sue and I started the year off with a week in Weymouth in Dorset. On the way from London, we stopped off at Blashford Lakes in Hampshire. This gem of a reserve we discovered for the first time on the way home from Dorset last year.

Our first stop was Ibsey water but apart from a party of Linnets, a Little Grebe and some distant gulls, most of which seemed to be Lesser Black-backed and Herring gulls there was not a lot to be seen.

We then went to the Woodland hide, where a number of species were attending the feeder station. Unfortunately, unlike last year, there were no Brambling or Bullfinches. However, a stunning male Siskin and a Coal Tit did oblige us.

Finally, we went to Ivy South Hide. Here we looked over one of the large lakes with its Cormorant roosting tree. A Great White Egret flew into the reeds at the edge but there was no sign of the Bittern which had been seen earlier in the afternoon.

Cormorant roosting tree
Great White Egret

We then spent some time looking for a Yellow-Browed Warbler, once a rare passage migrant, but now a few are wintering in the UK. On this occasion I wasn’t successful, but there are other opportunities as there are two birds wintering in Weymouth, one on each of the town’s RSPB reserves.

Time was getting on and we needed to continue on our journey so we had to leave Blashford and continue our journey.

Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Merganser [sp] (Mergus merganser)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Egret [sp] (Ardea alba)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Kingfisher [sp] (Alcedo atthis)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Goldcrest [sp] (Regulus regulus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
Common Linnet [sp] (Linaria cannabina)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Jumbo Water Tower

Posted: January 18, 2019 in History
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