Archive for the ‘Dorset’ Category

Portland Landscape (3)

Posted: May 30, 2016 in Dorset, Landscape, UK
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I love the rugged terrain and coastline of Portland but also the fact that wherever you go you cannot get away from evidence of the extraction of Portland Stone.

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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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Sparrowhawk

Posted: May 25, 2016 in Birds, Dorset, Natural History, UK
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The Sparrowhawk is probably now the commonest bird of prey in the UK replacing the Kestrel which seems to have declined significantly over the past decade. Even so it is most often seen in flight, often soaring to a great height. so, it was really pleasing on the recent trip to Dorset to get a chance to photograph a bird perched on  a deserted building on Portland.

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Some more photos of the wonderful landscape of Portland in Dorset

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Looking south towards the Bill with the Old and New lighthouses

Looking south towards the Bill with the Old and New lighthouses

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Portland in Dorset is not an island but an isthmus, as it remains connected to the mainland by a narrow spit of land. It is 4.5 miles long and 1.7 miles wide and rises to 400 ft above sea level at the northern end.

Chesil beach which connects Portland to the mainland

Chesil Beach which connects Portland to the mainland

It is a large piece of limestone  of exceptional quality and is much in demand as building stone. Portland stone was used By Sir Christopher Wren for the rebuilding of London, including St Paul’s Cathedral and around 50 other churches, following the Great Fire in 1666. It was also used for the Cenotaph in Whitehall; War grave headstones in France and Belgium and the UN building in New York.

Portland coast

Portland coast

 

Loading Station - Portland stone loaded directly into barges below for transportation

Loading Station – Portland stone loaded directly into barges below for transportation

It has a strong military connection dating from 1539 when Henry VIII built a castle on Portland (together with Sandersfoot castle at Wyke Regis on the opposite side of Portland bay) to defend the bay from the French and Spanish. In 1872 the newly enclosed Portland harbour became a naval base, which it remained until recent years when facilities were transferred to other ports.

Portland castle (from Sandersfoot Castle)

Portland castle (from Sandersfoot Castle)

 

Prrtland Harbour

Portland Harbour

 

More recently the bay has been developed as watersports venue and was the location of the 2012 Olympics sailing competitions.

Olympic Rings on Portland heights commemorating the 2012 Olympics venue

Olympic Rings on Portland heights commemorating the 2012 Olympics venue

Dorset Skies

Posted: May 18, 2016 in Dorset, Landscape, UK
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During our recent trip to Dorset Keith and I witnessed some wonderful skies. Here are some of my photos.

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The modern town of Weymouth was once actually two competing ports, Weymouth on the south side and Melcombe Regis on the north. The competition became fierce as the two battled for trade. In 1571 Queen Elizabeth I intervened and united them into a single town with a single port authority

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The port prospered and in the 1880s the railway line was extended to carry trains right along the quay to the waiting cargo vessels. Much of this trade was with the Channel Islands and in the last century the harbourside was busy with imported tomatoes, flowers and vegetables. The line also carried passenger traffic which delivered passengers for the channel islands ferry directly to the ship berth. The Goods service ceased in the 1970s and the last passenger service was in 1987, although it was used up till 1999 for special charters. The lines can still be seen running through the streets of the town to the docks.

Train tracks in Weymouth Street (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Attribution: Nigel Mykura)

Train tracks in Weymouth Street (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Attribution: Nigel Mykura)

 

Weymouth Boat train (y Ben Salter (weymouth boat train #1 Uploaded by Oxyman) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Weymouth Boat train (y Ben Salter [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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In 1921 a dam across the river was built to ensure the water level in the harbour – this replaced an earlier dam which was finally removed in 1995 when the harbour was dredged to improve access.

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The Harbour today is a mixture of small pleasure craft; working fishing boats; luxury cruisers and tourist boats. Until last year it remained a port for the Channel Islands ferry service, but this has now relocated to Poole Harbour.

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Well there is some logic to it!

Posted: May 11, 2016 in Dorset, UK
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Keith and I spotted this on the back of a beach hut on Portland during our recent trip to Dorset.

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Our final day in Dorset and the heavy rain forecast has not materialised and so we set off for the RSPB reserve at Lodmoor on the eastern edge of Weymouth to see if we can add a few new species.

 

RSPB Lodmoor

RSPB Lodmoor

 

Unfortunately it seems very quiet, possibly due to the strong north winds which have been blowing down the Lothan Valley for most of the week. We do locate a single drake Northern Shoveller , but otherwise there is little else to see until we are just about to leave the reserve when a Lesser Whitethroat called from deep within a bush, Despite our best efforts this bird remained unseen as this skulking species often does.

 

Beach and Rocks below Nothe Castle

Beach and Rocks below Nothe Fort

Our final stop is Nothe Fort, built to defend Weymouth Harbour. The rocks and small beach below the castle are a good site for Ruddy Turnstone and sure enough 6 birds are busy feeding  together with a Rock Pipit.

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Then it is time to collect our bags and head for the station to return to London. A good trip – 106 species between us which is similar to our trip here in May last year.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Swift [sp] (Apus apus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Lesser Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia curruca)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Eurasian Rock Pipit [sp] (Anthus petrosus)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Having visited the southern end of Portland on Tuesday, we decided to explore the northern end of the isthmus for migrants this morning. Willow Warbler, Common Chiffchaff and 2 Spotted Flycatchers were present coupled with some spectacular views back across Portland harbour.

Verne Common

Verne Common

 

View from ascent to Verne Common back towards the mainland

View from ascent to Verne Common back towards the mainland

Our next stop was in Southwell where Pied Flycatcher had been seen earlier in the morning. Again there was plenty of migrant activity with Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Spotted Flycatcher present. After a 30 minute search we decided to move on and as we walked back to the bus stop, I saw a bird ‘flycatching’ from a tree and a closer look identified it as a female Pied Flycatcher.

Spotted Flycatcher. Photo by Andy Morrffew (https://www.flickr.com/photos/andymorffew/)

Spotted Flycatcher. Photo by Andy Morrffew (https://www.flickr.com/photos/andymorffew/)

 

female Pied Flycatcher. Photo by Daniela (https://www.flickr.com/photos/daniela_naturephotography/)

Female Pied Flycatcher. Photo by Daniela (https://www.flickr.com/photos/daniela_naturephotography/)

Our next stop was Chesil where we again found a Northern Wheatear, Ringed Plover and Dunlin. Our final site of the day was back at Radipole Lake where we located the long-staying Hooded Merganser and amongst the birds feeding over the lake – Common Swift, Sand Martin and House Martin. As we made our way along a path north of the information centre we heard the ‘ping’ call of Bearded Reedling, although unfortunately the birds never showed themselves.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Whimbrel [sp] (Numenius phaeopus)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Swift [sp] (Apus apus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Bearded Reedling [sp] (Panurus biarmicus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Northern Wheatear [sp] (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Spotted Flycatcher [sp] (Muscicapa striata)
European Pied Flycatcher [sp] (Ficedula hypoleuca)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)

Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)