Archive for the ‘Dorset’ Category

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.

Lyme Regis

Posted: February 15, 2019 in Dorset, UK
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This post is originally from the summer of 2014 and our first visit to Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a quiet coastal town and harbour in Dorset on the south coast of the UK.

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Lyme Regis - June 2005 - Ammonite Street Lights at Dusk
Street lights in Lyme Regis
Photo by Gareth Williams (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gareth1953/)

It’s fame springs from the fact that it provides one of the most accessible beaches along the Jurassic coast and has been a magnet for fossil hunters for at least 150 years.

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When Sue and I were in Dorset we paid a visit and went out on an organised fossil hunt. The leader explained what to look for and then took us to a place on the beach where there were likely to be fossils.

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The rest was down to us.

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Some ammonites we found on Lyme Regis beach

Naturelog 18 January

Posted: February 1, 2019 in Birds, Dorset, Natural History, UK
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Although the weather forecast promised heavy rain and strong winds, the morning dawned clear and bright and so sue and I set off for the RSPB reserve at Arne. This reserve is situated on a peninsula in Poole Harbour.

Corfe Castle from Coombe Heath

Walking out on Coombe Heath we had a brief view of a Dartford Warbler as it flitted across the path. Reaching the first viewpoint, we had a sighting of a Eurasian Spoonbill as it flew into the reed-bed.

Middlebere Channel

In the Middlebere channel there were around 100 PiedAvocets; 50 Brent Geese; 20 Grey Plovers and 30 Black-Tailed Godwits plusCommon Shelduck and Eurasian Wigeon. A number of Little Egrets were seen flyingaround the channel.

Middlebere Channel

After lunch, the promised weather seemed to be moving in and so we headed back to Weymouth.

Brant Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Spoonbill [sp] (Platalea leucorodia)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Grey Plover [sp] (Pluvialis squatarola)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
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)
Dartford Warbler [sp] (Sylvia undata)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

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.

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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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