25th – 26th April – A tale of two lighthouses.   Leave a comment

As a birthday present for Margaret I took her to a Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra concert at Poole Lighthouse (formerly Poole Arts Centre) on Wednesday evening. For those who know about these things the performance was Stravinsky’s Fireworks, Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante and extracts from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. I must admit I didn’t recognise any of the music except one part of  The Sleeping Beauty.

I got tickets in the choir stalls behind the orchestra, this had the advantage of giving a wonderful view of what was going on. I did wonder if the sound balance would be OK from behind the orchestra and to some extent this was true, as the cello soloist sounded a bit faint and the trombones were almost deafening but we then were only a metre away. Although I like some classical music, I have been to very few concerts, but the playing was excellent and we both really enjoyed it, but I do find some of the conventions such as no applause until the entire piece is completed, to be rather restrictive.


The view from the choir stalls.


On Thursday it was the turn of a real lighthouse, the big red and white one at Portland Bill. I had been looking forwards to a good seawatch for some time, but every time it was windy, either the wind was from the wrong direction, it was pouring with rain or I was otherwise engaged. Today I finally made it and arrived at the Bill at 0630, it was worthwhile getting there early as I was able to get a sheltered location close to the obelisk.



Force 6 SW but without rain, ideal for seawatching.

The earlier you arrive, the more shelter you get from the obelisk but if you are third in line .....

... the 'pay as you go telescope' for the grockles blocks your view as you are tracking birds along the horizon.

Looking straight out from the obelisk you get the full force of the wind and spray in your face.


Over the next three hours there was an excellent run of skuas, 20+ Great, 6 Arctic and best of all, 2 Pomarines and lots of Manx Shearwaters. There weren’t any terns or divers and I missed two distant Little Gulls, but it was a great seawatch and I was very pleased to add the scarce Pomarine Skua, with its spoon like central tail feathers, to my year list.


Great Skua or Bonxie (a Shetland name that is now universally used).

Arctic Skuas come in both light and dark phases.

Pomarine Skua - with a full set of cutlery.


Others were seawatching from Chesil Cove where the Chesil Bank meets the Isle of Portland. Birds get blown into the Bay then either cross Ferrybridge into Portland Harbour or battle their way southwards and around the Bill. I had word that there three Pom Skuas (including the rare dark phase) sat on the sea, although by the time I got there they were fairly distant. I also saw another four Arctic Skuas whilst I was there.

A casual reader of a field guide might think that a skua is just a variant on the theme of a gull. This couldn’t be further from the truth, skuas are powerful, fast hunters often seen chasing terns and gulls making them disgorge their last meal. Seeing skuas, especially in numbers, is one of the joys of seawatching.


Chesil Cove - looking along Chesil Bank.

Heavy squalls blew in from the south.

Posted April 27, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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