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Sunday 24 November 2019

Dorset Short Break - 4th to 8th November, 2019

Feeling in need of a change of scenery, Lindsay and I booked a short break at a self-catering property in Lyme Regis, on the Dorset coast. We have stayed in this area before, but never in Lyme Regis, which we had only visited for a few hours once before.

Monday, 4th November

Rather than take the fastest (motorway) route, we opted for the scenic route, travelling the Fosse Way (an old Roman road) for much of the way. We stopped for lunch at the Yellow Brick Cafe in the splendid Cotswold town of Moreton-in-Marsh, where they make some of the best ice cream that we've ever tasted, with wonderful flavour combinations.

The rest of the journey was pleasant, but uneventful, and we arrived at the property just before 4 pm. The property did not have a parking space, but we managed to find a space in the small parking area over the road outside the library. This enabled us to unload the car with relative ease. However, parking between 9 am and 6 pm was limited to one hour, with no return within an hour, so we felt the need to park elsewhere after unloading. The nearest car park was the Holmbush car park, which was very reasonably priced at £2 for 24 hours, but was a stiff uphill walk to get back to!

That evening we did a quick shop at the Co-op before heading into the Indian restaurant just a few doors up from our new home. We had a splendid meal there, and resolved to return later in the week. However, Lindsay had an upset stomach that night, which rather put her off and so we never went back.

Tuesday, 5th November

Sadly, we both had a really uncomfortable night. The bedroom floor had a considerable slope to it and this had not been compensated for with the length of the bed legs, so the bed sloped from one side to the other, and it sagged badly in the middle. Lindsay had a greater problem with this than I did and only averaged around three hours sleep a night whilst we were there!

After breakfast, the weather was fine - if a little chilly and breezy, and we resolved to take a good look at Lyme Regis. Lyme is a delightful town, and we started by walking down the main street, exploring the antique and curio shops and the charity shops too. Purchases were made! We then approached the sea front from the east end.

I hadn't taken my usual camera out that day as I was expecting some hazardous conditions later, so had taken an old bridge camera that I'd been given , but had never used before. When examined, the results were a little disappointing. The first view, below, was taken looking eastward towards Charmouth and the second was looking westward towards Lyme beach and The Cobb.

view eastward from the east of Lyme Regis
view westward from the east of Lyme Regis
We then set off westward along the beach. The rental of the property included the use of a beach hut and, indeed, this was one of the reasons why we chose it. We had, therefore, to make use of it! There were probably around 30 beach huts, and none of the others were being used and so, unsurprisingly, it attracted a lot of attention when we sat outside, and some delightful conversations ensued! 

Lindsay at the beach hut, Lyme Regis
After about half an hour it got somewhat chillier and so we packed up and and took a walk along to The Cobb. Out on The Cobb I saw a few birds, but nothing of great interest, and my attempts with the bridge camera were discarded.

We had a good light lunch at a cafe on the main street, before heading off to Charmouth.

The coast in this area is known as the Jurassic Coast with good reason. The geology is such that the coastal cliffs are rich in fossils, and this is where Mary Anning rose to fame. Sadly, the tides were such that fossil hunting was going to be greatly limited during our stay, but we did manage a couple of hours on Charmouth East Beach before it got dark. I had little luck with my fossil hunting, finding just three bellemnite guards and two pieces of ammonite, all of which were passed to other persons who had not managed to find anything at all.

I'd realised that if we returned to base after 5 pm and there was a space in the car park opposite, we would be able to stay put until 10 am the following day. This served us well for the last three nights. That night we had a simple meal of soup at the property.

Wednesday, 6th November

I had been aware of Seaton Wetlands being a nature reserve beside the River Axe which attracts wildfowl during the winter, but had never visited. Lindsay had graciously volunteered to sit waiting in the car, reading a book, while I took a look at this place this morning. Having parked the car in the car park, accessed through the cemetery, I set off - realising when I got back onto the road that I'd taken a wrong turning! I retraced my steps and soon saw where I'd gone wrong.

A bird photographer, coming in the opposite direction, offered some interesting 'pointers', one of which later led me to doubt his recognition skills. 

I first went to Island Hide, where the most photographable subjects were a few Teal that were near the start of the approach to the hide.

Teal (Anas crecca) (female) - Seaton Wetlands

Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - Seaton Wetlands
I next moved on to the Discovery Hut area, but little was seen here so I moved northward once more, ending up at the hide that's by the tramway on Colyford Common. Here there was a male Stonechat on the wires and a distant Little Egret. 

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Colyford Common
Up until now, the weather had been rather dull, and whilst in the hide it had started raining. As it looked as if the rain had set in, I started heading back to where Lindsay was, no doubt, sleeping in the car.

In a small pond near the Discovery hut, a young Mute Swan was drifting around - and the rain had stopped!

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (juvenile) - Seaton Wetlands
Nearer to Island Hide, I got a few shots of a Shelduck.

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) (male) - Seaton Wetlands
A return to Island Hide showed that the Black-tailed Godwit on the nearby island was still asleep with its head tucked in whilst a second bird was wandering around in the water at some distance.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) - Seaton Wetlands
Figuring that Lindsay was probably enjoying sleeping in the car, I next ventured to Tower Hide. On the way there, I stopped to photograph a Stonechat that was a little more obliging with its chosen perches than the previous one.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (male) - Seaton Wetlands
From Tower Hide, anything of interest was at a great distance, and no photographs were taken. It was time to head back to the car and gently waken Lindsay from her slumbers.

We drove into Seaton and were delighted to find that the fish & chip shop (Seaton Fish Bar), that we used to occasionally eat in many years ago when we were staying with my mother who lived nearby in Chardstock, was open at lunchtime. Lunch was basic, but absolutely delicious!

After lunch, and a visit to a few shops in Seaton, we headed back to Lyme Regis as we wished to purchase a polished ammonite pendant that we'd seen the previous day, and which Lindsay had decided she would like as a souvenir. 

I made a quick visit to the gardens at the top end of the main street and was impressed by the view down to The Cobb.

view to The Cobb from Langmoor Gardens, Lyme Regis
The evening was one of gentle relaxation at the cottage.

Thursday, 7th November

From the outset, this day had been forecast to have the best weather during our stay, and so we had planned to visit one of our favourite lunch venues - anywhere! We woke to find the forecast had held true, so set off for Ferrybridge, near Weymouth, after breakfast. 

Ferrybridge is at the eastern end of the amazing Chesil Beach - a shingle 'barrier beach', 18 miles (29 km) long and up to 15 metres high and 200 metres wide. You can find more about it here.

There is a visitor centre by Chesil Beach at Ferrybridge with a cafe and also an area manned by the Dorset Wildlife Trust, where the volunteers are very helpful. I had a quick look round outside and was delighted to see that there were good numbers of Brent Goose present. Most were at a great distance but there were a couple that were only about 100 metres away. I don't know my Brent Geese well, and have only ever seen one once in my home county, but I think that one of the two, depicted below, might have been a young Pale-bellied Brent. Please let me know if you think I'm correct!

(Pale-bellied?) Brent Goose (Branta bernicla (ssp. hrota?)) (juvenile) - Ferrybridge
It was around 10h30, and Lindsay and I popped in to the cafe for refreshments. My tea was consumed in no time flat, and so I left Lindsay nursing hers, with a piece of cake, and went out to get more shots of the Brent Geese. I was very lucky as, on two occasions, I picked a spot, waited, and a goose continued coming towards me.

Brent Goose (Branta bernicla) - Ferrybridge
There were a few gulls around, and those that know me will probably be aware that gulls are not my thing. However, I was a little surprised to find that one of the gulls I photographed was a Mediterranean Gull.

Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) - Ferrybridge
A Carrion Crow looked as if it had been confused by beach pebbles, thinking they were eggs!

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - Ferrybridge
As I went to rejoin Lindsay a group of Brents flew in and made their way past me.

Brent Goose (Branta bernicla) - Ferrybridge
It was then time to pick up Lindsay and head off to The Crab House Cafe where we had booked a table for 12 noon. This sits beside The Fleet - the long stretch of water protected from the sea by Chesil Beach. This may not look too special from the outside but it is somewhat famous for the quality of its food.

The Crab House Cafe - Ferrybridge
This is the view from the cafe, over The Fleet, with Chesil Beach behind. This will, I hope, give an impression of how massive Chesil Beach is - the sea is beyond.

view across The Fleet to Chesil Beach
We both had a starter of crispy Pilchards, followed by baked John Dory  - it was wonderful!

After lunch, we headed onto the isle of Portland, over the causeway, going directly to Portland Bill on the south end of the island. Tiredness had overcome Lindsay once more and so she stayed in the car while I had a scout around.

Portland Bill Lighthouse
I spent a little while trying to photograph a Rock Pipit. However, having looked at my photos, I find myself questioning if I'd seen something a little different. Plenty of 'unusual' birds pass through Portland Bill in the autumn. This bird was quite pale, with legs that were quite pale too and I'm wondering if it was a Water Pipit. Please let me know your thoughts. Marc Heath, whose judgement I trust, has stated he believes the Pipit to be 'Rock' so I'll go with that - thank you, Marc!

Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) - Portland Bill
I started making my way up the east side, heading towards the quarry below 'the Obs' as I was hoping that the Little Owls might still be there. I couldn't resist, however, taking a few shots of the wave action on the rocks. I love shots of moving water!

Coastal Scenes - Portland Bill
As I approached the quarry, a Kestrel was being harried by a Crow. The Kestrel landed on the quarry edge and I got a few shots in before it departed.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - Portland Bill
I stayed a while, but saw no sign of a Little Owl, so headed back to join Lindsay, not expecting the next thing I photographed to be an Osprey - no, not that kind of Osprey but one of the very weird USAF VTOL aircraft which rose up in front of me and flew past - unfortunately, I missed the lift. Sadly, too, the light was already fading 

USAF Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey - Portland Bill
That evening was mainly spent packing as we had to vacate the property by 10h00.

Friday, 8th November

We were ready to depart by 09h00 and so set off homeward. It was another pleasant journey, with a stop for lunch at the AV8 Bistro & Restaurant at Cotswold Airport near Cirencester. We found this place a few years ago and vowed to return - we were not disappointed!

We then stopped in Moreton-in-Marsh for an ice-cream at The Yellow Brick Cafe - it's difficult to pass this place without calling in!

We managed to get home well-before night fall. Although the break had had its discomforts, and it hadn't been over-productive with birds (or fossils), it had been highly enjoyable. 

I have absolutely no idea what my next blog post will feature, but it will probably be a short one unless something remarkable happens! Thank you for dropping by.

Sunday 10 November 2019

A Short Visit to Hicks Lodge - on 29th October, 2019

My last blog post concerned a visit to Rutland Water on 10th October. Sadly, I'd been a bit too enthusiastic about my recovery from my earlier ills, and had overdone the physical exercise somewhat, resulting in me feeling almost as uncomfortable as I did when I left hospital at the end of July. This, to use a good old English expression, put the wind up me more than just a little, particularly when, on my wife Lindsay's recommendation, I read an article which stated that the condition for which I'd been hospitalised had a 15% mortality rate! I have, therefore, been taking it easy.

However, on 29th October I felt sufficiently recovered to have my first trip out for nearly three weeks. My chosen venue was Hicks Lodge, which is only a couple of miles (approximately 3 km) from my home.

I parked in the Oakthorpe Colliery car park, where there are bird feeders. However, these were empty when I arrived so I put out some bird seed and some peanuts, and sat and waited for quarter of an hour. The only thing to arrive was a Grey Squirrel, so I set off on foot to Hicks Lodge. 

About ten minutes into my walk I glimpsed a distant, but colourful, pair of birds flying in front of the new woodland area. I tried for a few shots, but failed. Fortunately, however, they turned and flew over the path, very much closer to me. I don't recall seeing Egyptian Geese before at Hicks Lodge.

I have always considered Egyptian Geese to be ugly, and a nuisance as they usually start breeding early in the year, often taking over the nests of other birds that have not yet returned to breed. This has been a problem at Rutland Water, where they occupy the Osprey nests.  On this occasion, however, I was struck by how splendid they looked in flight.

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) - Hicks Lodge
Further along the path, to the west I could see the usual flock of white domestic geese on the lake. A bit further on, in a meadow, there was a mixed flock of Canada Geese and Greylag Geese. I was pleased to see that the Bar-headed Goose was still with them. I guess this bird has to have been an escapee at some time, but I think it has been on this site for over a year now.

Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) with Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) - Hicks Lodge
By the main lake, I saw what I at first thought was a day-flying moth with pale wings. It seemed to settle on a nearby branch. It took a while to find it, and I found myself looking at a large caddis fly.  

caddis fly (Anabolia nervosa) - Hicks Lodge
Sadly, there was little of great interest to see by the main lake. There were a few Lapwing and Snipe around on the island, but most were sheltering from the cold wind in the vegetation on the far (leeward) side of the of the island that is nearest the hide, and I could only get very distant views.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) (x5!) + Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - Hicks Lodge
After about an hour and a half it was necessary for me to set back towards my car as the gates of the car park close at 16h00. 

A very distant Kestrel landed on top of a hedge-line

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - Hicks Lodge
Further along the path, a Wren announced its presence by an unmissable chattering. It took a bit of spotting, however!

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - Hicks Lodge
With little seen, I was back at my car somewhat earlier than anticipated so I topped up the bird seed and peanuts, and sat in my car and waited once more. This time, there was a little more action and, as well as the grey squirrel, there were several Great Tits, a Robin, a Nuthatch, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker which stayed in the distance and didn't pluck up the courage to approach the feeders due to the endless supply of dog-walkers using the car park. The only thing I photographed was a Nuthatch, and that not too successfully!

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - Oakthorpe Colliery
Bird and photography-wise it had been an unproductive afternoon, but at least it had got me out of the house and back into nature. 

This post was written over a week ago, primarily, to fill a long gap and give me something to publish having returned from a break in Dorset. I'll now be processing the photos from that break.

Thank you for dropping by