Archive for January, 2020

Following the blow through by Storm Brendan mk2, the following day again dawned bright and sunny and we had one last full day before heading back to London.

So we went to the RSPB reserve at Arne, situated on a peninsula which projects into Poole Harbour. At the visitor’s centre, we spent some time watching the feeders with Great Spotted Woodpecker and Coal Tits being the highlights. After a wonderful breakfast in the reserve cafe, Sue and I set out for Shipstall point. At the hide overlooking the channel, we saw a party of 20 Eurasian Spoonbills, a large group of Eurasian Curlew plus Avocets and Common Redshanks. A variety of Duck were also present including Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Eurasian Teal and Shelduck. A Peregrine Falcon flew over the marsh before heading in the direction of Poole and on our way back to the centre we flushed a male Sparrowhawk.

Our next stop was at the Boating Lake at Poole Park where a Great Northern Diver had been reported earlier in the day. We spent sometime looking but could not see it. However, Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye were present on the pool.

The day after Storm Brendan blew through the south-west dawned with abright sunny morning.

I started the morning at Sandsfoot castle overlooking Portland Harbour. Surveying the harbour there were a number of gulls, a couple of cormorants and a Great Crested Grebe but no sign of the Black-necked Grebes or Divers that use the harbour as a wintering spot.

I continued along the Rodwell way towards Ferrybridge. This path is the old Weymouth to Portland railway line which has now been converted into a pedestrian and cycle path stretching from Weymouth to Ferrybridge. Near the sailing club I noticed three grebes lazing on the water. A view through the telescope confirmed that these were 3 Black-necked Grebes.

A female Eurasian Stonechat was a welcome sighting as this species seems to be in decline around the UK coasts and a once common bird on coastal walks is now seen far less frequently.

As I was approaching Ferrybridge I saw a diver in the harbour. It was quite distant and so I cannot be absolutely certain of its identity (2 species are regular seen within the harbour) but the lack of a large head and bill and the dark colouring suggested that it was most likely a Black-Throated Diver.

Arriving at Ferrybridge there was a small group of Red-Breasted Merganser on the Fleet plus a Little Grebe. On the shingle bank about 120 Brent Geese were roosting from the high tide. Later this moved down onto the mudflats as the tide receded. Strangely there was not a single wader on the mudflats today.

Spent the morning at the RSPB reserve at Radipole Lake in the centre of Weymouth. As I left the visitor’s centre a Cetti’s Warbler called from the reeds and by the stone bridge a female Bearded Reedling was trying to cope with the reeds swaying in the wind. At the northern scape a male and a female Marsh Harrier were seen fling above the reed bed.

As I walked back to the centre the rain began to start falling and the winds became stronger, the first front of Storm Brendan which was due to reach Dorset in the afternoon.

Spent the morning at the RSPB reserve at Lodmoor, just outside Weymouth.

On the islands, there were about 12 Common Snipe along with some common waterfowl.

As I walked down the western edge I was surprised to find a Black swan, This bird is native to Australia, so all birds encountered in the UK are escapes from bird collections.

Apart from around 50 Lapwing, the only other wading bird was a single Common Redshank. In with the flock of Black-headed Gulls was a single Mediterranean Gull and a couple of Common Gulls. In the reed-bed, a couple of Water Rail were heard calling and a flock of Common Pochard were seen on the northern pools.

In the afternoon Sue and I went to the cafe at Chesil beach for afternoon tea, which also gave me the opportunity to have a look on the southern end of the Fleet, where there was a Little Egret, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers and about 30 Dunlin.

The Fleet at Chesil

Day one of our 2020 trip to Dorset saw us travelling down from London to Weymouth. We stooped off at Blashford Lakes in Hampshire for a couple of hours in the afternoon and although we didn’t record a large number of species, we did see some good ones.

Arriving at the reserve we went straight to Tern hide and were soon watching a distant Long-tailed Duck, a species which is more commonly found on the coast. Also present were 6 Common Goldeneye and 2 Goosander and large numbers of Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail and Gadwall plus smaller groups of Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Ducks and Common Pochard.

Goosander
Photo by Damian Walmsley (https://www.flickr.com/photos/damienwalmsley/)

The Woodland hide was quite quiet with only Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin and Goldfinch present. Elsewhere on the reserve we also saw Chaffinch, Blackbird, Dunnock and Long-tailed Tit.

After a couple of hours, it was time to recommence our journey west, but an excellent start to our trip.

No entry to where?

Posted: January 20, 2020 in Life's little mysteries

Spent some time trying to figure out the reason for these no-entry signs seen at a service station on the M3 on Saturday.

Perhaps they are just in case you want to drive over the pavement and the grass, but strangely the little sign says ‘Authorised Vehicles only’, so I guess it is OK for them.

Naturelog: 10th January

Posted: January 16, 2020 in Birds, Mammals, Natural History

After a morning meeting in Blackheath, I went for a walk through the northern part of Greenwich Park visiting the Deer Enclosure, which occupies the northern edge of the park, east of the main gates.

The Deer Enclosure is an excellent spot for seeing wintering thrushes and a quick scan showed around 15 Redwing present along with some Blackbirds. This can be the best local spot for the rarest of our wintering thrushes, the Fieldfare but there are none to be seen today. This may be because the so-far mild winter has meant that not many have migrated this far south.

Redwing
Redwing
Photo by Alison Day ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/levettday/ )

A good selection of woodland birds are also present – Blue and Great Tits, Robins and a few finches plus 4 species of Crow and a brief view of Goldcrest.

Keith park was born in New Zealand in June 1892. He joined the NZ army cadets, but at age 19 he went to sea on a merchant ship. At the outbreak of WW1, Park returned to the army joining a Field Artillery unit. He served at Gallipoli and was commissioned in July 1915. Late in 1915, he arranged a transfer into the British Royal Artillery. He was evacuated from Gallipoli in January 1916 and was then sent to fight on the Somme in France. In October that year he was wounded when a shell landed close by and he was sent back to England. Whilst he was recovering, he applied for a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps.

Following training he was posted to 48 Squadron in France in June 1917 and in August was awarded the Military Cross for his part in an aerial battle and promoted to Captain. He was subsequently promoted to Major and given command of 48 squadron.

After the war ended, Park stayed in the RAF with the rank of flight lieutenant (army ranks having been dispensed with on the formation of the RAF). After a period as a flight commander, he was transferred to the school of technical training. In 1922 he attended the RAF staff college and on completion there commanded a number of RAF stations. In 1938 he was appointed to the senior post in fighter command.

Promoted to Air Vice Marshall, Park was responsible for the organisation of 11 Group fighter command which covered London and the south-east of England and gained a reputation during the Battle of Britain as a shrewd tactician. In 1942 he was posted as commanding officer for RAF in Egypt and in July of that year was responsible for organising the air forces in defence of Malta. In February 1945, he was appointed as Allied Air Commander in SE Asia.

At the end of WW2, Park retired and returned to his native New Zealand, where he undertook a number of civic roles until his death in 1975.

This statue in Waterloo Place was unveiled on Battle of Britain day 2010 as part of the 70th-anniversary commemoration.

The awesome responsibility for the country’s defence rested squarely on Keith Park’s shoulders‘ Sir Douglas Bader (RAF pilot)

He was the only man who could have lost the war in a day or even an afternoon ‘ Air Cheif Marshall Dowding (Commander Air Forces during Battle of Britain)

The Deal Porters were specialised men who worked in the timber docks handling the timber as it came off the ships. It was a demanding job which required strength, dexterity a head for heights and was regarded as very hazardous. They were phased out as mechanisation replaced their jobs in the 1940s.

This statue in commemoration of the Deal Porters who worked in the Surrey group of Docks (which included the main timber docks) can be found alongside Canada Water and was designed by Phillip Bews and Diane Gorvin.

There are also a number of roads in the vicinity named after the Deal Porters.

Naturelog: 6th January

Posted: January 8, 2020 in Birds, Natural History
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A trip into the Dockland area of South London this morning. These docks dealt primarily with Timber and the dock names reflect the sources of the imports – Canada Dock, Russia Dock and Greenland Dock. Although the docks have long since been decommissioned this is still an area with potential for wildlife. My first stop is the Russia Dock Woodland. This is a park and woodland built on the infilled Russia Dock, traces of which can still be seen in the park.

I have not visited this site before but have been keen to see if I can see a Yellow-Browed warbler which has been present here for a couple of weeks now. The Yellow-browed Warbler is a small warbler which normally breeds in northern Asia and winters in Southern Asia but which has increasingly been wintering in small numbers in Western Europe. It is a fast-moving bird, which never seems to keep still as it flits from tree to tree.

Yellow-Browed Warbler
Photo by Sergey Yeliseev ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/yeliseev/ )

Waiting by its favourite location, it is only a matter of 20 minutes before it appears flitting through the trees and bushes before flying above me into a tree and then off to the other side and lost from view. I got a good view – well at least a good view as you usually get for a Yellow-browed Warbler as it continually moves from branch to branch.

From Russia dock, I move onto Canada Water. This is a remnant of the old Canada dock. There are a good number of Tufted Duck plus a single Great Crested Grebe, 3 Mute Swans and a flock of Black-headed Gulls in which is a single Common Gull and a couple of Herring Gulls.

On the way home I decide to do the weekly wildfowl count on the Tarn and find my first Greylag Geese of the year plus a single Little Grebe.

Tarn