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Published Date: 
Friday, 30 November, 2018

Weather-wise it was a month of two halves; the first two weeks were pleasant and more like September than November but then mid-month storm Callum came along and from there on the weather became much more unsettled and we had rain at last. The settled weather though made for a fairly quiet month for the bird watchers in Dorset.

One of the significant factors was the number of cattle egret in the county with at least three large flocks; at Abbotsbury (37+ birds), at Stoborough near Wareham (17 birds) and at Waddock Cross near Moreton (12+ birds). There were other sightings too and one wonders why there are so many this year but it is too early to draw any conclusions I would have thought. Great white egret also continued to be reported with regulars at Lodmoor and Longham lakes but, again, there were other reports too so this is another once rare species being seen regularly in Dorset. The lesser yellowlegs continous to ply its trade at Lodmoor showing no real intention of setting up home elsewhere and it is now so settled the number of watchers reporting it has reduced considerably.  A juvenile whooper swan has teamed up with the local mute swans at Hamperston, near Longham lakes and shows little sign of trying to more of its own kind. As in most autumns there were a number of yellow-browed warbler sightings.

Of the less regular special visitors, as is often the case in westerly gales, a number of scarce gulls made an appearance, mostly seen around Weymouth, especially in the car park at Radipole; glaucous gull, Franklin's gull, Kumlien's gull and little gull all being reported. Other rare visitors during November included a pallid swift on Portland for a couple of days and a dusky warbler was seen/heard on and off for a couple of weeks at the swannery at Abbotsbury. Snow bunting and Siberian chiffchaff were other notable records along with a late grey phalarope.

Eight species of butterfly were still on the wing in November with a number of clouded yellows reported from coastal locations; the others were red admiral, speckled wood, brimstone, common blue, large white, small copper and small white. There was quite a lot of late interest in moths too with migrant species being of interest to several of the county's 'trappers'. Red-headed chestnut was a very good find and other immigrants included several oak rustic, delicate, gem, radford's flame shoulder, rusty dot pearl, olive-tree pearl, dark swordgrass and white-speck.

At sea bottlenose dolphins and a harbour porpoise were seen.


 

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Published Date: 
Sunday, 2 December, 2018
Title A Bird's Eye View
Manufacturer House of Puzzles
No of Pieces 1000
Time 8 Days
Difficulty Interesting

Number three down already as the stormy weather continue to contrive to keep us indoors most afternoons at the moment. I like this picture, it has something about it that I can relate to but I can't put my finger on exactly what! Relatively straight forward but still took eight days so not a push over although looking at it you would not think it was anything but easy. It had a missing piece which has been replaced but the new piece does not fit very well.


 

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Published Date: 
Tuesday, 20 November, 2018
Title Riverside Walk
Manufacturer House of Puzzles
No of Pieces 1000
Time 12 Days
Difficulty Moderate

With autumn in danger of turning in to winter no time was wasted between finishing Walkies and getting started on another. Ann is very good at getting pieces out of the box but she struggles to put them into place ... especially as she works almost totally on colour and shape means little to her. With a colourful, busy picture like this one it really presents her with a problem. She is also inclined to do bizarre things and I find myself redoing little bits of what has already been done once. Nevertheless, she seems to enjoy doing them and I am sure they are good for her and it is something we can do together so, for now, we press on. 


 

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Published Date: 
Thursday, 8 November, 2018
Title Walkies
Manufacturer House of Puzzles
No of Pieces 1000
Time 7 Days
Difficulty Easy

The clocks fall back, the weather worsens and opportunities for Ann to get out in the garden reduce and so time to get the jigsaws going again to stop Ann being bored and to try and keep her mind active. First out of the cupboard was this gentle warm-up, Walkies. This was the first puzzle we bought when we started out five years ago ad the third time we have done it but, given Ann loves all dogs, this was a pleasure to assemble again. The artist certainly understands dogs and the looks on their faces clearly shows that they are anticipating a walk any time now! Shame about the missing piece, a replacement ordered for next time round ...


 

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Published Date: 
Friday, 16 November, 2018

Today I sent this email to the bowls club committee members:

I need to clarify the position following my early departure from the last committee meeting to avoid any misunderstandings. I have resigned from the position of Club Chair as I am no longer physically or mentally able to continue. I should be playing short mat bowls for enjoyment and respite from my caring responsibilities at home but in the last six months or so, and certainly since my stroke in July, it has become a chore and being Club Chair has induced added stress which, given concerns over my own health, I can well do without.

I think that I should provide an explanation of the primary reasons why I have resigned.

Firstly, I find the environment of committee meetings now unbearable. Living with someone with no short term memory is both stressful and heartbreaking; I carry that with me when I am away from home as well as at home. Since my stroke I get very tired mentally and can find it difficult to concentrate, especially where a lot is happening at the same time. Factor in my hearing difficulty and hopefully you will see why I cannot cope with committee meetings in the way they are currently conducted. This is not to say that club committee meetings are wrong, it is to show why I cannot cope.

Secondly, all my experience in corporate and charity trustee board meetings has taught me to see the ‘big picture’, to think strategically and to plan for the future rather dwell too much on the present. However. the role of a small club committee is, perhaps, more inclined towards looking after the day to day nuts and bolts of running the club. In this regard I am the wrong person to chair such a committee and someone with different experience and skills should take over. My kind of thinking has led me into continued conflict with some club members ever since I took over and this is a further indicator as to why I am the wrong person for the role.

To expand on this second point a little I will comment on the latest instance of this conflict. We have recently recruited ten new members and I now see a vibrant club with three well supported sessions and with many members playing twice, even three times, a week. This says to me that we are successful in doing what the Club aims to do according to its constitution. All of my instincts tell me we should looking to build on that; to find ways of improving the bowling skills of our members and to find ways to accommodate even more members if the demand exists.

I see new members as the ‘life-blood’ of the club and yet all I hear is that we have too many members now and we need to shut the doors. New members are potentially the league bowlers of the future, they are (hopefully) the Club officers and hands on practical people that will keep the Club running for years to come. Many Clubs would be thrilled to have the number of members and the vitality our Club has. We should always be open to new members but this does not seem to be the mood of
the Club committee in general; we are more concerned with a short term issue over the Christmas dinner than the future health and prosperity of the Club we were elected to manage.

This gulf in thinking just increases the tension between me and everyone else; I am the wrong person to Chair the Club, a square peg in a round hole. Just because no one else is keen on being Chair is not a justifiable reason for me to continue when I am so out of line with the wishes of my fellow committee members.


 

 

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Published Date: 
Thursday, 1 November, 2018

October was something of an Indian summer with generally clear, sunny skies and warm temperatures. This regime was interrupted briefly for a couple of days by the arrival of storm Callum, the effects of which were far more severe further north than down here in Dorset. This fine settled weather meant there was little activity on the birding front with migration seeming to be almost at a stand still on some days and with only the one Atlantic storm there were few notable records. Words used to describe 'birding' this month included dire, dead and dismall! 

That said some oddities turned up as well as some more predictable rarities. A rough-legged buzzard over Portland was a notable record as were reports of red-throated pipit and little bunting. A honey buzzard was also seen along with Caspian gull, glaucous gull and little gull. The arrival of barnacle geese and a flock of white-fronted geese on the Fleet towards the end of the month was a surprise especially as they seemed wild bird not feral. A young whooper swan settled in amongst the mute swans at Longham Lakes which was also rather odd. Records too of barred warbler, lapland bunting and little auk were unusual.

More predictable were a number of records for both cattle egret and great white egret again this month with people asking whether these were notable species any more as they have become quite common; a dramatic change over the last three years or so. The lesser yellow-leg has become something of a fixture on the Weymouth reserves and reports of that quickly tailed off even though it remain there all month. The more usual 'scarce' visitors included hoopoe, a number of grey phalarope along the coast and several records for yellow-browed warbler, another migrant species that does little to raise pulse rates among the county's birders anymore! 

Some of the familiar winter residents were returning during October too with brent geese and black brant arriving in their usual wintering quarters along with good numbers of wigeon and teal. Wder numbers were increasing too as the month wore on with spoonbill, avocet, black-tailed godwit and curlew all returning to the harbours. Off-shore black-necked grebe, great northern diver and common scoter became apparent along with occasional sightings of great and arctic skuas and Balearic shearwaters.

The warm weather meant a good number of butterflies were still on the wing with good numbers of migrant clouded yellows being seen along with some painted ladies. Eighteen species were recorded in all including a late brood of Adonis blue but also other species such as brown argus, grayling and wall that were about a little later than normal. Some good immigrant moth records came in from the trappers with Radford's Flame Shoulder now being quite common in places where this was once very scarce. The same could also be aid for Dewick's plusia and Clancy's rustic. Not to be outdone, dragonflies were still active and record of red-veined darter and vagrant emperor were probably the most notable. Other insects seen included a number of hornets and ivy bees were seen in a number of places, it is certainly spreading its range and is now common.

There few plant records and very few fungi records. Perhaps it has been too dry for fungi to start fruiting?


Photo: Colletes hedera, the ivy bee

 

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Published Date: 
Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

We have seen some wonderful sunsets since we moved to Dorset but last night must have been one of the best!


 

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Published Date: 
Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

When I saw I was drawn as number 13 I just knew this was not going to be my afternoon! I started well enough seeing off Stuart Duncan 5-2 and then I rather demolished poor Eric Axon 13-0. With two wins behind me I was feeling mildly confident facing Bob Bates who I have to say I would expect to beat 10 times out 10 and I started well but on end four I claimed two shots but Bob thought it was one. Instead of measuring John Holloway who was marking said he favoured one (markers are not supposed to pass comment, it is for the two players to agree the score) and so Bob kicked the woods away. It may well have been only one but there should have been a measure and, me being me, felt aggrieved and conceded three shots on the last two ends to draw 4-4, at that point I knew my afternoon was over. 

Having played three games in a row I was now very tired, especially mentally, as I have done ever since the stroke and still needlessly upset by what had happened in the previous game I faced Peter Lane who was unbeaten during the afternoon. Needless to say I was a complete mess losing 7-2 after bowling several woods off of the mat! Peter went on to win the competition and I finished fourth. Even if I had beaten Bob I would have still only finished third as Norman Brown won all four of his games to finish second.


 

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Published Date: 
Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

I had a nerve conduction test on my left arm today to try and find out what might be causing my 'frozen' arm. It was quite a strange experience as it involved sending electrical pulses down my arm to measure the effectiveness of the main nerves in the arm. In general it was not uncomfortable, just a mild 'twitch' but one or two were quite painful and made my fingers jerk! It took half an hour and it was done on both arms to compare the results. Early indications were that there was nothing wrong which is both good news and bad news. At least there is no permanent nerve damage but then again, we are no closer to finding out what is wrong.


 

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Published Date: 
Monday, 1 October, 2018

September turned out to a bit of a storm sandwich! A settled spell with some lovely days suddenly gave way to a week of westerly storms before the calm returned with more sunny skies and gentle breezes. The coming of the autumn storms quickens the pulse of 'twitchers' hoping for a series of exotic stray birds coming in on the strong westerlies but this time it was not to be with just a lesser yellow-legs showing up and staying a while at Lodmoor.

There were some other special sightings of course with three cranes visiting Poole Harbour and Portland producing records of common rosefinch, rose-coloured starling and ortolan bunting. Little gull and Caspian gull were seen offshore and a pectoral sandpiper ashore, again at Lodmoor. It seems strange now that what a couple of years ago would have been considered rare sightings were fairly 'ordinary' this year with almost daily reports of great white egret and cattle egret from along the west Dorset coast and around the main harbours further east. The odd grey phalarope is seen during the autumn migration period in most years but this year they were almost 'common' being seen in several places and one in particular stayed for quite a few days, yet again at Lodmoor. Lodmoor was certainly the place to be this year if you wanted to see unusual birds.

The migration season is in full swing in September and lots of reports reflected this with large numbers of chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap, wheatear, whinchat, yellow wagtail, meadow pipit and spotted flycatcher along with swallows and house martins of course.

The settled weather seemed to suit butterflies with eighteen species being reported during the month. The most bizarre record was a monarch butterfly in and around Portland Observatory garden for a couple of days the origins of which are unknown but as it was on Portland it is possible it was a migrant from the south of Europe or even north Africa. The top recorded species was the clouded yellow, a regular autumn immigrant and certainly coming in in good numbers this year. Small copper seemed to be having a good autumn too and there reports of wall (browns) and Adonis blue. There were two special moth sightings, the very rare passenger moth both on Portland and at Hengistbury Head and another rare visitor, the oleander hawk-moth in Swanage. Other hawk-moths included convolvulus hawk-moth and hummingbird hawk-moth. The striking Clifden nonpareil moth turned up in a couple of moth traps and the scarce annual migrant, Radford's flame-shoulder, was trapped on Portland again this year.

Other insect reports were mainly what one would expect for the time of year but hornets seemed to be doing particularly well and the delightful ivy bee started to be seen towards the end of the month. Red-veined darter dragonflies were seen again at a site near Warmwell and it is fairly certain this species is now successfully breeding here and, perhaps, elsewhere in Dorset. In the latter weeks of the month there seemed to be an explosion of migrant hawkers with reports from several places where there is a large expanse of open fresh water.

Being autumn the floral interest was mainly over but there were a number of reports of autumn lady's-tresses and marsh gentian to keep the botanists happy.

It was a quiet month for mammal sightings with a pod of bottlenose dolphins around Durlston for three days and a report of two common seals in Poole Harbour; not much else apart from that. Adders were more visible during September as were grass snakes and wall lizards.


Photo: Clouded yellow

 

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